TaskMaster – Getting Things DONE!

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by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part One of the TaskMaster™ Series

Taming Training 101

You are about to learn to become your own Task Master.

Nooooo – I don’t mean standing with a chair and a whip, caging the beast that is YOU.

The TASKS must be trained.  They need to be tamed so they’ll work the way YOU need them to work.

Task taming is a multi-stepped process:

•  Tasks must be trained initially, then
•  Revisited and re-trained every time you learn something new about what you really need.

Let me guess . . . at this point, ALL you know about what you really need is that whatever others tell you to do doesn’t seem to work for YOU, right?

I’m about to let you in on an important ADD secret that many of us had to learn about the hard way. Shhhhhhhh!

At least 80% of what others have been telling you wasn’t designed to work for you!

  • It was actually intended to chastise you for not ALREADY knowing how to make it work, and
  • to get you to stop looking to others for help (especially them!)

Really! And I’ll bet it worked just as designed.

Think about it. Didn’t you feel thoroughly chastised, tongue-tied about what to say next, and reluctant to ask for help the next time?

Let’s take a closer look at that.

Run down the following “motivating” statements that have probably been aimed your way those many, many times you have trouble starting a task, staying on task, or finishing a task. “Check off” those you’ve heard personally.

•  Jack-of-all-trades, master of none.
•  You REALLY need to work on developing some self-discipline.
•  If you don’t get organized you are going to come to grief.
•  You’ve got to learn to postpone gratification.
•  Just make a plan and stick to it
•  Well sure, nothing comes easy, but you just have to make yourself.
•  You really need to take responsibility!
•  You have to buckle down.

Well THAT’s just flat-out confusing!

Exactly how does one buckle that down item anyway?

WHAT “gratification” are we not postponing?
(and when do we get into trouble for not attending to THAT detail?)

We thought we DID “take responsibility” by asking for help.
Now what do we DO?

See what I mean?

Let’s not make a long story endless by analyzing why, in response to our sincere cries for help, those who speak to us in that “tough love” fashion seem so mean-spirited.  They probably believe accomplishment comes “naturally” to those who want it badly enough and are probably not remotely aware of how what they’re saying comes across to those of us to whom they say it.

No doubt they would become defensive and angry were we to point it out, however, and would then say something even worse, so let’s not. There’s nothing anybody can do about them, anyway.

Let’s look at what we CAN do something about:

  • Our own reactions
  • Our own decisions and
  • Our own actions

Now, I’m not suggesting that you have a lousy bunch of friends or that your colleagues are a bunch of creeps. They are probably NOT doing it consciously (and would deny it vehemently if you showed them this article). Most likely, they’re not mean and nasty — they are probably beside themselves with frustration because they just don’t GET why you don’t get it!

So let’s see what we can do about changing THAT little reality.

Take a look at the items that resonated with you in the above list of comments that have probably been aimed your way.

Think of a specific example in your life where you tried to listen to that “advice” and failed to reach a goal or complete a task.

Write down five words that describe how it made you feel.
Label this your list of five feelings.

We’re going to do an exercise using this list after we make a few more, so put it somewhere you won’t have to look for it when the time comes.

The best idea would probably be to put it in a notebook of work you do while you are reading this series of articles.  THEN, when TaskMaster comes out in the form of a book, you can keep any additional Task-Taming details in the same place.

Just keep track of it, however you decide to do it.  Tape it to the wall by your bed, or on your refrigerator.  You will probably be able to locate either of those places again relatively easily.

TaskMaster Example: List of Five Feelings

  1. Frustrated
  2. Misunderstood 
  3. Invalidated & Worthless
  4. Hopeless – foolish for trying
  5. Angry

Next list: 

What were some of the tactics you used to deal with your anxiety about not knowing how to tackle a particular task?  (Write down any five supposed “procrastination” activities you took on instead.)

If you having a little difficulty with this concept, try to recall some of the things that occurred around the same time period

•  You put yourself to bed because you really weren’t feeling all that great
•  You over-promised in some other arena and couldn’t follow through
•  You over-ate (or over-drank or – well, you know where I’m going here)
•  You spent a marathon weekend cleaning the basement
•  You fell in love – again
•  You went shopping to update your wardrobe
(or your workshop, or your pantry, or your wine cellar — you know what you do when,
“out of the blue” you recall that you simply must run out to buy something “important.”)
•  You sank into a deep malaise and accomplished absolutely nothing for a while

The little things we do

I want you to consider that there might be a connection between a few of the items that “occurred around the same time period” and that list of five supposed “procrastination” activities I asked you to come up with.  Ya’ think?! 

I would like to suggest that these supposed “procrastination” activities are actually “avoidance” activities.  You’re not avoiding the TASK, you’re avoiding any feeling of anxiety around not feeling like you have a handle on the task — or avoiding the anxiety of any shame around the fact that you haven’t already accomplished the task.

Avoidance Activities

What is it that you do that makes you feel better after you realize that you’ve let yourself –or somebody else– down by dropping the ball . . . again?  What comes next?

I don’t mean the part where you scream at the kids, cry, or sling blame at your spouse.

I want you to think about what it is that you do when you are attempting to recenter —
so you can do anything besides scream, cry and blame.

Those activities (or lack of activities) are some of the unconscious ways you handle stress when you try, yet again, to march to someone else’s drummer.

What you need is your own personal profile of warning signals to keep you conscious – and these recentering techniques you are already using are the best place to begin.  Once we figure out what they are, we’re half way to figuring out how to use them more effectively – or how to replace them with something that will work better.

