Focus

An Uncommon, Life-Enhancing Benefit of Diets

diets

I hate the thought of diets. Pretty much everyone knows diets don’t work.

Nonetheless, I’ve been following a new (shall we call it …) “eating plan” for the last 3 weeks. (Yeah it’s a diet I guess. Though I don’t really intend it to be.)

Of course I want to lose weight. But I’ve wanted to lose weight for the last 5 years and haven’t done a thing about it. So that’s not the real reason for changing how I eat now.

Truthfully, what I wanted was simplicity. I hate everything to do with food. I hate purchasing it. I hate thinking of what to make. I hate making it. I hate having to stop what I’m doing to make and eat it. I certainly hate cleaning up after making and eating it.

That’s a lot of hate.

So I thought:

If the need to feed myself, and all its associated hassles, fill me with such contempt, what’s the point in hanging on to my bad eating habits?

I won’t share my eating plan with you, lest you think I am giving dietary advice, which I am wholly unqualified to do. But I will share with you the process:

  • It’s simple.
  • It’s effective.
  • And I never have to think about it.

Yep, I pretty much eat a selection of food from only a handful of options. But then – I only have to shop for those handful of options. They are carefully selected to make sure my body gets all it needs. But I’ll admit, it’s boring. And that’s okay, because I’d rather be bored with my food than pissed off at it.

Now – how to incorporate diets into the rest of life…

Food isn’t the only area of my life that needs to go on a diet. There are many areas that are far-too-complicated that piss me off on a regular basis. So, for the next few months, the rest of my life is going on the dreaded “diet”.

Here’s how I’m paring down and shedding excess “weight”:

1. Stuff

I’m no pack rat. But like most people these days, I still have too much stuff. My house is nowhere near a setting in Hoarders, but my stuff still weighs me down. I’ve cleared out cupboards and closets full of one-day-I-might-need-this rubbish, and given it away or sold it. I feel lighter already.

2. Email

I get way too much email. Join the club right? I’ve un-subscribed to every email list I don’t actually open and read on a regular basis. So go ahead and un-subscribe to The Art of ADD if you don’t read it routinely. (I can safely say this, knowing that those who don’t read this regularly won’t actually see this message, ha ha!)

3. Social Courtesies

We all have them. Some of them are fulfilling, and some of them sap our energy and our souls. So I’ll give you a few examples of how I’m paring down in this area:

No more playdates for the kids several times a week. If they are having their friends over, they are both having friends over. Get it done – in one shot. In fact, once a month we may even have a big sleep over and they can both have a couple of friends over. One night of chaos is worth many days of bliss.

Screw potlucks. Everyone at work enjoys a big potluck gathering to celebrate someone’s birthday or to send off someone who’s leaving for a new job. I HATE POTLUCKS. Are you kidding? I don’t even like making food for my own family, why would I want to make it for my colleagues? So now, I’m the girl that brings the bag of buns. I’m good with that. I just won’t eat the buns myself, on account of the fact that they’re not at part of my new diet.

Facebook messenger. I won’t reply, so don’t bother. If you really need to reach me, pick up the phone. The same might go for texts, but I haven’t figured out how to tactfully incorporate this one in to my life yet.

The whole point of life diets

I’ve listed some things I’m getting rid of to make my life easier. They might not be your things though. The whole point of a diet is not to deprive yourself, but to make things better – whether it’s your body or your life.

If you love playdates, potlucks and messaging – keep them! But figure out what you are doing “just because you should” and see if you can weed it out for a while, or at least make it simpler. A life diet is about shedding the excess that brings you nothing but grief, so that you can make more room for the things that feed your soul.

For more, check out Tim Ferriss’ post on de-loading.

Mindset

Meaning In the Moment

living in the moment

What if each moment of your life had meaning?

And everything that happened played an important part in the story of your life?

What if every detail, experience or event unfolding before your eyes – was just as momentous as the one before and the one yet to come?

What if everyone you met was an essential character in your story?

And every word exchanged between you was significant?

