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There are Many Reasons to Declutter Your Workspace (and Living Space)
There’s a lot of noise going on in our ADHD brains. And that noise is made worse by the visual noise around us. We are our brain’s own worst enemy when we maintain a home and/or office that is full of energy-draining stuff. So if you can declutter your workspace — and your living space — you can create more mental spaciousness.
Research shows that any excess items in our surroundings can negatively impact our focus and information processing.
Clutter competes for our attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.
Visual clutter draws our attention away from what our focus should be on.
Clutter and piles constantly signal to our brains that our work is never done.
It inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the otherwise open spaces that allow us to think, brainstorm, and problem solve.
And lastly, clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.
Do You Have a Mental “Place of Peace”
So, clutter isn’t just a problem for hoarders on TV. Most of us have stuff that is not adding value to our lives and could probably add significantly to someone else’s (i.e., You could donate it and get a tax receipt!). But charitable giving aside, there is great mental power to be had in a decluttered “Place of Peace.”
Do you have one? A fortress of solitude where there is no visual noise to interfere with your budding big-@ss ideas and potent problem-solving? In this post, I’ll share more about why “peace of mind requires peace of place,” and a few simple solutions to help you declutter your workspace.
Declutter your workspace and you can turbocharge your work? (Read on!)
Brief Words About Feng Shui (Pro and Con)
I don’t go for “woo-woo” solutions that aren’t backed by research (or at least, common sense). I like facts, data and science because that’s the stuff that helps us get real results.
For example, feng shui is borderline “woo-woo.” I’m not saying it doesn’t have some practical applications and benefits for productivity and peace of mind. But when someone contends that hanging my bamboo flute in a specific place can have an impact on my luck, well…I haven’t seen any double-blind random studies on that yet.
That said, I do believe in the energy flowing from spaces — meaning, the mental energy that results from a given living space or workspace.
To wit: In which bedroom do you think you’d fall asleep faster and get a better night’s sleep? One that looks like a hungover college kid’s dorm? Or one Martha Stewart recently dusted and decorated? Which would you rather begin your day in?
Which closet would you rather poke your head into when deciding just how dressed-to-kill you want to dress? The one with the door you’re afraid to open for fear of that bowling ball falling out? Or the one maintained by a professional organizer with OCD?
Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions. – Barbara Hemphill TWEET THIS
In which living room would you be more likely to feel alive or be more rested at the end of a long day?
The one displaying every tchotchke ever collected by an obsessed Beanie Babies® collector? Or the living room featured in this month’s Architectural Digest?
Now, few of us live in homes featured in Architectural Digest, but the point is that uncluttered spaces preserve positive energy, and clutter drains it. Whether you live in a Mc Mansion, a mobile home or a micro-home, you can create an environment that breeds more mental power and clarity.
All the more important therefore that your place of work be a place of visual peace. And to help you get crap out of your way so you can focus better and think bigger, let me share a little…
Brain Science: It’s Hard to Declutter Your Workspace
Here’s why it’s so hard to declutter your workspace: Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine recruited both non-hoarders and hoarders, and tracked their brain activity while they sorted through various items and decided what to keep and what to discard.
The subjects sorted through items like junk mail and old newspapers, some of which were their own, others of which were added to the mix by the researchers. When confronted with the prospect of discarding their own junk, many showed increased activity in two regions of the brain associated with conflict and pain.
The upshot: Letting go of junk can be literally painful to us. But it’s only painful when it’s…OUR junk.
Another part of the brain that’s activated, particularly in hoarders, is the vmPFC. It’s associated with emotions, identity, and personal meaning. Some call it our sense of “me-ness.” It’s the reason that hoarders look at something as simple as an old shopping bag, and feel it is connected to who they are. Making it all the more painful for them to get rid of it.
Hoarding Isn’t Just for Hoarders
But you don’t have to be a hoarder to recognize when your vmPFC is kicking in: The wedding dress. Your varsity jacket. The watch you never wear. The earrings you wouldn’t be caught dead in. But…they’re yours, and they have meaning and “me-ness” attached to them.
Confronting my vmPFC was tremendously liberating, and, in terms of productivity, a major turning point in my life.
The photo on the left (and the big one above) is of my Brooklyn condo after I donated almost all physical objects I’d collected over the years to the Salvation Army — furniture included — and then re-imagined and re-furnished it as a “Place of Peace.”
And from this clarity-inducing, brain-powering perch I call “The Cloud,” I created two start-ups — in my spare time while working as a New York City advertising executive.
Because I could think — BIG and CLEARLY — in this space!
Four Simple Steps to Help You Declutter Your Workspace
Scan your working area and identify the things that give you energy or, as Marie Kondo puts it, things that “spark joy.” Try to keep these in your line of sight — these are like battery jumper cables, so don’t take them lightly.
Take a couple of photos of your work area from different angles. By seeing your space from fresh perspectives you can better spot the most cluttered areas — which is where to start discarding.
