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.
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
As an adult with ADHD, you know that it is much easier to follow through on tasks that interest you. So, of course, the more of these you can have on your plate the better.
But the reality is we all have tasks we don’t want to do, and for one reason or another they still need to be on our plate. We can’t delegate, barter, drop or defer these tasks. We need to do them. Now!
Obviously, these are also the tasks that we are most likely to procrastinate on starting, never mind completing.
And, while we are dragging our feet on these tasks, they still take up a great deal of our mental time and energy. Consider the following statements as they relate to a taskyou are putting off.
While I really don’t want to do (fill in the blank), I am thinking about it a lot, even worrying about it.
And thoughts of it will pop into my head at random times, distracting me from tending to my task(s) at hand.
I will likely be behind the eight ball when I eventually get around to it, and will need to put aside everything else to get it done.
Another day. Another fire drill!
So, how do we follow through on those tasks that having us screaming, “I don’t wanna!!!”
What About The Task Turns You Off?
First, figure out what about the task turns you off. Here are some possibilities:
It bores me. Simple as that.
It takes too much time and energy because it is hard for me.
It is not important to me.
I have too many other tasks on my list… “Take a number and fall to the back of the line” is what comes to mind when I think of this task.
My other reasons are…
Once you’ve figured out why you don’t want to do a task, the next step is to figure out what you can do to follow through on those tasks that must fall on your plate.
Because often it is the not deciding and not doing that can contribute significantly to your feelings of overwhelm.
Activating the Reward System
Then, take into consideration the other challenges that may be getting in your way. An understanding of the process that happens in the brain’s Reward System is a good place to start.
In simplified terms:
We make choices and prioritize goals when a sensory stimulus is sent and processed in the brain indicating a reward is on the way.
When a reward is anticipated, dopamine is released to various parts of the brain, which activates our motor functions, attention and memory pathway. (When the memory of this stimulus and associated reward is in place, we will be more likely to tackle the task next time.)
When the reward is concrete, it is easy to do something because we are motivated by the obvious anticipated reward. But here is what may happen when you think about doing the report you dread that is due in two days:
♦ As you look at the bathroom, you think, “I should clean the bathroom. Then I’ll do the report.”
♦ Then when you sit down at the computer, a notification from Facebook comes in. “Facebook, take me away from all of this…. I need a break before I start the report.”
♦ “Wow. Look at all those emails. I really need to answer those before doing the report!”
When deciding to clean the bathroom, look at FB or plow through your emails the stimulus is right in front of you and the reward is immediate. Because the reward for doing the report is not so obvious or immediate, it is harder to make the connection at the moment.
In this simplified version, you can see that your motivation to do a task is related to the immediacy of the reward when all is working as it should be in the Reward System of the brain.
Remembering Your “Why”
True enough. It is important for everyone to make the connection between doing a task that may not be intrinsically interesting and the potential rewards.
Here are some possible starting points:
I want to be successful at my job and doing reports is just part of the gig.
These reports are important to have the data we need to make good business decisions.
The reports actually aren’t that important to me, but I want to be a dependable team player. And Bob really needs these reports…
But you need to have a visceral connection to the payoff, not just an intellectual connection. That is, you want to be able to really feel and see the reward in all colors of the rainbow. To do this you will need to go one step further.
For example, you might want to think about having a visual cue (pictures, quotes totems, etc.) to help you remember what it will feel like when you are successful; you can look at this item in those moments when you think, “I don’t wanna!”
Now you are thinking, “Ok, got it, Marla. I have to make the connection between the task and the reward. But I don’t think that is going to be enough…”
You are right!
Along with a weak working memory, it is believed that there is not enough dopamine in the ADHD Brain to carry out the processes in the Reward System, particularly motor functions and attending.
So, even when you can really feel the reward of a task that does not interest you may still:
feel like you are standing in cement.
avoid it – not do it or think about it.
Not to despair, though. You’ll just have to incorporate a few more workarounds in order to get going.
Knowing Why Is Not Enough
Yes, it is important to acknowledge that there are going to be times you are bored. It happens. And remember that your particular brain chemistry makes it harder than for neurotypical people
Be that as it may, you can still be proactive in meeting the challenge of doing these type of tasks by having a few strategies ready to employ when you feel resistance to doing a task you need to do. Here are a few options:
making a game out of a task, such as “beat the clock.”
setting a timer for the amount of time you think you can tolerate working on a particular task.
timing when you do a boring task to when you take your stimulant medication.
taking a break and doing something else. Then coming back to the task when you have more energy
taking notes during meetings to keep your attention.
using a fidget toy help keep you on task.
