As much as we try to avoid it, sometimes we're faced with a task that well and truly sucks. Whether it's chores, taxes or filling out forms, completing these tasks with ADHD can feel near impossible.
A theory proposed by Tripp and Wickens (2009) outlined why ADHD brains may struggle to complete these tasks, no matter how important. They hypothesised that differences in our brain chemistry means we aren't as motivated by long-term rewards as neurotypicals. So when you're watching Youtube for another hour when you were meant to do the dishes, it could be because you don't receive the same dopamine 'reward' for completing your task as your neurotypical friends and family. Essentially, if they get the dopamine equivalent of $10, you might get $5.
While this can seem like bad news, it does provide us with some clues about how we can work with our ADHD to improve these reward systems. After all, $5 seems pretty stingy, so maybe there are some immediate rewards we can give ourselves to help our ADHD brain get more motivated.
Here are a few ideas to get started combining tedious tasks with immediate rewards
1. Complete the Task With Another Person.
Sometimes working together can feel more fun than working alone. Seeing someone else working can also act as motivation to keep going. If you have a task you regularly do but find boring, see if you can grab a friend or partner (digital or in-person) and work alongside them on similar jobs.
2. Listen To Music Or A Podcast
Doing a tedious chore? Listening to your favourite podcasts can help the time move faster. Bonus points if you listen to it on 2x speed 😊. Download one of the podcast apps and save something you enjoy (no judgements here choose whatever works for you). Then when you come to do your task, you can combine it with listening to a podcast. Podcasts can also act as a natural timer. When the podcast is done, so is your job!
3. Use Colourful Fun Stationary
Sometimes just the way you do a task can help make it more rewarding. Colourful pens, stickers, coloured paper, these can all help make paperwork more fun. Getting to use new stationery can act as its own reward for paper and pen tasks. Taxes filled out in glitter pen anyone?
4. Eat Or Drink Something You Enjoy
Sometimes when you have a challenging task that occurs occasionally, it can help to pair it with a food or drink you enjoy but don't eat often. Personally, when working on a complicated piece of writing, I'll treat myself to some Skittles. Ideally, make the food something you can eat while completing the task, so you are combining the job and reward.
5. Work In A Comfortable Fun Space
This tip focuses on improving your reward for work in general. If you enjoy where you work, chances are you're more likely to go there and start on your task. So chose a comfy seat, find space where you can spread out, grab a fidget toy or two, and try to include some items that have positive associations around you.
Hopefully, this list helps you start thinking of little rewards you can give yourself while doing tedious or difficult tasks in the future. Let me know if you try any of these ideas or have a few of your own!
Talk to your next week.
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Tripp, G., & Wickens, J. R. (2009). Neurobiology of ADHD. Neuropharmacology, 57(7-8), 579-589.