Life with ADHD has its ups and downs. One day it’s smooth sailing, and the next, it’s rough seas.
That’s when you need support or a good laugh to make it through the day. Maybe you need someone who understands what you’re up against, an outlet for venting when you’re frustrated, or strategies from someone else who is struggling with the condition.
ADHD blogs offer all that — and more. They bring information, personal stories, and a way to connect with like-minded people. And blogs are tailor-made for those with short attention spans. So adults with ADHD can read entries without feeling overwhelmed, as they might feel slogging through a book.
Tara McGillicuddy, a certified ADHD coach who has the condition, blogs. She turned to the Internet, 11 years ago, when she was diagnosed with ADHD. “There wasn’t much help out there then for adults with ADHD,” says McGillicuddy. She began researching the disorder on the Web, and found a host of blogs aimed at ADDers.
When McGillicuddy launched her own blog, several years later, she thought people would like her practical coaching tips for local:”managing ADHD symptoms.” She was surprised to find that visitors gravitated, instead, to “ADD Moments” — a personal chronicle of her struggles with, and solutions to, ADHD.
“People with ADHD get relief from reading about others dealing with similar or identical problems,” says Terry Matlen, a psychotherapist specializing in adult ADHD, and author of Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD. “This often begins the healing process in the newly diagnosed, because they meet others who share their struggles.”
Matlen, who has ADHD and is the mother of a young adult with the condition, also finds comfort and hope in writing a blog. “Focused Distractions,” which appears on her website, addconsults.com, helps her make sense of her life.
Ari Tuckman, a psychologist specializing in ADHD, agrees that blogs are a good source of strategies, ideas, and resources, but he cautions that they may not help everyone. “Other people’s experiences may be very different from your own, so what worked for them may not work for you,” says Tuckman, author of Integrative Treatment for Adult ADHD. “The miraculous success stories may make you feel inferior, and the nightmare stories could scare your pants off. Blogs may also be inaccurate. Keep a healthy skepticism when reading them.” Adds Matlen: “Remember that bloggers are always free to say what they want. Don’t take everything as gospel truth.”
With these caveats in mind, we pored over hundreds of blogs written by people living with ADHD. We came up with a list of the seven most insightful and entertaining ones. Some of them are funny, angry, raw, and honest. All of them offer practical advice from people who have tried it.
Out of Focus
Rants, raves, and idiocies from an A.D.H.D. perspective
For adults with ADHD who believe that laughter is the best medicine, “Out of Focus” is just what the doctor ordered. Kali Karagias delivers laugh-out-loud, irreverent humor. The sample post’s tag says it all: “How to Incorporate Your Love of Tap Dancing into Your Already Overbooked Chaotic Life.” Karagias, an actress, humorist, writer, mom, and woman with ADHD, blends videos and photos with the written word in one of the funniest blogs on the Internet.
Start by reading a few of her newest posts for a taste of her sassy style. Then, click the “Attention Deficit Disorder” link under “Categories” to find posts that focus on ADHD.
“I throw dishes when I am angry. I used to blame it on being Greek, but I realize it’s a characteristic of my ADHD. Other items I have thrown include: Snapple bottles at construction workers after unnecessary catcalls; hot coffee at a random pedestrian for hissing at me; an ashtray full of loose change at a driver sticking out his tongue at me; a garbage bag full of discount eyewear flyers, as I walked into the store that had littered my neighborhood with them. Yes, I had the hyperfocus to pick all of them up.”
Life, with ADHD, Asperger’s autism, and a dog
This uncluttered, easy-to-navigate site will appeal to women with ADHD — with or without coexisting conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD — mothers with ADHD, and mothers of kids with special needs, including autism and Asperger’s syndrome.
Written by Dyskinesia — or Dys, for short — the author details her struggles to cope with relationships, parenting, work, and daily life. The best entries are snippets of conversations between the writer, who has ADHD, and her autistic son:
“Do you want PB&J or pizza for lunch?”
“OK, but don’t make it so that it messes out the stickiness all over and on my fingers stuck to me not in my sandwich messy like I had to clean up last time and all gross…”
“So you’re saying PB&J, but with less jelly than last time?”
“OK, I can do that. Sorry, Mom likes more jelly on hers, so I got a little carried away.”
