October is ADHD Awareness Month. The latest and greatest information will be available to everyone with Internet access. Myths will bust, and more people will get over the stigma that surrounds the condition. And more people will discover that they, or someone they love, has ADHD.
We now know a lot about ADHD. It is a neuro-developmental disorder, which impacts the executive functions, a construct used to explain how the brain matures. These impaired functions of the brain are associated with activation, focus, effort, emotions, memory, and action. In other words, most of the skills needed for building self-control.
Change is possible though. The ADHD brain works by its own rules. There’s a perpetual need for stimulation or novelty seeking behavior that’s characteristic of the condition. Creating structure and developing routines helps, as does an interest in the task or subject, a sense of urgency, or immediate consequences or rewards for their actions to help successfully manage their life.
When someone with ADHD is not engaged, their symptoms include:
Poor Listening Skills
Poor Organization Skills
But, just knowing about ADHD isn’t enough. There’s a process involved after you first become aware. First, there is the issue of getting a diagnosis. Then comes the process of getting treatment, Medication, therapy, coaching, and/or other tools and strategies only work when they are used.
Some newly diagnosed people will mourn that they had not been aware of ADHD sooner. Others experience a sense of relief, that finally there’s an explanation, a reason, and it’s not their fault. There is also the question of who to tell and what can you expect from them. There’s your partner, the family, friends, coworkers, and others who will either be told or not and all of the rigmarole involved in deciding who knows what. Lastly, there are the challenges that persist after diagnosis and treatment and how to go about finding those solutions. It’s a lot to deal with.
Ultimately, there’s always going to be a lot of confusion surrounding ADHD. How it affects each person is unique to them. True, there are broad commonalities among the ADHD population. There’s the unusual way they process time, as well as how they have trouble prioritizing and organizing. And there’s the issue of not staying motivated and engaged with something; everything becomes boring at some point, and that’s when they can easily shut down. But the degree to which these things affect the person vary and the specific areas in which there’s struggle are unique to each person, so there are no rules. That’s why ADHD so confounding.
You should know that developing coping skills is ongoing. There’s no magic bullet to solve any of the challenges of ADHD because they vary from individual to individual. (Editor’s note: Although, utilizing their unique personal talents, interests, and strengths can be very helpful.) And, on top of that, many times, when a solution to one challenge comes about, it’s only a temporary Band-Aid until a newer, more interesting fix can be found. Each “fix” builds upon the other.
Now you know the process to ADHD Awareness. Hopefully, this article will lessen some of the confusion. Enjoy the process. Learn and grow in confidence that you CAN handle this.
Do feel free to comment below if you still have questions and/ or something to share.
Whenever I present a workshop for teachers, I ask audience members to describe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in their own, non-clinical words. It’s been compared to a remote that never stops switching channels, the Energizer® bunny, loose papers in a strong wind, being lost in the fog, and electricity without a cord. Their similes capture the essence of the core symptoms of ADHD: inattention and /or impulsivity and hyperactivity. They also help us imagine what it must be like to have ADHD. They foster empathy and a desire to help.
Still, in the day-to-day grind of teaching, when problems emerge, our best intentions and sensitivities are tested. Wiggling, ﬁdgety, loud, disorganized, disruptive, hurried, careless and off-task behavior coupled with messy, incomplete, or missing work are tough challenges in the classroom, even on a good day.
The chronic nature of ADHD school-related issues has been known to frustrate more than a few teachers (and parents). This frustration may have to do with the expectation that interventions can cure ADHD. They don’t and they can’t.
Here’s the real deal: the manifestations of ADHD are seldom (if ever) ﬁxed once and for all because these problems often arise from environmental expectations, conditions, and triggers. Thus, these students are highly susceptible to the world around them and the world within them.
Most ADHD problems can be called “POP” or “point of performance” problems where students have difficulty being on point or on task.
What is on-task performance?
• Doing what you are supposed to be doing.
• When you are supposed to be doing it.
• In the way you are supposed to be doing it.
The “what” or “it” can be following a rule, working on a task, using a social skill, etc.
Some students lack the necessary skills to perform appropriately. Generally students with ADHD know what they are supposed to be doing. It’s just that where the rubber meets the road—at the point of performance—they lose traction and don’t do what they know. Distractibility, hating to wait, restlessness, losing materials, or missing pieces of the whole interfere with their best intentions to do what is expected and to do it well.
Typically, the off-task or off-rule behavior of students with ADHD is not a matter of choice. It’s a symptom of ADHD and an indicator that an intervention is needed. Here’s the good news: ADHD point of performance problems can be managed effectively (not to perfection). Most ADHD management is not a problem of knowing what to do. It’s a matter of doing what we know.
Here’s what you need to know and accept about ADHD interventions and strategies:
They have to happen in the here and now on an as needed basis.
• They work when they are used.
• Their use often requires coaxing and coaching from an external source (teachers, parents, peers, visual cues, and/or technology).
• They may be needed throughout the school day, month, year, or lifespan.
Teachers often ask, “Shouldn’t these students learn to use these interventions on their own?” The point is this, if they didn’t have ADHD, they would be doing what they know! We can provide self-awareness and self-management strategies. Still, these students (and adults) will require coaching to do what they know.
In students with ADHD, “think ﬁrst” or “wait” do not enter into the self-control picture. So what can you do?
A POP intervention wouldn’t try to curb the need and impulse to call or blurt out. Instead, the teacher would direct the student to write down the thought. Or, if the student has difﬁculty writing or is a young learner, you might anticipate and call on this student frequently (or immediately). Or, use a silent signal as a cue to wait. Silent signals work because they are visual and thus don’t compete with the words the student is trying to keep in mind the way your verbalization does.
For the case where the student is unsure or anxious about what to do, you may assure the student that individual attention will always be given as soon as everyone else is on track.
