Overcoming the challenges of ADHD/ADD. Hello! My name is Laurie Dupar and I welcome to the Coaching for ADHD website. I'm ADHD Expert/Author/Speaker/Coach. I help those with ADHD and their loved ones see the positive qualities of ADHD. To mentor coaches in this philosophy so that they too can contribute in helping others in a positive way.
This blog is going to be a bit more personal. And, I know this isn’t going to work if I’m not completely honest.
I had a terrific start to 2019…I completely rocked January! I cut sugar and white food out of my diet and I’m sleeping a good 8 hours each night. But with the start of March, I need help with one of my other goals for 2019. Specifically exercising. So I’m reaching out to all of you…my tribe.
You see I know myself pretty well. I know I don’t want to let you down. You are one of my biggest motivators. So, I figured I’d approach this as if you are my virtual accountability partner. Starting with being honest with you and myself. It doesn’t work otherwise.
So here goes.
I haven’t exercised purposefully in almost two years. Gulp.
Despite my love of productivity and getting stuff done, I have yet to strap one of those steps monitoring Fitbits to my wrist. In complete honesty, I would be embarrassed to know how few steps I actually take during the day. In truth, I’m feeling pretty disappointed with myself.
Sure, there was a polar vortex in early February here in the Pacific Northwest, which left inches of snow on the ground. However, I knew when I moved here that normal weather in my beloved state of Washington is wet and cold and often windy. You don’t need sun to take a walk. And I have a great umbrella collection to choose from even if it does rain.
When I lived in California it was much easier to get inspired to go for a walk…that was until it was too hot. And my two furry four-legged friends were always so happy and motivating when I pulled out their leashes. But times change and I’m in-between wagging tails as motivators at the moment.
For the majority of the last two years, I have lived at the top of one of those infamous Seattle hillsides (think San Francisco). Starting a walk going downhill is OK, but realizing that I would be scaling the same hill going up at the end of my walk paralyzed me. Yet avoiding hills isn’t making it any better.
Moving this month has certainly convinced me of the need to work on my endurance and strength. Climbing three flights of stairs to carry my belongings to my new abode has humbled me beyond words. And I will admit that I am considering putting off the 10,000 steps goal even longer, rationalizing that my body needs to recover.
And yet I know that before I could say “AttentionDeficitHyperactivityDisorder”…March will be here…and I will still not have made any progress towards my fitness goal. And I really want to explore my new town!
I know what this means. It means that I need to take a spoonful of my own advice. My exercise goal right now is too big. It’s a problem of mine at times. Setting big hairy audacious goals. I usually meet them head on. But this is different.
10,00 steps a day…everyday…feels too big. Even once a week to start with feels pretty big. I need to make it smaller…break it down…take only a bite…or a few steps.
I’ve done this before. When my youngest daughter was born, I knew that the only way to keep up with my four children was to be in shape. At that time I was either walking or on a stair climber for an hour a day. Three years ago, my oldest daughter got married and I wanted her to be proud of me when I walked her down the aisle. Again, I walked, building up my endurance to over 3 miles a day.
The thing I always forget is that I need to start small. So I am going back to my roots. I am going to start with exercising 10 minutes a day…for 40 days and go from there.
There can be real magic in a ten-minute goal. I can do just about anything for ten minutes. And ten minutes a day adds up in a way that is truly amazing. At the end of 40 days that would be 400 minutes or 6 hour and 6ish minutes of exercise I wouldn’t have otherwise done. And who knows, maybe I will go beyond that minimum goal, and it’ll add up to even more.
I’m also going to allow myself to be generous with what exercise means as I start out. Exercise means literally any movement I wouldn’t have otherwise done. Since I currently could spend easily 10 hours a day in my office working, just about anything that involves moving for health counts.
Forty days is April 9th.
I’m hoping you’ll help keep me to my word. I’ll let you know how it’s going in my next newsletter…how I’m doing. If you want to give it a go with me, you can add that into the comment section below.
Over time, people with ADHD have learned to suppress some of the most fun aspects of their individuality.
Most of us start as children without any inhibition of expressing our uniqueness. We dress up in flamboyant costumes and parade around the neighborhood. Sing at the top of our lungs to our favorite songs. Color outside the lines…on the paper, on the ground, on the walls. Make up and tell vivid imaginative stories. Run fast, jump high, and dance with abandon. We proudly express our offbeat traits and preferences with the world as children. And then we grow up.
As we age, cultural and societal norms creep in that unintentionally confine and marginalize our authentic expression. Instead of living our lives enriched by our quirky creative impulses, we begin to seek out more acceptable outlets and often take great pains to downplay those amazing eccentricities often deemed odd by others. We may not even realize that we are limiting ourselves in this way. And so over time, we learn to suppress some of the most fun, unique and lovable aspects of our ADHD selves.
So how do we rediscover and embrace these now buried or forgotten parts of ourselves?
Two simple steps:
Ask yourself — What would I do if I knew that no one would judge my choices or actions?
