When was the last time you congratulated yourself for screwing up?
No, I’m not kidding.
We’re conditioned to believe that mistakes are bad things, and sometimes they are. Screw ups – while devastating at times – can also create fresh starts towards new and better things.
Two weeks ago, I tried to tweak this website. A function wasn’t working properly, so I went into the abyss of WordPress to attempt a fix. It didn’t fix. Instead, it booted me out and gave me an error message that could be loosely translated:
“You royal idiot. Don’t play with things you don’t understand. You are officially banned!!!”
I was locked out. The Art of ADD initiated a coup on me.
Eventually, I got help and fixed it. Since I’d been thinking about a revamp for awhile, I used the rebuild time to make The Art of ADD new. Hopefully better.
The redesign wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the crash. Why fix something that isn’t broken, right? But when it is broken – why stop at fixing it? Why not try to make it better than it was before?
The point is: not all wrecks are total wrecks. Occasionally, they are catalysts for better – sometimes outstanding – things.
Some famous screw-ups…
Traf-o-data was a 1970’s company that aimed to process traffic counting cheaper and quicker than the existing methods of the time. As fascinating as it sounds, it didn’t last. But its co-founder, Bill Gates, did last – and went on to create Microsoft.
Laugh-O-Gram Studio had short lived success in the 1920’s before it went bankrupt. Its co-founder had the last laugh, though. He was Walt Disney.
A two-time Yale dropout authored a novel that didn’t make it to publication until 30 years later! In the meantime, he became the movie producer, Oliver Stone.
(Check out this post for a list of 50 famous people who failed in their careers before achieving massive success later on.)
What they had in common…
They weren’t held back by temporary screw-ups.
They believed that success was inevitable – and that failure was an unavoidable obstacle on that path.
They looked for new opportunities and applied what they’d learned to find future success.
What this means for you…
Of course, not all of your screw ups will lead to huge breakthroughs or gigantic achievements.
But if you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back to work – fresh starts may lead you down paths to better and brighter opportunities.
You won’t know for sure, though, if you don’t get back up.
Today’s post is a guest post courtesy of Eugenia Lin.
Much like the Snicker’s motto of “you’re not you when you’re hungry”, suffering from sleep deprivation caused by ADHD can often leave you feeling like your not yourself. It not only negatively affects one’s mood, response time, but even creativity. Creativity isn’t limited to artistic or musical ability, but includes your ability to associate and link concepts together in unique and novel ways. Here we’ll explore ADHD’s affect on sleep quality, creativity, and how to combat it:
How ADHD affects sleep quality
Those with ADHD often have difficulties with the entire sleep process, resulting from the condition itself or due to medication. It all starts with having issues falling asleep, as feeling mentally active and alert makes it difficult to “shut the brain off.” Other ADHD symptoms such as restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea negatively impact one’s sleep quality, preventing REM sleep, all of which only serve to worsen the condition’s symptoms and exacerbate its effects.
Link between sleep, dreams and creativity
“Creativity is just connecting things.” Steve Jobs, founder of Apple
Whenever you have trouble solving a problem or an issue, you’re often told to “sleep on it.” That’s because as you sleep, the brain cycles between rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM) sleep; where during the REM cycle, you dream and begin to consolidate the information and experiences of the day. This is also where new connections between concepts and ideas are formed, allowing you to spawn ideas you wouldn’t normally have while awake.
Best illustrating this is a cooperative study done by Ullrich Wagner and partners. They conducted experiments presenting subjects with a series of mathematical puzzles they were tasked to solve. Built into the experiment was a “shortcut” – a trick to solving the puzzles quicker and more easily. However, researchers did not divulge this information – in the expectation that the subjects would gain this insight on their own. After solving several puzzles, participants were given an 8-hour break where some were instructed to stay awake while others slept. Afterwards, they once again had to solve additional puzzles. As a result, Wagner found that participants who slept during the break more often “discovered” the shortcut and solved more puzzles versus the group who stayed awake.
Improving sleep quality
In order to reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep and boost your creativity, here are a variety of methods to achieve this:
• Start a wind-down routine and set a regular bedtime schedule, such as taking an hour before bed to wash up and brush your teeth. This aids in signaling and preparing your mind for sleep. It also helps in setting aside adequate time for restful sleep.
