Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Get Unstuck: Use Time-Ins to Go from Inaction to In Action!

An alternate approach for working with kids - got me to wondering how one could play with the time-in notion so that it becomes one more tool for those of with adult ADHD and/or executive dysfunction issues.

I learned about time-ins from the web site Social Moms, where it was suggested replacing time-outs for kids with behavior problems with time-ins could be helpful in preventing such issues and reinforcing positive experiences.

The time-in notion was attributed to psychotherapist Ava Parnass. In short, “time-in keeps things from building up and exploding, leading to too many time-outs,” says Parnass, author of Listen to Me Please! Time In Not Time Out. You can learn more about Ms Parnass at her web site Listen to Me Please.Com. Her web site is really cool, and parents will find it both entertaining and helpful.

My wondering about time-ins lead me to link it with an approach I already use, and that is scheduling a few five minute activity periods when I'm stuck and not able to get anything done.

What I would add to this approach would be the name time-in, which would be a way of strengthening it.

Schedule a time-in and "act as if," as if I didn't have an executive dysfunction problem, or ADHD, or issues getting started at a task, or switching from one task to another.

Surely, I can fake it for at least five minutes - that's all, 30o seconds, about 50 breaths (depending on your normal breathing rate, and don't try to change your breathing for this exercise).

By fake, I mean to "act as if," creating for yourself a sense of being able to do whatever it is the time-in activity is for five minutes, knowing you do not have to do it any longer than that.

"But," some may say, "I have so much to do, so many things piling up, I need more than five minutes."

While that may be very true, the point for many people is that right now they are not doing anything. Or right now, this day for which a time-in could be scheduled, they are stuck. The point of time-in is to get unstuck, to start experiencing some traction. To move from inaction to being in action.

What I try to do when stuck - and as some readers here may know, I can get quite stuck, especially as depression and anxiety take hold - is to schedule no more than two or three time-in periods for both morning and afternoon.

Such minimal scheduling may seem silly when looking at what needs to be done. Yet if there's anxiety around you don't want to do anything to add to it. I've found if I try to schedule more time-ins they become a source of anxiety as well, and that doesn't help in gaining traction when stuck.

The mental "trick" with so few time-in periods is that you may find yourself wanting to do more than the five minutes, or that quite naturally you start to shift from one activity to another.

That isn't the immediate goal, however, and even to have such an expectation may hold you back. The immediate goal is to have spent five minutes on each of two or three activities in the morning, and again in the afternoon.

Ironically, knowing that you do not have to do anything more than the time-in activities, may help to reduce your overall anxiety. In effect you're saying to yourself, "As long as I do the time-ins I' ve scheduled, I can relax the rest of the time." In other words, the pressure is lifted, and the anxiety may evaporate.

As I noted above, the idea of working with scheduled five minute periods isn't new to me. What is new, however, is thinking of them as time-ins. When I'm stuck, life feels like one long time-out. With that sense of time-out comes negative associations, such as: out in the cold, out of the game, out of my mind, etc. Naturally, those aren't helpful, yet the more stuck I am, the more damning the self-talk can be.

So adding the notion of time-in to the five minute activities strengthens the approach. The associations then become in the game, in touch with what needs to be done, in motion, in action, and so on.

My experience with myself and others is that working with a small number of five minute activity periods can lead those with ADHD, executive dysfunction, or anxiety to a place of greater, more sustained activity, in less time than other approaches. I'm finding for myself that thinking of these five minute periods as time-ins really does enhance this approach.

In the final analysis, we are all "experiments of one," as the running doctor George Sheehan used to say. It's good to see ourselves that way because we're more likely to try different ways to keep motivated and moving when we'd otherwise be stuck.

Thinking in terms of time-ins may be a useful and powerful approach for many people some of the time. The important thing is to have different ways of motivating yourself and getting things done, so when one of them isn't working for you today you have something else in your toolkit.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed.

    This is a good way of dealing with the lizard brain that lies between the thinking brain and the outside world. The bad news is that it is a creature of instinct that knows only two states: greedy and scared. The good news is that it is very stupid, and can easily be tricked. Mark Forster recommends blatant lying: "I'll just get the file out" or "I'll just make a quick list of my key thoughts". Sometimes this works better when you DON'T schedule it (as this only gives the lizard brain time to twig that something is amiss).

    Something else that can work is to alternate time bound time-ins on different subjects. Forcing yourself to stop when you are on a roll is one way to stoke up enthusiasm.

    You can also increase the length with each iteration.

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