some folks have expressed interest in a topic re: tips & strategies for managing ADHD, and the baton was passed to me, so here we are!
i was diagnosed with ADHD in my 40s, and that process of testing and discussing with my therapist at the time highlighted areas of my life that i hadn’t realized were connected. i think my first response to him was “you mean i’m not a f*ck-up?”. i honestly thought that i’d not been able to complete projects, “succeed” in the way that i wanted to, or manage some fairly simple daily living activities because of some deep flaw in my personality. this kind of poor self-concept is a component of ADHD that many people experience, and i want to address this first.
there is nothing wrong with you.
the authorized world, consensus reality, society, etc, was/were created as one gigantic adaptation that enables neurotypical folks (stack other privileges here, too) to fast-track toward whatever version of success is relevant at the time in question. wealth, status, diplomas, etc.
folks with ADHD (and other divergent neurologies) have difficulty intersecting with that world, because it wasn’t designed for them. that doesn’t mean that we’ll never be happy, successful, etc. it just means that we need to create interfaces that enable us to access to the systems that allow us to meet our own needs.
this is an experimental process.
if you’ve gotten this far with ADHD, you’ve already built some of these interfaces. these will reflect your context, personal preferences, autobiographical material, etc. some of these probably work very well for you, some of them probably not so much. what matters at this point is that you realize there’s no one way of doing things, ADHD or no. so the point with tips/tricks/strategies is to try them out with an eye on results. if they work, great! keep them. if they don’t, cool! get rid of them and try something else.
to me, the recipe for success in this matter is: start slowly, be as kind to yourself as possible, maintain curiosity and a sense of play, and be persistent.
regular exercise. while i’m not great at maintaining it, helps modulate my mood and attention more than just about anything else i’ve tried.
the main way i look at working with my attention and energy is that i have a tendency to either flow or stagnate, like water, so i need to create structures that channel flow, without much conscious effort at the time. it’s an architecture of fluency that i can simply pour myself into.
- creating specific places/containers for things that i constantly misplace.
my keys, wallet, lighter, and other pocket things all “live” on my desk, when not in my pocket.
- habituating maintenance tasks on a regular schedule.
honestly, i’ve fallen out of most of these habits due to stress/life events. but when i have a specific day for taking out the trash, a specific time of day for doing dishes, etc, i don’t have to think about it until the whole system is disrupted.
- creating sequences (or “habit chains”) of tasks i need to repeat regularly.
[example: morning routine on workdays = wake up. smoke cigarette. eat breakfast. take meds. drink coffee. smoke cigarette. meditate. journal. smoke cigarette. play solitaire (analog) + jot notes re: the day ahead. smoke cigarette. brush teeth. shower. get dressed. retrieve “pocket stuff” from the appropriate place. grab backpack (already full of job supplies/materials). leave house.]
- making a to-do list for every day
no more than 7 items are allowed on the list at a time, or i get overwhelmed, and 5 items is really my sweet-spot. obviously there are usually more things i need to do in a day, so i’ll break it down in various ways: most of my job stuff is habituated, but if there are special cases, i’ll make separate lists for job/personal stuff. if that’s not simplified enough, i make a “master list” with everything on it, and a “HUD list” of just 5 things, that i refer to throughout the day and refresh from the master list when i cross items off.
- if it’s not on a calendar or to-do list, and it isn’t habituated, it doesn’t exist
i still haven’t found the calendar system that works best for me. i’m leaning toward the bullet journal method of nesting monthly/weekly/daily logs with future logs for overflow. but need some easier-to-read at a glance stuff like a trad monthly calendar, but haven’t identified what i need where. still in process.
thank you for reading this far, and please feel free to add your own tips/strategies, questions, etc! i’ll be adding some more specifics later.
on deck: managing long-term goals, managing overwhelm, managing the terrifying “full stop”…and other things.