Cameron Gott, PCC
ADHD Coaching for Leaders & Professionals
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The Global Creative Blog

Focus and Follow-through

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John is having the same nightmare again. He is carrying a melon under each arm walking up the same stairwell. As he walks up the stairs people keep handing him more and more melons to carry. The problem is that John has no place to put any melons down because these stairs are no ordinary stairs - they ascend 10 stories and there are no landings, no place to put any melons down for safe keeping. When he does drop a melon it roles back down the stairs fading from sight. Unfortunately for John this dream feels a lot like his current work situation. Getting handed too many projects to complete in not enough time and not feeling like he can put a single one down for just one day, when John does set a project down it is likely to be lost in a sea of overwhelm. Sound like a nightmare you'd never wish upon anyone? Actually this scenario is all to common for the professional with ADHD in a state of project overwhelm.

Global Creatives with too many incomplete projects, a habit for saying "Yes" too much to new work or challenges with reengaging stale projects (moldy muffins) can be susceptible to project overwhelm. ADHD wreaks havoc on effective project management and execution since it impairs executive function areas of the brain that track time, create and maintain priority, activate for task, and—probably most important for long project success—the ability to reengage a project that has sat dormant for some amount of time. For an overwhelmed ADHD guy like John the state of his projects can seem like a dark stairwell scattered with pieces of melon hither and yon.  

Limit Scope of REBEL is a useful concept that could help our friend John. To understand the importance of limiting scope we need to look at the two areas that are affected most for the Global Creative.

On the front end, focus - What has our attention and what should have our attention.

On the back end, follow-through - What we choose to focus on and take to a completion point.

Breakdowns in both of these areas impact more than just finishing projects for Global Creatives. Big life decisions are influenced by challenges here. Spouses report real frustration boiling over into long-term resentment. Team members assume a host of fallacies… “He doesn't care!”… “She can't compete at this level!”…“He is so self-centered!”

Recall the melon patch from How Things Sneak onto your Task List? The true challenge arises when we try to take that melon or project to a completion point. Getting super clear or focused on the melons that mean the most is an essential component of successful follow-thru and completion. Clarity of priority, action and outcome are at the core of limiting scope. It's about narrowing focus just enough to identify the next landing in the stairwell and taking the melon to that completion spot. This is not a new concept. David Allen refers to this as a 'next action'.

Start with noticing your focus. What does it pay attention to? The new exhilarating opportunity? Rapid cycling through projects (multi-tasking)? Try putting your focus on the finished product and how it will make things different, better. This is using a Global Creative strength—your imagination—to view the task from the point of completion. How are you and your team benefiting from this melon being completed? Openly discussing the benefit with team members can create more focus and motivation to activate for task.

Landings and Follow-through

For some of us, it would be wonderful if we could carry one melon at a time but that's not reality in our modern workplace where we have many melons (projects) to manage, track and complete. Let's revisit John's nightmare scenario of the staircase - the stair case with no landings. ADHD limits the ability to identify places to rest our projects while we attend to and focus on other intentions. Transitioning from task to task is not easy for the ADHD individual. Transitioning means effectively handing off one melon and picking up another. Without landings, melons will tend to not stay in one place resulting in lost productivity searching for misplaced melons. "Where are we with the Stevens Report, people?!”… Sound familiar?

So you can see that limiting scope would be helpful in not only managing the melons we choose to commit to but also what we take action on. Limiting scope is not about reducing capacity. It is about maintaining priority on the most relevant melons, the ones that really matter. Starting to identify natural landing spots between the floors—a place where you can put the melon down before someone hands you another one—acts as a bookmark or locator. A simple project management system would have a certain number of manageable melons in the garden and melons on different landings or maybe assigned to different individuals. The most valuable member on a Global Creative's team is often the melon tracker - the person who has a picture of where melons or projects are located in the process of completion.

So where are your melons?

Are they sitting on landings or are they in pieces on the stairs?

Walk the stairs and start to build out landings for your melons. Do this with another team member if you can. Global Creatives often create a more clear picture when they can articulate it to others. A simple sketch locating your melons in motion can quell the feeling of overwhelm immediately. A simple Gantt chart placing melons out into future time works well too. If you are noticing struggle on the staircase, overloaded with melons, pause and breathe. Set the melons down and take inventory. Identify 3 to move this week and move them to the next landing. Practice this limiting scope move and you will build capacity and competence here.

Gaining Perspective, Appreciating Context

No one including our friend John will feel fulfilled by just lugging melons up endless stairwells.  Global Creatives can really access their strength areas by frequently setting down the melons and getting out from the stairwell and into the open.  Gaining access to the stairwell's rooftop can provide both pause and perspective.  When Global Creatives can view processes from a distance (melons moving up multiple stairwells to completion) they can better appreciate how their own work contributes to the bigger goals and objectives of the organization.