The hierarchy of suck.

this is another one of my personal theories about adhd. And it also relates to anxiety. Let’s start with a story about a hypothetical college freshman. This kid hates doing laundry. Why? Duh! Because laundry is boring, requires planning, requires multiple steps, and is far less fun than dancing, playing sports, music, and pretty much everything else.

so this kid does everything he can do not to do laundry. He might buy extra underwear. He might turn things inside out. If he’s particularly charming, he might get his girlfriend to do it. But he’s really trying to hold out for the next time he goes home so Mom will do it. And then, midterms. And when confronted with the boring, tedious, anxiety-producing, and not so fun task of studying for midterms, he decides it’s a really good idea to do all his laundry. Why? Because laundry seems more accessible and less scary than studying for midterms. It is no longer the lowest on the hierarchy of suck.

I know what you’re thinking. If a bunch of stuff sucks why does it matter which stuff sucks more? Well, the reality is that we are constantly under pressure to get stuff done. The more stuff we need to get done, the longer the list, the more the stress, the more the anxiety. Doing nothing when you’re already reasonably overwhelmed generally doesn’t end up in a good scenario. So, as in most cases in our ADHD lives, we pick the low-hanging fruit. So in this case, the low-hanging fruit is productive. But it’s also a means of avoiding the thing that we need to do the most.

The general idea is that we don’t always have to do the thing that is the most important. We can do the thing that’s the most urgent. That’s probably a good idea. We should have a strategy for getting to that thing that’s most important. But if we’re having a rough day or particularly low energy, knocking off some of the things lower on the list it’s totally fine. As long as it’s a means to an end. In other words, clearing the decks so you can focus on the big fish.

I think I’m going to maybe write more on this later in the context of time management. It’s brought up a lot of other thoughts. Although I’ll probably just forget about it. So if you have any follow-up questions let me know.

Talking on my phone. I’ll let you fill in the standard disclaimer here.