Visualize how this would look in your life. Do this without self-judgment and without the judgment from others. When you give yourself permission to imagine this, you better understand and appreciate the forgotten expressions that are an important part of who you are.
Maybe you secretly dream of replacing your current, conservative clothing with a changing array of costumes…or at least wearing clothes that reflect your personality. Perhaps you envision yourself driving a car that you have painted with murals or inspirational sayings spreading positive energy. Or you see yourself hugging the trees in a local park thanking them for their shade. What about singing joyously as you grocery shop? Taking up an exciting hobby like fire spinning or skydiving?
Do you see yourself breaking out in dance or expressing yourself with a fun hair color? Lying on the grass one afternoon watching clouds shaped like animals float by?
Whatever the nature of your musings, ask yourself what is really stopping you from including these authentic expressions into your life. Don’t be surprised if your creative ADHD imagination takes you in unexpected directions. And, when it does…embrace it! Set the intention to incorporate at least one of them into your everyday being.
Life as we know it is so short. Making the most of it is a matter of being ourselves even though we know we will inevitably encounter people who disapprove of our choices or misunderstand our self-expression.
But remember, disapproval doesn’t make it or you wrong. Far from it.
When you express yourself like no one is watching (or judging), you will discover that there are others with ADHD who appreciate you because you are willing to let go. When you do this you help others know it is okay for them to do it too.
Living with ADHD means that no one else in the world is exactly like you. You are born with your own unique way of expressing yourself. Isn’t it time to embrace this and recommit yourself to the celebration of your individuality?
Viva la difference!
What are some ways you’re going to express your amazing self?
Whether you absolutely crushed 2018, or you struggled to accomplish any of your goals, I want to help make 2019 the best year of your life.
Although I try not to tell others what to do, I do get a lot of questions from people in our ADHD tribe about how I get so much done. So, I decided to go a bit outside of my personal rule of not giving unsolicited advice and tell you what works for me, hoping it might work for you also.
So how can you make 2019 the best year of your life? How can you keep working on your goals, stay on track and end up a year from now knowing you did your best?
The answer? By being true to yourself and pursuing your dreams and goals.
Let me say that again…by being true to YOURSELF and pursuing YOUR dreams and goals.
The key to this is “YOUR”. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not, and don’t try to follow the dreams, outcomes, goals of others.
The concept might seem simple enough, but it’s a struggle that a lot of us living with ADHD share.
WHY IT’S SO HARD WITH ADHD
Why? Because a lot of the goals or “to do’s” that we aim for in life are actually the ideas and beliefs of others. Others without as much understanding of ADHD.
When we have ADHD, over time it is easy to stop trusting ourselves. Instead we start looking outside of ourselves for what must be best. At times this might work. But, if you continue to struggle with not meeting the goals you set year after year, consider this: Are you living a life where you are pursuing the things that are meaningful and important to you? Or, instead, are you are paying more attention to what’s “out there”, than what is inside and true for yourself?
Try this. Think about your goals for a minute.
Do you really want to be more organized? Have a structured systematic plan? Walk 10,000 steps a day? Alphabetize your receipts? Balance your finances down to the last penny? Have a clean kitchen everyday?
If you do…really do…great! You will rock it in 2019!!
However, what if you don’t? And how will you know the difference?
DO THIS INSTEAD
For a moment, get quiet and honest with yourself. Now consider which ones of those resolutions resonate with your heart or soul? Try taking a deep breath slowly in and out, pause, say the goal out loud and consider how it lands for a moment.
WHERE YOUR SUCCESS IS
The goals that are yours will feel like they are coming from deep inside. You may even notice that when you are speaking them out loud, your voice is calm, settled and solid. If they are not meaningful to you, they will be accompanied by a “should”. For instance, I really (should) get my finances in order. I really (should) start walking. I really (should) have a system for washing dishes every night.
Goals that are true for you will feel more like a “want”. For instance: I want to enjoy a less chaotic or cluttered environment. I want to enjoy living in a body that is strong and healthy. I want to be prepared for tomorrow by leaving my kitchen clean at night.
WHY IT MATTERS
It starts with being aware and honest with yourself about what is important to you. Then you can design the goals, steps and outcomes to make those changes. Creating new habits with this foundation will have more likelihood of success. AND you’ll have more energy and satisfaction to keep going.
Trying to make changes based on what others want or expect you to be will always be difficult. It drains our energy and is uninspiring because it is not who we are. It’s so much easier to be ourselves. Growing and moving towards being your best self, based on what’s important to you with ADHD, will be easier with much more chance of success.
And lest you forget…in the end the world gets to enjoy your unique amazingness. J
So, as 2019 begins I encourage you to set goals for yourself. Just make sure that those goals you set are ones that are important to YOU.
Starting out over 35 years ago as a fledging nurse I spent a great deal of time learning “how” to do things.
HOW to give an injection so it never hurt. HOW to identify life-threatening heart rhythms and perform defibrillation. And most impressive, HOW to completely change a person into a clean hospital gown and fresh linen while they lay in the bed!