You might also try a technique known as the two-response answer method. Let students know ahead of time that you will be asking every question twice—even if the ﬁrst answer given is correct. This method encourages students to listen to one another, signals students to wait, and allows students who might not volunteer to participate. It also allows you to call on reluctant students and gives them an opportunity to shine.
Raising a hand before speaking is a behavioral expectation. Behavioral expectations are but one type of POP problem. Off-task behavior is another. The ﬁrst type of problem may be a nuisance, but it doesn’t generally have a signiﬁcant impact on academic performance. Off-task behavior, however, is a signiﬁcant academic issue. It affects all aspects of the learner’s performance, especially the quality and quantity of task output.
The GPS (global positioning system) is a navigational system that works in the here and now. It is goal-oriented. It is problem-driven and solution-focused. When a driver needs to know how to get somewhere, the receiver calls upon every positioning satellite in the sky to devise a meta-strategy—a plan. The GPS then monitors the course as the car moves along. The “voice” gives corrective feedback whenever necessary.
Let’s say you want to drive across the swamp. The GPS doesn’t wrestle with alligators it meets along the way. It doesn’t get hung up in the past and the future. The GPS lives entirely in present time and its aim is to get you to your destination (across the swamp) even if that means charting a new course.
Though I sometimes worry that one day my GPS will go “bonkers” because I’ve gotten so far off track, to date my receiver hasn’t lost its cool or showed any irritation. No yelling, no blaming, no shaming, no name calling, no idle threats, no long diatribes. When I miss a turn or get off track—it simply says, “Recalculating.”
Students with ADHD go “bonkers” when improving off-task performance requires teacher-driven “recalculations.” If you ﬁnd yourself wrestling with alligators and drowning in the swamp, there’s an easy solution. Let go of the alligator: be goal oriented, problem-driven, solution focused and ﬂexible. Be prepared to go back to the drawing board.
Remember, students with ADHD either lose sight of the goal (they fail to focus and sustain), or they’re not sure what the goal is (they have difﬁculty selecting the most important versus the most interesting information). These behaviors are not a matter of choice but rather an outcome of the neurological underpinnings of ADHD. Most students with ADHD don’t require different teachers. They require cool, calm, “recalculating” teachers who use effective and hands-on approaches.
There are three essential GPS components for all ADHD interventions:
The scaffold—these are the structures, strategies, supports and skills you put into place that enable the student to improve performance. ADHD strategies are not so much an issue of knowing what to do but of doing what you know. ADHD scaffolds work when you use them. They belong in the here and now. Teachers often say to me, “If I do this for a student, then next year…” Or, “If I make this accommodation, what will happen when she gets to elementary school and beyond?”
Sadly, I have to report that when scaffolds are not used, student outcomes become predictably grimmer as time goes by. Furthermore, most adults with ADHD continue to need interventions and accommodations and some will seek the services of ADHD coaches.
Ongoing monitoring—sometimes we select the wrong intervention. In general, ADHD interventions fail because their use isn’t monitored or adjustments are not made along the way. That approach is akin to ﬁxing a leaky faucet valve without adding a washer or using plumber’s thread as a sealant. Monitoring behavior guides and directsthe performance along the path. Be sure that you don’t confuse monitoring with “gotcha” or “see—nothing ever works with this student!
Positive feedback—I once asked a student, “What does ADD mean?” He replied, “It’s just another way to call a kid ‘bad.’ I think ADD should stand for Adult Deﬁcit Disorder.”
It’s no wonder that he came up with this answer. Recent research as reported by Dr. Sydney Zentall notes that 75 percent of the daily feedback received by students with ADHD is negative. Positive feedback helps them stay on the appropriate behavioral path and serves as a key performance motivator. Feedback encourages, appreciates, and supports the person.
In addition to using the global meta-strategy described above, here are some speciﬁc strategies you might try for some of the typical behaviors that interfere with performance.
For stimulation seeking—a lot of “off task” ADHD behavior has to do with stimulation seeking and the way stimulation affects the brain’s ability to focus and sustain performance.
The general principle of ADHD intervention for stimulation seeking is not to restrict it. Instead, allow stimulation seeking on terms that work for the classroom situation.
What do these students need to do?
ADHD expert Roland Rotz suggests “ﬁdget to focus,” or allow movement through stability balls, treadmills, or frequent breaks. You can also provide manipulatives, such as stress balls, toy animals, or plastic tangles. (AKA as fidget toys or tools)
• Add or allow arousal ingredients to tasks. (Reduce arousal if it’s too high with quieting activities.)
• Use color (e.g., overlays for the last third of a reading page).
• Use manipulatives (or fidgets) for tasks—Legos®, Wikki Stix, or colored markers.
• Switch between high interest/low interest tasks.
• Create interactive lessons with games.
• Eliminate rushing by removing all external incentives to ﬁnish quickly.
For getting and keeping their attention—students with ADHD, like all living beings, are always paying attention. The question is what’s getting their attention? The attentional problems of these students tend to rotate around three concerns: ﬁguring out what to pay attention to, determining what’s important versus what’s interesting, and staying the course until completion of the goal. These learners will find it difficult to set goals, prioritize, and say “No” to distractions. Once their minds wander, they often can’t ﬁnd their way “home”—home being where they are supposed to be focusing their attention. Home may be obvious to you, but it is not to them.
What can you do to get and hold attention?
Add interest and novelty to all tasks.
• Talk less and do more.
• Use silent signals to redirect attention.
• Use speciﬁc directives
• Simplify visual presentations.
• Make task structures clear.
• Highlight directions and give them one at a time.
• Microsize—break all tasks down into manageable parts, monitor each phase, and provide positive feedback.
• Use self-monitoring strategies—tracking time on task, timers, graphing daily performance.
