So many adults with Attention Deficit Disorder find themselves chronically OVERWHELMED with every day life. This means that they wake up feeling like they are running behind on all the things they need to do, spend the whole day on high speed in order to get all those things done, and yet still go to bed most nights feeling like they never got anywhere. Or, they spend the day in a fog, constantly aware of all the things on that to-do list, but never mustering up the MOTIVATION to tackle the tasks. This leaves them feeling unorganized, unproductive, unhappy, lazy, guilty, and...the list goes on.
I used to be one of those people. Constantly overwhelmed and always disorganized. Through dedication, hard work, and lots of time and PRACTICE, I've gotten to a place in my life where I know how to manage my Attention Deficit Disorder. Today I'd like to share the SKILLS I have learned with you:
KNOW YOUR OWN A.D.D.
Attention Deficit Disorder affects us all in different ways. You can't effectively manage Attention Deficit Disorder without being aware of the specific ways in which it AFFECTS you, and the specific ways in which your challenges are triggered. But also identify the natural modalities in which you are able to sustain FOCUS will make your personal and professional lives much easier.
Folks with Attention Deficit Disorder frequently report feeling like they are in "high speed" throughout the day -- mentally and physically. It's extremely hard to make PROGRESS when operating in this mode. Learning how to SLOW down may take some time, but the benefits are well worth it. Try meditating, sitting quietly, or taking a peaceful walk by yourself. Just 5 minutes a day will make a difference -- then increase your down time as the practice becomes more comfortable.
REFRAIN FROM USING ABSOLUTES
Have you ever told a partner "You're ALWAYS late!" or complained to a friend "You NEVER call me!"? Thinking and speaking in absolutes like 'always' and 'never' makes the situation seem worse than it is, and programs your brain into believing that certain people are incapable of delivering.
SQUASH THE ANTS
In his book "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life”, Dr. Daniel Amen talks about "ANTS" - Automatic Negative Thoughts. These are the bad thoughts that are usually reactionary, like "Those people are laughing, they must be talking about me," or "The boss wants to see me? It must be bad!" When you notice these thoughts, REALIZE that they are nothing more than ants and squash them!
WRITE IT DOWN
Transfer the thoughts from your brain onto PAPER -- in the form of a to-do list, an email to a supportive person in your life, or a journal entry. When the thoughts are recorded, there is no need for your brain to hold on to them, cluttering up your mind. And if you feel weighed down by a situation, writing about it can help you get a better grip on the events, how you feel, and what you might have done DIFFERENTLY.
USE PATTERN INTERRUPTS
RUMINATION is like hyper-focus on something negative. It's never productive, because it's not rational or solution-oriented, it's just excessive worry. If you find yourself ruminating, a great way to stop it is to interrupt the pattern and force yourself to do something completely DIFFERENT. Try changing your physical environment -- go for a walk or sit outside. You could also call a friend, pick up a book, or turn on some music.
SAY IT OUT LOUD
Many people with Attention Deficit Disorder are "VERBAL processors." This means that we often work through thoughts and feelings by talking them out. It helps to have an objective person to talk to, who can mirror your thoughts and talk them out with you. However, the very act of TALKING is often what does the trick, so having someone to talk to isn't always necessary. Many people find that talking into a tape recorder suits their needs. Others talk to plants or animals. (I talk to my dog so much that I'm surprised she doesn't talk back by now!)
Life should be about more than to-do lists! What do you love to do? Paint, sing, visit the theatre, rock climb? Schedule in regular time to indulge in the activities that you are PASSIONATE about. It will help keep you happy, positive, and motivated! And by increasing social activity, you decrease LONELINESS. Surround yourself with healthy, happy people, and their positive energy will affect you in a positive way!
Some people with Attention Deficit Disorder can clear mental clutter by moving. Something as simple as a 10-minute walk can give the brain a needed JOLT. Others may find that they feel free of extraneous thoughts after a visit to the gym. The time alone combined with the PHYSICAL activity proves to be a successful formula for some folks with Attentiona Deficit Disorder to work through their mental clutter.
LOOK AT THE BRIGHT SIDE
Your thoughts can't hold any power over you if you don't JUDGE them. If you notice yourself having a negative thought, detach from it, witness it, and don't follow it. And make an effort to focus on the POSITIVE. Stresses and challenges don't seem quite as bad when you are constantly reminding yourself of the things that are right in life. Taking just 60 seconds a day to stop and appreciate the good things will make a huge difference.
PRACTICE EXCELLENT SELF-CARE
People with Attentiona Deficit Disorder are prone to putting themselves LAST. Why is this? How will you ever "get it together" if you don't dedicate time and energy to yourself? Eat right, exercise, and get enough rest -- we hear it all the time for good reason! These are the BASICS that our bodies and minds need to stay fit. Making even small changes in these areas will increase your energy levels and ability to focus. Please talk to your doctor if you need some guidance in these areas.
PLAN THE TIME TO PLAN...EVERYTHING
Planning doesn't always come easily to people with Attentiona Deficit Disorder. Developing tools and SYSTEMS for planning will streamline organization and time management, but you have to take it one step further and plan the time to use them.
This doesn't refer to speed racing or skydiving! It refers to stepping outside your COMFORT zone and doing things that may be uncomfortable, like asking for that raise, taking up that new hobby, or pursuing that life-long passion. If you don't take the risk, you won't get the REWARD.
FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS
Everyone has strengths, skills, talents, and passions. Increasing the time you spend on these good things will increase both your self-esteem and your HAPPINESS. Make a list of all your accomplishments, things you do well, and things you like to do. You can also keep a journal or notebook in which you detail all your daily SUCCESSES.
USE BITE-SIZED CHUNKS
When you plan to tackle a task, you break it down into simple STEPS that make it less overwhelming. Let's say that you have a cluttered closet to clean out. If you dive in, you may become completely overwhelmed, not know where to begin, and give up in disgust -- then feel GUILTY! Before you ever open the closet door, set aside 15 minutes that you can use to write down some steps:
Jennifer Koretsky is a Professional ADD Management Coach who helps adults manage their ADD and move forward in life. She encourages clients to increase self-awareness, focus on strengths and talents, and create realistic action plans. She offers a 90-day intensive skill-building program, workshops, and private coaching. Visit her website at www.addmanagement.com.
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