Depending on which type of ADHD you have you may or may not struggle with thinking and/or acting too fast. If you have the inattentive type, going fast may not be one of your challenges. Generally, those with the combined type or predominately hyperactive – impulsive type may struggle with this.
If you do, this article is for you. If you don’t have this challenge, because you have predominately inattentive type ADHD, please read on anyway. You will still find some helpful tips. Because most people have some area in their life where slowing down and being more present can be useful
You may even find you are more productive. Remember, being productive is doing what is essential to you — engaging activities that bring meaning to your life. It’s not about doing more. So, let’s get on with exploring how you can do this better by slowing down.
Because slow is the new fast.
What Does It Mean to Act Too Fast?
First, there is a difference between being acting too fast — impulsively — and acting on your instinct. And it’s a critical distinction. Because there are times you should follow that inner voice that says, “Yes, this feels right.” This inner voice has wisdom. Of course, the key is to discern between these two voices — wise or impulsive. Not always easy.
One way to discern the difference is to think of an impulsive thought that might lead to impulsive action as fleeting. One hour or one day you’re thinking about saying or doing something. And then the next hour or day it’s gone. If you are prone to this, you might want to slow down in the moment. Because it’s likely not your instinct guiding you.
The key to differentiating between acting “too fast” and jumping on an idea because it feels right is to learn more about how you think. If you tend to have tons of ideas and know that you need time to sort them out, do that. Don’t act on the first idea that comes to your mind.
But if the thought comes from your intuition, it will persist and keep nagging at you. And it can serve as a useful guide. Stop and listen to it. Be curious about where it might take you. Take the time to explore what it may mean for you. And whether it may make sense to act on it.
Just because you might act and think fast sometimes does not mean you don’t also have a wise inner voice.
The Adult ADHD Brain and Thinking/Acting “Too Fast”
It appears the connections between the various areas of the brain necessary to control response inhibition and foster attention are underdeveloped in the ADHD brain. Because of this you may tend to act and/or think too fast. As a result, it may be hard for you to pause before acting and/or speaking.
Over time, though, ADHD adults can develop strategies to moderate their overt responses. So, it may not look the same as it did when you were young. You are no longer jumping off the jungle gym without concern for your safety, right? But you may be blurting out in the middle of a conversation, still.
The deficit in certain brain chemicals can also mean you seek out stimulation to wake up your brain. This may mean you are restless and seemingly on the go at times. Boring meetings are an obvious time this may happen. For some, this is more of an internal restlessness. For others, the restlessness is more outwardly observable.
Also, you may have a difficult time slowing down because of the challenge with persisting on a task, especially one that is not intrinsically interesting to you. Consequently, you may jump from task to task and not close the loop on your important work. And when you jump from task to task, rather than sustaining your attention, you’re more prone to distractions.
Of course, difficulty regulating emotions may also lead you to be reactive — act quickly. It is not that your emotions are wrong or bad. It’s just that you may not be able to keep them to yourselves until you can decide how you want to respond.
Thinking and Acting Fast Can Also be a Habit for ADHD Adults
No doubt there are likely neurobiological reasons related to your ADHD for your challenges with slowing down. But there is also a habitual component. It may be a chicken and egg scenario. While your ADHD may make it hard to slow down, you’ve also come to respond to situations in a certain way — habitually.
That is, your responses have become hardwired — habitual. The more you respond in a certain way, the more you will respond in that way. But because the brain is malleable, you can rewire the neural pathways and change your habits. The way you do this is to practice slowing down.
It will definitely be hard at first to break the habit of going fast. Over time, though, it will become easier to go slower in various areas of your life. It may even become a habit! Seriously, I’m not kidding. 😊 If you’re curious to learn more about neuroplasticity, check out this article.
The Advantages of Thinking/Acting Fast
You may not always want to temper your tendency to act or think fast, though. As thinking or acting fast in the right contexts can be a strength for ADHD adults. Consider the examples below:
- You are brainstorming with colleagues and able to make connections between disparate ideas, perhaps, more creatively and faster than your neurotypical colleagues.