For working memory and executive function issues, imagine if you had trouble saying “No” to distractions but still had to keep certain information in your mind so you could complete a task. For instance, you’re silently reciting a new phone number you want to program into your phone and the phone rings. If you’re at all like many people, if you haven’t written that number down, you know where it goes—somewhere far and away probably never to return again.
Now imagine that you have ADHD and your attention constantly gets pulled to an internal or external distraction and needs to be redirected. Like these students, you’d probably lose a lot of information from your mental desktop—that place known as working memory. You can tell working memory (or working with memory) has been disrupted when you catch yourself saying, “Now, where was I?”
Working memory allows us to hold information in mind while we work with bits and pieces of it or with something else entirely until we are ready to come back to the info on the mental desktop and use that information to complete a task. This can be tough enough for many of us. Now, add some impulsivity—the hate to wait and rush through without thinking through—part of ADHD. Couple that with some hyperactivity and shifts in attention and focus. The effect is not surprising. Working memory affects many aspects of task performance for students with ADHD.
To my mind, working memory issues certainly make a compelling case for having a “GPS system” in the day-to-day management of ADHD issues.
What can you do?
Externalize. If it can be held in mind, it can be written down to hold it in place—dry erase boards, cue cards, posted formulas, rules, etc.
• Use models, rubrics, timelines, planners, graphic organizers, checklists, daily action plans, and step-by-step guides.
Use color—it attracts attention, categorizes, distinguishes objects, and helps with organization.
• Design and monitor organizational routines—and make time for them to be used.
• Post the daily schedule.
• Provide note-taking assistance to the degree necessary.
• Use peer support when appropriate.
• Train mnemonic strategies, e.g. POW—plan, organize, write.
• Make and use ﬂash cards.
ADHD is not easy to manage. Yet, it is a highly manageable condition. We can’t cure it, but we can enable students to reduce any disabling effects of this condition. We simply have to do what we know. “Doing what we know” may seem like a Herculean task. In practice, it’s using an ounce of prevention rather than a pound of cure.
In all my workshops, I invite teachers to commit to this simple intention:
I will act as though what I do makes a difference.
When we are not making the difference we want to make, we don’t change the people around us. If we change what we do, the people around us change as a result.
By Mary Fowler http://www.maryfowler.com – Mary trains educators and parents on ADHD, emotional challenges, and classroom management practices. An internationally recognized expert on ADHD, she is the author of four books, including the bestseller, Maybe You Know My Kid (3rd edition), Maybe you Know my Teen, the original CHADD Educators Manual, and my favorite introductory book for parents 20 Questions to Ask If Your Child has ADHD.
20 Questions to Ask If Your Child has ADHD – “Think of this book as facts with personality. Answers are written in an easy-to-read, conversational style from a parent who’s been there”. Organized into four easily manageable categories:• General/Medical Information • Social/Emotional Well-being • Home Issues • School Issues. ($10 on Kindle – $13 for paperback)
Summer is almost over and school is in session again. But, none of us really stops learning. When you’re dealing with ADHD, your need to know more AND to apply that knowledge in your family or work life never ends.
What are YOU doing to increase your understanding of ADHD? Is there room for improvement in your response to your children or how you react in daily life? You can continue to struggle or choose to learn more to help yourself and your children. Everyone deserves to thrive with ADHD and find success, but it takes work. Are you learning new skills to help you design your life to fit your needs?
We have a number of resources this month from ADHD Parent coaches. Yafa Luria Crane expands on a textbook understanding of ADHD and reveals what’s REALLY going on beneath the surface. Diane Dempster from Impact ADHD shares parenting strategies you may have thought of yet. Cindy Goldrich has organization tips for kids.
I wish that I would have read these years ago when I watched my nephews every summer. Instead, I judged their actions and my own lack of control over their behavior as moral and personal failings. In my ignorance, I even called them the “nephews from hell.” With understanding and practice, you don’t have to repeat that mistake with your own children.
Nor do you need to bear the burden of condemnation that I piled on myself for so long. I didn’t know why I struggled or what to do about my chronic disorganization, lack of follow through and emotional distress brought on by worry and frustration. The good news is that once you know what’s causing the problems and get some ideas on how to handle them, you can learn to “live well” with ADHD. Our guest blogger this month talks about the role of making good choices in managing ADHD symptoms. We CAN learn to change our mindset and environment to successfully navigate through our ADHD life at home and work.
Check out of videos this month as well. One’s just for fun, but I found a great collection for parents in need of answers as well.
Yes, having ADHD can be challenging but you CAN develop tools that help. We can choose to ignore our symptoms and roll with the punches or we can identify our problem areas and find ways to cope more effectively. Happy (aka Meagan) of Happy Hyper Shiny outlines a few ways she finds calm, keeps track of her thoughts and belongings and makes sure that things get done inADHD CHOICES: Things I CAN do!She says:
“I don’t have to subject my family to my crazy.”
“I am still a work in progress. We all are.”
“But my thought process has changed.”
“There is a lot more I CAN do than I give myself credit for.”
Are you learning new skills to help you design your life to work for your needs?
If you’re thinking of starting a side-gig or other project outside of a traditional workplace, check out these tips for Working from Home with ADHD by Sara Jane Keyser – It’s all about balance, organization, and planning, so these strategies are always good advice.
This summer I realized that I needed more structure to my days and started using a weekly planner with good results. Having a written schedule allows me to plan and execute projects more effectively. I have even keep on top of Important but Boring tasks by breaking them down into doable steps. Together, these small actions add up and have helped me get things done that I had put off for months and even years.