What other strategies have you used?
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
Getting started and following through on tasks that are not immediately interesting for you is harder for Adults with ADHD.
But taking the above steps, and getting the support you need, can make it easier!
Connect your work with your deepest goals and values.
By Kari Miller
If poor concentration, inconsistent follow-through and a feeling of being overwhelmed get in your way, you’ll want to improve your workplace productivity. Make changes that guarantee you complete priority tasks to increase your income and give you more free time for yourself and your family.
Do any of these sound familiar to you?
You easily get sidetracked, jumping from task to task or thought to thought.
When you think about a big project it feels overwhelming and you can’t figure out how to get started, so you just put it off.
You schedule more things in a day than you can get done and consistently underestimate how long it will take to accomplish things – which means you’re always running behind.
You spend time looking for things that seem to be misplaced only to find them right in front of you.
Despite feeling constantly “busy,” you never seem to be “productive.”
You feel more clear-headed, alert and focused when you drink coffee or soda, or smoke cigarettes.
Tips to managing overwhelm at work
If you are dealing with these signs of workplace overload, you’ll want to put the following workplace productivity tips into action.
Remove the “clutter” from your surroundings
One key to better concentration is to limit the distractions around you. Start by choosing one important thing you are going to work on NOW. Make a commitment to do this one task to the best of your ability. Write the name of the task on a post it note and stick the note up on your computer or desk, right in front of you so you can’t miss it. Clear all unnecessary things from your desk. Close unneeded computer programs. Put the task “in the spotlight” so it grabs your attention!
Remove the “clutter” from your mind
There’s an old saying, “garbage in, garbage out.” In this case it means that productivity is the result of mental clarity. There are many things you can do Evaluate your patterns in the following areas and look for ways to improve your basic health and to sharpen your mental acuity.
If you are not exercising every day your body is not adequately eliminating toxins, and these toxins are clouding your mind.
If your diet does not contain adequate nutrients, your mind is paying the price in terms of concentration and memory.
The brain is 75% water and functions by conducting electrical impulses. Your mind will function more quickly and smoothly if your body is properly hydrated.
If sleep is a problem for you, it may help to relax your nervous system for at least an hour every night before turning off the light.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to calm your body so your mind can rest:
take a warm shower or bath
use soothing smells such as lavender either as a lotion or potpourri
put on soothing music or a favorite DVD, lie down, close your eyes and just listen
learn reiki or chakra meditation techniques to take control of your body’s energy system
If you are not giving your body the things it needs to run smoothly, your workplace productivity will suffer. Commit to making changes that will support your body’s ability to do its job smoothly and efficiently or you’ll suffer from “garbage out”!!!
Make changes in your physical environment
There are several ways you can plan your environment to improve your concentration, follow through and productivity. Figure out how you work best in terms of the arrangement of furniture, the kind of chair you use, the lighting and the temperature.
Include movement as a natural element to your work routine. Great ways to do this include alternating sitting with standing or walking. Get an extension for your telephone and attach a headset so you can get up and move around while you talk on the phone. Stand on a balance board while working. This stimulates the attention control center of the brain.
Create “flexible workstations.” Set up two locations outfitted for work and alternate between them every hour or so. This will stimulate your mind and improve concentration. One of your stations can be a high table where you stand while working. You can stand on the balance board at this station, stimulating your nervous system for better attention and concentration.
Shine a spotlight on your values and goals
The most powerful productivity strategy is to connect your work with your deepest goals and values. Find a way to connect what you are doing now to your most cherished beliefs. Find the deep and profound “why” of every task.
For example, if paperwork is boring to you but people really matter to you, find creative ways to remember that you do the paperwork in order to benefit people. This is even stronger if you connect the benefits of doing paperwork to one specific person who you truly care about. Try it, it really helps!
It takes some practice to remember to think of the deep connection and value you bring by completing boring tasks, but with practice, you’ll find you are less resistant to boring tasks and take more pride in accomplishing them!