Then – as you took your dying breath – you realized that the value of the life you lived was tallied by all these things.

It wasn’t measured by the occasional breakthroughs and major achievements,

How far you got in your career or what you did for other people…

But by how well you lived each moment.

On the other hand…

What if, by chance, you discovered that none of these things were important?

All that really mattered was the big stuff?

All the details and events and exchanges with people were completely irrelevant.

And the significance of your life was condensed to the “big moments”.

How diminished would your life become?

Would you grieve for the smallness of it?

Now: Imagine one more thing…

That neither of these scenarios were truer than the other.

All you were left with was a choice between the two –

A life full of significance and meaning in every moment

Or a life full of white noise, punctuated by a few moments of epic importance –

Which one would you choose?

The truth is – the choice is already yours.

 

 

Productivity

5 Times You Don’t Need to De-Clutter

de-clutter

What the heck is it with all this sycophantic love for the art of de-cluttering!? I know they say that cleanliness is next to Godliness, but the only people that can know that for sure are dead, and I don’t trust dead people, do you?

I know that most of us in the western world have way too much stuff. The upkeep of said stuff can weigh us down, no doubt. But the pendulum can swing the other way. This obsession with de-cluttering can make us feel like the only right way to live is to sell everything we own and spend the rest of our lives living out of a backpack.

I did that once, by the way. And it was AWESOME. But it couldn’t last forever. I had kids. And having kids means having a home and all the things that come with it. It means ferreting away rock collections, half-coloured drawings, and bits of shiny-sparkly shrapnel found on a walk – to the back of the cupboard. It means waiting for the precise moment (of exactly 21-days to the minute – the time from whence they last mentioned those items) to signal that it’s safe to throw those things away without suffering the wrath of hoarder-children.

Personally, I love throwing stuff out. Or recycling or donating it. It makes me feel good. It frees my mind. But it’s a delusion really. My stress doesn’t come from having too many clothes or knickknacks. But for some odd reason, getting rid of excess stuff makes me feel like I’m shedding stress. Even though I’m not, really.

On the other hand, I know many people who struggle with de-cluttering. Its hard work for them and completely overwhelming. They like their stuff. They don’t feel better by shedding it – in fact, they feel weighed down by the very notion of getting rid of it.

To those people I say, consider this post a permission slip. It’s not always a good thing to de-clutter your home. And actually, there are a few occasions when it’s actually a bad idea:

1. When it doesn’t actually bother you or the people you live with

The whole point of the de-cluttering movement is to make our busy and stressful lives easier. If your stuff isn’t getting in your way or bogging you (or anyone you live with) down – then leave it alone.

2. When it’s an organized mess – you know where everything is

Assuming point number one is true for you, then another reason to leave your clutter alone is when it’s what we call an “organized mess”. Personally, I can’t cope with too many visual distractions. Visible clutter invades my brain and makes it hard for me to think clearly. But that’s just me. I know many people who know exactly where everything is in their piles and heaps. Those people, often, struggle to find things when they do put stuff away.

If you can access the stuff you need, exactly the way it is – don’t worry too much about changing it.

3. When your mess inspires your creativity

Creative people are often connoisseurs of the artefacts they have created, or the works of others that inspire joy. That’s what a home should be about – inspiration and joy. If you feel those things from a minimalist palette – then start de-cluttering. But if you’re more of an eclectic who’s inspired by many different things – keep your collage of stuff and don’t worry about it.

4. When de-cluttering is procrastinating on getting the real work done

I’m super guilty of this. Usually, when I start de-cluttering, it’s because I have something difficult I need to do, and I just can’t face it. Cleaning makes me feel like I’m taking charge, but really I’m just avoiding the thing I really need to do.

Avoid the procrastination trap. If you can work in the mess, then… work in the mess. You can always de-clutter later.

5. When it costs more to de-clutter than it’s worth

It should be cheap and easy to get rid of stuff, but that’s not always the case. I know that most experts say that if you haven’t used something in a year, you probably don’t need it. Sometimes, though, you might need that thing once every two or three years, but that thing would cost far too much to replace each time you needed it. So keep it.