What do you often end up doing instead of what you set out to do?

Some of the answers my clients have come up with are below.  Do any of those sound familiar?

Think about what YOU do as you read their responses.

  • Instead of completing the task, I felt like I really had to stop to reorganize my files.
    They were such a mess, I couldn’t move forward.
  • I felt like I really needed some exercise to clear my head so I went jogging
    – before I knew it it was two hours later and I had to get ready to go somewhere.
  • Balancing my checkbook suddenly became the most important thing in the world.
    You know how long that takes!
  • I started to get some computer work done to be able to feel good about some other accomplishment, but ended up playing solitaire for a really long time.
  • I called my girlfriend to see if she had finished the task she was working on.
    When I got her voicemail I started calling all over town to find out where she was.

What do the items from my client’s list above have in common?

They are all ways we humans attempt to avoid shutdown and overwhelm in response to the first inkling of TASK ANXIETY.   We’ll talk more about that in a subsequent article in this series, but for right now, try to embrace the concept without a lot of additional explanation.

Think about those little things that you do.  Write down as many as you can remember ever doing.  Use your own personal shorthand and forget grammar and spelling – this is not an assignment that will be graded by anyone but you.  Just get the list on paper.

As you bring your unconscious coping mechanisms to consciousness, you are beginning to carve out a picture of the key areas where you re-direct your attention in response to the stress of task management: task anxiety.

I want you to focus on four major areas.

  1. Your physical environment
  2. Health & well-being
  3. Money matters & work tasks
  4. Personal relationships


Take a look at the items on your list of “avoidance activities” and put them into one of the four categories above.  Notice how many fall under each category.

Does one of the four categories stand out?

  • Do you have more items in that category?
  • Do you have fewer items in that category but find yourself using them more often?
  • Do the items in that category bother you more than the others?
  • Is one of the categories totally missing?  Double check your memory to see if you can fill in a few additional activities that fit the category. (Pay particular attention to how annoying it is to be asked to do this as well as checking to see if the items in this category bother you more than the others)

If any category “stands out,”  start becoming aware of its siren song in the weeks to come. Begin to ask yourself if you’re avoiding something else any time you begin an activity in that category.  You probably know yourself better than you think, but you’ve never thought about what you do in terms of what it means to task management.

MEANWHILE, hang on to those lists – there’s lots more to come in the TaskMaster™ series, and you know you don’t want to have to start over!

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

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You might also be interested in some of the following articles
available right now – on this site and elsewhere.

For links in context: run your cursor over the article above and the dark grey links will turn dark red;
(subtle, so they don’t pull focus while you read, but you can find them to click when you’re ready for them)
– and check out the links to other Related Content in each of the articles themselves –

Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
(in case you missed them above or below)

Wanna’ see how I use this technique?

Other related Articles on ADDandSoMuchMore.com

A bit of Related Neuroscience

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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!"

23 Responses to TaskMaster – Getting Things DONE!

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  3. I’ve been doing so much avoidance activity lately, and I know the root of it. I’m embarking on something completely new (release of a book) and made some other big changes (started working part-time) and I’m operating out of some fear and anxiety about it. Even though these are desirable events and very exciting to me, I find myself paralyzed at times. Thanks, Madelyn, for helping me feel ‘normal’ knowing other people do this, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well that is certainly NOT a “shallow” reflection in the slightest! I do the same thing when I’ve made a big change, btw – in fact, I’ve never met anybody who does NOT do that.

      The trick is to notice when you do it “in real time” and make another choice – ANY other choice, as long as it is not what you “usually” do. It begins to break the back of the habit by linking a new action to an old cue.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and leave me feedback.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ha ha, I’ve been avoiding starting a new novel all over the summer. Perhaps I’d better shut out all distractions and get on with it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Osyth says:

    This is mind-opening for me. Just skim reading it, I knew I would have to go back and explore and actually actively DO. Thank you Madeleine, you must be in tune with me today because this is exactly and precisely what I need!! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a lovely response, especially from you (because I know your rule). The best way to work on change is on paper, in my experience with clients (and myself), but even paying attention to the questions so you can notice in real time is helpful for many. Bringing what we do to consciousness is always the first step on the pathway to change.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and respond. MUCH appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

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  14. jeg700 says:

    I love your articles and your insightfulness. Keep up the good work:) I have re-posted this article on my blog. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: TaskMaster – Getting Things DONE! « ADD . . . and-so-much-more « addpositively

  16. Breathtaking post! Can’t wait for more. I hadn’t thought about those avoidance activities as being symptoms of task anxiety. This is one of those things that makes sense once you think about it. You really know this stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bless you for couching it as expertise, Jean. Unfortunately any “wisdom” I might be blamed for is born out of the desperation of experience!

      btw – I have coined the term duh! (similar to that aha! term in use) to label what you described. A duh! is one of those things that is obvious once somebody else says it or does it, but your mind might never have gone there otherwise. In the “tips and tricks” category, a duh! is one of those perfectly obvious solutions you would NEVER have come up with on your own. (My forhead is practically hollow from slapping it and saying, DUH! so many times.)

      At the end of coaching sessions and classes we usually do what my students have come to call the “what did you gets?”

      It is a technique designed to wake up the verbal processors, to serve as a linking technique, to create value in their minds so they continue to stay enrolled in the process, and to provide a quick review of the class. It also helps me keep a handle on what get’s in and where their minds go with the info.

      I frequently add, when we get to that part, Any ahas or duhs? The duhs outnumber the ahas about 10 to 1!


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