Mastery

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!

Growth

How to Be Your Own ADHD Coach

adhd coach

It doesn’t seem like it should be this hard to get on top of things, does it?

If you know what needs to be done, you should be able to just do it, right?

Maybe its the approach you’re taking.

I’m going to shoot myself in the foot when I say this, but you don’t need coaching to help you manage the challenges of ADHD. To say that in writing is a bit bonkers, since I am an ADHD coach. Why would I tell you that the thing I have to offer is something you don’t actually need? Hint: it’s not because I lack sales skills (though actually, I do) or because I am a half-wit (though actually, I hope I’m not!)

In truth, no one needs coaching. No one needs counseling either. There’s no rule of physics, philosophy or otherwise, that states things have to be any different than they are right now.

But when you want to feel better, leave a problem behind you, or move past a limitation – you may choose to get help. Through coaching or counseling or whatever means available. You don’t need to overcome challenges. You want to.

And get this: a lot of the help available, should you choose to seek it out, is free – or close to it. ADHD resources – such as books, websites, online videos and courses – are bountiful and relatively inexpensive. Most of them are but a click away, at any time, from anywhere in the world. Maybe not from my house on a Sunday evening, when the Internet connection collapses from winter traffic. But from anywhere else, anytime else.

But here’s the catch:

Just reading the book or watching the video is not the same as doing the work.

A lot of people use self-help materials. It’s a huge industry. No doubt, some of them are better than others (this blog is one of the better ones, just ask my mom). In any case, it doesn’t really matter. You have all the answers you need within yourself. Whatever resource you consult is merely a way of tapping into those answers.

That’s why I want to share with you the “secrets” of coaching. There’s no real mystery to it. You are the expert on you. And you can coach yourself through ADHD if you know how to approach it.

Here’s How to Coach Yourself

 

1. Find out everything you can about it

Books, videos… whatever! A good ADHD coach knows a lot about ADHD, and not just about the typical symptoms listed in a wiki. They know that ADDers can be accident prone but also make great athletes, can be unfocused at work but awesome in emergencies, and can look like they’re procrastinating when really they’re perfectionisting  (my word, but you can use it).

ADD is full of paradoxes. Learn about those paradoxes so you can understand why some so-called easy things are hard while other, objectively harder things – are easy.

 

2. Become more aware of YOUR ADD

It’s been said that there are around 18 thousand variations of the ADHD presentation. That’s why it’s so highly misunderstood.

My ADHD will most definitely look different than yours. Coaches help individuals figure out their own brand of ADHD, from the big challenges to the more subtle nuances of it.

 

3. Be More Accepting of Yourself

My most important job as a coach is to teach my clients how to let up on themselves a bit. You know how honey catches more flies than vinegar? My clients work harder when they know it’s okay to screw up. I don’t lecture them because I’ve made all the same screw ups in the past too. Except for my client who once burned down his garage. I haven’t done that (yet?)

Don’t lecture yourself. Remember: you are learning. You don’t have to get it perfect. You just have to step back and think:

What did I learn from this and what will I change next time?

 

4. Stick to one or two strategies at a time

My clients show up to our first meeting wanting to work on time management, clearing up clutter on the second, and by the third – they want to launch a new business selling personalized hour glasses to house keepers.

I’m no different. I’m an avid reader. I’m certain that each book is “the one” that will change my life forever. I’m a book-promiscuous. My Kindle has become a cemetery for forgotten epiphanies.

An ADHD coach’s job is to hold dear what the client quickly forgets. When my clients bring up new goals, I check in with them… “Are you sure you want to tackle thermodynamics right now? Cuz we haven’t really nailed the scientific method yet!”

In the beginning, focus on one or two of your “this-will-be-a-huge-relief-when-it’s-gone” type of challenges. Focus on first-things-first, before you take on the complete redesign of your entire life.

 

5. Keep doing the work

Richard Branson wasn’t built in a day. He may have been made in 15 minutes or less, but his empire took years to build. And he built it by making records and launching airlines, not watching TV.

My job as a coach is to keep my clients working hard, even when they don’t feel hopeful or motivated. Your job, as your own ADHD coach, is to make that commitment to yourself. Show up. Do the work. Repeat.