Likewise, if its going to cost and arm and leg to de-clutter, by way of expensive storage systems or hired advice from an organizing-professional, then maybe it’s not worth it. This is especially the case if all the previous statements I’ve made are true for you.

While de-cluttering can be a godsend for many people who are struggling to keep on top of their lives, it’s not a panacea. Sometimes, the best way forward is to learn how to navigate around or through the mess, rather than simply getting rid of it. What are your thoughts on clutter? Yay or nay? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Productivity

Two REAL REASONS to Keep a To Do List

to do lists

If you hate to do lists, let me share with you two reasons you should think about them differently.

Many people don’t like to do lists. My guess is they’re commitment phobic. Or, like one of my clients, they did poorly in English class. Writing a list feels tantamount to a condensed eleventh-grade essay on Shakespeare. Only there’s no one around to reprimand you for poor grammar and punctuation. Hopefully.

But I haven’t met many people who can be effective without a list of some description. Some people have excellent memories. But I mostly hang out with ADDers who don’t.

Frankly, there are only two REAL REASONS to keep to do lists. I classify REAL REASONS to mean this: the way they benefit you because they actually do (benefit you) – not because you “should” keep them, or because everyone else keeps them.

Here they are:

To Do Lists Free your Mind

Think about how much grey matter is consumed by trying to remember all your commitments. When you don’t write them down, they occupy space in your cranium. Dump them out onto an external storage device and suddenly prime realty space becomes available.

A list is like an external hard drive for your computer, or building an extension on your house. Writing things down frees your mind to think about far more fascinating things. Like why this bubble bath is listed to be gluten-free but doesn’t actually tell you how many calories are in it.

To Do Lists Cheer You Up

We ADDers spend a lot of time chasing our tails. Scratching things off our lists make us feel like we aren’t going in circles. They prove that we have been effective, at least on some level. A list full of scratched-off things is like a mini-celebration. They scream “Yay, I got that done!”

We don’t often congratulate ourselves on being effective, quite simply because we think productivity should just be a given. To do lists do the celebrating for us.

I keep all my past lists, the ones I’ve already done. I’ll admit, I’m a geek. But when I feel woeful that I haven’t been very productive lately, I take out my lists to remind myself of everything I have accomplished. It’s like reminiscing over old family photos. Except my lists aren’t as cute as my baby learning how to do house chores for the first time 🙂

Do you like to do lists or loathe them? No matter how you feel about them, don’t forget the real reasons they benefit your life.

Productivity

5 Ways to Get to Bed Earlier without Fear of Missing Out

fear of missing out

Do you hate bedtime time as much as I do?

It’s a given that kids hate going to bed, but many adults with ADHD also loathe it. Especially those who have kids. When evening rolls around and the sprogs have finally drifted off to the land of nod, those precious few hours nestled between:

  • working at work
  • working at home and
  • working at getting to sleep

… they may be the only time we get to spend time doing things we truly want to do. The fun stuff, the meaningful stuff, the stuff that fulfills us and makes all the other stuff bearable.

So it’s no wonder most of us drag ourselves to bed kicking and screaming, way past the hour sane people nod off.

We know we need more sleep: for health, mental health and mental clarity. But that doesn’t make us WANT to go to bed any earlier than we already do. It just makes us feel like we have only two options:

  • More sleep and less time to ourselves or
  • More time, less sleep… and all the nasty side effects

Point in case:

When I go to bed earlier I feel much better the next day. My head is clearer, I’m in a better mood and I’m much more focused.

But here’s the catch: I don’t get enough time to read and write if I go to bed early. Those are the things that fill my soul. But they take time. Quiet, alone time. Usually, that’s the time when the kids are in bed. So that means later nights.

Or does it?

