Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often diagnosed during the younger years of life when a child is learning behavioral patterns that will carry them throughout their lives. For those of us that were not diagnosed until our adult years, ADHD finally offered an explanation for our struggles that we faced during our adolescence that made us “different”. We didn’t know why we couldn’t pay attention, we couldn’t explain why we would act out, we couldn’t explain why we had to reread paragraphs over and over……and over again just to grasp the simplest concept of what was being conveyed in books. We just knew we were different. Some of us, despite our intellect, even labeled ourselves as “bad” or “stupid”. When we got our diagnosis, it all made sense.
When people hear the world ADHD, they often focus on the “hyperactivity” part of the diagnosis – thinking – “I don’t run around so I can’t have ADHD” but that’s not quite true. The hyperactivity portion of the diagnosis can manifest itself in many ways in adults including being fidgety during meetings, being impatient, being verbally impulsive such as speaking out of turn or interrupting others or even just having the habit of saying the wrong thing. In addition to the hyperactivity/impulsivity, we also are overwhelmed with attention issues that include constantly losing things, trouble establishing routines, having an issue paying attention to small details, and of course – having difficulty focusing. On the upside, we’re great multitaskers….or well I am. I can do tons of things at once…..however….doing them well? That’s another story.
ADHD in itself is a very dynamic disorder with individuals experiencing a few of the traits or some experiencing them all. Having ADHD can be a gift and curse, I for one, embrace it. It makes me who I am. While I hated it at one point, hated that I was different, hated that I felt “stupid”, and hated that I kept getting in trouble for interrupting my boss during her meetings because I had so many ideas and just had to saythemrightthenrightatthatmomentwithouttakingabreathorlettingherfinish… I realized that medication would only help one aspect of the issue. While I am in no way against medication (I am weighing the options to resume my meds as well)….I know that establishing behaviors and routines are also very helpful with dealing with the disorder as it provides a more holistic approach.
So, that being said, I have 5 simple tips that I live by to help me deal with my ADHD. These tips help me stay organized and on task during my work day and ensure that I am accomplishing everything I need to so that I can perform on par with my peers. Full disclosure – I use these tips Monday – Friday, on the weekends….all hell breaks loose and I don’t even know how I leave the house with matching socks on. It’s….just….chaos….
But Monday through Friday, here’s how I stay on task….
Use my alarm to stay on task.
This means my alarm clock as multiple alarms set at all times. So, for example, if I need to be at work at 7:45 (I never plan to arrive right at 8 because then you just set yourself up for lateness) and it takes me 45 minutes to get to work on a medium traffic day, I set an alarm at 7am to leave the house. Now, simple enough right? No. I also set a warning alarm at 6:50, letting me know I have 10 minutes to get the hell out of the house. I also set an alarm at 6:30 letting me know I need to be out of the shower. If that alarm rings and I haven’t showered…. Well, I’m going to be funky today because I just simply don’t have the time. I also set my wake-up alarm at 6am with a backup at 6:10.So my alarm clock looks like this:
6:00am – Rise and Shine!
6:10am – Dude seriously get up!
6:30am – You better have showered by now….
6:50am – Start packing
7:00am – LEAVE NOW
Yes, it is a royal pain in the behind to hear all those alarms go off but they keep me focused and on track and without them, I am late nearly every day to work. With them, I have never arrived late to work.
Manage your thoughts and brilliant ideas with notepad apps such as Evernote or OneNote. Or go the old-fashioned way and use a notebook.
Now, I will caution you, with the notebook if you carry it around you may lose it. I only use the physical notebook option when I am at work so that create the least bit of distraction in meetings as well as jot down my questions or comments instead of blurting them out. Plus I can doodle on my notebook when my mind starts to wander and it will just look like I am taking copious notes <#lifehack>. So, whenever something pops up that is not within my scope of focus at that time – I write it down whether in my physical notebook or my OneNote app– then get back to my original task. This helps me to have a little more control over my mind when it starts to wander and also keeps track of my 47 book ideas that I would love to write but I just can’t focus on at the moment.
Speaking of limiting distractions, do your best to limit them as much as possible.
While I would absolutely love to work outside a beautiful spring day. I’m not going to focus. “oo look at that tree, I wonder what type of tree that is, I wonder how sturdy it is, when was the last hurricane that hit Charlotte?” and *poof* 2 hours later my mind is gone and I now know about post-tropical cyclones as well as the 5 common species of squirrels in the United States. True story. So maybe working outside isn’t best for me. Maybe finding a quiet empty place to listen to some music – without lyrics otherwise I will sing along – and focus on my work. Some will also recommend taking small breaks in your work, but for me, if my focus is broken I can’t get back to work so implement that advice with extreme caution.
Start each day with a task list of your top priority items that you need to focus on and update your progress at the end of the day.
One major issue with my ADHD is that I can’t remember things. Now, I can remember useless facts….but when it comes to remembering to do certain tasks – I forget. This has gotten me in a whole heap of trouble in the corporate world. To help me remember what I need to focus on, I have a task list that I create for the day (or week if my tasks take more than a day to complete). I start my list with my high priority items with set deadlines followed by my items that have looser deadlines. I then keep track of each item I complete so that I can give accurate reports during meetings as well as provide me with a little motivation to see how much I accomplished. We’ve all had those days where we feel like we’ve gotten nothing done!
Lastly, follow the “One Touch” rule.
This rule has helped me out greatly with managing my inbox as well as keeping my desk free of clutter. Whenever I touch an email or I am handed a document, I immediately put it in its proper place or flag it for follow up. Let’s say I have an email that comes in that isn’t quite high priority but I still need to respond to it. If I do not have the time then, I will immediately flag it for follow up and then on my task list write “follow up on flagged emails”. That way I still do not forget to respond. If I am handed something that needs filing, I file it right then and there or place it in a specific bin on my desk and then add that task to my list as well. No paper should be laying out on my desk (or your kitchen table) without having action taken on it. It either goes in the trash or it’s appropriate destination. No in between. This helps keep down on clutter as those with ADHD are NOTORIOUS for being disorganized and having “piles” everywhere. Set aside time to go through your items and avoid the attack of the clutter! Need another way to help cut down clutter – check out my post on how I stay organized.
As with most conditions or disorders, medication can be an extraordinary help, however implementing behavior changes as well can help you stay on top of your disorder and work with your ADHD rather than against it.