- Hanging out with your best friends, who appreciate your quirkiness, you may be the life of the party.
- You’re willing to try out a lot of different activities. Sure, you may end up dabbling. But you get to have a lot of new experiences.
How else is acting/thinking fast a strength for you? In most cases, an ADHD challenge can also be a strength. It’s just depends on the context. Nice, right?!
Why Would ADHD Adults Want to Slow Down?
Sure, there are times when thinking and acting fast can be to your benefit. As long as it’s in sync with your values it’s all good, really. It’s not inherently a bad thing. Think of the advantages I listed above. I’m sure you can think of more, as well. Please let me know if you do!
But there are times when acting and thinking fast doesn’t allow you to be how you want to be. You may even regret what you say or do in these moments. The reason to practice slowing down is so you can be the person you want to be in the various contexts in your life.
Ready to see how you can do that?
#1 Taking Time for Upfront Thinking Will Help You Be Strategic
If you’re in the habit of going fast, you likely don’t slow down to take enough time for upfront thinking. This is the kind of thinking you don’t have time for moment-to-moment and day-to-day. You may even think you don’t have time for this at all. Because, after all, you have too much to do.
But, without this kind of thinking, you may end up not being very productive. That is, you are not necessarily making decisions about what is essential for you to do. You are just doing whatever feels urgent in the moment. So, you may often feel like your days are one big fire drill.
The key is to trust that spending this time will pay off in the long run. Even if it feels impossible in the moment. Not easy to do. I know. Once you practice slowing down and taking time to do this type of thinking, you will likely feel a sense of peace. I know that’s a big promise. But it’s true. Really.
You can start by practicing three types of upfront thinking — weekly, daily and project planning. To learn how to do this check out 3 Ways You Can Use Planning To Prevent ADHD Brain Overload.
#2 Slow Down by Adding Buffers to Your Day
Starting, stopping, and switching between tasks. All types of transitions that are a challenge for ADHD adults. So, well everybody needs time to transition, as an ADHD adult you may benefit by giving yourself more time between activities. That is, instead of trying to cram as much into your day is possible, try scaling back.
And, when you do, you’ll likely find you can do more of what is essential. For example, you’ll be able to:
- make note of where you left off when you stop working on a task. So, it’ll be easier to pick up the next time you work on it.
- arrive places on time more often. And feel more grounded, as you’re not sliding into home base.
- organize yourself mentally so you can be present when beginning your next activity.
- give yourself time to organize your materials and ramp up to start your next activity.
As Greg Mckeown, author of Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less notes,
Buffers give us emotional breathing room and the freedom to think strategically.
Of course, the “right amount” of buffer time will depend on your needs and preferences. It’s that sweet spot that allows you to do what is essential in a way that helps reduce your stress and overwhelm. Below is a hypothetical snapshot to illustrate one way to do this.
#3 Slowww Down Throughout Your Day
Even with buffers, I know, when you’re juggling a lot and feeling overwhelmed, your inclination is probably to go faster. After all, you have a lot to do. Whether conscious or not, you may think that going faster will help you get more done. Makes sense.
But what ends up happening is you:
- misplace your keys.
- lose time to distractions when you transition back and forth between tasks.
- leave your wallet on the table at the restaurant.
- make more mistakes, and then need to spend time correcting those mistakes.
- spill your coffee on your desk,
- are less productive as you rush from one task/activity to another.
You get my point. Sound familiar?
So, while it may initially sound counterintuitive, slowing down can help you get your best work done and feel more centered. Because then you can attend and be present to what you’re doing in the moment. To practice this when you find yourself scurrying about, take a deep breath. And use self talk to remind yourself,
I’m doing this and not that. And slowing down will save me time in the short run and the long run.
Of course, you should use whatever self-talk feels authentic to you to guide your actions.
And, remember, like many strategies you try, slowing down may be a challenge at first, for sure. Especially if you’re used to going fast. It may even feel uncomfortable to slow down when you have so much to do. Give yourself the time you need to practice. And move through the discomfort.
Question for You
Are you in? What are you going to try this week in order to slow down to be at your best?