“Yeah. Dad knows how to make mine, so you just have to try to do it like him.”
“Maybe next time he should try to be in labor with you for 17 hours.”
“Did you say something, Mom?”
“Nope. One PB&J, light on the J, coming up!”
The Splintered Mind
Overcoming ADHD & depression with lots of humor and attitude
by Douglas Cootey
Douglas Cootey began blogging three years ago, to share his struggles with his own disabilities — he has ADHD, depression, chronic motor tics, and ‘rugrat’-itis (he’s the full-time parent in his family). He also wanted to connect with kindred souls. Cootey shares the humorous and serious sides of life with ADHD and comorbid conditions.
In addition to “day in the life” posts, Cootey discusses his attempts to fight off depression with cognitive behavioral therapy, after suffering serious side effects from medication.
Cootey’s intelligence will appeal to men and women, especially those with anxiety and depression, and individuals whose symptoms interfere with succeeding at the job.
“This is my philosophy on medicating ADHD, anxiety, depression, etc.:
1. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a fantastic alternative to medication.
2. If you need to medicate, medicate one thing at a time.
3. Be careful! Medication can have lasting side effects.
4. Always remember that pills don’t teach skills.”
ADHD & LD Resource Blog
A resource for those who want to learn about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Learning Disabilities (LD), and related topics
by Shane Hawk
When this stay-at-home mother’s son was diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities, in 2003, Hawk says, “I knew nothing about either. I immediately began reading and researching to learn everything I could. I decided to share what I had found with other parents who were facing the same issues and questions that I had. I wanted to make their search for information easier.”
In addition to traditional posts, Hawk’s blog has news, product reviews, surveys, and polls. Hawk even sells low-cost used books on ADHD and LD on her blog.
“When my son started kindergarten, I realized how far behind he was academically. His peers could all recite the alphabet and count past 10. My son could not. He has problems associating the sounds of letters with the actual letters. His handwriting was illegible. I thought something wasn’t right, but his teachers encouraged me that he would ‘catch up.’ I wish I had known then what I know now. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, right? We, as parents, know our children better than anyone. Therefore, if you believe your child may have a learning disability, please do not hesitate to have him tested.”
Life with Fast Boy
The challenges of raising our ADHD son
by One Tired Mama
This blog wins points for its honesty, creativity, and ironic humor. The pseudonymous cast includes Fast Boy, an eight-year-old with ADHD; One Tired Mama, who is, well, one tired mom; The Boss Man, Dad, who also has ADHD; and Princess, Fast Boy’s five-year-old sister.
Readers will commiserate with Tired Mom as she relates Fast Boy’s ADHD shenanigans. Even though Tired Mom hasn’t posted since November 2007, she remains among the best blogger-moms on the Web.
“Dear Fast Boy,
Thank you for acting up in front of the LMHP [Licensed Mental Health Professional] today. You have done a perfect job of demonstrating the type of behavior that I have to deal with on a daily basis. Usually people look at me like I’m nuts when I tell them how tired you make me. But not today. Today, they got to see, hear, and feel what I live with.
“Your screaming, arguing, running, and confrontational, almost-aggressive behavior was a perfect example of our lives together. The fact that you still had on your pajama top and underwear at 2 o’clock in the afternoon was icing on the cake. Lucky for her, she only had to stay for two hours.
One Tired Mama”
Coaching, education, and support for women with ADHD
by Brenda Nicholson
Brenda Nicholson’s blog is polished and professional, warm and welcoming. Nicholson, who has ADHD and has raised three children with the condition, offers specific, road-tested strategies for managing daily life with ADHD. Listen to her podcasts, “Tuesday Ten Minute Tips,” raid her virtual pantry for meal-planning ideas, and try her day-planning system on this user-friendly site.
Riding in and out of the fog on the roller-coaster of life called ADHD
by Bryan Hutchinson & friends
This social networking site for adults with ADHD allows users to interact and contribute without committing to a blog of their own. Founded by Bryan Hutchinson, author of One Boy’s Struggle: Surviving Life with Undiagnosed ADD, this Web community is small-town America, with an ADHD twist. Each resident has his own Web page, and everybody chats about everything — and nothing — over the proverbial backyard fence. The “townsfolk” of ADDer World range from straight shooting and esoteric to eccentric. Everyone is welcome here.