Look for anything that doesn’t do anything. If you haven’t used it in six months, and it doesn’t spark a joyful feeling, trash it or donate it.
Keep only what you need for a given day’s work at arm’s length. Everything else goes in a drawer or on a shelf.
*At the end of your de-cluttering, there’s a good chance there’ll be some items that you’re on the fence about. You feel some attachment, you think you might need it. There’s a hack for that: Put them in a box, stick the box in the corner and a week later, try to remember what’s in the box. Anything you don’t remember — it’s probably OK to ditch-or-donate.
A Closing Thought
Think about the relative mental peace you have when you are visually confronted by nothing more than a blue sky or the surface of a lake. Make the surfaces you work with more like that! Peace, baby!
And remember, whatever’s in your way is yours to crush!
P.S.: Want to know how to beat more than just clutter? Tricks to beat procrastination? How to get prioritized and manage your time? Have you heard about my award-winning video/audio program ADD Crusher? Learn more HERE.
How to Delegate Work? Start by Knowing The Barriers to Delegating
If you’re overwhelmed at work, at home, or both, there’s a really good chance you’re not delegating enough. You need to know some of the secrets of how to delegate work.
Delegating is a critical survival skill in the corporate world – but also in our own small businesses and even in running our households. It allows us to focus on the tasks and projects that really power us forward and upward. Yet delegation is a tricky skill nobody ever really teaches you. Not in school, or even on the job.
No wonder so many of us fail to delegate — or delegate enough. For most folks, it’s a combination of…
Not knowing what to delegate.
Not knowing whom to delegate to.
Not knowing how to delegate smoothly.
Not having calculated the massive benefits of delegation.
Delegation is an executive function, so, along with prioritization, time management and planning, our weak executive functioning chops make these kinds of tasks doubly difficult. In my award-winning ADD Crusher instructional videos, I talk more specifically about why delegation is so hard for us ADHDers, and I share a couple solutions. Here’s a short clip…
Why We ADHDers Have Trouble Delegating - And Some Solutions - YouTube
The High Costs of Not Delegating
One of the reasons I floundered in my first six years as a corporate executive, despite hard work and long hours, was that I didn’t know how to delegate work. Every year I’d get a positive review — but not the promotion. Because, as my bosses would say, “Alan, we can’t put more people under you, because the ones that are, don’t have anything to do! You’re doing it ALL!” Needless to say, my team was miserable. And my career trajectory was bleak.
The costs of not delegating are indeed steep: Beyond the handicapping of our careers, we continue to do more work that we need to be doing, keeping track of tasks we shouldn’t be worrying about. Plus, for entrepreneurs and managers at any level, we’re holding our businesses and our employees back by not letting go of work. And then there’s the stress: We’re working hard, but instead of enjoying our achievements, we’re stressed and overwhelmed with too many responsibilities.
And the upsides of delegating are many and massive — in a nutshell, you get to work less and focus more on the things you do best!
But back to why we aren’t delegating — or delegating more. It’s mostly psychological. The verb delegate means to entrust or to assign responsibility or authority. And being able to trust, give up responsibility and hand over authority are not things we humans do easily. It goes against our basic psychological set-up!
The Psychological Barriers to Delegation
Digging a little deeper, here are the Top 10 Reasons We’re Not Delegating (a.k.a., the Psychological Barriers). Think about each one and whether you may be handcuffed by it…
ONE. “No one can do it as well as me…” Which may be true at the moment, but you had to learn it at some point, so others can indeed master the task just as you did.
TWO. “My approach is the only one.” That’s crazy just on the face of it, but it’s a belief we often hold under the surface.
THREE. “I don’t want to be dependent on others.” Dependency can make us feel weak and vulnerable. But only if — we’re weak and vulnerable.
FOUR. “I’m afraid my team (or subordinate or virtual assistant) won’t be able to handle the increased responsibility.” You won’t know ’til you try!
FIVE. “I don’t want to increase my team’s (or sub subordinate’s or virtual assistant’s) already burdensome workload.” Have the conversation with them, then decide.
SIX. “I’m afraid they’ll say no.” Nobody likes rejection, but research suggests a) you have more influence than you think, and b) you’ll actually gain their respect for asking.
SEVEN. “I don’t want to let go of tasks I enjoy doing.” Great. You wanna to keep doing tasks you enjoy, while more important tasks that ONLY YOU can do aren’t getting done?
EIGHT. “I’m a people pleaser. It’s hard for me to say ‘no’ to people who ask for something – and even harder …to ask for help.” (See Six, above.)
NINE. “I’m just too busy to delegate — it’s quicker and more efficient for me to just do it myself.” You’re too busy because you’re NOT delegating, and it’s NOT more efficient. Period. And…
TEN. And this is the big kahuna — “I don’t know how to delegate work, especially complex tasks or projects.” More about this at the end of the post.
Hopefully you see a little of yourself in one or more of these barriers to delegation. This is a great starting point for developing your delegation muscle.
