By: Donae Cannon, OTR/L
We are all familiar with the to do list. To be honest, I have very little idea whatI need to do without mine! In addition to my daily to do list, I've started a similar daily practice; the "ta-da" list.
It may sound corny, but it's been a game changer for me. Your to-do list is that running list of what you would like to get done in the day. Your ta-da list is a list of what you did get done in the day.
Why is this so helpful for ADHD brains?
1. Working memory.
There have been many days that ended with me having no clue what I did all day.This was especially true when my children were young, but has always been true for me on some level.
I knew that I was busy, constantly doing, never stopped moving- and yet I struggled to recall what I actually did. In fact, if someone were to casually ask me, "So, what did you do today?", I would have this moment of pure panic.
It was like a pop quiz I wasn't quite ready for. In my case, my deficits in working memory made it seriously challenging for me to recall the day's events and, subsequently, the day's wins. That meant I always had this nagging sense of "not getting anything done", even if I had worked hard all day!
Now that I am more conscious of searching for those ta-da list items, I'm better able to answer that question for myself (without breaking out into a cold sweat). No, I'm not an accurate cataloger of every moment of the day's schedule (and I likely never will be), but hunting for each day's wins has given me a better awareness of how I spend my time.
2. Time blindness.
One thing that most of us have in common is that we don't have a reliable, internalized sense of time. That's just par for the course when you have an ADHD brain. We may write a list of a dozen things that we would like to get done in the day, even though there's no way we can accomplish that list.
Then we feel down on ourselves when only 1 or 2 (or none) of these things gets done. Creating a ta-da list allows us to embrace a more realistic view of what is doable in a day. If we train ourselves to celebrate what we did accomplish, we not only improve our mood, but we begin to internalize a more accurate sense of time.
3. We need the dopamine boost.
An ADHD brain is one that is always on the hunt for dopamine-enhancing experiences. Being proactive about providing these experiences for yourself is a good practice! Let's face it, getting a pat on the back just plain feels good.
Waiting for others to recognize your job well done isn't always a reliable way to get that dopamine boost. Make it a priority to recognize and celebrate yourself. Does that sound indulgent to you? Why? Is there a voice that pops up and says, "You should not congratulate yourself for what you should already be doing!"
You may even believe that voice is helping you, after all, tough love is what we need to shape up, right? Um...that would be a big nope for me. Blame, shame, and minimizing my accomplishments just drain my energy. Managing ADHD is often a game of managing energy and that energy boost from recognizing a job done can strengthens you for whatever is next on your list!
Try making a ta da list alongside your to do list this week. Notice if there are any benefits for you, you might discover one that I didn't mention. Leave a comment below to tell us how it went!
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