ADHD RESOURCE LIBRARY
#1 WHAT IS ADHD?
I’ve heard the statements below and more in my conversations with ADHD adults.
• “My therapist says I’m too successful to have ADHD.”
• “I got by for a long time and then all of sudden I start struggling. I had no idea I had ADHD!”
• “I was never impulsive or hyperactive. So, it never occurred to me that I might have ADHD.”
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about ADHD…
In simplest terms ADHD is a neurological condition that is usually genetically transmitted, characterized by distractibility, impulsivity and restlessness or hyperactivity. However, the symptoms (more on this below) will look different among adults with ADHD and can present themselves differently throughout your life time.
#2 WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ADHD IN ADULTS?*
Dr. Ned Hallowell, a psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD, identified the symptoms below as ones that could be attributed to ADHD.
• A sense of underachievement, of not meeting one’s goals (regardless of how much one has actually accomplished).
• Difficulty getting organized.
• Chronic procrastination or trouble getting started.
• Many projects going simultaneously; trouble with follow through.
• A tendency to say what comes to mind without necessarily considering the timing or appropriateness of the remark.
• A frequent search for high stimulation.
• An intolerance of boredom.
• Easy distractibility; trouble focusing attention, tendency to tune out or drift away in the middle of a page or conversation, often coupled with an inability to focus at times.
• Often creative, intuitive, highly intelligent
• Trouble in going through established channels and following “proper” procedure.
• Impatient; low tolerance of frustration.
• Impulsive, either verbally or in action, as an impulsive spending of money.
• Changing plans, enacting new schemes or career plans and the like; hot-tempered.
• A tendency to worry needlessly, endlessly; a tendency to scan the horizon looking for something to worry about, alternating with attention to or disregard for actual dangers.
• A sense of insecurity.
• Mood swings, especially when disengaged from a person or a project.
• Physical or cognitive restlessness.
• A tendency toward addictive behavior.
• Chronic problems with self-esteem.
• Inaccurate self-observation.
• Family history of AD/HD or manic depressive illness or depression or substance abuse or other disorders of impulse control or mood.
Dr Hallowell further suggests that: “If you have exhibited at least twelve of the following behaviors since childhood and if these symptoms are not associated with any other medical or psychiatric condition, consider an evaluation by a team of ADHD professionals.
In a standard evaluation the clinical definition (click below to view this definition) will be used for diagnostic purposes.
You may have heard that poor diet, food dyes, too much sugar, environmental chemicals, poor schooling, too much TV, poor pre-natal care or poor parenting are causes of ADHD. While it is possible that drug or alcohol use during pregnancy could alter the brain and may be a possible cause of ADHD, there is no credible research that has validated the others as causes of ADHD. Though they definitely can exacerbate ADHD symptoms.
Current research shows that ADHD is a brain based biological disorder, caused by a number of factors that affect how the brain develops and functions. And the one factor that stands out is a neurotransmitter imbalance.
As you know, each region in the brain is responsible for a particular function; of course there are overlapping functions. But for the various regions to do their jobs, they must be linked to one another through neural circuits that carry information from one brain region to another.
For this to happen neurotransmitters must be available to transmit the messages. But, in the ADHD brain, because there is an imbalance of dopamine and norepinephrine, the messages are not transmitted efficiently.
As a result, the various regions of the brain cannot perform their functions well, resulting in the ADHD symptoms you experience, such as difficulty:
• paying attention
• regulating emotions
• and more…
So, there you have it. I’m sure continuing research will uncover more in the coming years.
#4 HOW IS ADHD DIAGNOSED?
While there is no single test that can be used to diagnose ADHD, in a standard evaluation you must have all of the following:
• Have at least 6 inattentive and/or 6 hyperactive/impulsive symptoms for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities (for people ages 17 and older, only 5 symptoms must be present)
• Had several symptoms present before age 12
• Have several symptoms in at least 2 settings (such as home, school, or work)
• Have symptoms that clearly interfere with or reduce the quality of social, academic, or occupational functioning
• Have symptoms that are not be better explained by another cause
Even with a standard evaluation, it is still important that you seek out a professional who has expertise in mental health issues (see below).
#5 IF I THINK I HAVE ADHD, WHO SHOULD I SEE FOR AN EVALUATION?