Being a nurse taught me HOW to do lots of things. And I was good at it. Knowing what to do and HOW to take care of people when they were hospitalized, compromised, and not at their best felt good. Using my knowledge and telling patients HOW to do things to help them recover from their hospitalization just came naturally to me. And for the most part it seemed to be the way of the world. Or so I thought.
And then I discovered the profession of coaching. And I remember when I heard my instructor say that telling someone what to do, or “how” to do it wasn’t what a life coach did.
I had spent most of my 40 years and completed three academic degrees, learning HOW. I did how really well. And now, some new fangled profession was telling me that “how” wasn’t enough?!
Well….if not “how” then what?! It made zero sense to me at the time. So little sense, in fact, that I’ve remembered that moment for years and…
Turns out it was true.
Especially for persons with ADHD.
While it is, indeed, my responsibility to master the HOWs and whys of being an ADHD life coach. And I make sure to stay abreast of the various strategies, tips, resources and techniques for better managing ADHD. I now know that individuals struggling with ADHD don’t really need or want all of that.
Not one client in 17 years has asked me, “Hey, HOW many hours do most people with ADHD sleep at night?”
Not one ever asked me, “Hey, HOW do people with ADHD remember to take their medication?”
Not a soul ever seemed interested in listening to the plethora of solutions, strategies, techniques, and details I know of HOW to with ADHD.
What I have noticed most in people’s mind and heart when they have ADHD is WHO they are. The unique beautifully complex fully whole and capable person they are. That I am willing and able to come to the table (or phone) and meet them WHO and where they are…
During our work together, they want me to I listen generously to their experiences, without judgment, and appreciate their WHY and their ways. And know, that I would leave no stone unturned. No question unasked in my pursuit in providing them with the individualized attention they needed.
That I really hear, appreciate and understand Who They Are. What they want uniquely. What is important to them. That I am as interested in their talents and passions as I am in their struggles and challenges. Because when this happens, a space is created into which together we can relax. In coaching we call it a partnership.
In this partnership clients feel safe and can begin tapping into their own knowing and creative solutions. Then, when the HOWs are discovered they end up being uniquely suited for that person. Including and appreciating WHO in their wholeness does this.
Knowing “how” is not enough with ADHD. There are books by the dozens giving the HOWs (I have written several myself). These are a great start, but not the complete answer. For persons living with ADHD, the real transformation happens when WHO you are is understood and invited into designing the HOWs.
I expect many of you already know this.
We live in a world that is (very often) HOW-Focused. We watch athletes win races and wonder — How did she DO that?!?
We watch movies, listen to music, see Instagram posts, advertisements, read articles, listen to podcasts and wonder “HOW”?
But let’s just for a moment consider this.
Is perhaps the real answer about WHO she is that she decided to train and compete…and the winning is merely a result of that bigger answer?
Maybe you have noticed someone consistently striving to increase the awareness of ADHD. They seemingly have endless determination to make a difference. Isn’t the more profound insight found when we consider WHO he is that drives such passion and commitment?
You have seen frustrated overwhelmed children with ADHD lashing out. Or adults with ADHD self-medicating with alcohol, risk taking, or isolation.
Yet, something profound happens when we allow ourselves to look past judging the behavior. To see beyond just HOW to fix it. The deeper awareness is found when we ask “WHO” this person is and discover they are so frustrated, sad or lonely.
I know this is a different conversation, a different way of Being. I struggled myself to wrap my head around it after years of focusing on the HOWs. Yet, 17 years as a coach has proven that it’s a whole lot more powerful when WHO is asked.
Being a WHO Person isn’t always easy. It can seem weird or strange to others living in a How World. Especially when you have ADHD and all the HOWs of others don’t or haven’t seemed to work.
But I promise you, knowing WHO you are assures that any HOWs you design will be rooted in what is true and most meaningful for you. And when that’s the case there is more likelihood that they will work for you.
It’s October 31st so of course I have Halloween on my mind – scary ghosts, wicked vampires and long-legged creepy spiders!
And…I will admit that my bowl of treats (my favorites are Reese Peanut Butter Cups) is sitting by the door waiting for my neighborhood to knock with a few pieces missing.
This is the time of year when we put on costumes and look forward to being tricked or spooked! That is the fun kind of scared. The kind that gets your adrenaline going, your heart pumping and then laughing when you realize that once again your son put that giant rubber rat sitting on your kitchen floor and tricked you!
But what about those other fears? The ones we usually don’t talk about that keep us up at night? Or drain our energy? The ones that last year-round and keep us from living the life we want? Fears about the future, our jobs, our relationships…our ADHD? Fears that lurk in those dark, lonely places of our mind and haunt us.
Ghostly ADHD fears – no, not actual ghosts. I mean the thinly veiled, always lurking, lives in the shadows fear that has made you work incredibly hard to hide your ADHD. The fears you keep hidden behind the daily façade you put up, ones just waiting to come out and reveal the “truth”. Fear that people will see through your intelligence, creativity, good job or successes to the unorganized, forgetful, easily distracted ADHD person underneath. The fear that once these things are known, all we have will disappear and we will be seen as someone less than, incompetent, or irresponsible.
