Writers, dissertators, academics! How have I gone this long without sharing 750words.com
? I'm always talking about lowering the stakes for first drafts (zero drafts). And 750words is a tool designed to help with just that. It's perfect for those of you who start writing with free-writing. And even more perfect for those of you who are working on establishing a daily writing habit.
Here's the general idea: 750 words = about 3 pages. You head to 750word.com
& log in. 750words will open a new blank page for the day and you get writing. It tracks your number of words and saves your writing. It lets you know how many days you've met your goal. It's a very simple text editor so you can't get too caught up in formatting. You just write. Simple. Right?
Low frustration tolerance is tantamount to setting a low bar for how much boredom or frustration you're willing to accept in order to reach your goals -- in other words, giving up too soon when the going gets tough. Low frustration tolerance is that little voice in the back of your head that shouts:
Most of us can relate to this. Certainly, we've all wanted to give up when a project goes "into the weeds" or we're not accomplishing our goals as quickly as we'd like.
But low frustration tolerance is linked with procrastination, depression, anger, anxiety, and, of course, giving up before we reach our goals -- especially when those goals are excellent and far reaching and difficult.
Unless you're reaching for mediocre, it's worth making a concerted effort in working toward higher frustration tolerance. And the good news is that this effort is pretty straight forward (if slightly uncomfortable... but that's the point).
Most advice on how to increase your ability to tolerate frustration centers around two interlinked strategies:
- Gradual exposure to slightly greater levels of frustration -- and realizing it didn't kill you -- can strengthen your frustration tolerance "muscle"
- Reframing your irrational beliefs about the level of discomfort associated with frustration. For example, change your self-talk from "This is impossible and I can not stand working on it another minute" could be swapped for "This is really uncomfortable & I don't like it, but I can stand this bad feeling." If you're helping your kid on this, have them practice reframing statements out loud. More to try: "This is not the end of the world," or "I don't like this, but I can deal with it," or "This is annoying or a pain in the butt, but it's bearable."
Below are many links from around the internet on strategies for building your ability to tolerate those daily frustrations:
Practice make us stronger and this is never more true then when we're practicing tolerating daily frustrations. Luckily, there are hundreds of little opportunities every day to practice.
This interesting article from BBC News
by Tom Stafford focuses mainly on the Getting Things Done
system (which a lot of people love -- but many find overwhelming and difficult to maintain). The most interesting bit in this article, though, is the following research tidbit about why unfinished tasks needle us & what to do about it:
"People did worse on a brainstorming task when they were prevented from finishing a simple warm-up task – because the warm-up task was stuck in their active memory. What Baumeister and Masicampo did next is the interesting thing; they allowed some people to make plans to finish the warm-up task. They weren't allowed to finish it, just to make plans on how they'd finish it. Sure enough, those people allowed to make plans were freed from the distracting effect of leaving the warm-up task unfinished."
Time Magazine has an interesting piece about some research (led by Mathias Pessiglione of the Motivation Brain and Behavior Laboratory of INSERM in Paris, France) on how people decide when they need a break and when they're willing to persist. The most interesting piece, for me, is that we're willing to persist longer when we value the reward or when we think the task isn't that hard anyway. This had interesting implications for motivating ourselves to keep at it, even when we'd rather stop and check Facebook. In what ways can you shift your focus toward thinking about the payoff? Or break the task into smaller pieces so it doesn't seem so darn hard? "The peaks and valleys that trigger these [quitting or persisting] decisions are not pre-set: they’re influenced by how much effort you’re expending and how big a reward you expect from the work. The bigger the reward and the smaller the effort required, the more likely you are to keep going until you’ve done what needs doing. As you work, it seems, your brain continuously calibrates your breaking point in relation to your expectations of gain."
Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2013/01/31/how-your-brain-tells-you-when-to-take-a-break/#ixzz2K2yvwPNg
Image from Time.com
What daily rituals do you already have? How do they make your life easier?
