Productivity

Sometimes… Don’t Write Things Down

write things down

Productivity experts may be able to motivate the masses, but they know nothing about the ADHD brain.

Success gurus say to write down goals in order to make progress on them. They also suggest creating itemized lists of all the steps involved in getting to completion – a sort of road map to guide us from none to done.

For the most part, I understand the logic. But normal logic does not apply to the ADHD way of doing things.

 

Why NOT write things down?

Most of us are rebels. We have big ideas and sure, we really do want to achieve success with those ideas. But we don’t want to be told what to do.

When you write things down, it can feel like being told what to do. Itemized lists are grown-up versions of self-imposed homework. Many of us are super wonderful at making lists and creating strategies… that we never actually use.

Why? Because making lists and developing strategies tricks our primal brains into thinking we’ve already done the work. Our attention bank is already spent by the time it comes to putting the work into action.

 

Play to Your Rebel-You

Every single time I have developed a robust strategy for moving forward on say, my writing or coaching goals, I’ve sabotaged the plan within 48 hrs. I simply drop it for something shinier or easier.

Yet…

Every single time I’ve decided to do something without thinking too much about it (referred to by some as impulsivity) – I’ve got it done.

ADDers can be over-thinkers and over-planners. We try to get things “right”, but this cripples us. Harnessing our impulsive streaks can be a lot more productive than trying to focus more. Nike says “Just do it”. I say “Hell yes!”

 

How to “Just Do It”

Elaborate plans are overwhelming. We give up before we’ve even started.

Simple plans are easy to stick to because we don’t really have to think about them.

To get back into regular writing and posting, with double the amount of output I previously achieved, I had 2 simple steps to my mental plan. First – read one research-esque thing (news feed, blog post, book chapter) every day. Second – write 500 words on a related topic 5 days a week.

That’s it. Easy. Realistic. Achievable.

And I don’t get bogged down with written plans, detailed by multiple steps that make me feel like I’ll never get to “done”.

Sure, have a goal. Make it simple and achievable. But you don’t HAVE to write it down or have a detailed plan in order to tackle. Etch it in your mind and embed it in your heart. Work on that goal everyday. If it’s simple enough, you’ll do it. Stick to that mental plan for as long as you possibly can. And then, a bit longer.

There may be a time down the road when you WILL need a written out strategy. Goals have different phases on the road to completion. But by the time the next phase rolls around, you’ll already be rooted in the achievement habit and won’t be fooled into thinking that the plan is all you need.

Impulsivity can be an ally just as much as it can be an adversary. But it doesn’t want you to write out a plan for your goals, it wants you to go for them!

Productivity

Scrap the Apps – Do What Works

scrap the apps

Do you remember the days when an application was something you completed to get yourself a job, not something you used to get that job done?

If not, go away. You make me feel old.

Apps of the contemporary definition have become an inherent part of modern living. They make a multitude of tasks, commitments and goals more manageable.

At least, that’s what we think.

Three times recently, I’ve been stood up by people who forgot our appointment because their pc calendar didn’t sync properly with their phones. They didn’t get a reminder to remember me.

Of course, I forgive this oversight easily. I’ve been unreliable in the past too. But it does get me thinking…

If a person relies on their phone to remember important dates and commitments, why wouldn’t they use their phone’s calendar in the first place? Why rely on two different apps to sync with each other when quite possibly one would do just fine?

I get that there are reasons to organize your life with sophisticated apps that integrate with other sophisticated apps. I’m don’t disagree with those reasons. What I am saying is this:

Sometimes apps fail us.

Sometimes they fail us because we don’t know how to use them properly. And sometimes they fail us because, although they sound great in theory, all they really do is over-complicate what could be a really simple thing.

notebooks

ADDers have a tendency to over-complicate things too. Even with old fashioned “apps” called notebooks, we often have several of them, making it arduous to retrieve the info we need.

Relying on multiple apps to simplify life management is like hiring a team of Michelin Star chefs to fry a couple eggs. They could definitely do it. But you know what happens when there’s too many cooks in the kitchen.

Complicated apps, just like complicated systems, fuel chaos instead of diminishing it. If you’re getting bogged down and dropping balls, maybe the best approach is to de-clutter your systems. The good old fashioned calendar has survived for thousands of years because of one reason:

It works.

Productivity

One Goal Wonder

one goal

Which of your children would you give up if you had to?