I’ve figured out 5 ways to get to bed earlier, without fear of missing out on the stuff that I really want to do. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Figure out what feeds you the most

I’m not talking about food. Decide on what activity makes you most feel like you’ve had “me time”. We often waste our evenings watching TV or getting sucked into the Internet vortex, not because that’s what we really want to do, but because that’s all we really have the energy for. Usually, though, it conveys an unspoken message of pointlessness to our subconscious. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with those activities, but doing them night after night makes us feel like we’re wasting our lives.

Not sure what you value the most in life? Try out this exercise to figure out how you could be spending your free time.

2. Steal time for your values

Night time isn’t the only time you can have to yourself. Sometimes, our lives are structured in a way that means we have to think differently about the time that we do have, rather than just focusing on the paucity of it. Do you get a 15-minute coffee break at work? What about a lunch hour? How about the time when you’re walking the dogs?

Make more out of free-time chunks when you get them, even if they’re not in the evenings. Read a book on your break or listen to an audio book while walking the canine. Crochet on the train as you head off to work. Listen to music while making dinner. Whatever your thing is – find a way to sneak in some time for yourself during the day, and you’ll have less of a need to exploit every second of the twilight hours.

3. Let stuff go once in a while

I have an obsessive need to get everything done as soon as I can. For example, I can’t cope with the visual clutter of last night’s dishes when I wake up in the morning. But sometimes, particularly when I’ve had a hard day, I recognize the fact that I need to let something go, in order to get some much-needed me-time in. Often, it means that I do those dishes – but I leave the laundry to another day. That’s what the space under the bed is for.

4. What? When? Where? How?

I can’t write when my kids are around. They interrupt – a lot, and that only frustrates me. But I want them to interrupt me, because that’s what I’m here for. So I write when they’re at school (if I have a weekday off) or when they’re in bed. That means the other stuff gets done when they’re around – the stuff I don’t really need to concentrate hard on. Usually, I try to incorporate them into that activity, by getting their help in trade for spending some time with them doing the things they love. Together we’ve built an entire Minecraft world based solely on this barter system.

5. And remember your Why…

Going to bed earlier isn’t about being a good boy or girl. It isn’t about doing the “right thing” or doing what you’re “supposed to do”. I used to hate sleep. It feels like a waste of time, and I can probably only say this because I’m someone who doesn’t seem to need a lot of it to function.

BUT…

I have noticed that I do function much better when I’ve slept well. Generally, the quality of my sleep increases when I get at least some of it before midnight. So, while I’ve had to sacrifice some of those all-to-myself minutes in the evening in order to get to bed earlier, I no longer have a fear of missing out.

The reason for this is simple: when I sleep better, I have more energy to do the things I really want to do, rather than flaking out in front of a box because I’m exhausted.

Try this for 2 weeks (I dare you…) How much better is the quality of your  “me time” when you actually get a better sleep at night? Share your experience in the comments below.

Mastery

Pretend You Don’t Have ADHD

ADHD

Sometimes I wish that I could follow a non-ADHD person around for a day – just to see how they do life.

Haven’t you ever wondered how the so-called “normal” people do it?

I can spend a whole day, frenetically doing a bunch of this and a whole lot of that. I try to be mindful of what I am doing, while I am doing it. I feel like I am pretty efficient, for the most part. But I’m sure if I hung out with a neurotypical, their day would look a lot different than mine.

But would it be better?

I’m thinking of asking someone if I can shadow them for a day. But how do you approach a request like that?

“Hey, can I follow you around for a while? Just go about your business and pretend I’m not there. You be the lion, I’ll be the camera woman. I just want to know what a normal day looks like in your wilderness.”

It’s creepy and weird, so perhaps I won’t.

This idea came to me the other day. I am a member of a task force in my community, whose focus is on promoting education about ADHD and enhancing resources for those who live with it. Every October, we put on a community event in honor of ADHD Awareness Month. This year, our theme is going to be “Getting Inside the ADHD Mind” – with a focus on creating a better understanding of what it’s like to have ADHD, designed especially for those live with an ADDer.