Display reminders of your values and goals in your environment. Set out pictures of your loved ones to remind yourself how much your work supports their lives. Post inspirational pictures and quotes, much like a vision board to keep you on track to achieving what matters most to you! Keep the items that connect you to your goals in plain sight so they motivate and inspire you to concentrate and get more done!
If workplace overwhelm is not the whole story
If your thoughts race from topic to topic and you constantly feel overwhelmed, even in situations other than work, you may be facing more wide-ranging issues that affect other aspects of your life. If getting things done at work is only one of the struggles you are facing, you may be one of the millions of women living with undiagnosed ADHD.
There are more myths and misinformation about ADHD than most other conditions. ADHD is a biochemical condition affecting the chemical makeup of the brain. It is not a choice and it is not a character flaw. ADHD can’t be caused by poor diet, working too hard or having a stressful life.
If you have ADHD and are not actively managing it, your entire life is affected. There are many strategies that can help women who are living with ADHD. The first step is to get more information about the signs of ADHD in women. Begin right now to take charge.
Take one these screening tests for ADHD to see if you have symptoms associated with ADHD. If you are concerned, get educated and seek diagnosis to get effective treatment. For more news on the issues facing women with ADHD, see ADDvance.com with Katleen Nadeau, Ph.D. and Patricia Quinn, M.D.
Originally published as: “Productivity in the Workplace: Tips for Concentrating and Getting More Done” by Kari Miller – As an ADHD coach and board certified educational therapist, Dr. Kari helps women conquer their biggest ADHD challenges. She assists women in getting focused, organized, and motivated so they get unstuck, finish what they start, and accomplish more every day! Dr. Miller capitalizes on her expertise as a learning specialist to help women find unique and exciting strategies for managing their ADHD challenges. Through her group and individual coaching programs and online supportive community, she encourages and inspires women to set their sights high and make big changes in their lives! www.ADHDclearandfocused.com Kari.Miller.firstname.lastname@example.org
“Image courtesy of Marcolm/FreeDigitalPhotos.net” – Modified on Canva.
(Note: Many links return to other articles by Marla Cummins on her site.)
For adults with ADHD not being able to remember your intentions is what can sometimes get in the way of following through.
I know from plenty of personal experience with forgetting everything from the mundane to the important it can be really frustrating.
But, rather than berate yourself because you think you should have a better memory, you can adopt workarounds to help you remember what you need and minimize your frustration.
Below I’ve curated a lengthy list of possible options you can apply to the various situations in your life. And, if you can think of more, please share below.
Short Term and Long Term Memory
First, a little bit about why you may have such a hard time remembering information at the time you need it.
One reason is that short term (working) memory is often weak in adults with ADHD.
That is, you may not hold information long enough to follow through on it. So, you say to yourself, “I need to drop off that folder at Joe’s office before I leave.” Then you turn around to get your jacket, pack up and forget about the folder. All within the span of a few minutes!
Because you do not hold onto information long enough it also does not enter your long term memory. So, it is lost to you until Bill says to you, “Hey, Lisa, I didn’t get that email you said you would send when I saw you in the hall yesterday.”
Challenges with long term memory are also common for adults with ADHD.
This can mean that 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!
Also, you may have difficulty recalling informationwhen you need it. You go to the meeting and can’t remember all the details of the report you want to share.
Bottom line. Your memory, like mine, may be more like Swiss Cheese than a trap door. That is ok, as long as you use some of the methods below to help you remember what you need when you need it.
Remembering What You Want
Paper Based Task Managers– If you are looking for a comprehensive paper-based system to manage your to-dos, try the Planner Pad.
Their webpage is oudated, but don’t be discouraged. See this article about why to use it.
Put It Where You Can Do Something About It– For example, when you have books to return to the library, clothes to donate, etc. put them in the car where you can see them. That way you can take care of them when you are out and about. Could save you an extra trip.
Just Do It!– If a task is going to take you less than 2 minutes (literally), it may be worth it to just do it rather than trying to figure out how you are going to remember to do it later. Of course, you want to be careful that doing that task doesn’t take you away from what your primary intention in the moment.
Put It In Your Calendar– You calendar contains the hard landscape of your life. A commitment for a specific day and/or time should go in your calendar. Right away. Even if it is tentative, put it in your calendar and mark it as “tentative” until you can confirm it. That way you will not double-book.
You can find more tips on using your calendar here.