• Remove distractions and reduce stimulation. This involves dimming the lights and turning off attention grabbing tech like TVs and especially smartphones. Studies have shown that the light emitted from mobile screens reduces melatonin production, a hormone essential for the sleep cycle.
• Use relaxation tools such as earplugs, sleep masks, or even noise machines (ocean waves, nature recordings, white noise). These are great tools to aid you in falling asleep, by creating a calming, non-stimulating environment.
• Lastly consult with your neurologist about adjusting your ADHD medication or dosageto alleviate your sleep issues.
Eugenia Lin has been writing about health topics for several years and currently writes on behalf of the brain rehabilitation specialists at Cerebrum Health Centers. When not writing, she can be found spoiling her pet, Yeti, with treats or trying to be active outside on those typical Seattle rainy days. You can find her at LinkedIn.
Positivity… we all know it can help you go farther in life…
Positivity, at best, inspires you to keep going, move forward and reach for your highest potential. At worst, it softens the blows when something doesn’t work out like we hoped it would.
The most successful people in life are not those who have had no obstacles. They are the people who have fallen and gotten back up – tougher and stronger than before. They are the positive people, who no one can hold down for very long.
But positivity isn’t something that can be achieved easily for everyone. For some of us, we are negative by nature. We don’t mean to be downers, but our set point simply hovers around zero. For others, life has thrown so many curve balls, the only way they can avoid getting hit any more is to constantly look down.
But there is, objectively, no more reason to look on the downside than there is to look up. Looking up can actually inspire you to get back up – try harder, do better, push yourself until you achieve the success you desperately want. On the contrary, negativity does nothing more than hold you down in the trenches with the heel of its boot pressed up against your ear.
How do you get more positivity in your life when can’t find anything to be positive about?
You have to fight for it, of course!
You have to pursue it, relentlessly, until it can escape you no longer.
No one said that positivity has to come easily in order for it to be worth it. You need to look for the reasons to be positive. You need to search your soul and itemize every single thing you have to be grateful for, no matter how small. You need to dig deep, find the beauty in every moment, and be glad simply because you are alive. Turn the other cheek, not to get smacked again – but to see what you have been missing. There is always a silver lining. If you don’t see it, maybe you haven’t opened your eyes all the way.
I know its not that easy…
But you have to treat positivity as something to be sought after… coveted. And anything you want that badly – you’ll fight for.
The harder and longer you chase positivity, the more likely it is you will find it.
Ever wonder what your significance in this world is???
Today’s post is a little different. Its actually based on a video.
My husband and I have been working on a project together, creating motivational videos in a 360 Virtual Reality format. Being that he is a 360 videographer, and I like to write motivational scripts… it seemed to be a natural fit.
When we created them, we really had you in mind. Countless times I have been emailed by ADDers telling me that it is difficult to focus when they’re reading. So for these are for you – no reading here. On top of that, you get to “look around” while you watch the video. The 360 format allows you to look left, right, look behind – even above – if you want.
About this video:
If you ever doubt the meaning of life, your significance in the world, or whether or not you make a difference – this 360 video is for you. Shot during sunrise over Silver Star Mountain in British Columbia on New Year’s Day 2016, we’ve captured the inspirational beauty of the sun and assimilated it to the magic of being human. We hope that watching it moves you as much as the moment moved us when we shot it.
At motiVRations we help you unplug from all the distractions in your life, and get in touch with your inner strengths. By immersing yourself in stunning scenery and focusing on life affirming messages, our 360 videos are the perfect pep talk to kick-start your day or a great way to visualize your future before drifting off to sleep. These videos are best viewed on a Virtual Reality (VR) headset but can be watched on any device.
We’d love to know what you think. Does this format work for you? Could we make it BETTER? Please share your comments or stop by and check out our Youtube Channel: motiVRations . Make sure to like us and share!
Life can feel pretty empty at times. Yet I hate all the stale maxims about passion out there.
Follow your passion and … what???
It’s fine advice for retirees with nothing else to do. When you have mouths to feed and heads to put a roof over, passion is the last thing to worry about.
Besides, most of us don’t know what we’re passionate about. They don’t teach passion in school, unless you count teenage experimentation as extracurricular instruction.
Even if we were lucky enough to feel rapturous about something, who’s got the time to do anything about it?
Just stop wasting time, they say. Productivity experts propose cutting out TV or social media as if they are soul-sucking, passion-decoys. Give up these time wasters and you’ll have at least a couple of extra hours a day. Great advice, but it neglects the reason we rely on these crutches in the first place.