Maybe you don’t have kids. Okay then- which of your limbs would you sacrifice in order to save the rest? I mean, if you HAD to.

Can’t make a decision?

Thankfully, most of us don’t have to. But we do have to make important choices about our goals. And sometimes when I ask people to do that, they react as if it’s an offspring or appendage I’m asking them to relinquish.

By the way, that’s not what I’m asking at all. I’m not a prehistoric deity or the psycho out of Saw.

But…

I am asking you to juggle your goals differently. One ball (goal) at a time.

But I have many… why should I choose just one goal?!

 

All too frequently, my coaching clients want to change their agenda every time we meet. They try to relegate whatever we talked about last week in favor of this week’s shinier (more urgent) topic.

I get that. We live in the moment. Whatever is on our mind right now feels like the most important thing. Ever. And sometimes it is, so we refocus our priorities and switch gears.

But other times, our vacillation is really just a symptom. We can’t hold on to our goals and priorities just like we can’t keep track of our thoughts, our keys or the passing of time.

In other words, goals can be distractions.

To pick one goal out of a bunch and focus solely on it feels like neglecting some of our kids in favor of one. Sometimes, though, one kid needs more attention. And then when that kid is okay, you can turn your attention to the rest.

And just so you childless people don’t feel left out, rest assured – the same applies to limbs. Sometimes you have to favor one of them (i.e. an injured one). That doesn’t mean the others aren’t important.

How do you choose one goal?

It really depends on your circumstances. There may not be one right answer. You may have to simply pick one and stick with it, until it doesn’t need your attention any more. You’re not going to say no to your other goals. You are going to say: not now.

Your other goals benefit by proxy from your discernment. Success breeds success. When you feel successful, it will make you more apt to tackle your other goals with vivacity and enthusiasm.

When your space is more organized, you’ll feel more focused when you write. When you’re managing time better, you’ll be able to grow your business. When your finances are in order, you’ll start saving for the round-the-world trip you’ve been dreaming about.

But if you try to tackle them all simultaneously, you’ll get nowhere on any of them.

So maybe that’s the best reason of all to stick to the one goal strategy:

Its better to get somewhere on one thing, then nowhere on everything. 

Check out Ramit Sethi’s interview with Noah Kagan for more on how focusing on one goal can accelerate your productivity.

Productivity

Are You a Simplifier or an Optimizer?

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

Focus

Opportunity Knocks: Catch Up on the Life You’ve Missed Out On

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get back all the time you’ve wasted in your life? Imagine what you’d do with the days, months, even years!

It feels like time speeds up as you get older. Having lived more life, you become acutely aware of how each moment of life can be (has been) savored or squandered.

The older you get, the less time you have ahead of you. This creates an urgency to use it devoutly. While you can afford to waste time in your youth, doing so only causes a delayed side-effect of mid-life regret.

That kind of time-grief isn’t limited to middle age.  In fact, existential crises can happen at any time in your life.

 

Who am I?

What do I stand for?

What do I want to do with my life?

 

These are the “crises” of youth. At some point, though, we get a pretty firm grip on the answers to those questions. We know who we are and what we believe in. We know what we want to do with our lives, except for one thing…

It hasn’t worked out the way we thought it would.

And that’s frustrating as hell. Not to mention depressing. And frightening!

What if your ledgers are full of wasted, frittered-away time?

What if opportunity seems to have vanished from your life, and “potential” is nothing more than a holy grail you’ve given up on?

So many of us have major gaps in our timelines. Youth gives us a liberty we don’t recognize until age takes it away – the chance to do so much more than we did. Instead, we have holes in our resume of life experience, a gaping parity between what we’ve accomplished and what could have been. If only we’d known how to motivate ourselves and take time more seriously…

There is no rewind button. You can’t get that time back. But before you strain your neck in the head-hang-of-sorrow, consider this:

Who’s to say all that time was really wasted?

You’re here now, aren’t you?

Don’t assume that all the opportunities you missed out on were necessarily ones you should have seized. Opportunity may knock, but it may also be an axe murderer. It’s a damn good thing you didn’t answer the door.

Okay, let’s say it wasn’t an axe murderer. Let’s say it was the guy from Publishers Clearing House. It came to your door with a giant check, inked with more figures behind the dollar sign than you can count fingers.

And you didn’t answer the door.

