For some, despite knowing the importance of doing something, somehow it still doesn’t gets done. Paying a bill, writing a major report, or taking the garbage out all remain undone despite the screaming reminders and tasks written and re-written.

It would seem that motivation is missing. I think it’s less about motivation so much as it is engagement. After all, the desire to do these things are often there and quite strong.

So what is it?

Many who seek productivity tools and techniques struggle with what I’ve termed a “wandering mind”. This can include those who are creative, intensely curious, have anxiety, among other possibilities. A major subset are those who struggle with ADHD.

Having studied and treated those with ADHD for a good twenty plus years now, I’ve come to view it much more as a constellation of issues that have similarities from one individual to the next. I’ve never met two of the same peope or presentations.

But there are different styles of engagement that we can find in common.

Psychiatrist Dr. William Dodson distinguishes those with ADHD from otherwise “neurotypicals”. The latter find either of three things as offering enough to engage:

  1. Importance – knowing that something is important or meaningful, regardless of other emotion
  2. Reward – knowing that a reward is coming afterwards
  3. Punishment – knowing a history of bad outcomes when it’s not done

Meanwhile, he notes that for those with ADHD, these don’t work. Instead, they tend to find engagement in one of five areas:

  1. Interest – being inherently interested in a task
  2. Challenge – finding the task to be challenging. I would add that it should be within a certain window of challenge—not too little where it would be boring and not too much where it would be overwhelming
  3. Novelty – the newness of an idea or interaction that could spark interest
  4. Urgency – deadlines!
  5. Passion – a lifetime development

A neat reformulation of these five, as described by Jesse Anderson on a recent Focused podcast, are “4 Cs“: Captivate, Create, Compete, Complete.

Knowing these helps a person to start puzzling through, What other path to engagement is there? Something being important, that there is a reward, or that there is a punishment may well not be enough. One could think about how to find interest, challenge, or otherwise instead of just beating one’s head against importance or punishment or falsely promising one’s self something later.

Further, I don’t think that these latter modes of finding engagement are unique to those with ADHD. It’s part of why I use the term “wandering mind”. It’s just that some minds wander more than others.

Regardless, these latter paths of engagement can all lead to that playful state of mind—that sense of connection between the inner and outer world in a flowing back and forth. It’s when we find the connection between play and work, where the world supports us in turn for what turns us on, that we find success.

  • Kourosh

PS. If you’re interested in listening to Dr. Dodson’s lectures directly, you can purchase them here and here (non-affiliate links)

PPS. It’s ADHD Awareness month!

PPPS. The Waves of Focus course is well underway and the feedback has been wonderful! Those eyes light-up moments while teaching the Anchor Technique have helped me really hone in on what’s helpful for those with wandering minds. Students have already commented on finding structure they’ve longed to have. I can’t wait to see how they find the rest of the course!