Emily Ley sells a good planner, but she also offers a collection of Printables that I like. (Basic, Simple to use and FREE) Another Printable, How to Eat an Elephant, can help you outline and plan large projects. It’s from Sidsel Dorph Jensen. Remember, with ADHD, it’s SO important to WRITE things down. Don’t depend on your memory. Keeping a to-do list or a done-list is a start, but there are many more tools to help you be more effective.
Have some fun with this ADHD song, music and lyrics by Josh Anderson. He writes, “I thought that I would put it up here for everyone to see. I hope that you like it! This is pretty much how my brain works every day!
For more great videos, from informative to inspiring, see our ADHD in Video section.
The number one thing that children object to is yelling. It’s perfectly understandable that a parent’s frustration with a child’s behavior spills over and out, but it’s scary and generally ineffective with children with ADHD at inspiring the behavior you’d like to see.
Enthusiasm + Strategies for organization = Success
You have a great idea! Making jewelry, children’s games, or the best widgets ever, and you want to do it from home.
I worked at home for years. I dropped the kids at nursery school, drove to the office, ran my programs on the computer, grabbed my listings, collected the kids and studied my results at home for the next day. My work as a computer programmer was ideal for telecommuting.
Today with the internet, creating your own business right from home is a real possibility. It means less time wasted in commuting hassles (saves gas too), and precious time used more efficiently, but it is a lot of work.
What does it take to start your own business? First, of course, you need an idea, but it takes more than an idea to create a business. Successful entrepreneurs have strong internal motivation. They are able to set goals, schedule time, meet deadlines and communicate regularly with partners about problems and progress.
What happens if you have ADHD? Organizing, planning, deciding, and managing time, are usually very difficult for people with ADHD.
Hey! ADHD is where you get all those ideas, enthusiasm, energy, the very ingredients you need for success. Yes, you still need good strategies for organization and time management just like everybody else.
Here are some tips to keep ADHD from turning dreams into nightmares:
Set boundaries. The whole family must respect your work time. Children have difficulty accepting that Mom is home but not there; get a baby sitter if you must. Keep a clear division between home and work papers including bills and financial documents and material such as telephone and computer usage. Your accountant will love you.
Get started. Do you waste a lot of time messing about? That nasty commute you want to avoid is actually a useful transition from home to work. I plan fidget time; it helps me to get started in the morning or to switch from one task to another.
Curb perfectionism. Know when to stop. When in doubt, ask a partner or a colleague to do a reality check on what more you need to do.
Stay on task. Do you wander from one task to another and find at the end of the day that you haven’t done half of what you planned? Set a timer to go off every hour. When it rings, check that you are doing the task planned and review the agenda for what’s next, or try a vibrating watch to refocus your attention. With practice, you will learn to control your attention without the fireworks.
Delegate. One big problem for many entrepreneurs is trying to do it all. Everything is in your head and it’s difficult to trust others to do it the way you want it done. With ADHD, it’s important to recognize your weaknesses and find someone who is good at doing what you can not like accounting.
Regulate your energy level.Accept that you aren’t always going to be in racing form. We all have good moments and less good moments. I have to take time to recharge my batteries with a cup of tea or by walking the dog. These are the moments when I get my best ideas. Schedule time to eat, exercise, sleep and relax. You’ll still have time to succeed.
Now you are all set. On your mark, Go.
In a nut shell :
Set boundaries: keep work and home separate
Getting started: allow time to warm up
Curb perfectionism: know when to stop
Stay on task: do what works to stay focused
Delegate: Let others do things you are not good at
Regulate energy: respect your natural rhythm
About the author: ADD coach Sarah Jane Keyser worked for many years with computers as a programmer, analyst, and user trainer, but her struggle with inattentive ADD kept getting in the way of her plans and dreams. Once ADD was identified and the great need that coaching filled, she added ADD Coach training in preparation for a new career. Her credentials include ADD Coach training at the ADD Coach Academy. The Newfield Network’s “Mastery in Coaching” and “Coaching Kids and Teens” by Jodi Sleeper-Triplett MCC. Sarah Jane coaches in French and English by telephone. (Re-published with permission)
Welcome. Thanks for inviting me into your inbox. I’m new to having more than a few subscribers, so please bear with me as I try to figure out what you might be most interested in.
If you’re the parent of a child with ADHD, I have a collection of online articles, websites, activities, and videos that your kids might like. It’s been popular in Parent groups on Facebook this week. See my Kids ADHD Page – Things to read, do and watch.
I like Why I Chose to Medicate my Child by Dianne Dempster about how a family that eats organic and prefers holistic treatments for illness came to the decision to try ADHD medication for their son. “I knew that I could always have my son stop taking the medication; but, if he never tried it, I wouldn’t really know if it would help him or not…Ultimately everything comes back to my son.” If you’re considering a stopping medication over the summer break, ADDitude magazine has an article weighing the pros and cons of medication holidays.
For myself, as an adult with bipolar disorder and ADHD, one of my biggest challenges with the greatest reward has been coming to believe and trust in myself. “For many of us, with ADHD or not, there’s an underlying feeling of not being good enough, wanting to be better, wanting to be in better shape or better at things.” Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits addresses that pain, helping to repair that feeling of being unworthy.
Getting the word out on feeling better about having ADHD, Kari Hogan of ADDing to the Mayhem shared 16 Steps to Better Self-Esteem with ADHD that details many non-medical treatments that will improve your daily functioning and make you feel more confident in yourself and more in control of your life.. (These ideas work for kids and teens as well.)
“Your first step is STRUCTURE.
By creating structure, each day, you’re giving yourself a reason to wake up and get out of bed!
The second step echoes the first step. Set up a daily to-do list. This will give you a sense of accomplishment (it gives you a reason to be proud of yourself).
Step 3. FOCUS on your good qualities…”
I have the feeling that this is just TOO much information but hope you will find something that meets your needs.
