Naming the Game

The Name of the Game Determines the Rules

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
An article in the Intentionality Series

Line drawing of a woman advancing up a hill wearing a hard hat, mops & brooms over one shoulder, dustpan in hand, arm raise; over her head, in outlined letters, it says CHARGE!Trying to Get Things DONE

I tell my clients that part of the problem we have accomplishing specific tasks is a direct result of how we Name the Game.


For example:

If the Name of the Game is clean-up-the-house, our mental To-Do list can include anything — from “defrost freezer” to “launder all slipcovers & bedding” to “remove, wash and wax ceiling fan blades.”

Lordy Mercy, as they say in the South, just shoot me now!

“Clean-up-the-house” is far too large a task to conceptualize without Boggle, making it all the more difficult for us to activate to take any steps at all.  So we usually don’t.

We agonize over our procrastination problem instead.

Since we have given our conscious mind little beyond a vague idea of what we mean by clean-up-the-house, our subconscious mind is clueless.  Round and round our brain it spins, seeking out all the bits and pieces filed under “cleaning,” “not clean” and “house.” Endlessly!

If we ARE somehow able to get ourselves going, broom, mop, and hardhat at the ready, most of us boggle somewhere early in the task, then wallow in the despair that comes from failing, yet again, to accomplish what we set out to do.

Then we agonize over our “follow-through” problem.

Remember – links on this site are dark grey to reduce distraction potential
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This article is an edited excerpt from THE BOGGLE BOOK – How to stop screaming at your spouse,
kicking the dog, and losing your cool, finally and forever!

©1998, 2002, 2011 – Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC; all rights reserved


Driven to Distraction?

The potential for interruptions and distractions before we finish so large a task as clean-up-the-house is IMMENSE.  Do I have to remind anybody of what happens to a distracted ADD/EFD brain? (You got it! Practically anything but what it intended initially!)

EVEN if we are able to remain focused on our objective, there is little chance that we will be able to complete the task before we begin to run out of steam.

The likelihood of our staying involved without a break until the entire house is spotless — or that we’ll avoid shifting focus to something more enjoyable as a reward for what we’ve done so far — is less than slim-to-none.

Instead of Naming the Game in a way that will give us evidence of success, we have guaranteed yet one more piece of evidence for the failure column — all because we haven’t identified the task in a way that is manageable within human time frames.

Calling all Gentlemen

We EFDers tend to suffer from what I call The Amanda Wingfield Syndrome

I coined that particular phrase because of a line in Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie.  It is a line spoken by Amanda, the mother, after she learns that her son Tom will be bringing home a guest, a “gentleman caller” for his sister Laura, the very next evening.

Amanda’s delight with Tom is almost immediately replaced with thoughts of perfecting the environment to impress the guest, ending with the line “I wish I had time to paint the walls!”

Poor Amanda!  She has Named the Game in a way that almost guarantees disaster.

Just like Amanda, we must learn to reconceptualize tasks to include only those elements absolutely essential for us to make forward progress toward our goals —

  • finite enough to complete in the time we have until our particular gentleman caller’s arrival
  • with a bit of breathing room so we don’t greet him with a snarl when he arrives two minutes early.

Renaming the Game

If, instead of “clean-up-the-house,” the Name of the Game is “Mother-is-coming-in-20-minutes-and-I-want-to-avoid-yet-another-lecture-on-my-disorganized-ways,” all of a sudden the list gets a lot smaller.

Dust bunnies out from under bed, organize sock drawer, and
strip kitchen floor & re-wax fall off the new list entirely.

Change sheets, do laundry and organize linen closet are replaced by
Make sure the beds in rooms Mother-dear will see look made.

Vacuum entire house and beat rugs on clothesline are replaced by
Sweep quickly to remove obvious dirt from public rooms.

Most of our time will now be spent quickly removing the dirt that will trip ol’ Mom, piling the assorted kid clutter in the kid’s closets, removing surface dust below Mother’s eye level, making sure there is toilet paper, removing towels with obvious hand prints and sprinkling Clorox in the bathtub so the room will at least smell like it’s clean.

Most Moms are too busy commenting on the fact that “You look tired, dear” (or wondering what’s going on that you’ve gained weight) to really notice much about the house beyond the obvious anyway.

