It was one of those ordinary days in the Antiques Catalogue department, with the sunlight streaming through the back window, the gentle buzz of human beings beavering away in the background and Marion, an Auction Cataloger, mindlessly staring at a red robin perched on the bird feeder.  She sighed as she contemplated how to motivate herself. There was nothing exciting on the list and the humdrum of it all was wreaking havoc with Marion’s focus. Luckily, a way out was looming.

Harry, the boss, had a urgent request. Marion had to upload the latest frame collection onto the auction site by lunchtime. Marion’s brain exploded with excitement, and she was off and running before Harry had even left the room.

Rush in without thinking

As is her style, Marion immediately logged into the program and made a start. And then got into a complete and utter muddle! At every step in the process, Marion hit a wall and had to google how to do it. Then she would go back to the task but forget where she was up to; and when her boss came to check her two hour later and saw the muddle she was in, Marion felt like a complete fool. This set off anxiety and the anxiety shut down her brain. It took Marion until the end of the day to get the job completed correctly instead of the three hours someone else would take. So, what went wrong?

Boring to dopamine spike

Marion started the day with an under-stimulated brain. When her boss gave her an exciting task, with a strict deadline, this would have triggered a delightful rush of dopamine and adrenalin. While the rush kicked her into action, it also got her into trouble. This is when Pause, Think, Act comes in.

What could Marion have done differently?

The ADHD brain is too eager to get up and running without pausing to think things through properly. This explains why you can end up in a muddled, chaotic mess. You lose hours backtracking, re-doing stuff, clearing up the mess, starting again, and again, and again. And this sets up panic, stress and worry, which shatters your confidence and damages performance.

If you have ADHD/ADD it is critical that you train yourself to stop and pause for a moment before launching into action. Here’s what to do.

  1. Ground yourself by placing your feet flat on the floor, focus on your body and do a couple of cycles of 4,7,8 breathing. i.e. Breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, breath out for 8 seconds.
  2. Start thinking about the task, breaking it down into baby steps. List each step on a notepad and check that you have what you need ready beside you. If you don’t, then go and get what’s missing. When you are sure you have everything ready, that you know exactly what you have to do, and you know exactly what ‘finished’ looks like, then you are ready for step 3.
  3. Start working on the task. This should now be a smooth, efficient process.

To recap – first PAUSE before doing anything! Take a moment to get centered and engage the rational brain. Then – THINK, which also includes asking questions and thinking through the process to check you have everything you need for action. If you have completed all of the above, then, and only then, are you ready to step into ACTION.

By following this simple ritual, you will prevent ADHD/ADD chaos and will see your performance and efficiency levels skyrocket.


Jacinta Noonan is an ADHD specialist & Life Coach. She helps her clients move from Scattered to Focussed.