Procrastinating or just have no motivation today? Here’s a quick list of 20 strategies to get yourself moving, so you can catch a bit of momentum. As you gain momentum, often you’ll just keep going. You may or may not “find” motivation, but momentum is what’s needed. Not every task you work on “needs” motivation. That’s a feeling, right? What you need is movement.
The Practical Momentum Strategies
1. What’s the most interesting part of the project? Start there.
2. What part of the project will you be best at? Start there.
3. Play first. Get it out of your system. (Set a timer to stop the play though.)
4. Do the difficult first, with “play” as the reward.
5. Set a timer and stop at the end of 5-15 minutes, just enough to get you started.
6. Write or draw out your list of steps and take just the first small step. Just one.
7. Change your environment. Go to someone else’s office, a coffee shop, a library and use the change in environment to wake up your mind.
8. Listen to music (instrumental), TED talks, a book, or a class while you work. Yes, the choice is important, of what you listen to and what you choose to work on. It takes some thought.
9. Work on the tedious tasks while someone else comes to your office or home (e.g., bookkeeper, cleaning service, assistant). Use their presence to focus you on your own task. Or while your children do their homework.
10. Talk through your project with someone else first.
11. Read about how others have handled this project – the experts.
12. Hire it out.
13. Can you work in a team for support on at least one piece? Connections can give you momentum to keep going.
The Psychological, Emotional, and Self-Talk Strategies
1. Ask yourself: Why am I not starting? What am I afraid of?
2. Say something like: I know how to do this. I know I can start it, just dip my toe into the water and see what’s there.
3. Ask yourself: Have I already made some decision? Do I need to let this go?
4. Ask yourself: What is the best and worst that could happen? What are the benefits of starting now versus waiting?
5. Break up the work so you can set small, interim deadlines before the big, looming one.
6. Self-care: Sometimes it’s the rest of your life which is draining your mental energy. Focus on self-care first.
7. Have you ever had this happen before on a similar task? Think about what you did to get started.
A psychologist once told me that you can either start with the practical to get traction, or you can start with the psychological. Either way, both are key elements. So start at one end and work towards the middle and you’ll get what you need.
If you are reading this article, it is because you were enticed by the prospect of learning how to stop procrastinating.
Like many people I work with, you’ve tried seemly everything under the sun to follow through, but to little avail. So, at this point, you may assume that, left to your own devices, you are going to continue this way.
And what you really need is someone to watch over you to make sure you follow through, right? If this is what you are thinking, I think you are wrong, sort of…
Sure, accountability can be an important piece of the puzzle in addressing procrastination. But, when it comes right down to it, adults with ADHD usually don’t want someone standing over them, telling them what to do.
Rather, the key to managing your procrastination is figuring out creative solutions to address the reasons you procrastinate in the first place.
Read on to find out how tocounter your particular flavor ofprocrastination.
Oh, and please remember, procrastination is a really hard nut to crack, especially for Adults with ADHD. You can do it. Just don’t forget to be compassionate with yourself along the way.
Procrastination Fix #1 – Identify Where You Procrastinate
Right now, when you avoid a task, you may pause for a second. And then not give it another thought, at least for a while. Rather, you steer clear of it by getting lost in something else, anything else — another work task, the internet, organizing, etc.
Until the proverbial sh** hits the fan…
Then you knock your head against the wall, figuratively speaking of course, and scream internally, “Why do I do this?!” At this point, you may continue to avoid the task or you may get lost in addressing the fire drill of the moment caused by your procrastination.
While this scenario plays itself out again and again, I know you know this avoidance response isn’t helpful.
But think about it. If you have little clue as to why you are procrastinating on a task and even less of a clue as to what to do about it, it totally makes sense that you are sidestepping it.
Ready to learn how to respond differently?
List the tasks you are avoiding and then read on…
Procrastination Fix #2 – Clear the Decks
The next step is to decide whether all of the tasks on your active task listreally belong there. Your immediate response may be, “I’ve already decided. After all, why would I put a task on my list, if I didn’t need to do it?”
Ok, got it. But, if your list is similar to many others I’ve seen, it may function more as a wish list. Because, given your current capacity, you can’t possibly do it all.
So, while you continue to put offtasksyou really haveno intention of doing,they stay on your list, hanging on for dear life. And you continue to beat yourself up for procrastinating.
But I know, even if you are willing to consider trimming your list, you don’t want to forget your ideas. Because, well, you might want to do them — someday.
Creating a Maybe/Someday List to store projects you’re not ready to kick to the curb forever is a great solution.
Here are a few suggested guidelines to get you started:
Have one for personal projects and one for business/professional projects.
Review them monthly to decide if you are ready to take action on any of your ideas.
Continue to add any task that comes to mind, but just is not ready for prime time — research fish keeping, start to video blog, organize attic, etc.
Delete those you decide you really aren’t going to do in the foreseeable future — make own dog food, take pilot lessons, etc.
One of the advantagesof maintaining a Maybe/Someday List is you have made a decision not to do a task and are no longerprocrastinating. Then you can stop heaping shame and blame on yourself for not doing what you said you would do!
Procrastination Fix #3 – Address Your Emotions
None of the typical solutions — breaking down your tasks, scheduling them, avoiding distractions, etc. — will help you manage your procrastination until you address the emotions that may be keeping you stuck.
So, that is the next step.
If you are a run of the mill procrastinator, like the rest of us, at some point your emotions— fear of failure, fear of success and resentment — will be the cause of your procrastination.
And, since your thinking is driving your emotions, you can start to manage them by practicing positive self-talk, such as:
“I might make mistakes, but that does not make me a failure.”
“Even if the worst happens, I’ll be ok.”
“This is going to be really uncomfortable, but I don’t want that to stop me.”
Personal Issues – Maybe you need to take care of it so you can move on. Alternatively, maybe you can put it aside by telling yourself, “I’m doing this and not that!”