But there’s more to successful (and effortless) delegation of work, all of which I eventually mastered, helping me dramatically alter the trajectory of my corporate career — and then launch multiple successful start-ups. If you’re interested in a peek at the next level, read on!
Want More Simple-Yet-Powerful Secrets of How to Delegate Work?
In addition to the above Psychological Barriers-to-Delegation, there are still the matters of how to identify WHAT to delegate, and knowing WHOM to delegate to. I delve into both of these in CrusherTV Episode 111 — where I also serve up 5 Secrets to HOW to Delegate Work. (To watch full episodes you can become a member of CrusherTV for a buck and cancel any time you like, but either way, you can preview that Episode by clicking the image below.)
What’s CrusherTV? It’s not just an online TV show that teaches ways to have more control in your life. It’s a LIBRARY of over 100 20-minute videos teaching ways to beat procrastination, get prioritized, get organized, manage your time, and more. You might get a lot out of watching the entire Episode 111: 5 Secrets to Delegating Work, where I dig a lot deeper into this topic. Click the image to watch the Preview.
Know the Barriers to Get Started on a Big Project, and You Can Start to Break them Down
So, you’ve had this Big Idea for a while and you still find it brilliant every time you think about it. Or you’ve been assigned a major project and you’re stoked about it cuz it could yield some good results for your career. But it hasn’t gone beyond that. You haven’t started it. Why IS it so hard to get started on a big project or idea?!
Why won’t our engines fire up on that major project, even as the deadline nears?
In a recent Episode of CrusherTV, I introduced what I call the Roadmap for Any Big Thing – whether an idea or a major project.
It consists of 4 Phases…
The Roadmap for Any “Big Thing”: Each Phase has unique barriers to action.
And I talked about the importance of understanding which of the 4 Phases of a Big Thing you’re stuck in. Because each Phase has its own unique barriers and solutions – and once you identify that Phase, you can choose the right mental tools for breaking through to the next level – and onward to completion.
In this post, I’ll illuminate the main barriers to getting started (Phase II), and ways to mitigate those barriers, so you’ll be more likely to finally…start!
(By the way, perhaps you’ve noticed in your struggles with procrastination on big projects/ideas…)
“The bigger the idea, the bigger and hairier the project, the more likely we are to either procrastinate on starting it, or never start it. Even if we know it would be a great thing!” – Alan P. Brown TWEET THIS
Why It’s So Hard to Get Started on a Big Project
Phase II – The Start, is where so many of us get stuck. It’s that place between “OK, this is a clearly defined thing that I can and will do,” …and actually taking that first concrete action of starting it. There are three key barriers here that get in our way:
An obvious barrier is plain old procrastination in the form of Temporal Discounting: “No worries, dude – there’s plenty of time on this!”
Or as is often the case with Big Ideas like our first book or our idea for our side-hustle, there is no firm deadline for completing them. So there’s never any fire lit under your butt!
This is of course classic ADHD behavior, right? We conveniently remain blind to the encroaching deadline — or wait until next year to think about our book/app/start-up again — until either it becomes a massive inconvenience requiring our action, or we just give up on it.
How to Mitigate This Barrier and Get Started on a Big Project: One way to fight back is to have a talk with our Future Self. What do I mean? This quote sets it up nicely:
“Future selves are considered to be strangers, to whom one can pass the buck and impose a heavy and uncompensated burden.” – Christine Tappolet, PhDTWEET THIS
See, procrastination is our Present Self screwing our Future Self, because our Present Self lacks the energy, willpower or incentive, or procrastinates in exchange for some unimportant pleasure or relief or avoidance.
So we must listen to our Future Self when he/she says, “Please don’t burden me by leaving this until the last minute!” — and create an unpleasant deadline for our Present Self to at least get started. One that’s way sooner than the actual deadline (or desired finish, if there’s no formal deadline).
Then populate your calendar with reminders galore that will pop up daily at the very least. The constant reminders will also help mitigate that temporal discounting.
Another barrier, particularly on big, important things, is Fear of Failure: As productivity guru Peter Bregman says, “We procrastinate on that big project precisely because it’s important. So important, in fact, that we’re too scared to work on it. ‘I’m afraid. Afraid that I’ll fail. That I’ll spend a lot of time on it — while other more immediate things don’t get done — and it’ll be terrible, anyway.’”
Got Fear? Call It Out!
How to Mitigate This Barrier: The key first step in de-fanging any fear is to name your fear.
That’s right, all you need do is describe what it is you fear whenever that fear has you stuck. Doing so is scientifically proven to begin shrinking that fear.
Kristy Dalrymple, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, says, “The more you try to suppress fear, either by ignoring it or doing something else to displace it, [like escaping into some other, easier activity] the more you will actually experience that fear.”
Naming your fear allows you to accept that you are feeling fearful which lets you examine the causes of your fear – and in doing so, you are shifting your processing away from your lizard brain and into your frontal lobe – where reason and problem-solving begin to shrink it!