Getting an accurate diagnosis is one of the most critical pieces in managing your ADHD.
It is best that you consult with a psychologist, psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner for an evaluation, preferably someone who specializes in ADHD (if possible), as they are trained in the field and are the most qualified to make a diagnosis.
You may be tempted, though, to consult with your family doctor, as the process can seem easier and quicker. And some family doctors may be willing to diagnose and prescribe medication for mental health issues. But I caution against going this route.
Diagnosing mental health issues correctly requires specialized and up-to-date knowledge, which your family doctor likely does not have. This lack of expertise can result in delays in receiving the correct diagnosis and treatment plan. And, without a correct diagnosis, your ability to move effectively and efficiently toward your goals may be severely compromised.
However, your family doctor can be a good first step, as they can rule out possible physical causes for your symptoms. And they may be able to help you by making an appropriate referral.
#6 HOW DO I KNOW I HAVE ADHD AND NOT SOMETHING ELSE?
This is a really important question. The key is to make sure you receive an evaluation from a psychologist, psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner who can answer this question.
It is important to note that for adults diagnosed with ADHD:
• 20% – 30% also have depression.
• 25% also have anxiety.
So, while it is possible you have something other than ADHD, it is also possible you have ADHD along with another condition.
The bottom line is that only a qualified professional can provide an accurate diagnosis.
#7 IS IT POSSIBLE TO FIRST BE DIAGNOSED WITH ADHD AS AN ADULT?
The simple answer is, “Yes.” It is not uncommon for adults to grow up with undiagnosed ADHD.
Many, who are first diagnosed as an adult, reached some degree of success because they are so bright, and over the years developed coping mechanisms and compensating strategies to get by. And, while some may look successful to others, they might not feel successful.
But because they visualized hyperactive little boys when they thought of ADHD, they did not consider that they may have ADHD, like the person who sent me the note below.
I’ve really been identifying with everything you and your testimonials have been saying on your website, but I’ve never been diagnosed myself.
For years as a university student I have constantly struggled with mastering my procrastination on assignments and study, and I’ve realised recently it seems to stem from this impulsivity, this tendency to immediately act on every thought I have. All the issues you are talking about that adults with ADHD have to deal with, I feel that I have been dealing with.
I have been hesitant to diagnose myself as having ADHD, wondering if it being this hard to concentrate is just normal, or that I couldn’t have ADHD because I was never one of “those” kids, the hyperactive kids in school on medication and so on. Do you get clients like this? I suppose I am just hoping you might be able to shed some light on my situation, whether indeed it is normal to feel this way or if it’s worth seeing a doctor with my concerns.
So, like the writer of the note above, adults diagnosed later in life might struggle for a long time, figuring they just needed to try harder, before they decide to seek out help.
But at some point, like you, perhaps, they get tired of struggling and just getting by. Maybe life got more complicated — kids, new job / promotion, grad school, other life event — and their coping mechanisms stopped working.
So, they sought out help and were diagnosed with ADHD. It’s not that adults diagnosed later in life all of sudden got ADHD!
They just finally found out the reason for all their struggles…
# 8 HOW IS ADHD TREATED IN ADULTS?
When you first thought of treating your ADHD, you probably thought of medication. And, though medication can be the cornerstone of a treatment plan for ADHD, an effective holistic treatment plan for ADHD should entail much more than just medication.
I’ve written a 43 Page Interactive PDF Workbook, Treatment Options for ADHD Workbook: A Guide to Exploring and Making Decisions About Treating Your ADHD to give you an overview and process for sorting through your possible treatment options including:
• psychosocial treatments – therapy, support groups and coaching
• complementary treatments and alternative treatment – using your strengths, forming connections, exercise, sleep, nutrition, meditation, neurofeedback, brain training software
It is important to note that this workbook is not intended to be comprehensive in scope or depth. Nor is it intended to take the place of medical advice from your doctor.
It is a starting point.
Of course, you should consult with your doctor when considering your options and before starting any treatment.
# 9 WHO SHOULD I GO TO, IF I WANT MEDICATION TO TREAT MY ADHD?
Of course, any doctor can prescribe medication.
And you may be tempted to go to your family doctor for medication because, well, it is less of a hassle… I get it. But I caution against this route, if you have a choice, as your family doctor does not have the updated specialized education and expertise to treat mental illnesses.
A psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner is a much better option (when possible), as they are typically far more knowledgeable about:
• the different types of medications.
• how to use medications in combination.
• how to manage side effects.
• how to use medication to treat multiple issues
And, in the long run, seeing a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner for medication might save you time, money and energy, as they will be better able to work with you in finding the right medication(s) and dosage.
#10 CAN ADULTS BE CURED OF ADHD?
The short answer is, “No.”
You can’t get rid of your ADHD. It is part of you, including all the positive and challenging aspects that come with it.
But you can choose to:
• get support and learn how to work with / manage the symptoms so they don’t get in your way.
• surround yourself, as much as possible, with supportive people, who will accept you as you are, as well as help you grow.
• put yourself, as much as possible, in environments (including work) that draw on your strengths and minimize use of your weaknesses.
• adapt a holistic treatment to counter your symptoms.
If you can do the above, while your ADHD will not be cured, it will be less problematic for you, really.
DO YOU KNOW HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT HAVING ADHD?
You may be familiar with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ model of the Five Stages of Grief. If you are, then you know that the intent of her model is to describe the stages of feelings you may go through in response to the death of another or to your own terminal illness.
Subsequently, using her model as a foundation, others created similar models to describe the cycle of feelings that people go through when faced with an event that they perceive as negative.
At some point after being diagnosed with ADHD you may have considered having ADHD as a burden, something negative. That is normal, to be sure.
If you are trying to accept your ADHD and work with it, one of the keys is understanding and dealing with your feelings about the diagnosis.
When you initially found out that you had ADHD you may have felt:
– a sense of relief at finding out the reason for some of your challenges.
– anger at not finding out sooner.
– or a whole host of other feelings.
No doubt, the journey toward accepting the diagnosis of ADHD can be at times exciting and disheartening. And wherever you are in your journey, that is ok.
While no two people take the exact same path after the diagnosis, most people experience some of the feelings that Murphy and LeVert (1995) outline in their Six Stages of Coping.
Stage 1: Relief and Optimism
I’m not “lazy, crazy or stupid.” There is a reason I have all these challenges!
Stage 2: Denial
I’m fine. I don’t want to read about it. I don’t want to hear about it. They’re just going to tell me to take drugs. Besides, it’s a kids’ thing!
Stage 3: Anger and Resentment
Why do I have ADD? Why can’t I be like everyone else? And, if I would have been diagnosed earlier, life would have been so much easier.
Stage 4: Grief
I can’t do anything right. I’ll never get what I want. How will I ever get through this?
Stage 5. Acceptance
I’m ok. It is part of who I am, but I am not my ADHD. I have the resources and the capacity to figure out how to work with my ADHD. If I need help, I can get the support I need.
Some of you may be wondering, “Why would I want to accept this part of myself?”
Fair enough question. After all, ADHD comes with a lot of challenges.
First, acceptance is not about complacency. It is not about saying, “Oh well, I have ADHD. I can’t do…”
It is about understanding, appreciating and working with who you are with all your strengths and challenges. If you are able to accept this part of yourself, you can create the space you need to access your own and other resources in order to work with your
Here is an example of a concrete shift in thinking that can come about when you accept your ADHD.
I have never been able to get anywhere on time. My friends and family are always mad at me. I hate it! It will never change.
I’ve never been able to get to places on time. I know my sense of time and ability to transition is a bit wonky because of my ADHD. Hmm… I wonder what I can do to get to places on time more often?
Not everyone reaches this stage of acceptance. I hope you will.
MOVING FORWARD WITH SUPPORT
So, now you may be thinking:
“Ok, sounds like a good idea. But how do I grow to accept my ADHD? I’ve been stuck for so long. How is it possible to move forward? “
If you want to reach the stage of acceptance, you can, really.
You may find it possible to work through your feelings on your own by getting information from the many books available. Talking with trusted friends and family may also help.
If you find that you are not moving forward on your own, seek out the support of a therapist or ADD Coach as you work through your feelings to the point of acceptance. (For more information on choosing the right kind of support, look at my earlier article, ADHD Support: Therapists and ADHD Coaches.)