Wow!  Not only is that a do-able task within a time frame that is consistent with the amount of notice most Moms are likely to give, we might even finish in plenty of time to catch our breath, giving us a little emotional reserve to handle the “You look tired, dear” comment with poise and grace.

NOT the Same Old Stories

A lot of our decisions and actions are based on what we tell ourselves about why certain things are happening – what some self-help books refer to as our “stories.”

It is important to realize that we are rarely consciously aware that we made up our conclusions.  We’re rarely even aware consciously that our anxiety level has gone down or that we’ve finally stopped ruminating over some comment or event when we replay our tired ole’ conclusion trying to create a bit of order in the chaos of our lives.

Yep! We need to give ourselves some reason to make the otherwise incomprehensible seem a bit more under our control.

Advantage: short-term;
Cost to our future: HUGE.

After a while, unfortunately, our stories become our truths – we forget that they are yesterday’s best guesses, given what we knew at the time. Making up a new story shifts our “come-from” — the lens through which we look at our world.

For example, an ADD/EFDer’s life is often littered with examples of struggle and failure.

Combined with the tendency toward Black and White Thinking, their stories about struggle become the result of invalidating conclusions like, ” I am defective, I’ve tried EVERYTHING, and nothing I do is ever going to work” or “Everyone is out to get me.”

  • In the first case, The Game involves avoiding challenges.
    Because you think your efforts won’t pay off anyway, you avoid
    “wasting your time” in ways that result in wasting your life;
  • In the second case, The Game might look a bit like pretending you’re the Lone Ranger.
    Because you can’t trust others, you can’t take advantage of synergy, and you will do your best to avoid tasks that require two or more people (not to mention the biggest drawback: you can’t ask for help or information!)

A couple of new stories might be:

  • “I haven’t been able to work with people effectively because I need to change how I do some things.”

New come-froms, new games

The new Games will be built around working with others rather than around them.
Your new come-from will be “I think I can, I think I can” rather than “It’s no use.”  

Not only will your attitude about life make you a whole lot more fun to be around, you will have more fun, you will be less likely to “procrastinate,” and your actions will be much more effective – just because your new story shifted your come-from.

Renaming the Game produces a similar change from “can’t” to CAN, except that it is task specific rather than a global shift in thinking. The shift in global story is necessary to be able to Rename the Game, but you have to adjust your viewfinder more specifically to identify the “rules” of each specific Game you play. You have to reframe the goal so you can take a fresh look.

The word "productivity" spelled out in scrabble tiles

What have you been putting off LATELY?

Take a look at how your subconscious mind might conceive of the task you have set for yourself. I’ll bet you’ll discover that you’ve overwhelmed the little critter and it is, metaphorically, frozen in indecision because there are just too darn many decisions to consider.

No wonder you’re putting it off — YOU can’t move until the poor thing thaws.

Let’s reframe a few things. Reflect on each of the following points, then answer the THREE questions that follow. (Don’t let yourself get stuck in Black and White thinking.)

  • Perfect is the enemy of Good.
  • Good enough” is usually good enough for most of the things we agonize over.
  • Getting it DONE beats “doing it right” HANDS DOWN!
  • A thing worth doing is worth doing badly, too.


  1. How have you Named the Game in a manner that set you up for overwhelm and procrastination?
  2. How can you RENAME the Game in a manner where what you need to do seems actually DO-able?
  3. What ONE thing can you do right now to take a step out of the procrastination quicksand so that you can cross one teensy piece of the task off your list?

If you can’t answer number three on your feet and on your way to getting it done, circle back through the questions until you can.  Yeah, yeah, yeah – you think you’ll keep going through the questions until the task is too small to count.

Hmmmm – answer me this:

How much does doing absolutely NOTHING count?

Thanks to Sean MacEntee for the Scrabble Productivity photo:
click HERE to see more of his stuff.

As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Intentionality Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some coaching help (one-on-one,couples or group) with anything that came up while you were reading this article, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

6 Responses to Naming the Game

  1. Pingback: EF Management Tips and Tricks | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: ADD/ADHD and TIME: will ANYthing work? | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. Pingback: Life Success on YOUR Terms | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

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  5. Sabra says:

    Really liked what you had to say in your post, Naming the Game ADD . . . and-so-much-more, thanks for the good read!
    — Sabra

    Liked by 1 person

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