Post It Where You Can See It– Maybe you want daily reminders of how you want to be or what you want to achieve. Whether it is a quote, list or vision board to visually illustrate your hopes and dreams, post it in a prominent place where you are most likely to see it regularly.
Tie It To Another Habit– It is always easier to remember to do something if you can tie it to an already well-established habit. For example, if you are trying to remember to take your meds, put them by your toothbrush.
A Plain Piece Of White Paper– I’ll admit this isn’t the most environmentally sound option. But it is one I use every day. Write the 3-5 tasks you are committed doing each day on a piece of paper and put it where you will see it (middle of your desk, taped to your monitor, on the wall, etc).
Weekly Review– To offset the pull of immediate gratification, the weekly review is the time when you assess where you are vis -a- vis your projects and goals in your various areas of focus, as well as plan the next action steps. By doing this on a weekly basis you can be confident you are remembering your important stuff and time is not just slipping away.
Post A List– When you notice you are out of something, immediately put it on a list that you leave on your fridge or other easily accessible place. That way you won’t worry about trying to remember it when you get around to creating your grocery / errand list.
Read It Later!– We all know what a “time suck” the internet can be. And it may be that you are pulled to reading something immediately because you don’t think you will remember to read it later. Try an application like Instapaper, Readability or Pocket to save articles you come across. And then you can refocus on your original intention.
Electronic Notebook– An electronic notebook, like OneNote or EverNote, is great place to keep track of and remember all of your random ideas from project planning to lists.
Send Yourself A Message– When you are out and about and something suddenly comes to mind, rather than assume you will remember it later, call, text or email yourself a message. But don’t wait. You know those ideas can be fleeting. Well, at least for me…
Set An Alarm– Use an alarm to remind yourself of appointments. Since transitions can be a challenge, you may want to set two alarms. The first alarm will remind you to stop what you are doing and get ready. The second will be the reminder that it is time to go!
I suggest you don’t use alarms to remind yourself of tasks unless you are committed to doing it at fixed time. Because, if the reminder goes off when you can’t do anything about it, you will learn to ignore those alarms. And they will just become background noise…
Wake up and Reminder Services– You may tend to ignore your alarm, but I’ll bet you find it hard to ignore a phone ringing. Telephone reminder services like Wakerupper or Wakeupland can help get you out of bed or to your appointments on time.
Tracking– In the beginning just remembering the habits you are trying to build can be the hardest part to following through on them. Tracking your progress is a good way to remember.
And an app, like Beeminder, may be the extra support you need. As you track your goals, they will plot your progress on a yellow brick road and if you go off track they take your money!
Meeting Notes– Taking notes during meetings will help you pay attention as well as have the information you need for later. Just as important is reviewing and taking action on your notes soon after.
ADHD Coach– If you are working with an ADHD Coach, take advantage of the accountability support as you are trying to build new habits and makes changes.
Launching Pad– Create a launching pad by the door where you put everything (purse, briefcase, etc.) you need for the next day. You could carve out a small space or use a small table for your launching pad.
Put Your Keys In The Refrigerator– To remember your lunch put your keys with it in the refrigerator.
Share Your Tips
How do you get out of your head and remember what you need when you need it?
The workplace has become a very challenging place, even for neurotypicals. Maybe it’s always been this way, but with the speed that things happen today, increased expectations from bosses and clients and worldwide competition for your job, it certainly seems more stressful than ever. If you have adult ADHD, you add a big bunch of extra challenges to the mix:
• Inattentiveness and lack of focus can lead to missed details, and make it challenging to accomplish work that requires concentration at the best of times,
• Forgetfulness has very likely already led to more than one missed commitment and the resulting loss of credibility,
• Disorganization has you feeling overwhelmed, distracted and jumping from one task to another,
• Procrastination leads to last-minute, gun-to-the-head, high-stress production to meet deadlines, causing you great stress,
• Or you play the hero, pitching in to put out other people’s fires while your own work goes undone,
• and more.
These extra challenges make the workplace a veritable minefield of reprimands and disappointments, but what can you do about it?
The obvious answer, and the one most experts provide, is that “You should ask for accommodations at work.” That sounds simple, doesn’t it? Accommodations have been proven to help, and it’s likely they would help you, but there’s a little problem. How can you ask for and get accommodations unless you disclose your ADHD at work? And as we know, there are risks associated with that.
So what can you do? There are ways of asking for accommodations without disclosing your ADHD.