Reality behind the fear? These fears, like ghosts, have no substance. And like ghosts they live in the past and we keep them alive only by believing in them. The truth is we live now, in the present. And today, in the now, it’s likely everyone around you already knows these things about you…and guess what? The ones that matter, love you anyway.
Vampire Fears – the ones that drain you. These ADHD fears exhaust you because they keep you up at night and suck the energy from you during the day. The ‘What ifs’…what if my ADHD keeps me from getting that promotion? What if my spouse gets fed up with my forgetting things? What if my son has ADHD? These ADHD fears never stop, they feed on your life, leave you feeling empty.
Reality behind the fear? This worrying is not going to change one thing and often results in bringing to life your worst fears coming true. Instead, notice the fear, ask yourself if this is something you can change and begin to channel your worry into action – shining a light on our fears helps us see them for what they – much smaller once the dark shadows are gone.
Creeping Spider Fears – these are the worst. That creeping sensation that something is wrong with you because you have ADHD. These fears crawl along your skin and settle there quietly, waiting for just the right moment when success or even possibility is within reach. It’s then that they show themselves and we are caught helpless in the ‘I don’t deserve this’ or ‘I can’t do that’ web.
Reality behind the fear? You can do anything! ADHD is not an excuse or a reason that you can’t do or have the life you want. These fears have no hold over you if you stop struggling and learn how to maximize and leverage your other strengths.
We all have fears…and when living with ADHD they can creep into our minds at any moment. They are thoughts…not actual things…that hold us back and prevent us from success and experiencing life the way we want.
Knowing the difference between what’s “real” and what we’ve made up to believe and is no longer true or serving us is key in being able to minimize those fears that keep us stuck so we can enjoy all the tricks and treats of ADHD along the way!
Does the thought of making small talk fill you with dread? You’re not alone. Most people dislike idle chitchat because it feels fake and like a waste of time. If you have ADHD it is likely that making small talk is one of your top least favorite things to do.
Over the years I have listened as clients describe the lengths to which they go to avoid having to make small talk. Arriving to class just after the bell rings. Skipping lunches. Turning down invitations for social events because they were preceded by a period likely to include the need for “small talk”. Surviving small talk is not a small problem for many people with ADHD.
Why is this trivial style of conversation so difficult for some people with ADHD? Well, the problem lies in the very definition. Small talk is defined as the art of having conversation about “unimportant” things. Unimportant, aka uninteresting and boring to people with active, creative ADHD brains.
In fact, I like the definition given by the Urban dictionary best when it defines small talk as:
Useless and unnecessary conversation attempted to fill the silence in an awkward situation. Commonly backfires into feelings of loneliness and social discomfort. Usually is initiated by comments regarding the current weather, weather pattern of the past/future few days or major weather disturbances in the recent past. (Insert yawn here). Lucky for those people who find the weather incredibly interesting. And for the rest of us…a topic about as interesting as discussing paint drying.
People with ADHD are not alone with finding small talk meaningless. Studies show that in general people prefer having deeper and more meaningful discussions. Conversation with more substance are linked to increased happiness and well being. Social customs and etiquette aside, we are social beings. Good conversations create greater connection. Simply put, talking about stuff that matters, not trivial matters, make us happier.
That said getting a conversation going is not always easy. On a date, at a dinner party, or even with a loved one, dialogue doesn’t always flow. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. Following are 6 ways to turn small talk into conversations that are more meaningful.
Ask open ended questions. Starting a question with a “what” leads to answers that are fuller and expand the conversation. “What” questions encourage introspection and show you are genuinely interested in the other person’s experience.
Be curious. Ask questions that will help you find common topics. Avoid asking the predictable questions like, “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” Be curious about the people you meet. Find out what makes them unique, what you might have in common, what new interesting thing you might learn. Instead ask “What’s something most people don’t appreciate about your work?” or “What’s one of your fondest memories growing up?”
Ask for advice. For the most part, people love to talk about themselves and their experiences. Studies show that talking about ourselves feels good. In fact it activates the same areas of the brain when eating good food and being with people we like. Note: For the purposes of small talk remember this is about asking the other person for advice and their experiences.
Apply generous listening. Generous listening involves hearing the words the other person is saying and paying attention to what they are not saying. Try to notice when the topic is something the other person is passionate about. You’ll know this when the speed of their speech increases. Their eyes light up. And they seem to be unaware of much else but the topic. Once that happens all you have to do is listen.
Consider the 80/20 rule. The aim is to get the other person talking 80% of the time while you talk 20% of the time. The right questions will do this. Getting the other person talking is one of the best ways to get through small talk.
Give the long answer. Holding up your end of the conversation means you give the other person something to work with. For example, if asked about the weather, don’t give the short answer…this is your chance to embellish. Talk about what you like to do in weather like this. Or talk about your favorite time of year.
Bottom line: You can turn around your previous dread with small talk. By changing your perspective, your questions, and your answers, you can change small talk into something important and interesting.
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. – Eleanor Roosevelt
What are some of your best ideas for surviving small talk? I’d love to hear from you.