Yeah, that was a dumb-ass move. But what are you going to do about it? Never answer the door again?

Would you ostracize every other opportunity in retaliation for the one that got away?

Of course not.

Opportunity knocks more than once in a lifetime. It knocks every day, in fact, but it may look different each time.

You can’t get all the wasted years back. You can do more with the years you have left. This moment – right here and now – is your opportunity.

This moment is your opportunity…

To worry less about what other people think. Nothing wastes time like the sanctions we impose on ourselves when we live life to appease the scrutiny of others.

To try out that thing you’re afraid you’ll fail at. Successful people have failed more times than the average person. If you’re discontented, maybe it’s because you haven’t failed enough to succeed yet.

To let go of regret. The one that got away may not have been the right one for you after all. Even if it was, it’s gone. Stop rueing that. Open the door to something else.

To get clear on your values. Figure out what’s really important to you. Maybe some of your wasted time was attributable to uncertainty. If you don’t know what’s really important to you, how can you begin to know where to invest your time?

To redefine success. Maybe you haven’t lived out your dreams or achieved success in your lifelong goals. Unless you’ve been in a coma, you have achieved something. Maybe you raised kids or did some charity work. Perhaps you traveled a bit or were a good friend to someone. Whatever you have done, you must realize that those things are just as important as the goals you haven’t achieved.

To let go of expectations. Sometimes we don’t answer opportunity’s knock because we’re certain it won’t work out. But how do you know for sure? Life isn’t one long journey, it’s a series of paths. Sometimes you have to travel the arduous ones to get where you need to go.

To cut out the crap. Nothing that is important and worthwhile is a waste of time, even if it doesn’t get you where you want to go. The lessons we learn along the way are as invaluable as the destination itself. BUT a lot of the things we do routinely are disguised as important, when all they really are is busy-work. Get clear on why you are doing whatever you are doing, and stop doing it if it’s not all that important to the bigger picture

To open yourself up to possibilities. Every day is a chance to start again. Live, laugh, love more. Make time for something you usually pass by. Take a new route to work. Do something silly. Relax. Let go. See every day, every moment, as the right time to make things better – for yourself, for the people in your life, for the world. It doesn’t have to be grand. Sometimes, the most meaningful opportunity is the one you take to be in the present moment and accept it as it is.

Do these things, and you can quickly make up for the life you’ve missed out on. Though it’s not formulaic, all of these things will help you waste less of your precious time. Once you take out the worry and the fear of failure, and you cut out the crap and let go of your expectations; you redefine what you see as an opportunity because you know your values and you see the endless possibilities for a life well-spent, you only have one thing left to do:

Open the damn door!

(And now over to you – what would you like to “catch up on” in your life? Tell us about it in the comments!)

Mindset

In Defence of Lost Potential

 

I used to believe that anything was possible if you really set your mind to it.

Now that I’ve hit 40, I have realized this: I probably won’t achieve even half of what I am capable of in this lifetime. It’s a sad realization, but equally freeing.

While I still concur with the basic tenet of my youthful belief, experience has shown me a hidden clause – that it would be virtually impossible to set my mind to one thing. If I really wanted to be an astrophysicist, and it was my sole priority in life, then nothing could stop me. But I am not built to be singularly focused on one pursuit. I’m guessing you aren’t either.

So what does that mean for me, or for you?

I know you have many lingering regrets about what could have been if only you had learned to manage your ADHD better at an earlier age. The most frustrating part of ADHD is this phenomena of not living up to potential.

Almost all of us are afflicted. We could be achieving more with our lives but because we lack focus and some of the skills necessary to make things happen, we fail to live up to our true potential. We could have done better or tried harder. We could have made something out of ourselves.

But actually, that’s not the problem at all. “Potential” is a synonym for capacity, for possibility, or for what’s imaginable. In that context, “potential” is limitless. There are infinite options as to what we could do or be. How can anyone live up to something that has no limits? It would be like racing towards a finish-line scripted in invisible ink.

Society celebrates those who achieve excellence in a certain endeavor or field of occupation. Celebrities, politicians, philanthropists, moguls and magnates… that’s all we hear about these days. Books preach the good news – how we can achieve (business/academic/financial/professional/weight loss/etc) success in 97 simple steps. In turn, we are seduced to lust after lofty goals, so that we too can leave indelible marks on this world.

