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Goal setting for people with ADHD can be a huge point of frustration. We’re not great at planning and let’s face it – we are not the best at follow through.
However, when you set goals that are ADHD-friendly and then create some structure to set yourself up for success, there’s seriously, no stopping you. So today I hope to help you do that.
If you follow me on YouTube, you may have seen my Year Review video about the four L retrospective process for assessing the year that you just had. I’ll share it here in case you didn’t watch it, but generally, what you do is take a piece of paper and list out things that you loved, learned, lacked and longed for.
Goal Setting Starts With Examining Personal Wants + Needs
This makes your brain think about your life in the context of need and wants that were either met, or not (yet). the things So once you’ve watched the video, I encourage you to spend a little time doing the exercise. The other exercise I would recommend doing if you’re interested in reflection, is this needs assessment.
This will help you understand what YOU need to thrive as an individual. Whether it’s health, wealth, safety, or connection, understanding your significant needs is going to help you get them met. And that, my friend’s is life changing.
The needs assessment will take about ten minutes to finish. It’s totally free, and it will give you a really good idea of what you need to focus on in the New year.
So once you’ve got your retrospective done, reflect on what it is you need to bring into this year.
Is it more love and connection?
Is it a new job?
Understanding how or if your needs were met in the past year will help inform where you want to focus your attention this year.
Once you’ve reflected on your needs in the context of the last year, it’s time to start mapping out your goals that you would like to achieve for this year. I like to do this digitally, but use whatever process works best for you. You can grab my Google Sheet goal setting template here.
Make Your Goals Juicy
Once you’ve written your goals down, take an honest look at the them and ask yourself – do these goals light me up? Or are they coming from a place of “have to, need to, or should”?
I strongly encourage you to take the fattest Sharpie marker you can find and scratch out all of the obligatory goals. Because let’s face it, those are probably the same goals you’ve been recycling every year for the past 10 years, so clearly, you’re not that motivated by them, and that’s a-okay.
Here’s the thing. If it’s something that doesn’t light you up, it’s going to be really hard for you to get it done. So if it’s something you know, you want to focus on because it’s a true need, that’s one thing. But if it’s something that society, your mother or your boyfriend wants you to do, that’s something that needs to come off your list.
Keep your list of goals for the new year as juicy and energetic as possible. That’s going to give you the best chance of follow through and success before we go on.
Use Restraint With Your ADHD-Friendly Goals
Take a look at your goal list and evaluate how many goals you actually want to achieve. Some of them might be small and might not take very much time, but some of them are probably big and might take years to accomplish.
I recently worked with a client who had 44 goals on her list for this year, and she probably got through about 4% of them. No wonder her biggest roadblock was feeling overwhelmed! She was expecting too much of herself.
So with that in mind, look at your goal list and ask yourself, am I setting myself up for success or failure with the number of things I want to accomplish in this year?
Goal Setting + Time Blindness
People with ADHD aren’t great at understanding how long things take. We live in the land of now and not now. So to really understand whether or not you are setting yourself up for success, it might be helpful to enlist the feedback of somebody you trust. Ask them if they think you’re being realistic with the things you want to accomplish this year.
If you don’t want to get feedback from people in your life , you may want to work with an ADHD Life Coach, to help you streamline and plan out your goals so that they will work for you. Take some time to reflect on your goals and make sure that they are something you can actually accomplish in the next twelve months.
Breaking Down Goals into ADHD-Friendly Timelines and Actions
Now that your goals are set, I recommend chunking them into quarters. For example, you might have an annual revenue goal, but by breaking it down into quarters, you’ll be able to checkin throughout the year to see if you’re on track. You can do this with running a marathon, losing 20 pounds, or anything else you may want to take on.
Now that you’ve crystallized and refined your goals and identified major milestones, it’s time to break your goals into small action steps so you can plot them into your calendar. The more detailed you can be with this step, the better.
Once you’ve got your action steps written down it’s time to plot them into your calendar, paper planner or productivity app. Personally, I have gone through every digital system known to man, and I have fallen in love with Click Up. It’s very ADHD friendly, and it replaces so many other software programs (for screen recording, storage, workflow, document management, forms, etc).
The process of breaking tasks down to actionable levels is probably the most important part of building a structure to follow through with your goals. It’s hard to know in the moment what the next step is if you haven’t really thought through the bigger picture and where it is you want to go.
So please don’t skip this step of listing out your goals and timelines and putting them on whatever calendar system you use. This structure piece is so important.
Set up ALL the Goal Reminders
ADHD brains are not great with short and long term memories, so we really need to externalize our goals and design reminder systems that will constantly keep us on track. Personally, I need to have a variety of different reminder systems or else they become white noise, and I ignore them.
I use my digital productivity app, a day planner, and my secret weapon – Alexa! She reminds me throughout the day to refer back to my to list for the next task (or else I’ll stay on Instagram all day).
I also use Streak for Gmail to schedule emails to myself at the end of each month, recapping what I was supposed to have accomplished and what I need to focus on in the following month. I know it may sound like a lot, but these are the guardrails that I need to stay on track with my goals and I find them super helpful.
Making Yourself Accountable to Your Goals
Most of us are really good at letting ourselves down when we say we’re going to do something. It’s the easiest thing in the world to do, right? But let down other people? Oh no… we can’t do that.
This is where people pleasing becomes a super-power. I hold myself accountable by promising deliverables to other people. Personally, I use a coach to keep me accountable to my goals, but you could also enlist the help of a friend to be accountable to.
I also recommend body doubling for folks with ADHD. A great resource is FocusMate, which is like a virtual study hall. You simply join an ongoing zoom meeting where everyone is muted and doing their own thing, but you all work together. It sounds odd, but it’s actually super helpful.
So that’s it! I hope this process was useful for your own goal setting. Once again, if you want support working through this process, I’d be happy to support you.
Don’t forget to grab the link for the goal setting worksheet!
Here’s to your focused success!