Do you sometimes wonder, “Is it just me or do I do ‘this’ because of my ADHD?”
Similarly, are you dumbfounded that you keep repeating the same behaviors? And do so in spite of “knowing” what you need to do to change.
Consequently, you end up feeling lazy, stupid or crazy.
As the classic ADHD self–help book, “You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy,” suggest, you are not any of those labels. But I bet my telling you that does not really help.
If you are trying to make sense of your ADHD symptoms, it is important to understand executive functions. And you can learn much on this topic from noted ADHD expert, Dr. Russell Barkley.
As you learn more about your ADHD, you can begin to internalize the belief that you can achieve your goals because you are not inherently lazy, stupid or crazy, really!
In order to manage and direct our lives we need a range of executive skills (some examples are noted below). These are the skills that allow us to resist immediate gratification, make decisions based on our goals and values, control our emotions, and monitor our actions so we work productively.
While, as an Adult with ADHD, your executive skills are not well developed, it is certainly not a lost cause! You have several choices in addressing this:
- Have someone else do tasks that you find challenging.
- Adopt strategies, tools and structures to compensate for your executive skills deficits.
- Decide not to engage in an activity where the task is too challenging.
For example, if you are an entrepreneur / small business owner, you likely have a business plan or would like to have one. (Feel free to substitute report or paper, if that resonates with you.)
First, you need to plan and prioritize how you are going to go about doing the business plan, which involves decisions about what to focus on, what to ignore and in what order to do the various parts.
Pick a tool, like Nozbe, to plan out the steps in your plan. After you break down the business plan into discrete tasks, assign due dates for each tasks. Being able to visualize and interact with the plan in this way will help you improve your ability to plan and prioritize. Be sure to revisit the plan regularly, even weekly, perhaps.
In order to complete the plan by a particular date, you will need to estimate the time needed to complete each part and then figure out how allocate your time.
In order to improve your ability to estimate time, pick a minimum and maximum amount of time you think each discrete task might take. Don’t worry about being accurate in the beginning. When you complete each tasks, note how long it actually took. Keep this information in a log. Over time you will improve your ability to estimate time, and will become better at planning.
You may even choose to use a system like, Pomodoro, which includes a specific structure for tracking time.
Once you have a plan, you need to start on time without procrastinating (task initiation).
It is too nebulous and invites procrastination when you say, “I am going to work on my business plan.” Instead schedule from 10:00 – 11:00 (put it in your calendar) to work on a specific part, such as the Introduction of the Executive Summary. Set a timer alone or in tandem with a system, like Pomodoro.
Along the way, you will want to evaluate how you are doing, metacognition, to determine whether your approach to doing the business plan is working.
Schedule time every few weeks to ask yourself questions, like: Do I understand what I need to do for each part? Do I need help? Am I doing this in the right order? Am I on target to finish it by the date I set? What is the next step?
In order to work productively, you will need to resist the urge to do unrelated activities. For example, when you notice the much coveted head phones on sale at Best Buy while reading the morning paper, you need to restrain yourself (response inhibition) from running off to the store.
You may decide not to read the paper in the morning because too often doing so delays the start of your day. If reading the paper is important to you, you may decide to have a rule that you only read the first section.
You may also find yourself occasionally frustrated by not having the information you need close at hand. Alternatively, you may become bored because the business plan is not something you find stimulating. You need to figure out how to center yourself (emotional self–control) in order to continue working, rather than giving up.
Notice when you are becoming frustrated or bored. If the ability to do this is still elusive for you, identify where you feel it in your body? Do you get a knot in your stomach or a headache?
When you feel these, ask yourself questions, like: Why am I feeling like this? Do I need help? Do I need to work on some other part? Do I need a break?
Use self-talk (verbal working memory) to remind yourself of how important this is for you: I want to have a successful business and I need a plan to make that happen. Make sure it is posted prominently on your bulletin board, rather than trying to keep it in your head.
Post a picture next to the words, representing what it will look like when you have a successful business. Visualizing (non-verbal working memory) the successful completion of your goal in this way can help motivate you to continue working.
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
Everyone’s ADHD symptom are different and affect each person to varying degrees.
Taking medication, exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep and other forms of self-care will give you a leg up in addressing the neurobiological component of ADHD.
And then you can make choices, like the examples above, about how to engineer your environment to compensate for the affect of your ADHD symptoms, executive skill deficits.
You really do have choices!
And, as always, if you need help, please contact me for a complementary Strategy Session. We can talk about how I may able to help you.