It’s bullshit. There are 7.2 billion of us on this planet. If we all left our marks the world would become a giant golf ball.

The ADDer’s biggest struggle is that our insatiable curiosity and abounding interests in varied pursuits prevent many of us achieving greatness in any one thing. We can’t set our minds to anything. We set our minds to many things, and with that comes the side effect of not reaching our so-called “true potential”.

Instead, we get part-way to many different potentials.

Some of us do go on to start IKEA or become the greatest basketball player of all time. Some of us start record companies and airlines, write best-selling novels, or develop the general theory of relativity.

The rest of us? We’re weekend basketball players who reach the middle rungs of our careers, while occasionally writing prose for fun or playing video games or building crude garden furniture out of upcycled materials.

Let me ask you this:

What’s wrong with that?

It looks like mediocrity from the outside. But what it’s really is a rich diversity within our own complex make-up. We cannot be happy to do one thing really well. We aren’t even happy with a couple of things. We need to do a lot, and because of that – we have to learn to accept what it means to live in “good enoughness”.

A few in our cohort have the gift of hyperfocus. They find “that thing” that captivates them and steers their lives in the direction of notoriety. Thank God for them – they inspire us.  They are ambassadors for the tribe. They make us feel that anything could be possible for us, too, if we really set our minds to it.

But if we did, we’d have to unset our minds – almost exclusively – from everything else that allures them.

I’m not willing to do that, are you? My brain lusts after so many interests that I’d rather forfeit major success in any one of them than to give up the rest of them.

What are we really cursed with? Brains that have limitless potentials but are confined to bodies with a finite timeline. If we had a few hundred more years on this earth, no doubt we could live up to our potentials. We could give ourselves over, fully and wholly, to everything that interests us.

In the meantime, reach for the stars. Pursue your goals and work hard at furthering your accomplishments. Go back to school, get a better job. Start a business, write a book, play a sport, or solve world peace. Try to do something extraordinary with your life.

But do not – not for one minute – feel like you are not a success if you haven’t done any of those things. Lost potential doesn’t point to failure. It only tells us what we haven’t, or haven’t yet, done. Recognizing it is an opportunity to survey the landscape of our lives and assess where we go from here.

Frequently, moving forward means choosing a new path in life. But other times, it means choosing to see the path we are already on in a new way. Let go of your “potential” and focus on what already is, here and now. What do you already do well? How do you affect the people in your life? What have you learned through your experiences? And how do your rich and varied interests contribute to the world in small ways?

All these little things… they make indelible marks on the world just as much as the extraordinary things. You may feel like you haven’t lived up to your potential, but potential can be defined in many different ways. The opportunity you have now is to redefine it and start living it.

Growth

25 Simple Ways to Transform Your Life This New Year

Christmas is the time of giving.

But New Year, for many, is the time for receiving – new opportunities anyway. It is the time for redesigning life and initiating changes that will make the coming year more successful, productive, enjoyable, healthy, happy and rewarding. If you want the coming year to bring with it more of these things, the following guide can help you bring them to fruition.

Remember this though: change is a process, not an event. Work on a couple of these things and positive changes will occur. Consider your efforts in life-transformation to be a “work-in-progress” rather than a one-time event, and this will go a long way to making sure changes actually take place.

For a quick reference, the following steps will be explored:

1. Celebrate the small successes.

2. Let go of negative thinking habits.

3. Change one small thing.

4. Practice pausing.

5. Deal with, once and for all, one major inconvenience.

6. Practice making eye contact.

7. Build your boredom muscle.

8. Practice square breathing.

9. Spend more time in nature.

10. Rewrite the story of your life.

11. Rewrite the story of your future.

12. Make a commitment to get some help.

13. Get an accountability partner.

14. Start every day as you mean to go on.

15. Determine what your values are.

16. Follow you passion.

17. Put more passion in to the mundane.

 

1. Celebrate small successes.

Who doesn’t want to get more done? When we have so much going on in our lives and our minds, life can feel a bit like forest fire-fighting with a water pistol.

One of the best ways to get more done is to acknowledge – and truly appreciate – all that you have already done. Finished projects are once-in-awhile phenomena. Every endeavor has a series of necessary steps taken that get it to the point of completion. Learn to acknowledge, celebrate and feel good about each of these steps and it will keep you motivated, focused and feeling that your efforts are worthwhile.