 

6. Celebrate successes

My favorite coachy things to say is: “Whoa pony, slow down! You just did what?!”

Not because my clients like being referred to as equines, but because my clients rarely take a moment to congratulate themselves when they kick butt. That’s where I step in and high-five their butt-kicking.

So when you coach yourself, make sure you high-five yourself. A lot. When no one is looking of course.

 

There’s no mystery to coaching yourself to overcome ADHD challenges, it just takes the right mindset and a willingness to accept your challenges, learn from them, and take a moment to celebrate when things go well. Now that I’ve talked myself out of a job, I must add that I’ve been incredibly happy to do so. I want everyone to know that the power to change their lives is within themselves, but you have to treat yourself the way a coach would treat you. Do onto yourself as a coach would do onto you – remember that okay?

But if you can’t do that, then maybe we should talk. Drop me a line on the contact page and we’ll see what we can do.

Productivity

Productive ADDers Manage Expectations to Be More Successful

manage expectations

Synopsis: Getting things done and finding more success when you have ADHD comes down to how you manage expectations. 

Are you exhausted by the myriad of things you do each day, but go to bed feeling disappointed that you didn’t accomplish quite enough?

ADDers have a hard time feeling satisfied with their achievements. We have a lot of interests and ideas we want to put into action, and we want to get them ALL DONE (even when it’s not realistic). And sometimes, we get so distracted by our voracious goal-appetites, we end up “grazing” all day – on this and that – but we don’t really do anything substantial.

Right now, I’m working on a few different projects. I am co-editing an online magazine for ADDers. I am developing on an online course for Adult ADHD, to be published on Udemy in February (fingers crossed). I am also halfway through writing a book, though I’m not sure I should even mention it in this lineup, as I’ve been “half-finished” since January of last year. Oh yeah, and then I’ve been writing for this blog, too.

Some days, I’m on fire – I get in a few uber-productive hours of work and make real headway on these projects. Other days (in fact, more days than not) – I get little to none done. It might even be weeks between bursts of super-powered productivity. It used to depress me. The term “long on will, short on skill” comes to mind. I do everything the productivity gurus prescribe – get up early, remove all distractions, work hard for defined periods of time.. How is it that I can be so motivated, yet still so inefficient at times?    

I’ve come to realize that it all boils down to how we manage expectations.

I wish I could be more productive on my goals each day. It’s kind of disappointing that I can’t work as fast as my head imagines things getting done. But when I EXPECT myself to be more productive – to write 5 blog posts in a day, to publish an e-course within a month, or to write, edit and publish a book within 6 months of its conception – well, it’s downright devastating.

When it comes to being satisfied with your daily output, it’s crucial to distinguish between wishes and expectations.

Take these two examples from everyday living. Example A – When my Internet connection is poor and my search leads me to the dreaded “Internet Connection Timed Out”, I nearly explode in frustration at the sheer incompetence of my Internet service provider. I expect it to work after the first click. Fifteen years ago, I didn’t care that a webpage took 5 minutes to load while the modem dialed up – the Internet was such a marvelous novelty then.

Now take example B – I really wish that I could be a millionaire (who doesn’t?). I would spend half my time engaged in charitable occupations and the other half doing wonderful and exciting things with my family. But I get over it pretty quickly when the lotto fails to come up with my numbers.

Although I dream of winning the lottery, I don’t expect it. Yet taken at face value, surely the loss of millions of dollars (even if only just the potential) is far more devastating than the inconvenience of a timed-out Internet search! The difference lies in my personal appraisal of these two events: one is an expectation and the other a wish. I hate to imagine how I’d react if I expected to win the lottery.

Yet, for so many ADDers, what we expect from our daily accomplishments is about as realistic and likely as winning the lottery. We need to better manage expectations.

 

Here’s What Happens if You Don’t Manage Your Expectations:

  • You’ll never be satisfied by what you do get done
  • This feeling of disappointment lends to a “what’s-the-point” sense of futility
  • Feelings of futility make it less likely you’ll keep working at something (after all, what’s the point?)
  • Your work rate suffers – you’ll either give up easier or give up all together

Before, you weren’t getting as much done as you wanted to get done. Now, you’re getting nothing done at all. A lifetime of Facebook and Game of Thrones it is for you then!

