Giving patients simple tools to solve some of their problems can be very helpful. Here’s one simple but effective idea that I recently started explicitly recommending to some patients.
I recently met with a couple and one thing they were arguing about was his constant procrastination of household tasks she needed him to do. A familiar story to many of us, no doubt. Similarly, I met with a young man with ADHD who was overwhelmed with the dozens of miscellaneous things he knew he needed to do but didn’t feel like doing. Again, a very common problem for persons with ADHD.
What I am referring to is not daily habits to be built (e.g., exercise) or tasks that involve external deadlines (e.g., having a paper due next Tuesday). I am talking about things that have to be done sometime, but don’t have to be done at any particular time. Things that need to be done and for which the end result is desired by the person, but that are not intrinsically fun to do. Change the light bulbs that have gone out. Return some items to the store. Identify clothes that don’t fit you anymore and put them in a box to give away. Sort through the pile of paper on your desk. You get the idea. We all have many such pending tasks, so this technique is as much for us as for our patients. 🙂
Author Gretchen Rubin just came out in 2015 with an excellent book that I read: Better than Before. In it, she suggested a simple method to get such miscellaneous tasks done: a Power Hour. The idea is that because such miscellaneous tasks don’t have a specific time when we need to do them, we must schedule them. Schedule a one-hour block of time — a Power Hour — which the person dedicates to doing some of these miscellaneous tasks. It is a way of scheduling things that are not intrinsically on a schedule. Doing this even once or twice a week can put a big dent into pending miscellaneous tasks.
For additional power, I suggest a couple of modifications:
1. Ask the person to start with only 30 minute Power “Hours.” Taking small steps is always better.
2. Ask them to set a timer for the allocated time because, in my view, the reason this method works so well is because the procrastinator’s mind likes the idea that the time is delimited to only one hour. When the hour is over, the person is “off the hook” and can do something else.
When I suggested the idea of trying Power Hours to my patients recently, their eyes lit up and they were enthusiastic about it. And I have started using the idea for myself too. Will let you know in the near future how well it is working!
Click on the image or link below to check out the book which is now available as an inexpensive paperback.
Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life
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