When your father dies some say you lose your biggest fan. Some say your childhood ends.
The thing is — when your father dies, it doesn’t matter that other people’s fathers have died, that fathers have been dying since human time began. What matters is that he was your father. Your one and only father. The loss is unique and yours alone.
When your father dies, people say many things. Things like: Sorry for your loss. Condolences to you and your family. May he rest in peace. He is in a better place. Our prayers and thoughts are with you.
It’s not easy to remember all the words, but you will remember the kindness and know that death is not easy for them either.
When your father dies, close friends and extended family become very important and comforting because they know your story and his more intimately and fully than most.
When your father dies, it feels impossible. How can a man who has defied medicine for 40 years, delivered babies, was a Navy Captain, saved lives, had two last right blessings… finally succumb to something so human as death? Heroes in stories don’t die.
When your father dies, and you weren’t there with him, you might carry that like a permanent hole in your heart. Something you’ll get used to, but part of you will always know it’s there.
When your father dies, and you were with him, you will be grateful you were holding his hand when he took his last breath…and still think of all the things you meant to say.
Things like I love you and thank you one more time.
When your father dies, you’ll realize you want to know more about who he was other than your father.
When your father dies, you will remember his words of wisdom with a new fondness…advice such as “when all else fails read the directions”, and that “changing a tire and learning to play poker is something every gal needs to know how to do”.
When your father dies, you will see your mother a bit differently. Especially if she is the one who cared for him. You’ll wonder who she will be without him after 62 years of marriage.
When your father dies, you will be thankful for siblings who shared the same childhood and the same memories and stories of your father.
When your father dies, you will be glad that you named one of your children after him, that his grandchildren spent time with him and inherited his intellect, charm, compassion, and determination.
When your father dies, the small particulars of his life grow more significant.
The baseball caps he always wore, the tenderness in his large mitt-like hands, his appreciation for sweets and musicals.
When your father dies, even though at times he was bigger than life, you realize ultimately how frail, and human he really was.
When your father dies, you will become intrigued by the life he built for his children and grandchildren considering the humble childhood he started from.
When your father dies, you adjust your place in the world, in your family. You are now a core family of four, one step closer to your own death and things will never be the same.
When your father dies, you learn how others — friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, patients — saw and experienced him differently. Their memories and stories will fill spaces in your own heart and mind.
When your father dies, you start to notice or maybe just perhaps want to notice how much you’re like him. Your love of people and reading. Your curiosity. Your sense of humor. Your impatience. It’s not all good, but it helps to keep him with you.
When your father dies, you will grieve the man who was once at the center of your universe. And maybe, one day you’ll notice your grief has lessened. Maybe you’ll feel relieved and your relief may leave you feeling guilty.
But every now and then, when you hear a John Phillip Souza marching band song, or you see a man wearing a Boston Red Sox hat, or hear his familiar words “if all else fails read the directions” come from your mouth, you will smile, feel that familiar knot in your chest, and perhaps to no one in particular, you’ll say, “Love you, Dad.”
Do you feel like you are always playing catch up, missing deadlines, or putting off activities you planned to do for things that are less important? If so, you are not alone. Twenty percent of individuals identify themselves as procrastinators.
According to researchers, procrastination has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years! Procrastination has become so common for some that they shrug it off and simply describe procrastination as a way of life.
The problem with procrastination is more than just not getting things done, or only done at the last minute, it is what it does to our lives overall:
40% of procrastinators have experienced financial loss, missing professional opportunities or paying extra in the long run in late fees after putting off paying bills, tickets or taxes.
Our relationships are hurt and impacted resulting in higher rates of divorce.
The accompanying stress and anxiety contribute to headaches, sleeplessness, lowered immune system function, depression, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Our self-confidence, satisfaction and happiness have a negative impact
As a trained Nurse Practitioner and ADHD Life Coach for over 15 years, I can honestly say one of the most common challenges for my clients is procrastination… putting important tasks off…not being able to start a task…thinking there’s more time to complete a task. One client once said to me as we were exploring her procrastination: “I’m not a procrastinator… I am a time optimist!” In fact, she was not too far from the truth.
There are many different reasons people procrastinate and I call these your “procrastination style”. Following are seven procrastination styles, their pitfalls, and simple solutions. Which one(s) describe you?
The Optimist: This style of procrastinator truly believes they have plenty of time to complete a task. You can spot an optimist procrastinator because they seem upbeat, relaxed; even carefree in the midst of a looming deadline. That is until time runs out. The pitfall for many optimist procrastinators is that they have a different perception or sense of time than other people. To them, time is a vague intangible concept. One way to know if you are an optimist procrastinator is to consider how you currently keep track of time. Most optimist procrastinators will have few if any external tools, like clocks or alarms in their environment to help them keep track of time. If they do, often these will not be set accurately, or not in working order. One time optimist proclaimed, “I love clocks. I have lots of beautiful clocks in my home, I just don’t think they are working.”