Gratitude journals help you find more joy in life. In the same token, keeping a list of daily accomplishments (no matter how small) can help you feel more productive and satisfied with how you spend your time.

 

2. Let go of negative thinking habits.

No matter where you go or who you are with, the one constant you take with you in life is – you!

Your thoughts determine how you experience life. They are what make you human as opposed to a fur-less mammal. Life is a lot better when you make your head a nicer place to experience it from.

Black and white thinking, jumping to conclusions, assuming the worst, and neglecting the positives are just a few examples of unhelpful thinking habits that stop us from getting the most out of life.

 

Change negative thinking patterns by:

– notice negative thoughts when they pop up

– determining what triggered them

– label them as negative (not pessimistic necessarily, just a thought that doesn’t work for you)

challenge them

– then let them go

 

3. Change one small thing.

Everyone knows that going to bed before midnight, eating right, and regular exercise are good for our bodies and our brains.  But when we have less-than ideal habits in all of these areas, it can feel like an onerous task to change.

Because we usually commit to changing too much, we give are destined to slip back in to old habits quickly. If this is the case for you, set your sights lower. Pick one small change you can easily achieve and go for it.

Instead of trying to get to bed early every night, try for 10 minutes earlier or aim for an early night once a week. Rather than eliminating all simple carbs and sugars from your diet, make a decision to simply add in more vegetables and water. Try jogging on the spot for ten minutes every day, rather than committing to a gym membership that won’t get used.

Positive habits can have a knock on effect and inspire you to make more changes later on. The most important thing about developing a new habit is not the size of the impact it will have on your life, but its degree of “stick-to-it-ness”.

 

 4. Practice pausing.

 Mindfulness practice has been shown to have a positive effect on … almost everything.

The art of mindfulness is often assumed to be complicated and difficult but it needn’t be. Even the busiest minds can be trained to incorporate more presence in each day.

Yongey Mingyur-Rinpoche, Buddhist master and author of The Joy of Living, suggests that the practice of mindfulness is best learned by beginning with short bursts of being present with yourself – even 5 minutes a day can help. Simply notice what you are thinking about or doing – observe it without judgment – and bring yourself back to the moment.

 

The best question you can ask yourself each day is:

 “How is what I am paying attention to serving me right now?”

Ask it several times a day. While you are building this muscle, you may need some reminders. Post reminders around the house or office, or schedule check-in periods into your daily planner.

 

5. Deal with, once and for all, one major inconvenience.

What are you putting up with?

Have you got a closet door that can’t be closed without a human bulldozer to ram it shut? Maybe it’s an un-filed tax claim being used to shield the corner of your desk from dust. Or have you put off returning that call from moaning Auntie Milly – since 1989?

We all have things we put up with it because it feels easier to “put up” than to deal with them. But these kinds of “tolerances” occupy space in the back of our minds and consciences. They are not out-of-sight, out-of-mind – they linger and beckon us with feelings of guilt, annoyance, or frustration. These spaces could be better used for more productive things if we simply faced up to the tasks and got ‘em done.

Free up some space in your mind and deal with one thing you have been putting off.

Then, as is number one, celebrate the success of having finally completed it.

 

6. Practicing making eye contact.

We talk to people all day long. But do we listen? Especially when we have ADD?

Busy minds do not shut up simply because someone else is talking. Sometimes, we need anchors to keep us in the present moment so that we can really hear what is being said.

When someone talks to you, make a habit of stopping what you are doing and looking them in the eye. It will give you an anchor to stay in the moment and listen. If eye contact is too uncomfortable for you, trying looking at the other person’s mouth as they speak.

 

7. Build up your tolerance to doing one thing at a time (aka build you boredom muscle).

If there is one thing most of us dread (or perhaps have an allergy to) – its boredom. So much so, that we often try to fill every minute of the day in an effort to avoid it.

This often shows up as multi-tasking. Once in awhile, practice paying attention to only the thing you are doing. Do it as if it were the most important thing you have ever done. Step outside of your body for a minute and observe what it feels like just to be alive and doing that one thing, and boredom will become an opportunity for inspiration.

Pay attention to the way that task serves a greater purpose than the obvious one. Washing dishes is no doubt mundane. But doing it means you don’t have to do them later when they’ve become casualties of an accidental science experiment (being responsible). It means that you are being productive (being useful). It means that you are looking after your belongings (being thoughtful), taking care of things that other people put a lot of effort into making (being respectful)….

