What might be holding you back from achieving what you want right now is your frustration about your ADHD challenges. If it is, your thinking might be something along the lines of, “This isn’t fair! I shouldn’t have to deal with this!”
So, maybe you neither accept what is or effectively work toward making a change. Rather, you stay stuck in this mindset, wanting things to be different than they are, but unable to move forward. The antidote to this predicament is accepting the mindset of Dr. Edward Hallowell’s adaptation of the Serenity Prayer.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
The insight to prioritize wisely what I want to change;
The patience to resist trying to control everything I could, had I the energy and time;
The courage and skill to change the things I have chosen to change;
And the wisdom to know the differences among all these.
Below are other common mindsets that keep ADHD adults stuck, and a few workarounds to address these challenges. You don’t have to stay stuck, really.
I Should Be Able to Remember This!
When talking about memory issues with clients I often hear something along the lines of, “How can I not remember the simplest thing? I’m not dumb!” Believe me, it is not your intellect.
How your challenges with memory are related to your ADHD
One reason you might have a difficult time remembering information when you need it is short-term (working) memory is often weak in adults with ADHD.
- That is, you may not hold information long enough to follow through on a task. For example, you might say to yourself, “I need to drop off this folder at the front desk.” Then you go to get your jacket, pack up and forget about the folder. All within the span of few seconds!
- Because of working memory challenges you may not hold onto information long enough for it to enter your long-term memory. An example of this is when you tell someone in passing you will do something. And then forget about it until you get an email asking, “Hey, did you ever get around to…”
Another reason adults with ADHD have problems with memory is long-term memory challenges.
- This can mean you have difficulty remembering your intention to do something in the future. So, as you are leaving the office you have this nagging feeling you are supposed to do something before going home. Not until you get home do you remember you were supposed to pick up the take-out for dinner!
- Also, you may have difficulty recalling information when you need it. You go to meetings and can’t remember all the details you want to share.
Workarounds for ADHD related memory challenges
Bottom line. Your memory may be more like Swiss Cheese than a trap door. But, if you’re willing to accept this, you will be in a much better position to figure out workarounds, such as the examples below:
- As soon as you think of something you need to bring with you, such as the example of the folder above, put it in a place where you will be most likely to remember it.
- As soon as you commit to doing a task put it in your task manager.
- Look at your task list during transitions.
- As soon as you find out you must be someplace at a certain time put it in your calendar. Don’t wait until you double booked yourself.
- And, so you remember to leave on time, set a timer to remind you.
- Bring notes with you to meetings so you won’t have to rely on your memory.
You get the idea.
If you assume you’re going to forget, you can think of creative solutions for remembering what you need to remember.
This Shouldn’t Take So Long!
I often hear this perspective from clients both when they are starting a project and when they are in the middle of one.
When starting a project they might say this along with, “It should only take five minutes.” A lot of tasks take five minutes, apparently. 🙂 They might also say this when they are in the middle of a project and it is taking longer than they either anticipated or would like.
One of the reasons for this skewed perspective is time sense is a challenge for adults with ADHD. It just is. And, because of this, you may not have an accurate idea of how long a task takes to complete. Yet, you may get frustrated when it takes what seems like too “@#*&” long.
How your ADHD may contribute to a task taking longer than you’d like
First, it might simply be the case that you are feeling understimulated. And, consequently, this feeling of boredom can leave you feeling like time is endless. Just remember, feeling bored doesn’t mean the task is not important to you. You might lose your mojo even when you are working toward an important goal.
Sure, sometimes when a task feels like it is taking too long, it is what it is. It will take as long as it takes, and there is nothing you can do, other than to persist.
But there are times you may be able to better manage a task so it takes less time to complete. For example, when you impulsively start a task before you are ready, it might take you longer because you need to circle back to fix mistakes. Yet, you may start in haste because you want to get it done quickly.
Another time you may be able to manage a task better is when you are faced with distractions. Of course, a task will take longer than anticipated when you have to manage competing internal and external distractions.
How can you manage a task and the time needed to complete it
The first two steps you can take is to learn more about where you spend your time now and get better at estimating time so you can get a better sense of time.
As time can feel endless when you are bored one of the next steps is to learn how to deal with boredom effectively.
In addition, you can learn pre-planning techniques so you can be ready to start a task. Last, adopting the right tactics to minimize distractions and interruptions can help you maximize the time you spend on task.
I Shouldn’t Need Help!
Asking for and accepting help can be hard for many adults with ADHD. In part, if this is true for you, it might be you don’t think you should need help. Because you think you should be able to do more of life’s daily tasks on your own.
How your ADHD may contribute to not asking for help
Over the years I have speculated that, perhaps, this is due to feelings of inadequacy. That is, you may feel you have failed on many fronts, perhaps because of your ADHD. And now you might want to prove to yourself and others you can “go it on your own.”
But, as a result, you may focus on tasks that are not the best use of your time. And then you may not have enough time to do what is essential in both your professional and personal life. In addition to task-related help, you may also not reach out for other types of help when you need it.
What you can do to get the help you need.
If shame is one of the reasons you are not asking for help, addressing this should be your first step. And, as you explore how to become shame resilient when you have ADHD, you will slowly replace the old tapes telling you, “I should be able to do this on my own!”
Then you can focus on deciding what is essential for you to do. And you may find, like many, ADHD Adults do better by doing less. To do this, yes, you will need to ask for help. This help may come in the form of delegating some of your current tasks, as well as dropping or deferring others.
Sure, you want to be able to carry your own weight. Delegating isn’t about taking advantage of people. Rather, effectively delegating is about negotiating with those in your personal and professional life. So that everyone is carrying their weight, and, hopefully, doing more of what they do best. You can also delegate by hiring or bartering services.
Of course, you may also want to ask for help from a professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, coach or therapist.
This Shouldn’t Be So Hard!
As an adult with ADHD, you have underdeveloped executive function and self-regulation skills. So, it is a challenge for you to plan, focus your attention, remember information and manage multiple tasks. This, of course, can make it hard for you to set and achieve both short-term and long-term goals.
Okay, I know, you already know this. But what you may not know is how your perspective about your challenges may make it even harder for you to persist in developing better executive function and self-regulation skills.
Do you ever think, “This shouldn’t be so hard”? Then maybe you follow that with, “I should be able to remember better, get stuff done on time, etc.” This perspective may be keeping you stuck. Because, when you resent your challenges, you may also resist trying to improve your situation.
The antidote is accepting that it is hard. It just is. And then using your time and energy to creatively address your challenges, rather than fighting what is.
What do you think?
Ready to Change How You Think About Your ADHD?
if you are holding one or more of the above perspectives, choose one to address. So that your mindset doesn’t have to hold you back.
Which one did you choose?