We all start some place, and have the opportunity to move from there. You may cycle back and forth between different stages. That is common. But, if you feel you are stuck in one stage or continue to cycle back and forth for “too long,” it is time to seek outside help.
ADDED PERSPECTIVES BOTTOM LINE:
I hope that you find the resources and support you need to help you move forward.
FRUSTRATED BY WASTING TIME? HERE ARE 5 FIXES YOU CAN USE TODAY
ADHD RESOURCE PAGE
Wasting time is one of the biggest frustrations for adults with ADHD. Maybe for you, too.
And, while you may have a sense you waste time, my guess is you have not identified all the ways you do this. So, you obviously can’t come up with workarounds.
Below are 5 strategies you can use to stop wasting time now. Hopefully, these examples will also prompt you to think about other ways you may be wasting time, as well as workarounds you can use.
HOW TO DO WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TODAY
Do you ever get to the end of your day and think, “I didn’t get anything done! What a waste of a day!” I hear this lament time and time again in my conversations with clients.
And, true, sometimes they mean they really didn’t get much of anything done. Maybe they watched TV, surfed the internet or were active on social media. But that really is the exception.
Often, they were on the go all day and did a lot — answered emails, went to meetings, dealt with requests, etc. But, because they were in a reactive mode and didn’t necessarily do what was most important to them, it felt like the day was a waste. Sound familiar?
The key to feeling like you are running your day and it is not running you is to be intentional and that means having a plan.
While planning may not be your strong suit, don’t worry, really. You can still plan on a smaller scale by deciding the top 1-3 tasks you must get done each day and making the list visible someplace, like a whiteboard or piece of paper on your desk, where you will be sure to see it.
Then keep coming back to these tasks so you will have a better chance of completing them. And, then at the end of the day, instead of feeling like you wasted your day, you will feel like you did what was most important.
HOW TO SAVE TIME WHEN SWITCHING ACTIVITIES
Do you also find you often forget something your need for a task or activity, and then either need to backtrack to get it or just muddle through the best you can?
When you need to get someplace — work, a meeting, home, etc.— and are feeling rushed it is really hard in the moment to remember everything you need to bring with you. In part, this is because, as an adult with ADHD, your working memory and long-term memory is, well, a little wonky.
And not having what you need not only waste time, but also can add to your frustration and overwhelm, right? One way to stop this cycle is to create launching pads, like the examples below.
• Before going to bed gather everything — bag, key, wallet, etc. — and put it all in one place.
• When starting your day think ahead and plan what you need to bring to each meeting so you are prepared.
• Take stock of what you need to bring home and put it all in one place before starting your last task or going to your last meeting of the day.
By preparing in advance and creating launching pads, like the ones above, you do not have to rely on your memory when you are feeling so rushed.
What are other ways you can use launching pads to be more prepared throughout your day?
HOW TO STOP HYPERFOCUSING ON THE WRONG TASK
No doubt, there are certainly times when focusing intently on one task and tuning out all other tasks and distractions can be really helpful.
But doing so — hyperfocusing — is problematic when it leads you to ignore your other commitments or go down one rabbit hole after another. Here are some strategies you can use to leverage your ability to hyperfocus, but not let it get in your way.
• Have a clear plan for your day so you have a reason to stop an activity. If you are not clear on what you are moving onto next, you may just go down one rabbit hole after another.
• Decide in advance how much time you are going to spend on a task and set a timer.
• If you are in hyperfocus mode, though, you may ignore the timer. So get up and stretch or take a short walk when the timer goes off. Physical movement can help you get out of hyperfocus.
• After the timer goes off you may even want to change your environment by moving to a different location to work.
• If you know it will be hard to stop working on a task because it is particularly captivating, do it only after finishing your less interesting tasks first.
• Don’t start, really. If you know it will be hard to stop, and you don’t have enough time to engage in a task the way you want, don’t start it. Do it when you have more time.
The bottom-line is to leverage your hyperfocus, but don’t let it get in your way of doing what you decide is most important.
HOW TO STOP WASTING TIME BY MULTI-TASKING
Instead of hyperfocusing, when you are overwhelmed you might try doing more than one task at a time because you believe you can get more done this way. But, because your attention is divided, you may end up:
• being less productive as you switch back and forth between tasks.
• losing time to distractions because, as you transition back and forth, it is more difficult to tune them out.