Okay so maybe that’s a trite example, but you see what I mean.

We often assume that we can get more done by multitasking, but the truth is people are incapable of paying full attention to more than one thing at a time. Inevitably this means that we only give partial effort and attention to some of our tasks, which can actually make them take longer to complete.

Do one thing and do it well, before moving on to the next thing. Read Unclutterer’s post Single-tasking helps you get more done with less stress.

 

8. Practice square breathing.

 Zen Habits, read by millions worldwide, has this as its tagline –

“Breathe”

That’s it. Simple, eh?

But breathing is something most of us do pretty shoddily every day.

We spend so much time listening to the constant chatter in our heads telling us what to do, how to do it, when to do it and when to stop – that automatic but crucially important body functions such as breathing can become stiff and tense.

Take a few moments a day to listen to your heart and your lungs. Simply breathe to melt away the tension, stress and chaos.

Square breathing is a simple but effective way of reducing stress. Imagine following the lines of a square as you breathe in to a count of four, hold the breath for a count of four, then exhale for four seconds and again hold the breath for a count of four. Repeat – four times, four times a day (or more!).

 

9. Spend more time in nature.

Spending more time in the natural world brings most people calmness and a feeling of being grounded and centered. It also inspires creativity. You don’t need to live on the coast or in the mountains to find nature. A city park, botanical centre or even a communal garden can offer a much needed break from the concrete jungle.

Sometimes, a little bit of the outdoors can be a great natural remedy for our concentration woes.

10. Rewrite the story of your life.

Disappointment, failures, and mistakes are a part of life for everyone with a pulse.

The stories we tell ourselves about the mistakes we’ve made are fairy tales. Not the nice, touch-feely, warm Walt-Disney-kind. The harsh, brutal, scare-mongering kind that circulated pre-20th century, warning the poor children of those times to tow the line or they would face uncertain death by some horrible, mythical figure.

These days, that mythical figure is the voice of guilt and shame that lives in our heads.

We waste time feeling bad about something that is as innate to being human as breathing is. Mistakes are there to serve us, not to hold us back.

“You can only go forward by making mistakes”

                                                         Alexander McQueen

Let go of old shame and disappointment. Rewrite your life story by focusing on what was learned and how it will help you in the future.

 

11. Write the story of your future.

Every moment is a new start.

Write your success story of where you will be this time next year – what you are doing, how you feel, what your environment is like and what the people in your life notice is different about you.

Write it in the present tense, as if it is happening now. Sometimes, we work best when we start from the destination and work backwards. Start with the end in mind, as if what you really want from life has already happened, and make space in your heart for that end to become reality.

“Dreams are the seedlings of realities”

                                               James Allen

Visualize the end product and the series of steps that got you there. Then visualize yourself taking each one of those steps.

All great endeavors start with a powerful vision.

 

12. Make a commitment to get some help.

Pick one area of your life or task that is incomplete and holding y0u back from getting what you really want in life. Decide to get some help, whether that means enlisting a friend or family member, or even hiring someone.

We often tell ourselves that we should be able to do certain things and refuse to get help even when it could make life a lot easier.

Just because you could (technically) cut your own hair – doesn’t mean you should! Let the people who are good at cutting hair do it (or whatever it is you need help with!) and do what you are good at!

If your house is a disaster – hire a cleaner or a professional organizer. If your finances are in shambles – find a good financial adviser or budgeting expert. If you have dreams you haven’t quite reached or have ADHD challenges that continue to wreak havoc in your life – hire a professional coach.

There is no shame in getting help, only in letting pride get in the way of asking for help that would enable you to excel in that area of life that is holding you back.

13. Get an Accountability Partner.

This can be a professional life coach or even just a good friend who has your best interest at heart.

Accountability partnerships are designed to help you meet your goals and keep your commitments. Sometimes, we don’t make ourselves or our desires important enough to be accountable to them. We let other things get in the way because we don’t value our own intentions.

But when we have someone else checking in on us, those goals and desires become more important to us, simply because we are being held accountable for them. A bit like a weekly weigh-in ca help keep you on track with a diet, a weigh-in on your goals and commitments can be great motivators for keeping you on task.