Phone Calls – Turn off the ringer for a short time so you can work.
People knocking on your door – If possible, tell them, “I really want to give you my full attention, but I need to do this first. Can I let you know when I am available?”
What are other distractions that keep you from doing what is important to you, and what can you do to manage them?
Procrastination Fix #6 – Don’t Wait for Your Mojo
For many with ADHD, one of the most common excuses for putting off work is the questionable idea, “I need inspiration.” This often leads to the unconvincing promise, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” And you know what comes next. Tomorrow becomes — not now.
If you can wait for inspiration, great!
But the problem is — in many instances — you can’t really wait until you feel like doing the task. So, the key is to figure out what will help you to do it even when your mojo is just not there.
Some workarounds are:
Find an accountability partner.
Delegate the task.
Hire someone — another form of delegating.
Attempt to do it when you are most likely to be at your best — late at night, early in the morning, etc.
Work in an environment that is most conducive for doing that task — at a coffee shop, in a quiet office, with music, etc.
What do you need to do to tackle a task even when you just don’t wanna?
Procrastination Fix #7 – Fill’er Up
Sometimes, when you don’t feel like doing something, it is because you are not taking care of yourself. Yet, self-care is key to managing procrastination.
Use this checklist to figure out if the reason for your procrastination is because you are running on empty or your circuits are overloaded.
Do I need to eat?
Am I tired and, if possible, do I need to take a power nap?
Do I need to take my meds?
Do I need to get up and move —exercise — to wake up my brain?
Do I need to drink more water?
Do I need to slow for a few minutes and do some deep breathing because I am overloaded?
What other strategies do you use when your tank is low?
Procrastination Fix #8 – Use a Procrastination Journal
Now that you know some of the reasons and workarounds for your procrastination, it is time to start the hard work.
And the best way tostop procrastinatingis tobecome more aware in the moment of decision —the moment you are deciding whether to do a task or not.
You can do this by recording your answers to the following statements in a Procrastination Journal:
the date and time of the impulse to put off working on a task
name of the task
what you were thinking and feeling when you thought of doing the task
what you were tempted to do instead
what you told yourself when you were tempted to something else
what you ultimately chose to do
Yes, it takes time, especially in the beginning. But the payoff can be huge, really.
Sample Procrastination Journal
Below are a few fictional journal entries based on the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with clients, the journals clients have shared with me — and my own experience, for sure.
March 14, 8:30 am
I just got to the office and wanted to start on the quarterly report first thing because I didn’t want a repeat of last quarter when I got it in late.
Then I looked at the file on my desktop and thought, “This is going to take forever…” I started to feel overwhelmed — my heart was racing and I got this fuzzy sound in my head.
I opened my email, which I promised myself I would not do, and thought, “Maybe I should plow through some of these first.”
Then I remembered the conversation I had with Sheri, my boss, after handing in the report late last time…
And I told myself, “I don’t have to do it all today. When I feel overwhelmed with big projects it helps to break it down and schedule time to do a little at a time.”
So, that is what I did. I finished a little bit today, and felt pretty good!
March 17, 11:30 am
Ally emailed me last week with a question about the program, and I promised her I would give her an answer by tomorrow.
But I just don’t know the answer and I should! This is so pathetic… I’m so embarrassed that I am not pulling my weight.
I’m really hungry. Maybe I should take a walk and eat lunch…
March 17, 12:30 am
Ok, better. I’m feeling a little more clear headed and a bit less stressed now that I took a walk and ate.
What I need is help figuring out how to answer her. Steve is really good at helping me talk through these things when I am stuck. I’ll call him, and see if we can meet this afternoon
In the above cases journaling helped Bob avoid procrastinating.
Of course, you will not necessarily come up with an immediate solution every time you write. But, keeping a procrastination journal will help you become more aware of the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors involved in yourprocrastination.
Then you can work on changing them in the long run!
Question for You
I know I gave you a lot of information above.
Where do you want to start?
By ADHD coach Marla Cummins. Please visit Marla’s website at www.marlacummins.com for additional articles and resources on Adult ADHD.
“Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhoto.net” Modified on Canva
Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) is a neurobehavioral disorder that affects three to five percent of American children and adults. AD/HD is usually diagnosed in childhood, and the condition can continue into the adult years. Many individuals with AD/HD are undiagnosed until adulthood (NINDS, 2011).
The common characteristics of AD/HD are impulsivity, inattention, and/or over-activity (DSM-IV-TR, 2000). Failure to listen to instructions, inability to organize oneself and work tasks, fidgeting with hands and feet, talking too much, inability to stay on task, leaving projects, chores and work tasks unfinished, and having trouble paying attention to and responding to details are the primary symptoms of AD/HD. Although individuals may have both inattention and hyperactivity symptoms, many individuals predominantly display one symptom more than another. Therefore, the DSM-IV-TR identifies three subtypes that can be diagnosed:
AD/HD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type: The major characteristics are fidgeting, talking excessively, interrupting others when talking, and impatience.
AD/HD predominantly inattentive type: The major characteristics are distractibility, organization problems, failure to give close attention to details, difficulty processing information quickly and accurately, and difficulty following through with instructions.
AD/HD combined type: The individual with combined type meets the criteria for both hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive type.
What causes AD/HD?
Scientists are not sure what causes ADHD, although many studies suggest that genes play a large role. Like many other illnesses, ADHD probably results from a combination of factors. In addition to genetics, researchers are looking at possible environmental factors, and are studying how brain injuries, nutrition, and the social environment might contribute to ADHD (NIMH, 2011). How is AD/HD treated?
Currently available treatments focus on reducing the symptoms of ADHD and improving functioning. Treatments include medication, various types of psychotherapy, education or training, or a combination of treatments. Much like children with the disorder, adults with ADHD are treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of treatments (NIMH, 2009).
