About 10 years ago, when my advertising agency was operating at full tilt, I often made decisions that had long-term implications about the efficiency of the company. How to get all the computers to sync their calendar data on the network, for instance. Or the most effective way to manage project timelines.
I would play with a variety of scenarios in my head or on paper, eventually coming up with a “best” solution. Then we’d implement the plan and it would become part of the Standard Operating Procedure for my company.
Those tortured decisions were like diving into a vat of endless possibility for me. On one hand, I loved playing with options. On the other, I needed them to work immediately and without a lot of confusion. I began to tell my employees that I wanted to “THINK ONCE really hard and then not think again.”
It’s a philosophy that I now recognize as one of my main coping mechanisms for ADD. I’ve used it to buy clothes, to change careers, to deal with my kids’ homework, to keep the house semi-organized. I think I’ve figured out why it has worked for me.
As an ADD Woman, I am constantly distracted by interesting tidbits — and virtually everything is interesting to me except professional football and ironing. But the basics of my life, like brushing my teeth, taking a shower, or feeding the dog and cat, are done on autopilot. I don’t think about them too much. I just do them. Most of the time.
Perhaps once upon a time there was a tortured thinking session when I made the decision to brush before breakfast instead of after (as my husband does), but it’s been long forgotten. Now, I brush and go on to the next interesting thing. Brushing teeth became part of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) I’ve developed for my life.
My Standard Operating Procedure allows me to “not think” about some daily essentials so that my ADD mind can race around looking for the stimulating things that arise miraculously in each moment. All the time I’m brushing my teeth, for instance, my mind is whirling over to the retreat house wondering if I can get the garage painted in time for the next retreat and then to the grocery store to buy some more toothpaste….and on and on. I finish brushing and I’m off to the next thing. If it’s SOP, I get to keep dreaming about the interesting stuff; if it’s not, I get to DO the interesting stuff.
One variation of “Think Once” is “Shop Hard.” When I buy clothes, I am plunged into an ADD nightmare: dozens of racks of clothing in a massive space that is new and colorful and overwhelming.
Then comes the sorting out process. Do I like the style? Do I like the color/does the color look good on me/do I need anything else in this color? Is the fabric is too scratchy? Is the neckline too tight? Are the pant legs long enough? My criterion for clothing is that it doesn’t distract me while I am wearing it. That eliminates anything “fussy” like scarves or jewelry or French cuffs.
Whew! To end up in my closet, a piece of clothing has to clear a lot of hurdles. But after I ‘Think Once, really, really hard” then I can take the clothes home, and grab something from my closet without thinking, knowing that it will be OK for me to wear in public. I have already done the thinking: now I can let it go and let my brain focus on the OTHER ten million things it juggles.
Jack Canfield talks about having a finite number of “attention units” which we use each day. My “Think Once” strategy sucks up all my attention units when I’m in the “thinking phase,” but ultimately it frees me to give attention to things that are a lot more interesting than brushing teeth and shopping for clothes.
I honestly don’t know how linear folks stay on track. But I’ve learned to “Think Once” and never look back.