The Biggest Reason We Procrastinate on Big Projects
And the third classic (and biggest) barrier is Not Knowing Where to Start. “When I just THINK about starting it, I get frustrated because I can’t figure out where or how to start it.” And this should be no surprise, because a common characteristic of all “Big Things” is that their structure is big, complex and therefore, often unclear before we start.
How to Mitigate This Barrier: I elaborated on this in CrusherTVEpisode 108 (see more on that, below) and in a CrusherTVblog, but in a nutshell the mental trick is to not worry about how or where to start. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”
Huh? Yes, just start. Start before you know where to start, by starting anywhere. Because once you take that first step, you can now see more of the staircase! Then take one more step. Then another.
That’s how you get out of this trap!
Now that you understand these three barriers to get started on a big project or your big idea, you’re in a much better position to fight back and beat them down.
Want 3 Powerful Solutions to Get Started on a Big Project?
In addition to the three above “mitigators” to start breaking down those barriers-to-action, there are also three powerful solutions to totally crush those barriers. One’s a brain hack, one’s a powerful tool you’ve probably heard of, and the other is a no-brainer physical hack.
I’ve served up the powerful brain hack in this CrusherTV Blog, but if you want to dine on all three evidence-based strategies that can help you get energized, and aggressively, intentionally, FINALLY start your big thing, watch the Preview of Episode 108 and consider joining as a Member so you can watch the entire Episode, which also features veteran ADHD coach Lynne Edris.
What’s CrusherTV? It’s not just an online TV show that teaches ways to have more control in your life. It’s a LIBRARY of over 100 20-minute videos teaching ways to beat procrastination, get prioritized, get organized, manage your time, and more. You might get a lot out of watching the entire Episode 108, How to Finally Start Your Big Idea/Project, where I dig deeper into this topic. (To watch full episodes you can become a member for a buck and cancel any time you like, but either way, you can preview that Episode by clicking the image below.)
Episode Description: We all have at least one big idea or project we want or need to start. But too often, they languish, un-started. I’ll show why you’re stuck and evidence-based ways to get going on your biggest, scariest idea/project. Plus, coach Lynne Edris shares keys to your Unique Operating System.
What if you could get all the benefits of meditation…without learning how to meditate?
You’ve heard about the benefits of learning how to meditate – less stress, more clarity and focus. It’s a proven, powerful alternative ADHD solution.
But there’s no way you could meditate regularly, right?
Well, what if you didn’t have to learn how to meditate? I’ll share three evidence-based ways to meditate – that can de-stress and sharpen your mind – without having to “meditate!”
We, More than Others, Need to Know How to Meditate!
Now, if everybody in the world could do with a little more Zen, then we ADHDers could use a triple scoop, no? Just think about frustrations that drive us bonkers daily:
“I’m in a constant state of overwhelm!”
“I never have enough time…always feel it’s running out!”
“I can’t get motivated to start, let alone finish, projects!”
“My to-do list is a monster…and I can’t prioritize!”
Add to that our emotional impulsiveness, impatience, overreacting, quick temper, etc. Yes, we need more Zen!
And yet all these challenges share one thing in common: they’re driven in part by our mind’s – or inner voice’s – interpretation of things around us. And therefore, can be reduced by managing that voice. (This, by the way, is what mindfulness and meditation are, at their core.)
Mindfulness strategies are among the most powerful ADHD alternative solutions in successfully managing my own brain. And I regularly use a toolbox of what I call “Practical Zen Brain Hacks” — simple, super ADD-friendly mental tricks that can be put to work immediately for more peace of mind – and productivity.
For instance, you can flip from a negative mental stance to a positive one by simply mindfully throwing the correct switch in your brain — and change your inner voice, along with your physiology. (Negative thoughts and emotions create a destructive “physiological cascade” of harmful neurotransmitters. Switching to alternative positive thoughts negates that negativity!)
Hence, instead of buying a book to learn how to meditate, do some Practical Zen Brain Hacks. Here are three of my favorites…
You can “meditate” without having to learn how to meditate!
Witness Your Thoughts
Our inner voice is blabbing all the time: “I have no time right now”; “My to-do’s are ALL so important! Oh my goodness!” — and even, “Yeesh, look at those tacky shoes!”
It’s rare, however, that we actually observe it. Which is too bad. Because when we do, we have the chance to step “outside ourselves” to witness that cacophony for what it is: typically, a lot of ego-based chatter, pointless worry about past and future, negative self-talk, petty judgments, etc.
The very act of witnessing our internal dialogue is a form of higher consciousness. And the more you witness it, the more conscious you are, the more present you are, and the more powerfully you can employ these and other life-improving strategies. Indeed, witnessing your mind’s voice is just Step One in shutting it up…
You really don’t need to know how to meditate to get your mind quiet.
Here’s a simple way to quiet your mind…and power it up. It takes as little as 10 seconds and results in a refreshed mindset with which to push forward into a demanding task.