Accountability partnerships are set up with complete collaboration and transparency. You decided what you want to be accountable for, and how you want your partner to respond when you don’t live up to your commitment. They can help productivity, and when done in a professional coaching context – inspire personal growth and development.

 

 

14. Start every day as you mean to go on.

No one wakes up hoping their going to have a bad day.

But the way most of us wake up and start each day is often good-mood-conducive. The way we start the day impact our moods from the get-go and set the pace for the rest of the day.

Make the first thing you do on getting out of bed be something that will put you in a positive mood. Smile, sing your favorite song to yourself or have a boogie in the shower. Make yourself laugh for no reason, say a prayer or meditate, or recite out loud your gratitude list.

It’s not guaranteed to make your whole day go swimmingly. But it will certainly help to get you in a happier mindset from the start. It certainly has a much better chance of lifting your spirits than hitting the snooze button eight times, grumbling as you role out of bed, and hitting the shower like a life-sentenced inmate of the Daily Grind Penitentiary.

Practicing positive wake-ups everyday will have an accumulative effect and become habitual over time.

 

15. Determine what your values are.

“I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want. So tell me what you want, what you really, really want”

The Spice Girls

(smiles to myself… yes, I did just put the Spice Girls in here!)

When we are acting inline with our values, life becomes much more fulfilling.

The only problem is, because life is so busy sometimes it becomes difficult to be sure of what it is we really value. Or what we really want from life.

Make the time to figure this out. Set aside a couple of hours to brainstorm and write out the things that you truly value in life.

Keep the list with you. When you are struggling with a task, take the list out and see if it fits in with one of your core values.

This can help keep you motivated by reminding you why it is you are doing it. It can give you permission to abandon a task altogether if it serves no purpose and does not align with your values. And it can help you choose new goals when your not sure what you are doing at all.

16. Follow your passion.

This seems to be one of the hottest topics out there in the blogosphere – following your passion.

But not everyone knows what they are passionate about.

If you have been longing for your life’s passion, but nothing in life (yet) has inspired you to this extent – don’t fret. Passion can grow. Pick something that interests you, even if your not passionate about it – and grow it.

“We must act out passion before we can feel it”

                                                        Jean-Paul Sartre

No one understand this dilemma better than my husband. He has searching for his passion the entire thirteen years I have known him.

This year, he decided to invest more of himself in his photography. A few months ago he deliberated whether or not he should continue pursing it. He enjoyed photography, but he didn’t feel passionate about it. But for whatever reason, he carried on.

Now, he has made a career out of it.

I’m not sure if he feels that illustrious “passion” for it or not. The fact that he spends several hours a day with his camera in hand or his head buried in Photoshop (even after the work is done), that his eyes automatically search for the perfect “photo opp” everywhere we go, and that he sees things in pictures that are invisible to me (maybe he’s woken up to the matrix and I haven’t?) – leads me to believe he might just be growing a passion.

 

17. Put more passion into the mundane.

Its good to follow your bliss if you can, but regardless of what the pop-prophets tell you, not everyone can make a living from their passion. Bills need to be paid and mouths need to be fed while you are trying to find your bliss.

But everyone can put more passion into what they are already doing.

Mindfulness, focusing on how your daily tasks feed your values, starting each task with the same joy you now start each day – are all easy ways to put more passion in to the ordinary tasks of daily living.

 

Try some of these things out in the next few weeks and take notice of the impact they have on your life. As stated before, transformation is a process, not an event. But the more that you work at it, the more solidified these changes in your life will become.

Have some ideas of your own? Share them in the comments below!

Mindset

The Gift of Confidence with ADHD

Last post I disclosed that I am doing a series entirely dedicated to finding confidence in your ADD life. This is the next installment – where I will explain what I have to offer and why you should bother reading it.

 

I haven’t read every book out there written on ADHD. Since I have ADHD and likely so do you, I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you. I have read a lot, but only what would likely be tantamount to a mere drop in a literary bucket.

But what I have done is think about ADHD. A lot. In fact, I’ve thought about it for thirty plus years. Possibly even 35 years, but I can’t recall what I thought about before the age of five.

Of course I haven’t been thinking about the diagnosis of ADD since childhood, that would be sad and weird. I didn’t even know that I had ADD until later in adulthood. But even before I had a name for it, I knew ADD – I knew the experience of it intimately. So I am not exaggerating when I say, in the grand scheme of my inner contemplative world, I have thought about very little else for a great many years.