• making more mistakes, and then needing to spend time fixing those mistakes.
• not doing the tasks as well as you would like.
You waste time!
This is one area where the research is unanimous in its conclusion that multitasking does not work. In his book, Crazy Busy, Dr. Ed Hallowell refers to multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.”
One way to address this challenge is to:
• set a timer to work on one task.
• remind yourself, “I am doing this and not that!!”
• write down thoughts and tasks on a piece of paper next to you as they pop into your head so you can continue focusing on your task and be confident you won’t forget the ideas later.
One thing at a time is the way to go.
HOW TO STOP KINDA, SORTA WORKING AND REALLY FOCUS
When you are overwhelmed you might spend a fair amount of time switching between tasks or trying to decide what work to do because you could focus on:
• email notifications that keep popping up
• the research you want to do for a new computer
• the leak in the kitchen sink
• phone calls you need to return
• the conference you need to plan
• your summer vacation plans
• the email from your boss requesting that you see her today
And, because you are overwhelmed by all of these options, you may not act at all. Alternatively, you may choose whatever catches your attention just to avoid the discomfort of not being able to make a decision.
Either way, at the end of the day, you probably feel like you wasted your time. And, while it may seem counterintuitive when you have too much on your plate already, sometimes the best course of action is to stop trying to do any work.
Take a break.
Go for a walk, make lunch, play the guitar… By taking a break you may find you can clear your mind, make better decisions and be pulled back to do your work.
NEXT STEPS FOR YOU
Choose one place where you are wasting time and try one of the suggested workarounds above.
ARE THESE 5 DECISION-MAKING TRAPS KEEPING YOU STUCK?
Recently a client, in preparation for our session, emailed me a description of his difficulties making decisions (posted below with permission).
I’m really struggling to make any decisions in almost any scenario. Like, choosing between 2 things, choosing to get rid of something. I get a sense of panic/anxiety, as well as, a sense of frustration. Logic makes no difference. The magnitude of the decision makes no difference. Trust in someone else to “make” the decision makes little difference (I still have to pull the trigger). When I do make the decision, I hold my nose, squelch the butterflies and just do it on faith that it won’t bite me in the butt later.
As I know the decision-making process is often a challenge for adults with ADHD, I bet his description sounds familiar to many of you.
You may even think you are just not good at making decisions because you have made some, well, questionable ones in the past. Of course, if this is your mindset, the process of making decisions can be that much more difficult because you don’t trust your skills.
Since I’ve worked with many people in improving their skills in this area, I also know you can become more effective in making decisions, in part, by correcting the mistakes below.
Think of a decision you are trying make now. As you are reading below consider which of the suggestions can help to make the process easier.
WHY IS DECISION MAKING SO HARD FOR ADULTS WITH ADHD?
You may believe, and you may have even been told, you can’t pay attention. That’s just not true. The real challenge for you, and other adults with ADHD, is you pay attention to everything! That is, you have a surplus of attention.
Your attention is drawn, not only to all the stimuli in your external world, but also to all the stimuli in your internal world – your thoughts.
And, with all the thoughts swirling about in your head, deciding which thoughts to pay attention to when making a decision can be overwhelming at times. It can even feel, yes, a little like a game of pinball. And, because it is so hard, you may:
• avoid thinking about or making the decision.
• impulsively make the decision without giving it enough thought.
• continue ruminating — thinking — about the decision, but not doing anything.
Obviously, none of these are good options.
MISTAKE #1 – NOT TAKING TIME TO PULL OVER
Since your brain, with its particular wiring, did not come off the assembly line equipped to do a good job organizing thoughts in your head, it is important to get out of your head to make some decisions. And two ways to do this are:
• Talk through the decision you are trying to make with someone you trust.
• Journal about your decision.
The cue that it is time to get out of your head is when your mind starts to feel like the Indy Raceway. Instead of responding to this trigger — racing thoughts — by just thinking, avoiding making the decision or impulsively making the decision, slow down and pull over.
Check out how to do this in the example below.
Sam needed to book plane tickets for a trip. But he kept putting it off, thinking, “I need to book those tickets already!” And, the more he procrastinated the more frustrated he became.
