Avoidance, ADHD Triggers and Letting Go of Shoulds


The word “avoidance” vibrates with negative connotation. It refers to an absence of doing something that should be done. But avoidance can actually be a good thing, especially when it comes to “triggers” and “shoulds”.

People with ADHD have often associated avoidance with the first description – “not doing something that they know they should do”. We avoid things that seem too hard, frustratingly boring, or outside our skill set.

Avoidance can be a good thing

Managing ADD “better” is a worthy pursuit. It’s essential if you want to be happier, and if you want important people to be happier with you. While it is helpful to concentrate on things you need to start doing, you shouldn’t neglect the things you need to stop doing too. Let me explain.

On and Off

ADD is a lifelong state-of-being YET it doesn’t show up all of the time, in every situation.

I’m sure there you’ve had times when you haven’t felt very ADD at all. These may be a fleeting moments or for longer periods, but you probably didn’t notice them because “functioning well” doesn’t grab your attention.

The times that ADD wanes is different for everyone, as are the times when it is aggravated. In essence, everyone has their own triggers.

For example, I don’t notice ADD much when I am at the “day job”. It calls upon my ability to be hyper-focused in time-crunches and crises (which is most days).

Triggers (Everybody Get Down!)

My ADD is at its worst, though, when I am grocery shopping. The noise is intense, the lighting grotesque, aisles are too long and too many idiots, erm… I mean people, inhabit those aisles like they’re touring the louvre. Never mind the shelves with too many choices (but never the one you want). It’s like looking for Waldo after he’s been dead and buried for 10 years.

I fare much better in small stores with less than 15 (very short) aisles. Sometimes, though, the budget dictates a bigger store shop. The moment I step inside, my ADD flares like a Molotov cocktail in a pulp mill. I’m pretty sure smoke seeps from my ears like a Looney Tunes character.

So imagine my melt down every time I attempt that shop with two kids. Kids who wander up and down the aisles, sauntering in front of the cart, talking incessantly, asking all sorts of questions, most starting with: “Can I have…?” Hiroshima pales in comparison to the explosion inside me.

Recently I figured something out: I don’t have to do this anymore! Don’t laugh. This realization was an epiphany. I really thought I HAD to grocery shop with my kids.

Because that’s what normal moms do. “Normal” moms run errands with their children. They go to the bank, they wash the car, they grocery shop. They don’t avoid these things simply because their kids are with them.

But they aren’t like me. They haven’t “checked out” long before reaching the checkout counter. It doesn’t take every brain synapse firing simultaneously just for them to find the mushroom soup.

Just because I am a mom, doesn’t mean I have to do anything (the only exception: I do have to refrain from eating my offspring – I am not a goldfish, after all).

Errands with kids is a “should” not a must. Life is full of shoulds. But they are pointless and they can be ignored. Sometimes, they should be ignored. Even God Himself avoids them. If he didn’t, he would have dictated that 10 Recommendations or the 10 Guidelines, rather than the 10 Commandments.

I have other triggers of course, but grocery shopping (with kids) is the one that never fails to unleash my ADD like a can of whoopass. So now, I don’t do it if I don’t have to. I leave them with the hubby or he goes for me.  I go late at night, on my own. Hell, I’ve even gone at 7 am and done it before work. Yes, it IS THAT BAD that I would get out of bed to avoid the crowds!

And guess who’s a happier mommy? Guess whose kids are no longer subjected to mommy tantrums?

My life, my kids’ lives, are better because I have let go of a should. If my kids get to twenty-years-old with no idea how to behave in a grocery store, I will teach them then. By that time, dementia will have taken over. I will wander the aisles, pestering them for fruit loops and pop tarts. Revenge will be bliss.

Shoulds are the bane of the ADD life. We have fought so hard, all our lives, to feel normal. When we see other people doing things easily, we think we should do it their way too.

Not so. Sometimes the best way to get over a challenge is to go around it. Avoidance, at times, is more functional that giving in to something you think you should do. Learn to let go of shoulds so you can focus on getting things done in the way that works best for you.