The wonderful thing is that now I am thriving with my ADHD, I think much less about it. The way that I used to think about it was, for lack of a better term, obsessive. Maybe ruminative actually. I was stuck in a world of self-involvement, though not the conceited kind. The same kind of obsession a mad-scientist has when he is on the verge of solving a major equation but hasn’t yet determined exactly the right variables for the formula.

My own ADHD is not such a conundrum anymore. I have been freed from the chains of rumination and self-analysis. Now I like to think about it in a way that is much more fun and exciting to me. I like to think about the way the other members of my tribe experience ADHD. And how I can help. I have been liberated from disability of ADHD. It no longer holds me back. In fact, ADHD has become my art. I can help make it your art too.

Of course, I am digressing here so let me get back to the original point. My thinking all these years has not been merely self-obsession. I have been obsessed with the concept of ADHD. What it means. What it feels like. What it’s all about. And (most importantly) how to feel good about having it despite a lifetime of feeling second-rate and inadequate.

Yeah, you heard me right… feel good about having ADD. We’ll get back to that in a minute.

So I have thought a lot about it. And I have read a lot about it. Before sitting down to write this it did cross my mind that I couldn’t possibly have anything to say about ADHD that hasn’t been said before. I probably don’t. Previously I have talked about how there are virtually no new ideas out there anymore (except for “wireless” hovercraft toilets, most useful for times of performing a bodily function and midway realizing you are without the appropriate tools – no one has thought of that yet).

What can I add to the world of knowledge and literature on the subject of ADD? My own perspective of it, that’s what. Nothing less, nothing more. Why should my little perspective on this huge issue matter to you? You don’t really know me. I haven’t told you much about who I am that would make my two-cents worth your time.

I also know how hard it is to read when you have ADD. I know how hard it is to find the time to read at all these days, for anyone. So I am hugely honoured that you have even made it through these first 650+ words, and maybe perhaps even some of my other posts on this blog. I am also highly conscious of the fact that I better give you a pretty solid sales-pitch right now if I am going to convince you to keep reading any further.

Why should my ADHD theories matter to you?

Because I am your biggest fan.

When you are a fan of something, a team or an artist, it means you like them. They mean something to you. You have made a personal choice to stand behind them, when times are good and bad. And you want them to do well.

I want you to do well. I want all ADDers to do well. They are my tribe. I found myself and where I belong when I discovered the true nature of my differences. That is what has made all the difference in my life – finding the team that I play for. So of course I want my team to do well. My “two-cents” is in reality a personal investment of the most valuable kind – I give over completely my head and my heart to support my team and help them do well. I write this for you, my teammate, my tribes-member, to help you do well too.

I spent the first half of my career helping people with depression, anxiety and other mental illness free themselves from those debilitations. A great deal of this work was centred on self-esteem and confidence. Now that I have found a new calling, I have reinvented my career and now dedicate it to coaching other ADDers through their challenges towards their place of confidence and success. My training, my coaching, my blog – are my contributions to that mission.

Which brings me back to the reading. I know you don’t have a lot of time. Your attention is a scarce commodity. I respect that about you. So I will cut to the chase right now with a caveat that will excuse you if you want to don’t want to invest anymore time.

This is, in some ways I suppose, a self-help blog. But not the kind permeates tactics and strategies for “overcoming” ADHD and becoming more “normal”. Strategies for self-improvement and gaining confidence are certainly explored, but not from a standpoint that negates how great you already are. If that’s what you want, I’ll tell you now you’ve got the wrong blog.

If, however, what you want right now is to find a new meaning to your life, to find some direction, build up your confidence and discover a new sense of worth and value that coexists with your ADHD – then you have found the right blog. This is what I am talking about. This is what I am all about. I don’t want you to relegate your ADD like some sort of cognitive cancer now in remission. I want you to rock it.

This is an existential journey into the depths of the collective ADHD conscious, searching for meaning, hope and acceptance. For it is in those realms that true freedom and mastery are born. True success with ADHD starts and ends with authentic self-worth. Put it this way: a low opinion of yourself won’t make your ADD any better and perhaps, makes it infinitely worse.  No strategy in the world will change your life if your head’s not going to change too. (Click to tweet)

Writing this series now, word by word, I will admit that I have no idea how deep this rabbit hole will go. But I am glad that you are coming on this journey with me.