I would like to engineer the reverse of that. What’s it like to not have ADD? Do people without ADHD have only one thought at a time? When faced with a big list, do they automatically know what to focus on first or do they have to think hard about it? Are they naturally organized and on time, or does it take effort?

Think about this for a few minutes. What would it be like to NOT have ADHD?

I’ve been contemplating this. I can’t come up with a conclusive answer, obviously. I can’t live in someone else’s head. I’m stuck with my own. But this is the conclusion I’ve come to, based on nothing more than a thought experiment.

Without ADHD, I’d still be me. I can see that certain parts of my life are definitely affected by the fact that I have it, but I can’t say that my struggles would go away if my brain was wired differently. Perhaps I would just have different struggles. Perhaps you would too.

Being organized, focused, and on time would no doubt be easier. But I don’t think I’d necessarily be happier, more successful, or fulfilled. I imagine it this way:

 

People who wear glasses might feel that some things in their lives would be easier if they didn’t need to wear glasses. No doubt, that’s why laser surgery has become a popular procedure. I don’t wear glasses, but I can imagine it’s a pain-in-the-butt to have to rely on them, and there would be times when it’s extremely inconvenient to depend on them.

But take away the need to wear glasses – how much better would life become? I mean, after the initial novelty wears off?

This is what I think:

Life without ADHD would have its own struggles. Having ADHD can certainly make a lot of things harder, but it doesn’t necessarily make life harder. Living with ADHD, successfully, can mean that it’s no more inconvenient than relying on a pair of glasses for reading or driving.

It really is that simple. As I’ve talked about many times before, there are many ways in which ADHD can actually benefit our lives, especially when we know how to use it to our advantage. The difference between being overcoming ADHD struggles, and being overcome by them, comes down to whether or not you find ways to make it work for you.

Read through the archives of this blog – I’ve outline dozens of ways that you can make ADHD work for you. If you’d like to find more unique ways to manage your ADHD, shoot me off an email and we’ll talk about it. And don’t forget to sign up for more free tips delivered straight to your in box in the signup sheet below.

Mindset

How to Feel Proud of Yourself

proud

No matter what you do, it never quite feels good enough, does it?

You may be growing a career, plodding your way through a difficult university course, or rearing a brood of children…it doesn’t matter what forum of life we’re talking about. In everything you do, you’re nagged by the sense that your efforts aren’t quite good enough.

Today, I am writing specifically for a few of my clients who struggle with this lack of self-belief, knowing that at least a handful of my readers (if not more), will know exactly what I’m talking about.

You see, so many people, and none more than those with ADHD, struggle with the notion that they should be doing better than they are. They should have gotten a better grade. They should have a better paid job. They should be a more patient parent, with exemplary kids, who excel in all they do.

I have felt this sense of “less-than” on many occasions. For example, I worked my butt off on my Post-Graduate dissertation and was rewarded with merit – only a few points short of a distinction mark.

A few of my classmates did get distinctions. I should have been celebrating my achievement but instead I was disgruntled with myself. I was just as smart as them, wasn’t I? Why wasn’t my best effort good enough to raise my work to the status my colleagues achieved? My topic was original and poignant, I nailed the arguments, used all the right language and references….

But somebody didn’t think it was good enough.

But actually – a merit is pretty good. In fact, just passing the course was quite an achievement. And heck – even being enrolled and showing up for the classes was quite a feat. When I come to think of it, my essay writing involved a grotesque process, with coffee-stained papers littering my living room for days, garbage piling up in the corners of the room, maintaining the upkeep of the resident mice in my South London flat. It was utter chaos. I should have been proud that I even handed that 10,000-word whopper in. Yet I was dismayed that I didn’t get the best mark. Not by a long shot.

It’s because, secretly, I never felt like I was good enough to be taking part in that Post-Grad in the first place. I felt like a fraud, rising above my station. In my mind, I had to do the best, in order to prove I was worthy. Anything less than best would show me up.

Well, I guess I got showed up. And what has it meant to my life since then?

Nada.

It’s ridiculous when I think of it. But we all apply this logic to our thinking at times.