I use this trick whenever my mind’s fatigued or just before sitting down in front of a tough engagement – a complicated memo, speech writing or business call.
I just relax my mind for a couple minutes. Which means, I just stop listening to the chatter flying around in my head and listen instead to my breathing…or visualize a lake…or just stare out the window.
Seriously, a minute or two of that and it’s almost like I’ve taken a power nap. I’m not talking about transcendental meditation here. Anyone can do this, though you do get better at it with practice. Try it next time you sit down at work, before you begin a tough task.
The third Practical Zen Brain Hack is what I call…
Meditate in Motion
You don’t have to be sitting in the lotus position to quiet your mind and reap the benefits. Many daily routines and activities are opportunities for mental peace and/or creative problem-solving.
For instance, be conscious when walking the dog, commuting to work, working out, hanging out with the kids – even doing the dishes or the laundry — which are all times when you don’t need to be stressing over past or future.
You can just be enjoying these things for what they are. And THAT is a quieting of the mind just as formal meditative silence is!
So, if, while walking the dog, you were being the witness to your thoughts, choosing to listen to your breathing or just the sound of the outdoors — you are meditating in motion! Without having to learn how to meditate sitting on a bed of nails!
I hope this all brings home the powerful message that you don’t have to “meditate” to get the ADD-crushing benefits of meditation. Try one or more of these, won’t you? And leave a comment to let me know what you think.
Are You Making Your ADHD Worse?
We ADDers can be at a disadvantage from the get-go, so we have no business adding more troubles to our plate. But we do. There are many things we do TO ourselves – or don’t do FOR ourselves – that make our ADHD worse, or just seem worse. This eBook details five things we must stop doing, and show how to correct course. Stop making your ADHD worse! Get my free eBook, 5 Things You’re Doing Every Day that Make Your ADHD Worse at www.ADDCrusher.com
We have a guest writer for this article, Trevor McDonald, who has written extensively about the correlation between ADHD and substance abuse, addiction and recovery — issues that, sadly, are disproportionately part of the ADHD world. Here he talks about a very important topic many of us with ADHD can unfortunately relate to…
The thought of putting a young child on ADHD medication, typically a stimulant, can be scary. So when parents are faced with this choice, the guard naturally goes up. But this may also be due in part to some myths and misinformation regarding the correlation between ADHD and substance abuse.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: ADHD medication has not been shown to be a gateway to other drugs. It is a legitimate treatment that provides relief for up to 80% of those properly diagnosed and treated. Where things get confusing is when we hear about how ADHD medications are often abused. But a question is, who is abusing them?
Who is Abusing ADHD Medications?
Adderall and Ritalin are the most commonly abused ADHD drugs: they’ve become widely known as “study drugs.” Ask anyone on a college campus and they can probably get you some “addys.” College students are likely to abuse these drugs to help with coursework and studying. If you’ve ever taken an ADHD medication, you understand why.
These drugs certainly won’t make you smarter, but they will help you focus and remain energized enough to get work done. A 2014 survey by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids reported that 20 percent of college kids were abusing prescription stimulants. We can only suspect that this number has increased in subsequent years.
ADHD Medications and Substance Abuse
Perhaps surprisingly, studies have shown that when children are prescribed ADHD medications early in life, they are less likely to develop a substance abuse disorder. Still, there is a strong correlation between substance abuse and ADHD. This is often because undiagnosed as well as diagnosed ADHD adults and teens are using drugs and/or alcohol as “self-medication.”
If even suspect you have a problem with substance abuse, reach out to a counselor with ADHD experience. They are most qualified to help you with both recovery and with the symptoms of your ADHD. The correlation between ADHD and substance abuse is a serious and complicated issue, so don’t go it alone — and know that you’re not alone.
Guest Author’s Bio: Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying just about any type of fitness activity imaginable.
You can learn more about Trevor and follow his work at his website by clicking here. A big thanks again to him for contributing!
Having ADHD Can Make It Harder to Be Happier. But…
ADHD and happiness are not always best buds. When we live a life of nearly constant overwhelm, daily frustrations, self-doubt, frequent inability to accomplish things we’re “supposed to be able to” accomplish…Well, that’s a tough place from which to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every day.
It’s no wonder we ADHD adults and teens are statistically more likely to suffer from…
Even those of us considered to have an “up” personality are subject to all of the above — and don’t get me started on some of the even uglier statistics about ADHD and quality-of-life.
But here’s the “but.” We have a surprising amount of control over how happy we are, both in the moment (i.e., there are “happiness hacks” you can use to alter your mood on-demand), and for the longer haul (i.e., there are habits and rituals you can cultivate to have what I call a “happier emotional home”).
It all begins with kicking aside a few myths about ADHD and happiness, and accepting some actual truths about happiness…
Adult ADHD can be rough, but you can be a happier camper.