AD/HD and the Americans with Disabilities Act
Is AD/HD a disability under the ADA?
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet (EEOC Regulations . . ., 2011). Therefore, some people with AD/HD will have a disability under the ADA and some will not.
A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment (EEOC Regulations . . . , 2011). For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, visit http://AskJAN.org/corner/vol05iss04.htm.
Accommodating Employees with AD/HD
Note: People with AD/HD may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with AD/HD will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.
Questions to Consider:
What limitations does the employee with AD/HD experience?
How do these limitations affect the employee’s job performance?
What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine accommodations?
Can the employee provide information on possible accommodation solutions?
Once accommodations are in place, can meetings take place to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations? Can meetings take place to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
Would human resources or personnel departments, supervisors, or coworkers benefit from education, training or disability awareness regarding learning disabilities? Can it be provided?
Time Management: Individuals with AD/HD may experience difficulty managing time, which can affect their ability to mark time as it passes incrementally by minutes and hours. It can also affect their ability to gauge the proper amount of time to set aside for certain tasks. It may be difficult to prepare for, or to remember, work activities that occur later in the week, month, or year.
Divide large assignments into several small tasks
Set a timer to make an alarm after assigning ample time to complete a task
Provide a checklist of assignments
Supply an electronic or handheld organizer, and train on how to use effectively
Use wall calendar to emphasize due dates
Develop a color-coded system (each color represents a task, or event, or level of importance)
Allow co-worker or supervisor to add entries on the calendar, or to double-check entries added by the employee with AD/HD
Memory: Individuals with AD/HD may experience memory deficits, which can affect their ability to complete tasks, remember job duties, or recall daily actions or activities.
Provide written instructions
Allow additional training time for new tasks
Offer training refreshers
Use a flowchart to indicate steps in a task
Provide verbal or pictorial cues
Use post-it notes as reminders of important dates or tasks
Concentration: Individuals with AD/HD may experience decreased concentration, which can be attributed to auditory distractions (that can be heard) and/or visual distractions (that can be seen). People with AD/HD report distractions such as office traffic and employee chatter, opening and closing of elevator doors, and common office noises such as fax tones and photocopying.
To reduce auditory distractions:
Purchase a noise canceling headset
Hang sound absorption panels
Provide a white noise machine
Relocate employee’s office space away from audible distractions
Redesign employee’s office space to minimize audible distractions
To reduce visual distractions:
Install space enclosures (cubicle walls)
Reduce clutter in the employee’s work environment
Redesign employee’s office space to minimize visual distractions
Relocate employee’s office space away from visual distractions
Organization and Prioritization: Individuals with AD/HD may have difficulty getting or staying organized, or have difficulty prioritizing tasks at work.
Develop color-code system for files, projects, or activities
Use weekly chart to identify daily work activities
Use the services of a professional organizer
Use a job coach to teach/reinforce organization skills
Assign a mentor to help employee
Allow supervisor to assign prioritization of tasks
Assign new project only when a previous project is complete, when possible
Provide a “cheat sheet” of high-priority activities, projects, people, etc.
Social Skills: Individuals with AD/HD may have limitations in adaptive skills, such as communicating with others, or exhibiting appropriate social skills. This might manifest itself as interrupting others when working or talking, demonstrating poor listening skills, not making eye contact when communicating, or inability to correctly read body language or understand innuendo.
Provide a job coach to help understand different social cues
Identify areas of improvement for employee in a fair and consistent manner
Make attendance at social activities optional
Use training videos to demonstrate appropriate behavior in workplace
Encourage employees to minimize personal conversation or move personal conversation away from work areas
Provide sensitivity training (disability awareness) to all employees
Encourage all employees to model appropriate social skills
Adjust the supervisory method to better fit the employee’s needs
Allow the employee to work from home
Adjust method of communication to best suit the employee’s needs
Use role-play scenarios to demonstrate appropriate behavior in workplace
Hyperactivity/Impulsivity: Individuals with AD/HD Hyperactivity-Impulsive type may exhibit over-activity or impulsive behavior. This could be disruptive to the work environment or could inhibit efficient and effective work performance.
Provide structured breaks to create an outlet for physical activity
Utilize a job coach to teach/reinforce techniques to control impulsivity
Allow the employee to work from home
Review conduct policy with employee
Adjust method of supervision to better prepare employee for feedback, disciplinary action, and other communication about job performance
Use services of EAP
Provide private workspace where employee will not disturb others by tapping, humming, or fidgeting
Multi-tasking: Individuals with AD/HD may experience difficulty performing many tasks at one time. This difficulty could occur regardless of the similarity of tasks or the frequency of performing the tasks.
Separate tasks so that each can be completed one at a time
Create a flowchart of tasks that must be performed at the same time, carefully labeling or color-coding each task in sequential or preferential order
Provide individualized/specialized training to help employee learn techniques for multi-tasking (e.g., typing on computer while talking on phone)
Identify tasks that must be performed simultaneously and tasks that can be performed individually
Provide specific feedback to help employee target areas of improvement
Remove or reduce distractions from work area
Supply ergonomic equipment to facilitate multi-tasking
Clearly represent performance standards such as completion time or accuracy rates
Paperwork: Individuals with AD/HD may experience difficulty completing paperwork efficiently and effectively. This is due in part to workplace distractions and difficulty with time management, disorganization, or prioritization.
When possible, automate paperwork by creating electronic files
Use speech recognition software to enter text or data into electronic files
Save time filling out paper forms by completing information in advance, using pre-filled forms, or adhering pre-printed stickers
Use checklists in place of writing text
Supply large quantities of regularly-used forms
Color-code forms for easy identification
Re-design commonly used forms
Use large font
Double space or triple space
Provide adequate space for hand-written response
You’ll find more appropriate accommodations in JAN’s article on Executive Function Deficits. http://askjan.org/media/execfunc.html
Attendance: Individuals may have difficulty getting to work promptly because of the varied activities, processes, and interruptions they may experience while preparing to leave their home and/or during their commute.
