What’s that all-important first step?

Cindy JobsHealth and Well-Being

I hear this a lot from my clients, especially those challenged with ADHD:

“I didn’t get it done because it was just too overwhelming.  I don’t even know what the first step is!”

I get it.  Whether challenged with ADHD or not, sometimes when we look at an intention, it can be overwhelming.  However, when we break that intention down into manageable parts, we have a better chance of getting it done.

Let me be clear about what an intention might be:

  • Cleaning the house.
  • Getting the oil changed in the car.
  • Losing 30 pounds.
  • Selling a house.
  • Building a 737.

Clearly, some of these things have more steps than others, but if we don’t know where to start, the level of difficulty doesn’t seem all that different.  Let’s take them one at a time.

Cleaning the house:  Even though this seems like a manageable task, for many, it is not.  Think about it, cleaning the house is a multi-step process, and if you don’t know where to start, it can be so overwhelming it just doesn’t get done.  For example, do you start with a surface type and do all the floor first, then move on to tables and counters then finish with Swiffering (who knew that would become a verb?) the cobwebs out of the corners?  Or, do you go room-by-room and if so, where do you start? Do you start in common areas like the kitchen or private spaces?  Once you’ve determined the space, do you start with a particular surface and if so, which one?  Whichever way you choose to go, defining the first step, like taking out the vacuum, may very well be the key to completing the entire intention.  As an example, I listened to an ADHD Rewired podcast today where someone said her first action to get out of bed in the morning (which she struggles with) is to wiggle her pinkie. A small but manageable first step.

Getting the oil changed in the car:  Sounds simple enough, right?  Not so much.  What’s the first step?  Is it finding a repair shop? If that’s the first step, what’s the first step in selecting a reputable facility?  Or maybe the first step is consulting your planner to see when it can fit in your schedule?  Or possibly the very first step may be determining who in the household is responsible for this task.  What I do know is that the first step in getting the oil changed is answering some of the questions above.

Losing 30 pounds:  This one has lots and lots of moving parts.  Is there a deadline like a wedding or class reunion?  Is there an intention to go to the gym or work out at home? If the intention is to go to the gym, which gym? How do you decide?  Price or proximity?  If the plan is to work out at home, do you have the appropriate equipment?  Do you know what the appropriate equipment is?  Do you hire a trainer or try to find a workout buddy? If losing 30 pounds involves changing your diet, is anyone else involved?  If so, who is involved, and how are their needs accommodated? How do you get family buy-in?  The intention can be so overwhelming that it doesn’t get done because the correct starting place just can’t be decided.  But deciding on the first step (first decision) in the process will help other decisions fall into place.

Selling a house:  In this volatile real estate market, this comes up a fair amount.  This intention even sounds daunting from the get-go, so breaking it down into manageable pieces can be overwhelming.  Once you’ve decided to sell, do you use a realtor or not?  If so, how do you select one?  If not, what’s the plan for doing it yourself?  How will you list it?  Will you have the buy-sell agreement be reviewed by an attorney?  If so, which one?  And then there’s deciding between offers.  Accept the cash offer that’s a little less money and no inspection or take the higher offer with inspection risks?  Good news, the house sold!  Now you need to move.  Do you move yourself or hire a mover?  If hiring, which one?  If the house sells, where are you going to live and for how long?  Hotel?  Rent a place?  Live with friends?  Or do you look for house sitting opportunities?  I don’t know about you, but my head is about ready to explode!  Selling a house is a complex intention.  What’s the first step that can be taken to get the ball rolling?

Building a 737:  Honestly, I have not the faintest clue about building a 737. Ya’ll are on your own to determine the first step for this one.  🙂

Even though some of these intentions sound simple, they aren’t.  They especially aren’t if an individual is challenged with ADHD, and the first steps are hard to determine because each of these intentions feels like they have the same magnitude.  They are all equally challenging.

What I do know, however, is sometimes the hardest thing is to determine the first step.  And sometimes, what the first step is doesn’t even matter, it just matters that it’s a start.


Cindy Jobs

Looking for more information?

Click here for 15-minute organizing tips.

Click here to schedule a complimentary breakthrough session.


For more helpful information, follow me on Facebook.


ADHD Coaches Organization


Attention Deficit Disorder Association




National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals, Seattle Chapter




International Coach Federation





Professional Resource Member




Coach Approach for Organizers





Institute for Challenging Disorganization

Level I Certificates earned in Chronic Disorganization; ADD; Client Administration; Time Management; Mental Health; and Hoarding.

Level II Specialist Certificates earned in Chronic Disorganization and ADHD.