Success breeds success. Dwelling on positives inspires more positive action in your life; the more satisfied, fulfilled and successful you feel in your efforts, the more likely you will be to continue applying more effort. Be warned, though – the opposite is also true.

 

Manage Your Expectations to BE and FEEL More Successful

1. Play a Game of Semantics

This tactic is the verbal equivalent of diazepam. Instead of saying “Ugh, I didn’t get anything done today!” say:

“I wish I would have got more done, but I guess it just didn’t happen. I’ll try again tomorrow.”

When that ping of frustration bubbles at the surface, check in with yourself, decode expectations and translate them to wishes. Unfulfilled wishes are disappointing but manageable, while unfulfilled expectations are devastating.

 

2. Set the Bar Lower and Surprise Yourself

We know ADDers have a lot of desire to bring ALL our diverse ideas to fruition. Often, it’s not physically possible to get everything done.

In a world that offers so freely a plethora of stresses, frustrations and even tragedies, why add coal to the fire by heaping on unrealistic and incalculable personal expectations? If you scrutinize and exam your expectations closely, you will likely find that many of them are not only unreasonable, but also unachievable.

Plan, intentionally, to do less than you think you are capable of doing. If you exceed expectations, you’ll feel all the better for it. If you simply meet those lowered targets, you’ll still feel satisfied because that’s what you set out to do.

 

3. Under-Promise, Over-Deliver

In the same spirit as #2, many ADHD Coaches (myself included) work with their clients to develop this principle. Commit to less than you are capable of. If you give more than what was expected, other people will be delighted. Over-committing and not following through – because you set the bar too high – disappoints everyone – including yourself.

 

4. Work towards a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

In the start-up industry, the MVP is a pivotal starting point in accelerating growth. In brief, an MVP is a “product with just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development.” (Wikipedia) In the ADD world, we refer to this as “good enoughness”. ADDers are prone to perfectionism, and we see things in black-and-white terms. Either something is done or it’s not. We see no in-between.

In reality, there are multiple steps between coming up with an idea and bringing it to life. Work towards achieving a minimum viable product or good-enough effort each day, knowing that continued application of these principles will lead to eventual completions.

 

I don’t propose that learning to manage expectations is the only way to be more successful with ADHD.  There is no one-sure-path to success – it’s more like a system of interconnected highways, byways and even a few grid roads. But by becoming aware that expectations do not have to be fulfilled in order to be successful, and in fact can be limiting, takes you a small chunk of the journey closer to that destination.

 

If you want more strategies for productivity, success and bringing your ideas to life, make sure to sign up for free tools and updates in the box below, or contact me to find out how ADHD coaching can help you.

P.S. If you’d like a free year’s subscription to the online mag I co-edit, email “editor at everydayADDvice dot com” and mention that Andrea sent you!

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.

Mastery

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).

Mindset

The Symbiotic Relationship between Hacking and ADHD

The more I talk about ADHD, the more I come to realize I’m not all that interested in ADHD at all. At least, not in the disorder-definition we associate with that four-letter acronym. I know it’s considered a disorder, but like I’ve argued many times – “disorder” is contextual.

I am, however, fascinated by ADHD as a brain-wiring, sovereign from malfunction when we consider that it can have many utilities. Hacking is one of them. Not computer hacking per se, but life hacking. Work hacking. School hacking. Just-about-anything-hacking.

What do I mean by hacking? In case you weren’t already aware, a hack is “any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life” (thanks to Wikipedia for that succinct explanation).

Tanya Snook expounds the origins of hacking and the “hacker mindset” over at The Impact Blog (The London School of Economics and Political Science). If you don’t have time to read it, I’ll pour you a shot-glass version:

  • A hacker accepts challenges and repurposes the barriers within those challenges as sources for creative inspiration.
  • A hacker looks for creative, unexpected, and divergent ways to improve almost everything in life.
  • A hacker collaborates with diverse people and perspectives – not just mainstream “experts”- seeking unique solutions to commonplace problems.
  • A hacker shares what he or she learns freely, with abandon.
  • A hacker teaches other people to hack.

My apologies – that was actually 5 shots. Guess I’m a bit of a pusher. But if you’re not to dizzy or nauseous, I’ll carry on with my point.