ADHD and Happiness: The Top 3 Myths
Clichés and “inspirational” quotes about happiness, frankly, just make me sad. And there’s too much BS about happiness out there. For example, unhelpful myths like…
People are hardwired to be either generally happy or unhappy, regardless of what happens in their lives. This has been demolished by research. Yes, as noted above, we ADHD adults and teens are more prone to emotional regulation issues — maybe you saw my recent cover story in ADDitude magazine about ADHD emotions — but we are not genetically destined to be happier or sadder than anyone else — provided we vigilantly know ourselves.
Being happy means you never feel sad. Dr. David Spiegel, director of Stanford’s Center for Integrative Medicine says, “Happiness is not the absence of sadness.” In fact, suppressing sadness suppresses other, more positive emotions as well. Feeling down about a mess-up? It’s better to grieve a bit than to pretend everything’s OK. Just be sure you follow that up with some self-compassion.
“If I just get that raise/win that lottery/etc. — THEN, I promise, I’ll be happy!” Money doesn’t affect happiness — for ADHD teens or adults, or anyone else. The research is stunning: Lottery winners are no happier than paraplegics! Big lottery winners are super happy after winning, but fall to baseline levels in about two months. People who become paralyzed from the waist down also return to baseline levels of happiness within a few months after their accident.
And anecdotally, as someone who’s experienced both being unemployed with $100,000 in credit card debt, and a few years later having over $1m in his checking account, I can tell you that everyday happiness has little to do with money.
Nor does it have much of anything to do with any, external factors. Fact is, it’s little things we can do every day – and try to make into habits and rituals – that can make us happier NOW, and for the long haul.
3 Science-Based Truths About Happiness and ADHD
As you hopefully have noticed by now in this blog and all my writing, speaking and videos, I like science. Whether it’s about ADHD emotions or ADHD alternative solutions or ADHD and quality of life. So herewith: three science-based truths about ADHD and happiness:
One. Happiness is not a condition, but (mostly) a choice. Gratitude, self-compassion and self-forgiveness are just three examples simple choices you can make any time you’re feeling the negative ADHD emotions that come with your frustrations and foibles.
Two. Happiness is not about things you have, but about things you DO. We ADHDers are more prone to impulse purchases than neurotypicals — and it’s in part because we’re trying to feed a happiness need. We’d be better off hanging out with friends or family — or just hanging out with ourselves — than buying something we think will make us happy.
And Three. How you feel about your future… is determined by how you feel NOW. Underline this one, cuz this one is KEY!! If you feel so-so right now, your outlook for next week will be so-so. If you’re down or frustrated right now, your brain is forecasting more frustration for the coming month. And from this mental stance, you’re not gonna be motivated to do much, let alone be at your best.
“Happiness is not about things you have, but about things you DO.” – Alan P. Brown
So, what might you choose to DO today — maybe even right now, to switch from a so-so mood or even an ugly funk? Remember: based on all the above, you can choose to flip a switch to be happier right NOW (e.g., a gratitude prayer, acknowledge a small victory you had today — and explore more examples at the links below), so that you can begin your work with a stronger feeling about the future: “Hey, this is gonna work out pretty well!”
I always say, “We ADHDers don’t have to accept chronic procrastination, disorganization and overwhelm as a ‘lifestyle.'” And neither do we have to resign ourselves to disappointment, regret and pessimism as a ‘lifestyle.’
Want to Learn Some Simple, Evidence-Based Happiness Hacks?
What’s CrusherTV? It’s a LIBRARY of over 100 20-minute videos teaching ways to beat procrastination, get prioritized, get organized, manage your time, and more. You might get a lot out of watching the entire Episode 106: 5 Scientifically-Proven Ways to Be Happier NOW. (To watch full episodes you can become a member for a buck and cancel any time you like, but either way, you can preview that episode by clicking the image below.
Episode Description: Feeling happy right now? Or, if as is more likely, are you working hard, waiting until some happiness arrives? We’re mostly doing the latter. That’s what we humans do. But I’ll share 5 simple ways to be (genuinely) happy right here & now and any time. (Not including the four happiness mini-hacks I share just in the Episode Preview.) And I’m joined by guest expert Dan Fowler, The Imagination Engineer, who has a cool 6-step process for manifesting what you want.
When it comes to your time and your priorities…you’re letting people walk all over you. You just might not realize it. I’ll show you the basics of setting personal boundaries so you can get more of your stuff done.
You deserve to work on your terms, stay on your priorities and protect your precious time from both the demands of others — and your own self-sabotage.
What is meant by personal boundaries? Let’s take a look at an extreme situation that may not be so extreme for you and me as ADHD adults…
Personal Boundaries in Codependent Relationships
Do you know anyone who exhibits any of the following characteristics of being in a codependent relationship?
They’re unable to put their own needs and feelings first;
They don’t feel they have any rights;
They fear that saying “no” will jeopardize their relationships and they’ll end up unloved or alone; and
As a result, they have unhealthy — or nonexistent — personal boundaries.
No? Nobody you know? Allow me to introduce you to … you!
Now, this is not to make light of what can be very serious codependency issues in unhealthy or abusive relationships, or for those struggling with various kinds of addictions (as I once did).