If you don’t feel it’s safe to disclose your ADHD at work, or if you’d just rather not, you’ll be happy to hear there’s a “formula” that will help you to ask for “accommodations” without outing yourself. Use this model “script” to write down what you’d like to say, adapted to your specific circumstances, practice and use again and again with success:
Step 1. Describe your specific struggle and the circumstances surrounding it. Step 2. Describe a possible solution you’ve thought of. Step 3. Describe the benefits your boss, your co-workers and you will get from implementing this solution. WIIFY & M (What’s in it for you and me.)
For example, if there’s too much noise in your cubicle farm and you feel you’d be able do a better job preparing a particularly challenging report that you need to do regularly if you had a quiet place to do your work, you would apply the three steps as follows:
Step 1. Describe your specific struggle: Say something like, “I really struggle to stay focused on the XYZ reports because of all the noise in office.” Step 2. Describe a possible solution: “I’ve thought of one possible solution: when I work on these reports, would it be possible for me to use a closed office, conference room, or to work from home?” Step 3. Describe the benefits: “This will help me get it done much faster, so Joe can get started on his part sooner, and I’ll complete it with fewer or no mistakes so it’ll reduce the time you spend double-checking everything.”
You’ve done a good job of selling the solution by pointing out the benefits to all, it doesn’t sound like you’re whining… and no one mentioned ADHD!
So the formula is:
Specific struggle / Circumstances + Solution (aka Accommodation) + What’s in it for all?
“Job accommodation means modifying a job, job site, or the way in which a job is done so that the person with a disability can have equal access to all aspects of work.” (1)
Job accommodations may also include the use of tools such as headsets, assistive technology, training, job restructuring, job reassignments or even an administrative assistant.
One of my clients, an administrative assistant, had to review all of her supervisors’ direct reports’ expense reports once a week. This was tedious work that required a lot of focus and some quiet uninterrupted time. The challenge she faced was that she was expected to answer the phone at the same time, which led to numerous mistakes. Here’s the script she used:
Step 1. “I’m really struggling with reviewing your direct reports’ expenses. The challenge is that each time I answer the phone, I lose track of where I was before the call. This leads to missing details or making mistakes.” Step 2. “I know that I need two or three hours of uninterrupted time when I am most focused to ensure I don’t make these mistakes. I’ve found a possible solution: Could Carol take my phone calls on Tuesday mornings so that I can do the work uninterrupted?” Step 3. “With this solution in place, I’ll be able to dramatically reduce mistakes and make sure all the receipts are there and accounted for. This will prevent you from getting calls from the Accounting Department or the company paying out more than allowed by receipts. With fewer interruptions, I may even be able to get it done faster.”
Her supervisor thought it was an excellent idea and allowed the phone call transfers so my client was able to complete this work without mistakes. And they all lived happily ever after!
“By Linda Walker. Linda Walker, PCC, B. Admin., is a certified ADHD Coach who helps adults with ADHD overcome the special challenges of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) they encounter at home and in the workplace. She is the creator of The Maximum Productivity Makeover for Creative Geniuses, a training program for adults with ADHD and the author of With Time to Spare. http://www.CoachLindaWalker.com.”
One of the top reasons adults with ADHD are reprimanded at work or lose their jobs is for what is perceived as bad behavior. Adults with ADHD are very familiar with their issues with productivity, but ADHDers often struggle to control their emotions. You may ruminate more than most people, become defensive and overreact in the face of real or imagined criticism, become easily frustrated and blurt out your feelings (once again asking yourself, “Oops! Did I say that out loud?”)
ADHD Makes Me Lose Control
ADHD affects your brain’s executive functions, one of which is to control frustration and other emotions. You may also enjoy the stimulation of an extreme emotion. Many ADHDers I know seek or create situations where emotions run high because it keeps their mind focused on what’s going on. My husband often says that while it’s not listed as an ADHD symptom, it should be! ADHDers are “drama addicts”! Finally, you may have scars from numerous reprimands and put downs that make you more vulnerable to negative thoughts.
Controlling Your Emotions Starts With Taking Care of Your Physical Needs
You may remember the recent candy bar commercial where the late, great Robin Williams played a football coach (with his typical manic impersonations of numerous characters) before transforming into the actual football coach once he’d eaten this candy bar. The message that “you’re not yourself when you’re hungry,” applies very well to ADHDers. I quickly notice how much more emotionally charged conversations are in our house when one of the ADHDers I live with is hungry or has not slept well the night before. Exercise also helps you manage stress better, so skipping your regular workout makes you more susceptible to feeling frustrated.