Allow flexible work environment:
Modified break schedule
Work from home/Flexi-place
Getting to Work on Time: Employers can have time and attendance standards for all employees. Because getting to work on time is the responsibility of the employee, the following ideas are for employees who are having trouble getting to work on time because of executive function deficits:
Have a routine of putting and keeping things in their place (keys, phone, glasses)
Prepare for the next day’s work the night before
Create a checklist for yourself and others
Place sticky notes on the door, dashboard, or wherever you will see them
Turn off distractions – including cell phones
Set a timer or a programmable watch to pace yourself
Situations and Solutions:
A journalist with AD/HD experienced sensitivity to visual and auditory distractions. The employer provided the individual with a private, high-wall cubicle workspace in a low-traffic area. The employer added an environmental sound machine to mask office noise.
A social worker with AD/HD had difficulty completing handwritten paperwork in a neat and timely fashion. The employer created electronic forms for the employee, which allowed him to type responses. The employer arranged computer files labeled by month to help the employee prioritize open cases. The employer also sent email reminders of deadlines.
An office worker with AD/HD experienced impulsivity and often interrupted co-workers by entering offices without knocking. The employer helped identify appropriate techniques for approaching co-workers, such as keeping a daily list of tasks to discuss with others, then emailing or calling to set aside time to talk about work-related projects.
A retail employee with AD/HD often forgot the closing and cash-out procedures, which resulted in missed printouts of daily sale reports. The employer created a numbered checklist that identified each step for proper closing procedures and identified which reports to run from cash registers. This accommodation benefited all employees.
A delivery person with AD/HD had difficulty with time management. She spent excessive time making deliveries and would forget to return to the warehouse between daily runs. The employer provided a personal organizer watch that could be programmed to beep and display a written message many times throughout the day. This auditory and written prompt helped the employee move quicker from task to task, and helped remind her to return to the warehouse to gather her next load.
A teacher with AD/HD experienced disorganization in her classroom due to clutter from many years of teaching. The employer provided a job coach to help the teacher learn organization techniques, to help separate and store items, and to dispose of previous student work and projects from yesteryear.
Information about JAN
Source – Job Accommodation Network – Accommodation and Compliance Series: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Retrieved December, 6, 2105 from https://askjan.org/media/adhd.html
The Job Accommodation Network is a service of U.S. DOL’s Office of Disability Employment. Article may be reprinted without copyright infringement.
JAN provides free, confidential technical assistance about job accommodations and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
JAN’s Accommodation and Compliance Series is designed to help employers determine effective accommodations and comply with Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This information provides a starting point in the accommodation process and may not address every situation. Accommodations should be made on a case by case basis, considering each employee’s individual limitations and accommodation needs.
American Psychiatric Association: Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.
EEOC Regulations To Implement the Equal Employment Provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act, as Amended, 29 C.F.R. § 1630 (2011).
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2009). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Retrieved November 17, 2011, fromhttp://www.nimh.nih.gov
On ADHD: Parent to Parent – Honor your child’s individuality while seeking solutions to challenges you face every day.
ADHD is a complex disorder that affects both individuals and their families greatly. There’s so much to know about ADHD that you might wonder just what it is that your child really needs from you. While there’s no one right way to deal with the problems you may face, you may find ideas that will work for you from other parents who have faced similar situations. These three articles offer down-to-earth and practical approaches that honor your child’s individuality while acknowledging the very real challenges in your family life.
One treasure offers 85 – Yes, ‘85 Important Facts about Raising a Child with ADHD.’ And you’re likely to use every one of them. Why? Because:
“…You will need help Face it: Everything is easier when there are people to help you.
Yes, you will be judged – This is why it’s important to surround yourself with people who understand you and who accept your child as he is.
Several ADHD kids have other problems – Whether we’re talking about learning issues, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, or problems in the autism spectrum, all these things can be tagged to an ADHD diagnostic.”
A healthy life hygiene is of utmost importance
Chips + chocolate at 10PM = catastrophe.
Lower your expectations It won’t hurt as much. No one is perfect.
Yes, having a routine is very, very important If you never liked routine, you’ll learn to love it. Your sanity depends on it…”
By Eloïse Beaulé from “FamilleTDAH,” a French-Canadian blog that talks about the daily life of a family with three children affected with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Translated by Lauren Berkley
You think your kids don’t notice when you forget what they’re going through and lose your patience with them? ‘What my Son with ADHD would Like Grownups to Know’ records what Heather LeRoss finally understood what it meant to her son to have ADHD. He had more than a few things to say, but here’s a sample.
“I want people to know I feel like they don’t like how I am. I want Daddy to know I am not stupid and it hurts my feelings when he says, ‘Are you dumb?’ I want you to know I don’t like it when you yell.”
“I just want it to stop. The yelling, comparing me to other kids that are ‘normal.’ How people tense up sometimes when I just walk into the room. I want people to say I am nice and funny and good at drawing. And not follow it with, ‘If only he could focus like that in other areas.’ I just want to feel like it’s OK to be me.”
Dealing with ADHD isn’t easy. But others have gone before and are willing to share their experiences and expertise. You can survive the challenge, but don’t go it alone. If you can, join a support group. Make friends with fellow parents you meet at school or in the Doctor or therapist’s office. If these avenues aren’t possible, follow reputable websites, blogs, social media or join an on-line organization that will keep you informed and offer encouragement. Your goal is to let your child know that they are loved and that they are worthy – That it’s Okay to just be themselves.