After a long day, your brain is numb and you have no energy for anything else. That’s why you flake out in front of a screen every night. A fatigued and dazed mind isn’t apt to feeling passionate about anything. Screen time asks nothing of you. Which is good because, most nights, you have nothing left to give.
Get up early, they say. Successful people start their day while everyone else is still in bed.
I don’t see the logic… passion is an entity awoken by an alarm clock?
Day in and out, we go through the motions, exhausted by the sheer irrelevance of the “to do” lists we serve. The lists that are, by the way, fertilized by pen ink and grow larger each time we strike an item off. We make a bed, it gets unmade. We wash a dish, it gets dirty again. We pay a bill… whammo! It comes around again the next month.
Not exactly the ideal life we imagine we’d have when we find our passion, is it? Yet beds will still get unmade and dishes will get dirty, even when you’re living out your dream.
There is one quote I do like, really like, about passion.
Scott Adams (Dilbert creator) writes:
“Naturally successful people want you to believe that success is a by-product of their awesomeness, but they also want to retain some humility. You can say passion was the key to your success because everyone can be passionate about something or other. Passion sounds more accessible. If you’re dumb there’s not much you can do about it, but passion is something we think anyone can generate in the right circumstances. Passion is very democratic. It’s the people’s talent, available to all. It’s also mostly bullshit.” (How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big)
Thanks Scott, I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
Here’s the solution.
You were hoping I’d get to the part where I make you feel better about the problem by now, weren’t you?
Well, here goes.
I don’t think that the key to a happy life is to do what you’re passionate about. We do what we do to get by. And most of the time, what we do kind of sucks. But it pays the bills.
Some of us will be lucky enough to find passions that pay well. Others do what they’re passionate about only to find that making a career out of it actually kills their passion.
Most of us, however, will go through the daily grind feeling less than satiated. Perhaps we’ll even feel a bit numb. Or bored. Or empty.
What we can do, in these instances, is this:
We can learn to be more passionate about living.
Let me be clear: by this I don’t mean Nike-advert, just get out there and do it, carpe diem, seize-the-moment passionate.
I mean this kind of (real life, accessible to all) passion:
Holy crap, I’m alive! Of course, I’m dying every day (as each of us are) but for now, I am still alive. I get to work and live in a first world country, where I have access to food, clothing, shelter and health care. Every day I wake up, without fear of violence or violation, because my world is basically safe. So safe, in fact, that I actually have no bigger concerns than what might or might not happen in the future. I have responsibilities and people that need me, which culminate in endless to-do lists demonstrating how rich my life really is. And the fact that I feel empty, despite all the busy things I do in a day, means that I am the owner of a brain capable of higher level, self-analyzing and reflective thinking.
In essence, life is not about following your passion.
Being alive is something to be passionate about. You could very easily be dead, or at least – much, much worse off than you are now.
Look around. See the beauty in the world around you. Eat some chocolate. Listen to music. Talk to a friend. Hug a child. Dance with your partner. Take a long shower. Run down a beach. Wear fuzzy pajamas. Draw a picture. Try a new recipe. Drive a different route to work. Smile at a stranger. Pray to God. Meditate. Think. Cry. Laugh. Love.
If you feel empty, be passionate about finding meaning in the small things in life. That kind of passion is not bullshit.
Today’s post is a Guest Post By Rawhide Boys Ranch, a non-profit organization helping at-risk youth in the state of Wisconsin.
Today, 6.4 million American children are diagnosed with ADHD. This, coupled with the fact that the number of children diagnosed in the last 10 years has increased 42%, make ADHD one of the most common and fastest growing childhood disorders in America.
Despite it’s prevalence, ADHD is still a widely misunderstood condition.
Did you know 50% of children with ADHD will continue to experience symptoms into adulthood?
Or, girls are just as likely to have ADHD as boys, but half as likely to be diagnosed?
There are many myths and facts every parent needs to know.
As part of ADHD Awareness Month, the team at Rawhide Boys Ranch have put together the infographic shown below. It covers everything from prevalence rates, types, warning signs, myths and facts, adult symptoms and parenting tips.
See a doctor, get diagnosed, get treatment, get better. That’s how it goes for adults who find out they have ADHD, right?
Yes. Yes, it does. And afterwards, a pink elephant swings by the doctor’s office, scoops you up onto his flying, technicolor carpet and gives you a lift home to your mushroom mansion on cloud cuckoo land.