I call this difference in the perception of time, being “time blind.” Similar to being color blind, optimist procrastinators may not even realize they experience time differently than most. Optimist procrastinators will also have difficulty accurately estimating time. For example, optimists will underestimate the amount of time needed to complete a task or be overly optimistic about how much they can complete in a small amount of time. Optimist procrastinators are known for “five-minute-itis”: thinking they can accomplish a list of tasks in only five minutes. They also can experience the passage of time differently. For instance, if they are innately interested in a task, two hours can seem like five minutes. However, if they are innately uninterested in an activity, five minutes can feel like two hours.
If this is you, here are strategies to improve your likelihood of success:
Increase the environmental cues that remind you of time and the passage of time. Have analog clocks in every corner of your environment, including the bathroom and garage.
Track how long common tasks or activities actually take you to complete. Most often, there is a huge “aha” when you discover realistically how much you can accomplish in a given time.
The Preparer: The preparer style of procrastination can be difficult to spot because these individuals seem to be so busy. Busy preparing, researching, gathering ideas, planning, and perfecting rather than actually tackling the important task…getting it done. Preparers can spend a whole lot of time getting ready. Unfortunately, and often surprisingly for even the preparers, these activities end up interfering with the actual task they want to complete. The pitfall for the preparers is to know when it’s time to stop preparing and time to get down to the doing – because getting it done is more important than getting it perfect.
For preparers, procrastination is a way of putting off the anticipated dreaded moment that it won’t be “right” and more importantly that they won’t be right.
Here is the answer for the preparer procrastinator:
Adopt a mindset of aiming for progress rather than perfect. This doesn’t mean lowering standards or putting in less effort, it’s simply a shift in the focus of the outcome. Preparation is one of the first steps, but so is completion. Focusing on the progress and moving forward step-by-step means keeping mindful of not only the importance of getting ready, but of getting it done.
The Overwhelmed: This style of procrastinator can be spotted because they stop before they even get started. For this style of procrastination, tasks may feel too big to accomplish or they perceive it will take a lot of time to complete. For the overwhelmed, molehills definitely look like mountains. Standing at the bottom of that mountain paralyzes them. In addition, prioritization and planning can be difficult.
The result? The overwhelmed procrastinator is not sure where to start on a task or what to do after that. Instead, procrastination happens because they give up, check out, or decide to put it off until a “better time.” Secretly the overwhelmed hope the task will somehow become clearer, smaller, more manageable or take less time when they return to it.
Here are the keys to overcoming this style of procrastination:
Break the task into smaller pieces from the beginning and start…anywhere. Another way to describe this technique is to chunk the project, task, or goal into smaller pieces. This serves to create more manageable parts to address.
Consider that the task might not require as much time as you think it will. Approach the task in bite-sized chunks of time, say 15 minutes increments, rather than trying to accomplish the task in one sitting. This will allow you to see incremental accomplishments.
Elicit the help of others. Having someone else around simply as moral support can help get past the initial hesitation of starting. Asking others, such as a friend, spouse, or boss, how they would prioritize or plan to accomplish a task can be a quick way to get down to business.
The Over-extender: The over-extenders are very popular, likable people. They are helpful, willing, and eager. These procrastinators are quick to say yes, take on more and more, and then end up juggling (unsuccessfully) too many things at once. Then, when they aren’t able to complete most of it, they blame themselves. To make up for their own perceived lack they get stuck in a vicious cycle. They offer to do more, hoping to compensate for the times they didn’t follow through, and again end up completing less. It is inevitable that something is going to get forgotten, lost, or put off until the last minute. And around and around the over-extenders go.
The key to turning procrastination around for the over-extenders:
Realize your natural limits and that for everyone, time and energy are limited commodities. Know your limits.
Identify your priorities and what’s most important for you. Give yourself permission to say no to spending time and energy doing things that don’t align with your values.
The Forgeter: This style of procrastinator simply forgets or mis-remembers a task they wanted to complete. The forgeter is characteristically confidant, capable, and intelligent. They are used to and proud of being able to keep track of their “to-dos”, schedule, responsibilities, and deadlines in their head. The problem? The forgeter’s life gets so busy and full they no longer can rely on their memory to keep track of it all.
Our memory evolved to protect us from danger by helping us remembering things that might harm us. The forgeter is simply trying to use their memory for less threatening tasks. Something it wasn’t designed to do. And so, smaller, less threatening, but important tasks get forgotten and go undone.
Here’s the solution for forgeter procrastinators:
Realize that your memory is an evolutionary tool to help you remember things that would be dangerous for you verses a tool to remember mundane tasks. Simply put, our brains were not made to remember the plethora of minute details, tasks or deadlines common in this current age.
Use an external memory system (EMS)…even if this feels like it undermines your intelligence to not be able to remember everything on your own. Systems can include everything from newfangled electronic to a simple old fashion pen to pad or planner approach.
The Distracted: Those with the distracted style of procrastination have perhaps the best intentions of all. They want to get started, work on, and complete a task. They know the task is important. The problem is that something else, more interesting catches their attention…a sound or something that catches their eye, or hunger, thirst, even a creative idea. And then innocently, and without even noticing, the distracted veer off from their intended goal.