It’s called “focusing on the outcome”. As in: I’ll be good enough when I am successful. Or when I am rich. Or when my kids are successful. Or when I get to the top of the corporate latter.

But “when” never comes. The bar we measure ourselves against lifts itself higher and higher.

I realize, as I write this, this topic is not unique. But I’m writing about it anyway, because I feel I’ve got to say this:

My ADD comrades – they tend to judge themselves extremely harshly. I know many ADDers who feel like they have to work harder and do better than everyone else, just so they can feel good enough. Note what I just said: good enough. They don’t want to feel better than everyone else. But the only way they get to feel like equals, is to excel.

Not really a fair contest is it?

We’ve all had plenty of reasons to feel “not-good-enough”. Always late. Never paying attention. Breaking things. Failing classes. Losing jobs….When our lives are dotted with experiences like these, how can we learn to feel proud of ourselves? Or, at the very least, like we are good enough?

Go back in time. Somewhere along the line, that message was fed to you like an airplane-spoon full of porridge into a baby’s mouth. Somebody or somebodies made you feel like you didn’t measure up to what was expected of you. They made you feel screwed up.

But when you look over these times, you’ll always ignore one fact. Those people who made you feel screwed up… were just as screwed up themselves. They’d been elevated to status of judge-jury-and-executor when they had no right to have that kind of influence over your entire self-perception. Those in glass houses, right? But it didn’t matter – their perceptions hooked your psyche like fishing in a barrel.

But the truth is – we’re all screwed up. Every. Single. Person.

So what’s there to feel proud of?

Feel proud of your efforts. Not of the outcome, but of your efforts. Feel proud that you showed up and did the work. That you tried, even when the trying got hard. That you pushed yourself past your own limits. That you learned when you messed up. That you learned some more when you messed up again. That you kept trying. Whether or not anyone noticed it. Whether or not you got that grade. That bonus. That promotion. That whatever.

Those things do not define your worth as a person. They are only minor benchmarks in the timeline of your life span. When you measure yourself – only against yourself – and focus only on the effort you make each step of the way… that’s when you get to feel the kind of pride in yourself that never goes away.

Tell me today: what are you proud of?

Mastery

Seriously, Why Do You Hate Schedules So Much?

hate schedules

I know you secretly hate schedules. You’d rather “just remember” what needs to be done and do it. Preferably, whenever the timing feels right.

Me too.
Its so whimsical, so very “us”. We’re an intuitive bunch. We’d much rather go with the flow than be confined by rigid routine. Who knows what we’ll feel like doing next Saturday morning? We might want to go running. Then again, we just might prefer a bacon sandwich and a YouTube binge in bed. We like to keep our options open.
 
I loathe schedules too, except I don’t, really. I just think I hate schedules.
 
Schedules sound tedious and boring. They sound like something I have to do. And I hate having to do anything. Inside, I am toddler defying the bossy mommy who tells me what to do. But I’m also the mommy – who knows that things need to get done. So you can see the internal conflict between these two people who are apparently both me.
I’d like to say I’m the kind of person who goes with the flow. That’s what feels natural to me. Except in reality, (without a plan) my “flow” is more like a tiny little trickle. A trickle of wasted time and aimless meandering. Constipation, personified.
Whereas creating schedules helps me do things, instead of just thinking about doing things.
I’ve learned to love my calendar. Here’s why you should too:
  • A schedule supports you by taking the thinking out of things. Why rely on a memory that runs out on you like a philandering ex?
  • A schedule means you have things to do. It makes you interesting. Snails don’t have schedules, and they’re very boring.
  • A schedule lets you be the boss of time. You get to manage it. Therefore, a schedule it makes you a Time Lord.
  • A schedule can be flexible. In other words, it can be rescheduled.
The last point is the most crucial. Just because you planned to do something, doesn’t mean you can’t un-plan doing that thing if you change your mind when the time comes. A schedule doesn’t tell you what you can or can’t do. It just guides you through possibilities.
Think about that. So do you still hate schedules now?