Here in the real world, it doesn’t work that way. Many places – especially rural areas, but even large urban centres – have few services for folks with ADHD, none the least adults. Getting diagnosed is often the easiest part, but even that can be tricky. What comes afterwards, though, can be logarithmic. As in – the problem can be solved, but few of us know how.
As October is International ADHD Awareness Month, I’d like to make help* more accessible for everyone. Surprisingly, some of the best help out there is location-independent – you can access it no matter where you live. If you have a telephone or internet connection, you’re golden.
To follow is a plethora of ADHD resources. I will explain what they’re about, who they are best suited to, and how you can access them and use them most effectively. It’s a pretty robust list, but don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t need to read this whole post. Skim the headings, find the sections that interest you, and come back to it later. And if you have a recommendation, please share it in the comments at the end. If suitable, I will revise this post and add it in.
Adult ADHD Coaching
I have a bias here. I am an Adult ADHD Coach, so of course it’s going to be the first resource I recommend. I became a coach because coaching changed my life. It gave me insight, awareness, and the power to make things different.
But what exactly is ADHD Coaching?
It is a unique relationship, like no other. You get to talk to someone who is intently interested in what you have to say, and whose entire aim is to help you move forward in life. Your coach has an adept sense of how to get the most out of you – to challenge limiting beliefs and help you design strategies for success. On top of this, he or she knows all about ADHD and what it’s like to struggle with it.
Where else could you get this kind of focused, strategic and supportive help?
The beauty of ADHD coaching is that you can access it from almost anywhere. You don’t need to find a coach in your community – most coaches work over the phone. Telephone coaching works brilliantly, sometimes better than face-to-face. My clients fit me around their busy lives. They call me on their lunch breaks, from the office, from a parking lot or the side of the road.
Telephone coaching works well for adults with ADHD because it minimizes hassle and maximizes time. You don’t have to drive to get it. You don’t have to find parking. You don’t even have to get dressed if you don’t want to. (Though if you decide to do Skype coaching, it is recommended you at least put on a housecoat.)
If you want to know more about coaching, feel free to email me. This isn’t a sales pitch – I give free advice all the time. There are also a few coaching directories I can recommend. They will help you pick a coach based on particular attributes.
Just a bit of advice as you do your search – shop around. A great coaching partnership is not just about a person’s credentials or their price. Coaching works best when the two of you gel. Whenever I get a call from a new client, I always encourage them to speak to a few other coaches as well. I want to make sure they find the coach that is the right fit for them.
There are many great videos that can help you understand your ADHD and teach you effective tools for managing it. These videos are stimulating, engaging and thought-provoking. And the beauty of them is that they take very little effort – just sit back, relax and enjoy.
I’m kidding about that last part. While the videos I am about to mention are completely enjoyable, you’ll only get as much out them as you put into them. Watch them attentively. Take notes. Do the exercises. Then watch them again and repeat. They are meant to change your life, so it’s only natural you take them more seriously than watching Netflix.
1. ADDcrusher.com – When Alan Brown says his videos (aimed at helping you CRUSH your ADHD) “kick the crap out of reading books”, he’s not kidding. Alan is just the kind of boot-camp-drill-sergeant I’d have on my team if I was embarking on siege to take my life back. It helps that he’s also a really great guy – entertaining, witty and very engaging. It’s his personal mission to help ADDers worldwide live up to their potential. I, for one, am glad he’s on our side.
Have a look at his Crusher video series or check out his newly launched Crusher TV series. They are like having a personal coach in your living room, on demand, whenever you need it. Here’s a little taster…
2. TotallyADD.com – No doubt, you’ve seen the PBS favourite “ADD & Loving It?!”. If you haven’t, you should check out the trailer.
Rick Green et al bring you solid information about ADHD – what it is and what it isn’t – as well as strategies for managing your life better, getting professional help, and just about any other ADHD-related topic you can think of. Bonus – they are funny. Like, spew-coffee-through-your-nose funny. You’ll be able to pay attention without much effort at all.
Check out the Totally ADD‘s online videos and their videosavailable for purchase. Also, have a look at their YouTube channel – you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wonder why you haven’t watched these videos before now.
3. The CHADD National Resource on ADHD also has an array of webcasts in their “Ask the Expert Series”. Make sure to have a look around their website – they have a TON of other resources as well, including their Adult ADHD Toolkit.