Be a pal! Share your triggers and shoulds in the comments below – they might help the rest of us who suddenly realize these things are triggers for us too!


Pretend You Don’t Have 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.


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?

Planning For ADD Moments

Is ADD getting in your way? Is it undermining your efforts to make positive changes in your life?

I’ve noticed this phenomenon too. In the past, it felt like I was always chasing my tail. I could see what I was doing, wandering around doing this and that, but getting nothing done. I just couldn’t stop it. Some days, I couldn’t make it out of the house before noon. Some days, I couldn’t make it out at all.

Now, I coach other adults with ADHD. I help them discover strengths, unlock potential and overcome challenges.

Pretty awesome work if I say so myself. But… it comes with a catch.

I love helping my clients reach their potential, but something can get in the way of progress. Can you guess what it is?

It’s their ADD. Their ADD gets in the way of our efforts to manage and overcome… their ADD. Imagine that.

For example, a client and I might be working on – say – strategies for getting organized at home. The next week, my client decides that some other tangent is more important, and forgets all about what we were talking about the previous week. The following week, they come back, having forgotten what we covered the previous two week, and now want to tackle a yet another agenda. It’s not that my clients don’t try hard – they do – it’s just that …. they are so ADD!

Yes, one of the most challenging parts of being an ADHD coach is that all of my clients have ADHD.

Would it help if I stopped here and added an emoji or a cheesy 😉 so there is no doubt I am be facetious?

The funny thing is, ADD doesn’t actually get in the way of progress at all. Coaching is designed to work with – or around – the ADD challenges. I know and my clients know that the impulse to change focus every week is compelling. So we pay attention to that. We know what is going to get in the way – so we plan for it. We predict distractions and plan ways to get back on track. We account for the likelihood of forgetting and set reminders. We notice we are getting off track and decide to get back on target.

And the reason it works is because there is no mystery and no judgment. We know that, as we work on ADD challenges, ADD is going to show up and get in the way. And the way we uncover strengths, unlock potential and master ADD is by learning to get around this challenge.

Most of us want to stop “being so ADD”, when we should really be seeking out a better way to plan for it being there, then find a way to work around it. This is always easier to do when you don’t judge yourself for making mistakes or when things don’t go as well as you wished they would.

Five ways to plan for ADHD


1. Never rely on your memory

Write everything down – in a notebook or on an app on your device. Preferably, keep notes in one location so you know which notebook or app to look in.


2. Set reminders and pre-reminders

Apps and alarms work best for this. Put your mother’s birthday in your calendar and set up an alert that will bring it to your attention on the day. Set a pre-reminder a few days ahead to remind you to get a gift or send a birthday card.

Don’t trust that voice that pretends “Oh, I’ll remember that!” Has it ever worked for you before?

I have a recurring reminder in my androids’s calendar, set up with an alert. Every morning at 8:00 a.m. it reminds me to… look at my calendar. No matter how hard I try, I never remember to actually look at my schedule for the day. Now, I don’t have to remember. My android tells me to do it.

3. Build a pause into your life

If you find yourself getting off track, pause and ask yourself:

What am I doing right now? Is this what I intended to be doing?

Get yourself back on track. Setting an alarm (yes, that strategy again!) is a great way to enforce a pause or two in your day.


4. Learn to simplify

We ADDers are notorious for trying to get too many things done. Tackle tasks the easy way, not the way that seems most productive. For more on this, check out this post.


5. Don’t commit to things you wish you’d do but won’t

Be realistic. It would be great to write a blog post, talk to a client, finish the laundry and take my kids sledding before my daughter’s theatre class, but at least one of those things is not going to happen today. Darn. Looks like laundry will have to wait. Commit only to what you can do, not what you think you should be able to do.


These are just a few ways to plan around ADHD. Other examples could include listening to your IPod while grocery shopping to drown out the noise, making meals in batches and freezing then for the rest of the week, or starting every day with a shower first – so you don’t end up in your onesie when your dinner guests arrive. The options are endless.