Rituals are powerful because they automate our behavior and decrease the "activiation energy" required to accomplish a task. In other words, they make it easier and less brain-intensive to get things done. Think of a ritual as a routine -- you have a ritual for brushing your teeth, you have a ritual for making your morning coffee, you have a ritual for fixing your normal breakfast. If you're like me, you have to make a routine of these early morning tasks because there's not a lot of cognitive "cycles" to go around first thing in the morning. If I didn't have a script to run, I might never get out the door. Consider brushing you teeth: you don't have to think about it; you just reach for the toothpaste and do your thing, just like you've done a million times before. Rituals are all about taking decision making out of the picture. Removing the need to make decisions can be powerful for a lot of reasons. It short circuits anxiety & reduces cognitive load. I recommend that my clients use rituals as powerful tools in many situations.
For example, those of you with a fear-of-writing (very common among "dissertating" clients) - try creating a writing ritual so that your cognitive baggage can't get between you and those first words. A writing ritual might look like this: fix a cup of tea, open computer, pull out notes from yesterday, compose first sentence on scrap paper, type in first sentence, and you're started!
My clients with ADHD often have trouble getting out of the door in the morning. Here again, there's the double whammy of attentional deficits and early morning brain fog. Try creating rituals for particularly sticky parts of the morning routine. Write them down. Follow them to a "T" for 3 or 4 weeks and see if that small part of the morning doesn't get a little smoother. A ritual I just added for myself is putting together my workbag the night before. You've heard this tip in the past, I'm sure. But now I set it by the front door with my keys and shoes. This might also be old hat. But I add one more step: I create a little pile of everything that needs to leave the house with me right there by the front door. As I'm putting the house to bed the night before I often remember library books that need to be returned, grocery lists that need to be consulted, etc. If these aren't in my pile the night before there's little chance I'll remember them in the morning.
What are the sticky parts of your morning? What rituals can you make to help them run more smoothly?
A very preliminary review of the literature (okay, truth: I've only checked the WebMD site
) hints as links between food colorants and hyperactive behavior. What this means: while hyperactive behavior isn't the same thing as ADHD, and while the links are tentative and have only been demonstrated in the short term, cutting out food colorants on a trial basis is certainly worth a shot. Depending on how heavily your family's diet currently leans toward convenience foods, it might not be all that difficult to set a 2 week trial period and see if you notice any change in behavior.
Try this first: Based on common sense, but not yet based on hard science, I recommend starting with breakfast. Check labels on what you and your kids are eating for breakfast. First, just notice whether or not there are food colorants on the ingredient list. No? Good for you! Yes? That gives you something to work with! Commit to 2 weeks of colorant free breakfast and see if that makes a difference. Consider it your own little experiment. Unless you have a real Fruit Loops addict on your hands, it can't do any harm to try. Let me know how it goes!
This week I was lucky enough to have lunch with Dr. Nicholas Lofthouse, Asst Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at OSU
. He does a lot of testing, treatment, and research of patients with executive functioning difficulties, among other things. Dr. Lofthouse is particularly tapped into the world of alternative therapies for ADHD. He gave me a lot to think about. Check back here for updates as I dive into the research on links between ADHD and food colorants, Omega-3s, etc.
Amy Poehler's Smart Girls channel
is my new favorite YouTube obsession. Sure, technically it's for pre-teen and teenage girls, but Amy & Co. are so awesome that I feel like they're talking to me too. In this "Ask Amy" episode
she talks about how to manage stress -- and she references Anne Lamott (another favorite sage). Check it out!
“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym
It's tough to achieve goals when we don't know what they are. Many (if not most) of my clients come to their first session with some goals in mind, but often those goals are still a little fuzzy or not completely in focus. Goal setting is tough. I think it's tough because (1) it's a skill we haven't practiced much and because (2) once we articulate very clear, measurable goals then we feel like there's a chance we might fail. If our goals stay fuzzy we don't have to face the possibility of failing to reach them. But here's the rub: we also are less likely to achieve what we really want! We have to be brave enough to say what we're aiming for so that we have a chance of hitting the target. And we're more likely to seek out the support (like coaching) that will get us there. Paulo Coelho says it well: “Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”
In the adhd world, and in the world of over-busy people, it's taken as truth that we should all #1 get a calendar and use it religiously and #2 find some "external brain" to use as a dumping ground for all the bits of information we need to have at hand. My personal favorite tool for this is evernote.com
. These are often some of my first suggestions for new clients. But this article
by Thorin Klosowski suggests just the opposite: that by ditching memory aids we can improve memory. What do you think? I'm skeptical that this would work -- I don't think I'd trust it for very important stuff -- but maybe I am too quick to look things up on my phone rather than search my memory.