(Originally published May 23, 2016, Updated March 11, 2022)
It makes sense to look for a solution when you have a problem. And you may spend a fair amount of time looking for answers to your ADHD-related challenges. You probably found this article in one of your searches, right? Even though you may already have what you need.
I know you may be thinking, “That’s ridiculous! Why would I waste my time looking for an answer I already have!” Sure, if you realized you had the answer, you wouldn’t continue searching. But sometimes you are not aware you already have the answer because you are not effectively using your tools and strategies.
One reason for this could be that you have not customized the solution to fit your preferences and needs, including your ADHD challenges. It’s also possible that your ADHD challenges are getting in the way of consistently implementing a strategy or tool that could work. Another possibility is that one or more of your mindsets is getting in your way.
Let’s get on with seeing what would most effectively help you adopt the right solutions for whatever problem you are trying to solve.
Be Specific About the Problem You Are Trying to Solve
Before looking for a solution, you need to identify the problem you want to solve. I know this may seem obvious. But I also know you may not always do this. Instead, when you are frustrated and want things to be better NOW, you might start impulsively searching.
For example, if you want to be more consistent in following through, you may decide you need better habits. So, you start googling, “best habits to adopt, habits to improve the quality of life, how to adopt habits, etc.” Though you may have used different search terms, I bet you have done this before.
Instead, pause and be curious before going down this rabbit hole.
You can start by asking yourself what is causing your frustration. Then think about your possible options. Of course, reach out for help if you need it. Because, though you might have correctly identified what you need, the solution might lie elsewhere. And then you won’t be any further ahead.
Think about it. If you tend to look for solutions before you have fleshed out the problem, pause and take your time to identify what you need. So, your search doesn’t end up being a distraction or a means to procrastinate and then wasting your time and energy.
Know Your Capacity to Adopt a New Strategy or Tool
If you decide to make a change and need a new tool or strategy to do this, you’ll need to evaluate how much time and energy you have to invest. That is, are you willing and able to put in the time and energy into adopting a new strategy or tool right now?
Take time to ponder this question.
Because many tools and strategies will not work right out of the box for you. So, you may need to spend time, maybe a considerable amount, figuring out how to customize it to work best for you. If you decide you aren’t willing to invest the time right now, you have other options.
Of course, you might decide to hold off trying something new until you feel more ready. Alternatively, you may decide you don’t want to wait. You want to make the changes now. In this case, you may look for support.
You might initially look for help implementing the new strategy or tool. So the process is as easy and effective as possible, especially if there is a steep learning curve. Then you might choose to get the support you need to use it consistently.
How Your ADHD Gets in the Way of Adopting Processes and Tools
As part of the process of adopting a new tactic, you will want to consider your ADHD. You already know your ADHD can get in the way of executing. But do you think of this when trying to adopt a tactic? If you don’t, you might be making it harder to do this in a way that will work best for you.
But when you intentionally incorporate your understanding of your ADHD challenges you will be more successful in adopting the tools and strategies you choose. Promise! To help you start to think about how your ADHD can make it harder to adopt a tactic check out this list:
- Repeatedly reengaging (starting) with a strategy or tool each time can be difficult.
- You may easily get distracted and not sustain your focus.
- It may be hard for you to persist over the long run, especially if it is hard for you to implement the strategy/tool.
- Because of your challenge with modulating your emotions, you may get frustrated easily when a tactic doesn’t work well or easily
- In the moment, you may forget to use the technique because of your challenges with working memory and recall.
I’m sure the above sounds familiar. So, when considering how to adopt a new tool or strategy, make sure you incorporate workarounds for these challenges into your plans.
Have an Experimental Mindset
When addressing your ADHD challenges and your other needs and preferences, it will be helpful to have an experimental mindset. You know what this is. Remember when you were a kid and thought, “I wonder what would happen if…?”
But somewhere along the way, you may have lost this curiosity when making changes in your adult life. Perhaps because of the fear of failing. But, if you want to learn how to operate at your best, you’ll need to experiment. Because you don’t have a crystal ball, right? And so will need to try tools and strategies before finding the one that works best for you.
There really is no alternative.
If you’re ready to rekindle this curiosity, you don’t need to be as impulsive as you were as a kid. You can be more intentional. Maybe it won’t seem as risky then. 😉 For example, If you decide you want to minimize distractions and want to try an application like RescueTime to minimize electronic distractions you might:
- Set aside time to learn how to set up and use the application.
- Acknowledge there will be a learning curve.
- Identify resources to help you use the tactic in the most effective way possible.
- Decide how long you are going to experiment with it. Maybe three weeks?
- Evaluate whether you want to continue or try something different.
You can be intentional and strategic when experimenting. But you also know it will still be a gamble. Because you can’t have 100% certainty it will work.
Don’t Expect It to Be Easy
Once you decide to experiment, be prepared for what might be a bumpy ride. I know. You might be thinking right now, “I know that!” Right. But I bet you have also thought, “This should not be so hard! I should be able to do this. After all, it looks so easy for everyone else.”
Sound familiar? If you have said something like this, then, while you may know it will be hard, you still do not think it should be hard. And you may also believe it would be easier if you just had the right tool or strategy! Not true. But, as a result, you may give up prematurely and look for something new.
Hold off before giving up.
A strategy or tool that initially seems simple to adopt might still be hard to implement. However, that does not mean it is the wrong one for you. It does mean you need to be creative in figuring out how to make it work best for you.
You also want to remember that persistence is a challenge for ADHD adults. And thinking something should be easy will make it even harder to persist. In part, because underlying this thinking might be the belief, “I guess I just can not do this.” If this is your belief, it makes sense you would give up. Why waste your time and energy?
But, if you decide it might be challenging and you will need to experiment, you might find it easier to persist. Though you might also decide you need help, you will be less likely to give up and look for something new prematurely.
How Do You Know When It’s Time to Try Something New?
Sure, you want to experiment and persist. But you also want to recognize when a strategy or tool is not working for you, and it is time to give up. But you may not do this if you tend to think it is your fault when something is not working. Instead, you tell yourself you need to try harder!
Then your frustration builds. And you slowly stop using the tool or strategy because it feels hard. But you do not give much thought to why. If you want to avoid this scenario, the first step will be to notice when it feels hard. And evaluate whether the tool or strategy is a good fit for you or not by considering your strengths, challenges, and preferences
You can start this process by remembering that your ADHD brain is wired to seek out stimulation. Novelty is like candy to your brain. That does not necessarily mean you should recommit to using the tactic. Sometimes it makes sense to try something new, especially when your resistance to using it is too great.
For example, if you are not using your task manager because you are bored with it, it may make sense to try a new one. Because even though the ramp-up time may be significant, you will likely be more productive in the long run when you have a task manager than none.
On the other hand, if you discover you are not using your task manager because it is too overwhelming, then you might want to get support in figuring out how to reduce the overwhelm. A common reason people feel overwhelmed with a task manager is not knowing how to execute.
If this is true for you, you may look at your task manager and think, “How am I ever going to do all this?!” When you feel this stress, you stop putting tasks in it. And default to old habits, like writing tasks on random pieces of paper. Then you do not trust the task manager because it is not up to date. And this reinforces your resistance to using it. At which point you may decide task managers will not work for you. Whew!!
Instead, when a tool or strategy feels hard, be curious about why. And then be deliberate in deciding whether to persist or try something new. And remember that the answer is dependent on your needs.
There Are No ADHD Tactics for Adults That Work for Everyone
It’s important to remember your unique preferences, needs, and strengths. And this should inform both the tools and strategies you try and the processes you use to adapt them to suit your needs.