The point is, we can’t stop ADD. We just see it coming, like a road block up ahead, and drive around it.

What are your best strategies for circumventing ADHD challenges? Please share in the comments. And make sure to sign up in the box below for more tools to manage your ADD!


ADD Mastery: The Time Management Habit

Imagine I delivered a truckload of money to your door step and handed it over to you with only one warning:

This is all the money you’ll ever get in your lifetime. Use it wisely.

Would you? Take care of it and use it wisely? Most of us would try really hard to not waste it.

So why do we squander time like an unending commodity when it’s the only resource we can never get more of?

Poor time management is a hallmark trait of ADHD, for both children and adults. We frequently run late, miss deadlines, or forget to show up at all. Quite simply – time eludes us. We just don’t get it. In previous posts about this challenge, I illustrated why time is not on our side and how to become better friends with it.

It is possible to get so good at managing time, it becomes an automatic habit. In this post, I want to belt out a few strategies that are useful in making time challenges a thing of the past (yep, I totally meant that pun). It’s not a long post. I don’t want to take up too much of your (ahem) time, I just want you to use it better!

Here they are, quick and dirty:

1. Get a Better Grip

Most ADDers have no idea how long something will take in the real world, but we sure do love to make creative guesses based on nothing more than intuition and imagination. Don’t know how long it takes to drive to work or write an email? Here’s a novel idea: time it! Get in the habit of timing routine habits for a couple of days (don’t bother with an hour glass, most phones have a timer on them). This alone will change your understanding of where all your time goes.

2. Double It

If you’re trying to work out how long something will take when you can’t measure it in advance, take your best guess and then double it. If you think something will take 15 minutes, give yourself 30. Most of us have incorrectly calibrated guessers (we’re overly optimistic). Doubling your estimation will get you closer to reality.

3. Set Alarms

Use an external alarm system (again, your phone?) to give you a warning when it’s time to leave. Don’t rely on your internal clock. If you get busy with something, you’ll lose all sense of time. Don’t let that happen. A simple alarm can snap you back into the moment when it’s time to go.

4. Watch for Just-One-More-Thing Syndrome

It can be really tempting to try to fit too much in, and in the process… sabotage your desire to be on time. While getting lots done is super-productive, being late super-isn’t. Resist the urge to do just-one-more-thing before you go.

5. Practice

Being on time is a habit, just like brushing your teeth and getting dressed. At the beginning, you’ll have to work at it. You won’t always be on time, but with repeated efforts, being on time will become more habitual.

Above I presented 5 concise strategies for making time management a habit. The best way to know whether or not they’ll work for you?

Try them.

(By the way, if you want the extended version with more strategies and a deeper explanation, check out everyday ADDvice Magazine ,where my article on ADHD Time Traps is featured in October’s inaugural issue).


ADD Mastery: Is “Now” Holding You Back?


Is “now” holding you hostage?

Much attention is paid to living in the moment. While this is a great mindset, you should also have an awareness that “now” is not permanent.

ADDers are often prisoners to momentary feelings. There’s no acknowledgement that we didn’t feel this way yesterday and won’t feel this way tomorrow. Which is okay when we feel great, but sucks when we don’t. We impulsively act on how we feel, often with unintended consequences and regret.

Spoiler alert: We want to avoid unintended consequences and regret.

Emotional dysregulation – the experience of intense emotional states coupled with an inability to change those states at will – is a common ADHD trait.

Learning to regulate your feelings better makes life a lot easier and starts with a few basic steps.

  1. Recognize what you’re feeling – “Sad”
  2. Label it as a feeling – “I am feeling sad”
  3. Add a but – “but it will pass”
  4. Do something – go for a walk, talk to a friend, remedy the cause of your sadness – or
  5. Don’t – but remember that the feeling with pass anyway

Yes, this is the over-simplified version of emotional mastery. Our feelings are intense enough, taking charge of them shouldn’t be intense too.

Doing one through five won’t solve an emotional break down, but it might take the edge off a bad mood.

Try it.