Which is – we ADDers could be freaking amazing at hacking, if we let our brains play the way they weren’t meant to play.

This post has two jobs. One, is to explain why hacking is a good thing, and why it’s particularly good for us ADDers. Two, is to prove to you that the ADD brain is made for hacking. It’s a symbiotic relationship – ADHD is good at hacking, and hacking is good for ADHD.

 

1. Hacking is Awesome for ADHD

Admittedly, to fully comprehend what is meant by the term “hacking” isn’t easy, as sources ascribe a variety of meanings to it. What could computer hacking and life hacking possibly have in common? The commonality seems to lie in the mindset of the hackers. This mindset is best described by 13-year-old Logan LaPlante in the TEDx video “Hackschooling Makes Me Happy”.

“Hackers are innovators. Hackers are people who challenge and change the systems to make them work differently, to make them work better. It’s just how they think, it’s a mindset… Everything is up for being hacked, even skiing, even education…having the hacker mindset can change the world.”

In essence, hackers aren’t afraid to try unconventional tactics. They view everyday phenomena in a novel way and find solutions to problems through associative processes. They understand, implicitly, that conventional methodologies aren’t better simply because of tradition. They take shortcuts and apply rudimentary fixes to problems, caring not if they appear less sophisticated in doing so, because they hold to the ideology that what is truly important is to make life (and the world) better than it was before.

Hackers create, innovate, improve, repurpose.

Hacking is the way we ADDers should approach life’s challenges. For example, conventional wisdom says to manage time with devices that itemize and measure it – watches, calendars and schedules. ADDers baulk at this advice. Those devices may work, but we know we won’t use them, no matter how well they work for other people.

So what do we do when the strategies the rest of the world uses effectively simply don’t work for us? We have to hack the challenge to find a better solution. For some, it may mean changing jobs to better fit your natural rhythm. It may mean having a family member remind you or setting alarms on your phone to keep you oriented to the passing of time. It may mean hiring someone to help you, or giving up certain duties to free up time. The hack will vary from person to person, but the essence of hacking remains the same:

Don’t do things the logical way. Do things the way that works.

Despite the unconventional ethos of hacking, as an approach to life’s challenge it is actually becoming rather popular, as evidenced by the hugely popular blogs lifehacker.com and lifehack.org. To be sure, Pinterest would be dull if it weren’t for its collection of interesting lifestyle and design hacks. It seems the world is waking up to efficacy of unorthodoxy.

Don’t get me wrong – not all hacks are pretty. Certainly, they almost always have more elaborate and sophisticated counterparts that are worthy endeavours in their own rights. If you want to become a master at something, then perhaps you do need to take the long and winding road to success sometimes. But often, mastery is not always as important as just getting the job done. Though, perhaps, it may even be possible to hack mastery, if Tim Ferriss is any sort of example.

I would love to get more into the details of ADHD hacking, but that’s a whole other post. Watch this space though – that post is coming.

 

2. ADDers are Awesome at Hacking

If it’s not already evident, I will state the obvious:

The ADD brain is built to hack. We’ve been indoctrinated to believe that because we struggle with conventional approaches, it’s us who are flawed rather than the approach. Understandably. If 9 out of 10 people are able to apply those approaches successfully, then something must be wrong with the tenth guy.

But we ADDers see life in a novel way. We notice things other people don’t notice, mainly because we are distracted and insatiably curious. We see shortcuts. When we don’t take them it’s usually because, too often, we’ve been scolded for taking “the easy way out”. Modern philosophy contraindicates the theory that hard work is the only work that pays off. Creativity is no longer an indulgence but a necessary skill to move ahead in life.

We are associative thinkers. We see connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena. We seek out novel experiences and are highly attuned to unexpected outcomes. We are divergent. We recognize flaws in the status quo and we sense that there are almost always better ways to do things, even when we’re not quite sure what those ways are.

If we allow ourselves to express our divergence, we will find those solutions. If we force ourselves to conform to convention, we will keep on chasing our tails.

ADDers are great at hacking because, as Logan LaPointe so aptly puts it, “it’s how we think”. Hacking is reciprocally great for ADDers, because it’s how we do things best. Can you think of a better partnership than that?