It turned out he was putting off buying the tickets because he needed to make other decisions. First, he had not decided whether to go to the Pre-Conference or not. So, he didn’t know whether to fly out Tuesday or Wednesday. Second, he also needed to check in with his cousins to find out if they will be in town. If they could spend time with him, he would extend his stay.
Because of this lack of clarity on these variables, he continued to put off making the decision.
After talking this through with his friend, Ethan, Sam decided not to go to the Pre-conference. And, after checking in with his cousins, he decided to extend his stay.
Now he could book his flight!
In similar situations, when your mind is racing and you are procrastinating, stop and ask yourself, “What is getting in my way of making this decision, and what would help me close the loop?”
MISTAKE #2 – TRYING TO MAKE A PERFECT DECISION
Ok, I know you already know you can’t make perfect decisions. Yet, even though you know this, you may still put off finally deciding on something because you are trying to make the absolute best decision – the perfect one.
Are you making statements like the ones below about a decision you are trying to make now?
• “Well, maybe I should…” And continue thinking of other alternatives.
• “But what if…?” And think of all the possible consequences of your decision.
If you are caught in the loop of making the above or similar statements, it is time to figure out how to make a good enough decision. Below are steps you can take and an example of how Bob did this.
1. Choose a decision.
Bob wanted to find a financial advisor.
2. Identify your current mode of making the decision.
Bob had been haphazardly researching this on and off for almost a year. Yet, he was no closer to deciding because he was too afraid of choosing the wrong one. So, he kept looking…
3. Adjust how you make the decision.
He finally decided he would ask his friends for recommendations for a fee-only financial advisor, and then he would call 3 of them over the next month. By the end of the month he would choose one and call to make an appointment.
While he hoped he liked the person he chose, he also told himself, “It would definitely be a pain to start this process all over again and I don’t want to throw money away. But, if I absolutely don’t like him/her, I can walk out at the end of the appointment and start over.”
4. Find support, if you need it.
Bob asked his friend, Sue, for help:
• listening to his thought process.
• asking him for clarification if she didn’t understand his explanation.
• challenging him with questions if she saw holes in his reasoning.
• suggesting alternatives.
• checking in with him about his progress.
Notice, Sue didn’t need to have any expertise in finding a financial advisor. She just needed to be supportive and be a good listener.
5. Decide on a time frame.
Bob decided a month was enough time to ask for recommendations, call three and choose one to schedule an appointment.
Are you game to making a good enough decision?
MISTAKE #3 – TRYING TO GET ALL THE INFORMATION POSSIBLE
When you are trying to make a perfect decision you likely want to get as much information as possible. I get it. But, for many decisions, you know there is more information out there than you can possibly digest, right?
Yet, while you know this is true, you still might continue researching until your head is spinning with information overload. If this is your tendency, try the options below so you can limit your research.
• decide to use 2-4 reputable resources related to the decision you are trying to make.
• limit the amount of time you spend researching.
• give yourself a deadline to stop doing research.
• process the aloud with someone so you are not trying to do it just in your head.
MISTAKE #4 – NOT TRUSTING YOUR INSTINCT
If you feel you just don’t make good decisions, I know It is hard to trust your instinct. But, since you rarely make decisions based only on rational factors, at some point, after you’ve gathered enough information, you’ll need to go with your gut.
So, if you tend not to trust your instinct now, go ahead and get enough information, and then take some space and time away from trying to make the decision so you can listen to what your instinct may be telling you.
One way to do this is to step away from the situation by
• going for a walk.
• doing something, whether for work or fun, unrelated to the decision.
• sleeping on it, literally.
• deciding not to decide for a longer period – a day, a few days, a week.
By stepping away from the situation the solution may come to you without trying so hard to make the decision.
Another way to tap into your intuition is to journal. By just allowing you thought to flow onto the paper, you may get more clarity on what you need to do.
What else can you do to stop working so hard to make the decision and allow your instincts to guide you? Because in the end, your gut may just give you the best answer!
MISTAKE #5 – WAITING SO YOU DON’T MAKE A MISTAKE
What more can I say? You already know you might make a mistake.
So, if fear of making a mistake is holding you back from making a decision, ask yourself, “Is the guarantee of not making a mistake worth the price of not making a decision?
QUESTIONS FOR YOU
What is getting in your way of deciding today?
Which of the above workarounds will you try to close the loop?