Online/Distance Learning Classes
People don’t realize that effective help doesn’t have to come in the form of one-on-one conversations. Sometimes the first step to figuring out your challenges is to learn from others who have mastered their own.
1. ADDCA – The coaching academy I trained with offers two classes that are specifically designed to help you understand and manage your ADHD better: Simply ADHD and Personal Transformation. The classes are done via conference calls, and by participating you get a chance to connect with a skilled ADHD coach, as well as a cohort of people who “totally get it” when you say you feel like a light bulb has just switched on. Not sure if this is for you? Enroll for one of their free introductory teleclasses.
2. ADDclasses.com offers several web-based training opportunities specific to ADHD challenges. Check them out soon and you’ll still have time to register for their free online ADHD Expo (October 25 to October 31). ADHD Experts will share tips and strategies via video while you connect with other ADDers in the chat room.
3. ADDitude Magazine – ADDitude Online offers several webinars hosted by the field’s top experts, addressing your most common concerns.
4. ADHDMarriage.com – Offers two courses via telephone – both live and recorded – aimed at helping couple who experience the impact of ADHD on their marriage. The ADHD Effect In-Depth with Melissa Orlovnot only improves your understanding of how ADHD affects the marriage for both spouses, it will give you concrete strategies for moving your relationship forward. Recovering Intimacy in Your Relationship is a multi-week seminar that will provide you with tools and exercises to bring back “those lovin’ feelings.”
Podcasts are another great way to get more information and help for your ADHD. They don’t have the visually stimulating effect of videos, but sometimes that’s a bonus. You can listen to a podcast while you do other things. You know how we all love to multi-task. Now you can feel good about it, knowing you’re actually helping yourself while you play video games, put away your laundry, or pick your nose.
My recommended podcasts:
1. Attention Talk Radio – Hosted by Attention Coach Jeff Copper, Attention Talk Radio puts spotlight on how paying attention to your attention gets you unstuck. That’s a lot of attention.
2. ADDitude’s ADHD Experts Podcast – ADHD Experts answer questions posed by parents and adults with ADHD.
3. ADHD People – The Tom Nardone Show – An Enema of ADHD (Not necessarily aimed at tricks and tips, but the name says it all – you’re in for a cathartic experience. Have fun, you can thank me later.)
4. ADHD reWired – Hosted by therapist and coach Eric Tivers, reWired broadcasts interviews with real people living with ADHD, including entrepreneurs and professionals working within our tribe.
5. ADHD Support Talk Radio – Founder and Director of ADDClasses.com, Tara McGillicuddy, shares her expertise and interviews other experts in the field.
There is a lot to be gained from participating in a program with other people who understand what it’s like to have the challenges you do. I’ve often talked about how finding my tribe was one of the best things I ever did for my confidence. Since I’ve started talking to other people with ADHD, I’ve become a different person. I now belong to a tribe of incredible dreamers, visionaries, innovators and scatterbrains. We’re an awesome group, flaws and all, don’t you think?
1. Check out CHADD to see if there is a chapter local to you or have a look around your community for a support group. If you can’t find one, consider starting one. You’ll be surprized how many other adults like you will be glad you did. If you want to know how to start a support group, CHADD can be a great resource to get you started.
2. ADDforums.com – If you’d like some support from the comfort of your couch (as opposed to lying back on your shrink’s proverbial couch), check ADDforums. Post your question or concern and get feedback from other ADDers who have experienced the same dilemmas.
3. ADDconsults.com – Ladies only! A pioneer in the niche of women with ADHD, Terry Matlen’s ADDconsults.com hosts a forum area where women can connect with her and with other women living with ADHD.
Books on ADHD
Books are probably one of the most accessible yet underrated resources for ADHD. Books are great for helping you to get a new understanding of ADHD – not just its symptoms, but what it actually means to have ADHD and the skills necessary to thrive with it. They are also great because you can keep them to refer to later, as many of us will forget new tips and tricks.
They aren’t great for people who find it difficult to concentrate or have a hard time sitting still long enough to read them. If this is the case for you, you may want to check out my post How to Read Like a Pro and Enjoy It (Even if You Hate Reading). An even simpler tactic is to get an audio book that you can listen to while walking the dog, cleaning the house, or dance up a storm at Zumba. Okay, maybe not.
Here are my favourite ADHD books (these, of course, are just some of the many out there).