But you don’t have to be psychotherapist-approved to have a few codependent tendencies, or to be living with unhealthy personal boundaries when it comes to your time, your priorities and your privacy — all of which are fundamental to your productivity.
You deserve to work on YOUR priorities, not just everyone else’s!
In this post I want to show you where your lines of defense are most porous so you can better guard your personal boundaries. Let’s begin with some…
Distinctions About Personal Boundaries
Unhealthy, one-sided relationships are underpinned and reinforced by a lack of healthy personal boundaries — the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated or taken advantage of by others.
Now this sounds like pretty serious stuff, and it is in the world of dysfunctional personal relationships and mental health. But we can also look at these through the lens of productivity in day-to-day work or home life. Let’s revisit the key characteristics of codependents, put into the context of the workplace:
They put other people’s needs and feelings before their own. In a relationship, this might manifest as a failure to attend to one’s own feelings and emotional well-being. In the context of work and productivity it’s putting other people’s priorities first, and you don’t get your work done.
Codependents don’t feel they have rights — like the right to say no — to insensitivity or even worse. Day-to-day at work, you may not feel you have the right to say no to a bunch of things — a new project, another meeting, an arbitrary deadline.
They believe setting or enforcing boundaries jeopardizes the relationship; they fear being dumped or not loved. In the workplace, you may fear not being liked or fear being laid off or somehow excluded (e.g., not getting a promotion or raise).
Where Do Our Personal Boundaries Come From?
To understand the reason you may be experiencing any of the aforementioned, it is instructive to understand where these boundaries come from.
For the codependent, boundaries were learned.
From childhood: If you were constantly told to shut up, you learned that you don’t deserve to be heard.
From adolescence: If your personal space was constantly violated, you may have learned that your body is not worth treating with respect. And so on.
But here’s the thing about your boundaries and your productivity: Something that’s learned, is also taught. And every day, as ADHD adults in the workplace and the home, we are teaching others what our boundaries are.
One quick example: I was recently interviewed on a podcast called Dudes to Dads. One of the co-hosts, a very successful e-commerce consultant, noted that he is so responsive to his clients that recently when he didn’t reply to a phone message within 30 minutes, the client got worried and called, emailed and texted, “Dude, are you OK?” That is what he taught his clients.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with great customer service, but training your clients or your co-workers or your boss that a response can be expected in minutes is going to be pulling you away from whatever your priorities are on a constant basis.
Click image to Tweet this quote!
So, boundaries are a critical part of productivity and time management, especially for the ADHD adult. And there are countless areas where we can train others to respect boundaries of our choosing, from emails, phone calls and texts, to requests from the boss or your team to your kids or your spouse.
But we also can and must train ourselves to respect our own boundaries, too — around social media, negative thoughts, gossip and other BS.
So give some thought to where you might have some weak personal boundaries — both at work and at home; both with others and with yourself — and see if there are some opportunities to strengthen them.
When I think about personal boundaries, I’m always reminded of this great quote:
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you: Not much.” Jim Rohn TWEET THIS
As I mentioned at the outset, you deserve to work on your terms, stay on your priorities and protect your precious time from both the demands of others — and your own self-sabotage.
Remember, whatever’s in your way is yours to crush!
P.S. Have you joined the CrusherTV Facebook Community yet? A great source of videos, articles and conversations about unleashing the power of your brain! CLICK to join us!
“Garbage in. Garbage out.” True for computers, for your brain — and for your ADHD brain fog.
They say, “You are what you eat.” To the extent that’s true, you’d want to eat lots of “brain foods” and steer clear of “stupid foods,” right? Right. So if you want to beat the frustrating ADHD brain fog so many of us ADHD adults (and teens and kids) experience, we need to sort out the brainy from the stupid.
Because there’s a lot of stupid on the food shopping list of the average American — and Canadian, and Brit and everybody else.
In this blog, I’ll dive into the importance of feeding your brain for maximum focus and productivity, and to fight your “ADHD brain fog.”
ADHD brain fog is in part a function of…your diet!
I don’t know about you, but growing up, most of my food came out of a cardboard box. Ah, the ’70s. Breakfast was toaster pizzas. Or, if I was lucky, a Carnation Instant Breakfast (artificial eggnog flavor was my favorite).
And lunch? Peanut butter and mayonnaise on white Wonder Bread. Yum!
And it’s not that my family was poor. We just had very poor knowledge about how simple carbs and processed foods can sabotage academic success. My diet meant I had little fuel for my brain. And sadly, the idea that a donut or a croissant (again, all simple carbs) was a meal, lingered until well into my 30s, where I struggled as an ad executive with undiagnosed adult ADHD.
Then I learned the difference between brain foods and stupid foods, and that you can hack your brain with your diet choices to beat the ADHD brain fog and increase your productivity.
To do so effectively, it’s important to…
Stop Eating the Foods of the Past
Two food categories, in particular, are fast losing traction in the marketplace — and for good reason.
