Sometimes, I have problems I’m convinced of that nobody could possibly relate to them. One of those things is what often happens when I’ve got a bunch of free time and nothing has to be done. The more free time I have, the more likely I am to experience this phenomenon. When I have only a little time, I’ll usually default to something like playing video games or something I’d agreed on with myself earlier. “You’re making that video on Monday!”
When I have too much free time and can’t decide, my brain “locks up”. I become unable to choose anything to do. With some luck I’ll eventually snap out of it, but I often don’t.
Other people have this one hobby that they spend their time on, like woodworking on their podcast. My brain insists it wants to do many different things. Yet, when the time comes to do anything it wants, it panics. I get anxious, can’t decide, and spend hours in that mental state where I want to do “anything” but can’t. So I end up trying to answer the question “What do I want to do?” When I try to consult my lists of todo items, all I see is too many options to choose from, adding to the anxiety.
Life would be much easier for me if I could still “hyper focus”. In case you don’t know, it’s where autistic people focus on one thing for a long time. Back when I still could, I didn’t do anything spectacular. I mostly used my “skill” to play tons of video games, although there’s been a time where I would write novels until my hands hurt. I usually defaulted to one thing and I would do it over and over, and I would never get bored of it.
At some point in my life, that changed. I traded in that “skill” for an obsession with “being productive” and “doing things” and instead of a few hobbies I started creating lists. Lists of the many things I wanted to do. Because they sounded like fun, or because I thought I could maybe make some money off of them. Trying to organize that mess basically became my “special interest”, and I kind of hate it.
Breaking this “Can’t choose, won’t do shit” loop is neigh impossible. I can only hope I feel like doing something *a lot* like playing a new video game or work on a certain thing. Having something important that has to happen against a certain deadline certainly helps, too. But since I’m an adult with few responsibilities, those activities are few and far between.
Most of this all stems from my problems with “executive functioning”. It’s a set of skills that most people more or less manage. People with certain diagnoses, however, don’t quite grasp these skills. One way this manifests for me, is in my problem with organizing, prioritizing and starting my “work” or any other activities. I do manage to sneak some things on my todo list and check those off. I have things scheduled that need to happen at a given time and manage to do them. My brain is more than happy to do scheduled tasks (unless they’re too boring). The problem starts when the to-do list is empty and I have to start picking new tasks to work on.
And yes, this translates to my free time as well. My wicked brain doesn’t make a difference between work and free time. That’s just not how it works. So I get to suck at managing what I do basically all the time.
After yet another weekend of a “lock-up” with an interlude of playing some Assasins Creed Odyssey – and some prescheduled tasks! – I decided I need to come up with a way to tackle this problem. But I kept going back to one “protest my brain had.”
“Most of the things you do are infinite. They’ll never be “done”. You can’t finish “drawing” or “learning music” and expect them to be done forever. They’ll never leave your to do list. And I want them on there. But I’ll never be able to choose what to work on.”
For a brief moment I considered “just pick one thing, and force yourself to do it”. Sounds great in theory, but again… the choosing problem. If I did manage to find something my brain would be fighting it every step of the way if I didn’t schedule it. It would feel forced. And that kind of sucks, because there is nothing I would want more to find one hobby that I’d love to really get good at and sink all my time in.
But I’m not “in that space” yet, and I can’t control the chaos monkeys which all want something else done. So I came up with the…
Chaos Monkeys D20 Hobby List
The what now?
Trying to solve “myself” has been a puzzle I’m always working on. During one of my other “I can’t decide” episodes, someone made a suggestion. If you can’t decide, roll a dice and do whatever it lands on. This person did it for a few tasks. I did it two or three times, then shelved the dice and let the chaos monkeys take over again.
Today, however, I decided to use the dice again. I accepted one reality. I can’t “pick” 2 or 3 tasks and roll the dice. That would involve choosing, and you know by now that I can’t choose (or just suck at it). So I came up with an alternative solution.
I have these D20, so my list can be pretty expansive. I allowed myself to go nuts and list all activities I could think of. The list goes from 1-20 and then “starts over” again. You can see the first version of my list below. As you can see, there’s quite a varied list of items there. And there’s room for more.
So how does this work? It’s fairly simple. I roll either one or two dice and write down the item(s) from the list. I repeat that a few times until I have a few options. When you use one dice, you can just select the entire line if you want multiple options. If for example I roll a 13 I get the option to watch a TV show or “design a t-shirt or some BS”.
When I have a few options I can take a look at what I want to do and if nothing pops out, I can roll a dice to choose something. And then I just start doing the thing that the dice fell on, until I really want to do something else instead. Sometimes, when confronted with an option my brain decides “but the other thing is way cooler” so I then do that instead.
Of course, the list is a living document. Knowing myself I’ll just keep adding items to the list. Maybe I’ll remove some too when I realize that I keep “not wanting to do them” when I land on them.
Today, the dice fell on a few options and when I looked at the variables, I decided that writing a blog post wast the most realistic one. It was too late to do photography, I didn’t really feel like learning a language and programming wasn’t really tempting at the time because I’d just tried to program my brain for two brains straight.
The “great thing” about an ADD brain is that “doing something” might trigger an “Oh, I should do this next” feeling which gives you an idea for the next task. And if nothing works, you’ve got more time available and you know what to, then the Chaos Monkey D20 Hobby list is there if you need it.
I am fully aware that this list is bizarre to a lot of people. Believe me, the first thing I did was tell myself “Do you know how crazy it is that you have to roll a dice to choose one of seemingly random 50 items?”. But if “a weird list and system” is the alternative to spending all day with a locked-in “I want to do something but I don’t want to choose” brain, then rolling the dice is definitely the better option.