1. 10 Things I Hate about ADHD, Bryan Hutchinson – A great read to start with – especially if you’re not really looking to change things but just want to feel like someone else “gets it”. Reading it is like talking to a good friend about everything you’ve been through – the good, the bad, and the laugh-out-loud ugly. Bryan’s written a lot of other excellent books on ADHD and positive psychology related topics, check them out here.
2. Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, Russell A. Barkley – From the world’s leading authority on ADHD, you will find step-by-step strategies for managing ADHD with exercises to build your skills.
5. ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau – These ladies have compiled the best organization suggestions that are congruent with how an ADDer actually operates. (Audio Version Available)
8. ADD Stole My Car Keys, Rick Green and Umesh Jain – My psychiatrist gave me this book a few years ago, and it was probably the best book he ever gave me (it was the only book he gave me). The way it is set up is very cool and very novel (and hey – don’t we all love cool, new things?). It gives parallel perspectives from both an ADDer (Rick Green of ADD & Loving It?! fame) and his psychiatrist. So it’s kind of like seeing a shrink, but not footing the bill. And … each chapter is very short (great for quick minds).
10. The Adult ADHD Tool Kit: Using CBT to Facilitate Coping Inside and Out, J. Russell Ramsay and Anthony L. Rostain – I’m a firm believer in the power of CBT (so much so, I did a post-grad in it!) – not just for ADDers, but for everyone with a pulse. One of the biggest problems ADHD folks face is the fact that the symptoms of ADHD can actually interfere with your ability to get help for ADHD. This user-friendly book doesn’t just teach you skills, it offers you tactics to help you apply the skills in your everyday life. .
11. The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child Paperback, Thom Hartmann – This is one of my all-time favourite books. Ever. It explores how our traits as ADDers have been very necessary in the evolution of society. It won’t change your ADHD. But it will make you feel a heck of a lot better about having it. That, to me, is worth more than a thousand hours of therapy.
There are a gazillion great websites and blogs out there on ADHD and related topics – too many to add to this (already too-long) post. Each offers readers a unique take on what it takes to manage ADHD and thrive with it. Here are a dozen or so of my favourites (Apart from The Art of ADD of course!):
ADDerworld – Bryan Hutchinson’s positive take on ADHD
A Splintered Mind – Douglas Cootey tackles ADHD & Depression with “lots of humor and attitude”
ADHD and Marriage – Brought to you by ADHD Expert & Relationship Consultant Melissa Orlov in partnership with Dr. Ned Hallowell – this website offers information, connection & support for couples experiencing ADHD
Phew. That was exhausting, don’t you think? The ADHD in you probably thought this post would never end. The ADHD in me wants to quit right here – no conclusion, or wrap-up – it just wants me to bolt. But since I’m in control, not my ADHD, let me conclude this post saying one more thing:
You may feel alone in your search for self-assurance and a better life. You so aren’t. You may think you’ll never figure it out, never live your best life. You so will. You may think there’s no help out there for you to access. There so is!
I hope this list of ADHD resources has shown you that, at the very least, there is help for you – no matter where you live. Most of these resources have been created by the people, for the people – ADDers united. Reach out to these resources and reach out to each other.
This is ADHD Awareness Month but we need to be aware of ADHD every day of the year. I hope these resources will give you a good start. And again – if you have any more resources you’d like to add to this list, or great idea for a resource you’d like to see available – please share it in the comments below!
* (Caveat – For the purpose of this post, I’m referring to non-medicinal help. Whether or not you take it is a matter of personal choice. But I stand firm that medication alone is not an effective treatment regimen. It helps you reign your mind, but it doesn’t teach you how to use it.)
The way you approach the multitude of tasks in your life makes all the difference between being a champion of effectiveness or a casualty of complete exhaustion. If the latter sounds more like your description, you may be making life unnecessarily hard.
Simplifiers vs Optimizers
According to Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, a simplifier is someone who will choose the straightforward (sometimes easier) way of completing a task, even when he or she could have achieved better results with more effort. An optimizer, as he defines it, is someone who will take the extra effort to get better results, even at the risk of unexpected contingencies sending the whole plan south. (See Scott’s book – How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.)
The Uncomplicated Path
A simplifier leaves on time for a meeting, arrives at least 5 minutes early and uses that waiting time to check his or her emails on a smart phone. Someone who simplifies their tasks and goals will take the most direct path towards achieving them. It’s not automatically the fastest route or the strategy with fewer or easier steps, but it’s the course least likely to have hassles along the way.