Become Familiar with Your Internal Workings
You can help gain control over your emotions by learning how they work. And I’m not referring to “theoretical” knowledge you’d get from a book; I mean you need to take the time after an emotional outburst to think through what happened. What triggered the event, what was your reaction, and why were the results negative? You can then plan ahead by considering how you could have responded that would have had a different result so that you can better manage it the next time. This is a huge challenge for many ADHDers who, once the emotion has quieted down, don’t pay attention to it, other than to wonder how they can make amends for saying or doing what they just did.
However, if you can practice analyzing your emotional outbursts, you may need to apologize far less often. I know many ADHDers find rehearsed “scripts” that may or may not involve speaking very useful. One of the most common such scripts that everyone has been taught at some point is, “If I feel I’m going to say something I might regret, I’ll count to 10.” The problem is always how to know an outburst is coming before it’s too late (more on that in a minute.)
Techniques such as mindfulness can also be helpful. Mindfulness is not about contemplating your navel; rather, it’s about being present in the moment, engaging all your senses and feeling what’s going on now. What you want to review are:
1) What event triggered your emotional blow-up?
2) What sensation did you feel in your body shortly before the emotional outburst occurred?
Was there tension in your shoulders? Did you feel something in the pit of your stomach? Did your breathing or heart rate change? Paying attention to these signs can be very helpful for managing your emotions in the future. The next time you start feeling those sensations, you’ll be better able to predict and possibly prevent an imminent blow-up.
3) What emotion did you feel? Was it fear? Anger? Jealousy? Outrage? Sadness? At first blush, they all appear as, “I was just mad.” However, you want to hone in on the true source of the emotion you perceived as “mad.” This will shed light on the thoughts the event triggered.
4) What were you thinking? Events trigger thoughts, which trigger emotions. What belief is at the root of the thought? For example, your boss may look at you one day with a strange look on her face. You might think to yourself, “I’ve done something wrong, she’s going to fire me” and begin to feel anxious. This feeling will cause a lot of tension in your shoulders and a lump in the pit of your stomach, thinking that you’ll probably be raked over the coals. You start telling yourself things like “I’m always making mistakes or saying the wrong thing.”
How you can control the outburst at work: Crafting a Game Plan
It’s always better to craft a game plan for those emotional outbursts that happen often while you’re not emotionally volatile. The best way to control your emotions is to be aware of triggers and clues that you’re losing your cool and to have a plan of how you’ll deal with these triggers when the clues show up. Most of us have a few options when events make us emotional.
1) You can react: This is, of course, what you’ve been doing and you might want to change it since it is exactly what’s gotten you into trouble.
2) You can remove yourself from the situation: You can create a “script” to explain why you need to remove yourself; prepare it in advance.
3) You can let itgo: As you become better at controlling your emotions, this will become an option that’s open to you.
4) You can prepare a response ahead of time: This requires forethought. Take some time to analyze past experiences for clues. Once you have identified a few clues to help you predict an imminent emotional outburst, you can craft a game plan for managing your emotions BEFORE they occur. Become sensitive to the clues that something is about to happen and decide how you’ll handle things the next time these clues appear. The nice part is that you can even ask for help in preparing your game plan from someone who has more experience and more success dealing with people. You may want to practice your response in front of the mirror or with the person helping you, as long as they are someone who has your back and is willing to help you.
Your game plan may look like this:
• When I notice myself feeling overwhelmed, I’ll take two deep breaths. As soon as I feel the tension dropping, I’ll make a list of what needs to get done and if needed, I’ll talk to my boss to determine priorities.
• When I notice that I’m clenching my jaw and my fists and I know I’m close to losing my cool, I’ll tell people “I need a bit of time to think about this; I’ll get back to you later.” or you can simply use an excuse to walk away so that you can “regroup.”
By Linda Walker. Linda Walker, PCC, B. Admin., is a certified ADHD Coach who helps adults with ADHD overcome the special challenges of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) they encounter at home and in the workplace. She is the creator of The Maximum Productivity Makeover for Creative Geniuses, a training program for adults with ADHD and the author of With Time to Spare. http://www.CoachLindaWalker.com