The key for the distracted procrastinators is to:
Find a way to reduce the possibility of distractions so you can stay on task. This includes everything from attending to physical needs to rearranging the environment to reduce the likelihood of erroneous distractions occurring. One way to think about this strategy is like an athlete preparing for a big event. Prior to the game their focus is on being physically fit, well fed, rested. Just prior to the event they mentally reduce outside distractions using headphones, keeping eye contact to a minimum and getting clear on their intentions. They do this each and every time in order to not get distracted and be able to perform their best.
The Bored: It’s hard to image that boredom can be physically uncomfortable, even painful. However, those with the bored procrastination style know exactly what this means. It’s like slogging through mud with thousand pound boots on in your brain and not being able to escape.
For the “it’s boring” procrastinator, it’s essential to
Get a bit creative. Know what’s interesting to you and sprinkle that in to stave off the boredom. Work at a bustling café, use color to spruce up a boring spreadsheet, listen to music…do whatever it takes to spice, sparkelize and shake things up.
The Crises-worker: The crises-worker style of procrastinator thrives under pressure. These procrastinators are convinced they do their best work at the last minute. Crises-workers will even describe experiencing clarity of mind and a type of brilliance that happens when they procrastinate just long enough.
To understand the crises-worker procrastination style, it helps to look beyond the “putting things off until the last minute” behavior to what is happening physiologically in the brain. When the crises-worker delays getting started until the last minute their body goes into a stress response cycle. Under stress our body responds the same whether it is the stress of an impending deadline or because a wild bear is approaching. When stressed, adrenaline is released into our blood stream by our adrenal glands. The adrenaline triggers the release of dopamine in our brain. This is a physiological adaptation to help us think clearly. The increase surge of dopamine can now activate the executive function. And voilà, like magic the crises-worker can now focus and get things done! The magical design of our bodies to keep a calm head under stress.
The pitfall for the crises-worker procrastinator is that the human body was not designed to depend on stress to get things done. Inevitably the body will stop being able to respond in its normal manner and/or other life responsibilities suffer.
Solution for the crises-worker procrastinator include:
Adopting healthier ways to activate dopamine and utilizing other natural ways of maximizing their productivity.
Exercise and foods such as caffeine and chocolate can increase the release of dopamine in the brain.
Identifying when they are naturally most productive, for instance in the morning or evening, and then planning to focus on less interesting tasks at those times can be helpful.
Medications, such as stimulant medications, target dopamine receptors and increase the amount of dopamine available for the brain.
As an ADHD Life Coach, I have a fierce determination to help people enjoy their authentic brilliance, appreciate their uniqueness and live life as it suits them best. I want people to experience as much fullness and satisfaction as they can in their lives.
Procrastination not only robs us of money, but of time and happiness. You are not born a procrastinator. Procrastination is a behavior you learned to compensate for something else. Something you may not even be aware of. The good news is that once you understand your procrastination style, what your underlying real struggle is, you can apply some simple strategies to turn your to-dos into ta-da! And you can turn from a procrastinator to a pro “activator”!
This past weekend I enjoyed a proud parent moment. I watched my youngest child graduate from college with honors and a degree in teaching. I couldn’t be happier for her, but the event was bittersweet.
Let me explain. With four children in their 20’s, I’ve noticed that graduations are like time capsules. They are filled with the culture and current events of the era the students spent at the university. This graduation was no different.
The Dean of the Education Department began their talk by acknowledging the Coast Salish First Nation. The university had stood on their land for the past 125 years. (Score 1 for acknowledging our Native American culture!) In the corner of the stage the sign language interpreter translated for the hearing impaired. (Score 2 for embracing persons with disabilities!)
And finally, a lovely young student gave the keynote speech. She talked about the secrecy and fear she had felt while growing up as an undocumented immigrant. She was compelling, courageous and inspiring. She described what it was like to carry this secret her whole life. She had been terrified of being found out, of being ostracized or worse being deported from the US and her family separated. Her story ended as she described the relief she experienced once she finally told her secret. She thanked the college and her fellow students for their support. She described her future goal to politically change this injustice. (Score 3 for human rights!)
The emphasis on embracing diversity and tolerance resonated throughout the whole auditorium. And yet…I knew at least one graduate sat in that audience with his own secret he didn’t feel safe enough to tell. The secret of living with ADHD.
On a day meant to be a celebration of his hard work and accomplishment, this student was terrified. He was afraid his classmates (and even his own parents) would learn he had barely qualified for graduation. He worried how he was going to pass the urine drug screen when he applied for a job because he was starting to take ADHD medication. He even wondered if he deserved to graduate. I watched as he left his college graduation, diploma in hand, carrying the stigma, shame and misunderstanding that sometimes comes with having ADHD.
In the July 2017 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Michael Slepian, Jinseok Chun, and Malia Mason studied what happens to us psychologically when we keep a secret. What they discovered is that keeping a secret makes people feel inauthentic, deceitful and false. These feelings can lead to a depressed mood, stress, and generally feeling worse about life. It seems that it is almost impossible to have a healthy and happy life when we conceal certain truths. Swallowing them is like a slow-acting poison that turns into shame, guilt and isolation affecting everything we do. The secret of ADHD can be like that.