Because of its straightforward nature, it often does turn out to be the fastest or easiest option.
The Ambitious Path
An optimizer combines tasks that pair well together – either by proximity or likeness – and that, when executed well, will lead to higher levels of achievement and efficiency. An optimizer leaves on time for a meeting, but gets gas and drops books off at the library en route, in order to save time later. He or she may make phone calls at red lights or check share prices on the toilet.
In essence, an optimizer sucks every grain of sand from their hourglass, until its nothing but an empty shell.
When the optimizer’s strategy works, it’s a buzz. To clear essential tasks off your list and still get to your date in the nick of time – it makes you feel like a supercharged, productivity dynamo. That’s what makes it so compelling.
But when unpredicted glitches upset the delicate equilibrium required by optimizing – it’s stressful and deflating. Not to mention relationship-damaging.
For the record, I am an optimizer who is schooling herself in the art of simplicity. It’s not exactly a fine art, but it takes quite a bit of practice.
Driven By ADHD
I hypothesize that many ADDers are optimizers. We see opportunities to maximize productivity and we take them. Sometimes it makes sense. Getting gas on the way to the grocery store is efficient. Getting gas on the way to your wedding, however, is stupid. The problem is, we don’t always make the correct distinction.
Sometimes when we are “optimizing” though, it’s because, ultimately, we are terrified being bored and having to wait for something or someone. Have you ever heard of “just-one-more-thing syndrome”? As in:
“I still have 5 minutes. I’ll just do one more thing (or two, or three), then I’ll go.”
It’s the effect of optimizing, but the cause of much tardiness and white-knuckle fever. One-more-thing can be efficient, but then again – it might not be. The passing of time, how long something will take, potential interruptions… all of these things are estimated by great optimizers. Most of us aren’t great estimators.
Which Approach Should You Take?
Adams suggests that if you can’t predict all the variables in a situation (red lights, traffic stops, old ladies crossing the road), choosing simplicity over optimum is a better choice.
But if punctuality doesn’t matter, optimizing your tasks may be the way to go. Sometimes, it may be your only choice, like if you run out of gas on the way to your meeting.
On a whole, however, I think most of us could benefit from learning the art of simplicity. Recently, I started working with a man whose life has been turned upside down from the hot mess created by not dealing with his ADHD challenges earlier. Let’s just say his life has suddenly become very complicated by court dates, immigration procedures, and financial crisis. It’s overwhelming.
His life has never been more complicated and there certainly are no simple solutions. And yet – there are. In fact, he has never needed simplicity more than he needs it now.
The most monumental of tasks can always be broken down into simpler steps. My client can’t control the judicial system. He can do what it expects of him: abide by his conditions and show up to court on time. He can’t control immigration procedures. But he can clarify the first step in the application process. He can’t reverse his financial problems. He can start by dealing with one debt.
There’s a Time for Both
Optimizing is about getting as much done as possible, with maximum impact. It’s an alluring tactic when you have a lot to do. Plan your tasks carefully and be mindful of the time each will take. Prioritize them according to their importance and urgency and be prepared to let some of them go. Ask yourself if each task is a “must be done” or a “nice to be done”, then prioritize accordingly.
Sometimes, you are at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. You can only optimize so much. The compulsion to get things done, when you can’t get things done, will only make you impatient, frustrated, and wear you down. Let it go and simplify.
Simplifying turns a problem or a goal into a series of manageable challenges. It removes overwhelm by focusing on what is possible: show up, do the work, repeat.
Pay attention to how your days usually go. Are you trying to fit in as much as possible, sometimes to the detriment of your (or someone else’s) sanity? Or are you streamlining too much, and not getting enough done? Maybe you need to up your game.
Adams makes inferences that people are either an optimizer or a simplifier – but I think it’s possible to be both, depending on what the situation calls for. It takes a little awareness and self-reflection, but learning to shift between these two approaches can bring more calm, focus and productivity to your day.
For more about this and some surprisingly profound insights from the cartoonist himself, check out Adams’ book here.
In the spirit of “cartoonistry” (its a word, albeit not a real one), I thought I would commission a cartoon as the image for this post. A BIG THANKS goes out to my 8-year-old daughter “Zee” for her excellent work – love ya sweet cheeks! xxx