First is refined sugar, or sugars that have been stripped of their fiber. Our brains and bodies are not set up to deal with refined sugar, including and especially high fructose corn syrup. Refined sugar is a toxin. The liver cannot deal with it. Yet, the average American consumes 130 pounds of sugar a year. That’s why one-third of Americans have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. (Most who do don’t realize it.)
Indications that refined sugar is on its way to becoming a food of the past: per capita soda sales are down 25% since 1998. Orange juice, once “part of a healthy breakfast!” but now seen as the unhealthy carrier of fiber-less sugar that it is, is down 45% in the same period. Sales of packaged cereals, just boxes of sugar and carbs, are down more than 25% since 2000.
And here’s why your brain should be happy to say bye-bye to sugary foods: Fructose targets the reward center in the brain, so you jones for more junk food like, well, a junkie. And you get no sustained mental stamina from it.
The second group likely to be relegated to the dustbin of dietary history is those foods in the center of the supermarket. The biggest food marketers, from Kraft to Nestle to General Mills, who make boxed, canned and jarred food products, are getting their butts kicked by the store perimeter. The marketers have profited for generations on cheap, shelf-stable foods that make up most the typical supermarket’s square footage, but the consumer is now avoiding these fake food aisles and sticking to the refrigerated perimeter where the real food is.
Here’s why your brain should be happy to say bye-bye to the store’s center: Most shelf-stable foods are loaded with simple carbs, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives and a fraction of fresh foods’ nutrient quality. Here’s a good rule of thumb from a top researcher in this field: “If you see a food advertised on TV, don’t eat it. If you wanted it or needed it, they wouldn’t have to advertise it.”
“If it’s advertised on TV, don’t eat it. If you wanted it or needed it, they wouldn’t have to advertise it.” – Dr. Robert Lustig, UCSF
Some Simple Diet Solutions to Beat ADHD Brain Fog
In my award-winning Crusher virtual-coach videos, I teach 10 strategies for busy-brained people to escape the overwhelm. And the very first strategy I teach I call “Feed Your Brain.”
Why is this taught first? Because so many of us are eating poop that turns our brains into poop, and we can’t learn new productivity strategies with poop-for-brains. You can’t learn new productivity strategies when your brain is bogged down with stupid food.
And it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get the crap out of your diet and let the good stuff in. Here are four, easy-to-remember diet principles essential to the brain.
● SUGAR SUCKS
● CARBS KILL
● PROTEIN IS POWER
● OMEGAS ARE MEGA
FACT: Sugar and junk foods create a quick blast of energy but then metabolize away, leaving you with an energy crash. And guess what happens after that crash? You look for another energy blast, and grab another piece of sugary crap, never getting any sustained mental energy. So, if you’re eating a glazed donut for breakfast, you are kicking your own ass down the street.
FACT: Simple carbs are much like sugar in that they create a burst of energy that’s short-lived and then leave you in the mental gutter. Now, carbs don’t really kill — in fact, you can’t live without them. But stay away from simple carbs, easily remembered as “white foods:” white bread and pasta, white rice, white potatoes. Hunt down complex carbs instead: whole-grain breads and cereals, brown rice, yams.
Protein is Power
FACT: The brain makes a variety of chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, to regulate, among other things, alertness. Protein triggers alertness-inducing neurotransmitters that help you focus. You get quality proteins from fish, lean meat, beans, eggs, dairy and protein drinks or powders. And if you use protein drinks or powders, make sure they’re not loaded with sugar, because sugar sucks.
Omegas are Mega
FACT: Certain fatty acids, like the omega-3s and omega-6s found in cold-water fish, can improve brain function and memory. So, get more essential omega fatty acids. To get these and protein, snack on walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts and sardines. Then chow down on salmon, tuna, avocados.
And here’s a bonus: ZIMBY-6. (Z, I, M, B6) Zinc, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6. These are all shown to enhance brain function. Their food sources are many, but keep it simple and just buy some high-quality supplements.
So, all you need to know about diet for right now is: Sugar sucks. Carbs kill. Protein is power. Omegas are mega. And ZIMBY-6.
Take This Action Step to Start Beating ADHD Brain Fog
I feel strongly about this, and so should you — strongly enough to take some action on behalf of your starving, food-abused brain.
On a clean sheet of paper, write across the top, headings for the following five columns:
Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner – Snacks – Indulgences
List under each one the foods you most often eat. Then take a step back, scan the whole sheet and circle those foods that violate our principles of Sugar Sucks, Carbs Kill, Protein is Power and Omegas are Mega.
Now, picture each one you’ve circled in your mind with a big red X through it. Then, stab it, run it over with your car, get out of the car and stab it again. Repeat this exercise with all poisons.
Now that you know the basics of how to keep your brain properly fed for optimal function and overall wellness, perhaps this old adage will have new meaning: Garbage in, garbage out.
Keep that brain fed right, and whatever’s in your way will be yours to crush.