Why do some people with ADHD feel a need to keep it a secret? Because a lifetime of experiences has shown them that the people or environment around them do not understand ADHD. And they have not experienced the understanding, acceptance or empathy as others of diversity.
So how do you tell others about your ADHD if you want to? Here are some suggestions:
Know that not everybody needs to know. Tell people who are more likely to understand and support you no matter what. These may not be close family or even close friends, but rather other people who have experience with ADHD.
Educate yourself beforehand. Prepare for the conversation by having some facts, statistics and resources about ADHD. Include information explaining your key challenges, and information highlighting the positive side of ADHD.
Allow time. Give yourself plenty of time to talk about it, answer questions and explain yourself.
Be flexible. Realize that people hear and process information differently. Have answers ready and also understand those who may need to think about what you are telling them and want to come back later to talk about it.
If you do share, be sure to pat yourself on the back. Being open and educating others paves the way for other people with ADHD to stop living in secret.
What needs to happen so that persons with ADHD are given the same grace and acceptance as others of diversity so they feel safe sharing their secret? It’s a question I wish I didn’t have to keep asking myself.
So thrilled to have as a guest blogger, the creative and talented, Jennifer Kampfe of Fantastically Focused! Jennifer is prepping us for summer – that magical, exciting time when schedules and structure disappear leaving many of us struggling with what to do!
Are your kiddos ready to swim this summer? It’s THAT time of year. The final school bell is ringing. Excitement is stirring in students. Teachers are ready to have the summer off. And parents…
Well, if you’re the parent of a child/tween or teen with ADHD, that feeling in your gut probably isn’t excitement. We know all too well that summer days can be a recipe for disaster. What if I told you there was a way to ward off this looming disaster? A way to keep yourself and your child from drowning in the stormy waters of an unstructured summer. A life vest, so you float rather than sink. Sounds pretty good, right?
Are you ready to strap on your life vest & swim through summer? Here it comes…
Structure & Routine
In our hectic lives, it may seem impossible to provide structure during the summer months. Especially if you work full time and have older children. After all, it’s summer for crying out loud! Right? Plus, if you can swim why would you wear a bulky life vest?
Are You Marlin?
If you don’t have ADHD, you’re more than likely capable of swimming through each day. Focus on what needs to get done. Put off any distractions. The Dad in “Finding Nemo” comes to mind. Marlin was focused on one thing and one thing only – keeping Nemo safe. And nothing could distract him.
On the other hand, your child, tween or teen with ADHD, is more like Dory. Sure, she swims through her day…sporadically. She is constantly distracted by more interesting things. She forgets what she is supposed to be doing and must be constantly reminded. Just thinking about her exhausts me. Your child will be just like Dory this summer, and you will be exhausted – unless you provide him/her with the life vest of routine and structure.
Why Your Child Needs Structure
Due to lagging executive functioning skills, (like Dory’s deficit in working memory) those with ADHD struggle without structure. It can feel like sailing through a storm with a broken mast and no life vest. Or darting around the ocean every which way like Dory. Either way, it’s exhausting and frustrating for all involved.
Simply put…Kids with ADHD do better when they know what to do and what’s expected of them. Setting expectations, like a routine
help manage ADHD behavior
decrease stress and arguing
provides sanity for parents (my favorite benefit – LOL)
helps with the transition back to school in the fall
How To Build a Summer Routine
The easiest way to start a summer routine is to build off your school routine.
Have a set time to wake up and go to bed. I’m not saying these times need be the same wake-up and bedtimes as the school year. After all, it is summer break! Let your kid get some extra Z’s. (if you can)
Designate a set time for lunch. If your child takes medication, this often decreases their appetite and without a specific time to eat each day, he/she may skip lunch altogether.
Add any already scheduled activities, like baseball practice, and go from there.
Remember to get your child/tween/teen involved in the process.
We should aim for a “Nemo-like” summer – a little bit of Marlin’s focus, a little bit of Nemo’s bravery and curiosity, and some of Dory’s fun lovin’ spirit. Providing your kiddos the life vest of a routine can help.
Have you ever tried a summer routine with your child/tween or teen? If so, share your experiences and any ideas you have. Then join me for Part 2 of my summer series where I share how to get creative with your schedule to add in some “Dory-like fun!”
Jennifer Kampfe, is a certified ADHD coach from Lincoln, NE, and holds a Master’s degree in Music Therapy. Jennifer is passionate about helping those impacted by ADHD and works with children, teens, college students, adults and parents impacted by ADHD in person, or by phone/ video. When her second son was diagnosed with ADHD in the 2nd grade, Jennifer embarked on a journey to educate herself and others about ADHD and to empower her son with the confidence and skills to be successful. Along with her ADHD Coach training, Jennifer brings a compassionate, understanding heart, and experience parenting two children with ADHD to her coaching practice, Fantastically Focused.