Michael Phelps, multiple gold medal winner in swimming, has ADHD. So do many other famous and successful people. If you have this diagnosis, you have good company, and that should give you a mood lift. While researchers and psychiatrists distinguish between ADD and ADHD, the lines between these two diagnoses are often blurred, so do not get too caught up in the differences indicated by one letter.
If you have ADD/ADHD, you should know that you are all of these things:
- You generally have above-average intelligence
- You are generally highly creative
- You tend to think “outside of the box” and have unique solutions to problems
- You tend to be highly empathetic and caring
- You find joy in even the smallest of pleasures
- In school you can be disruptive, although this usually dissipates by college
- You have difficulty focusing on school work and it may take you longer than most to complete assignments – (both reading and writing)
- In the workplace, you may have difficulty focusing on tasks and projects, particularly those that involve many steps or phases.
- When you do get immersed in something that really interests or excites you, you ‘zone in’ like no other, and it may be difficult for you to ‘break’ from that activity and change gears.
To meet the challenges you may face, and to let your great qualities shine through, here are 41 hacks to use on a daily basis:
1. Break down all tasks into bite-sized actions.
Every time you have a task that involves more than one step, break it down into one step at a time. Write each step down so you can follow the right sequence.
2. Keep your brain tidy.
If you are distracted by persistent thoughts as you are trying to study or work, get out a piece of paper and write them down. Somehow, writing them down allows you to focus on the task at hand.
3. Keep a to-do list printed out in front of you.
Not just in a file on your computer or somewhere in your planner. You need to have the visual in front of you at all times to keep your focus sharp and to help you accomplish more daily.
4. Always hold onto your to-do list.
Hold onto it until everything is crossed off or until you’ve put incomplete items onto a new list. If you don’t do this, you’ll forget something or lose an important step in a process.
5. Choose only one place for your stuff.
Have only one place where you keep the important stuff – keys, phone, purse or wallet – and this means at both work and at home.
6. Keep your things organized.
Get a basket or nice-looking organizer that is divided into compartments. Label each compartment with the different categories required to organize your important stuff; this will remind you to put everything in the right place.
7. Have a calendar or planner with you at all times.
Write down every appointment and meeting. If you do this with an app, you must also put a calendar on your wall with those dates marked in print also, because you need a visual that you’ll see daily.
8. Check everything twice a day.
Check your calendar every night before going to bed and again in the morning when you first wake up. Repetitive reminders will always help.
9. Get yourself isolated when you need to focus.
Get yourself to a quiet isolated place when you need to focus on a task. It should feature either no windows/ windows with shades, and either no noise or just “white” noise. If you can’t block out noise, use earplugs.
10. Use tools to limit your Internet presence.
If you have to use your computer for school or work, get an app/tool to block the Internet or at least your favorite sites while you work.
11. Do not clutter up your work/study space.
Keep your home and work/study space as orderly and uncluttered as possible. Some people work well amid clutter – you don’t.
12. Stack your important things in easy reach.
Stack everything that will be going to school or work with you the next morning in a specific spot, including books, files, keys, phone, and purse/ wallet.
13. Do not become distracted by TV – keep it off.
Speaking of mornings, don’t turn the TV on as you are getting ready for work or school. It’s just too easy to become distracted by the latest events. Listen to the radio on the way to work instead.
14. Put aside your cell phone when you are busy.
Give someone else, whom you trust, the care of your phone while you work on a task or project. Instruct them to answer only calls from family members, in case of emergency
15. Don’t try to work too long.
Take frequent breaks- and MOVE when you take those breaks, especially if you have ADHD. Set a timer for them because it’s good to look forward to the “ding.”
16. Don’t let the Internet become a distraction.
Limit your time on the Internet with the help of hotspot software. Give yourself a time frame and use a mobile hotspot app to control your schedule.
17. Harness the power of hyper focus.
If you are totally immersed in a project, do not take a break. There are times when getting “into the zone” is a good thing.
18. If you think of something, write it down immediately.
Have a place in every room for writing important things down as they come to mind. Use a dry erase board, or just a pad of paper. You can consolidate those lists once a day.
19. Get ahead of yourself.
Set all of your clocks ahead and live as though you are 5-10 minutes ahead of everyone else. If you get a bit distracted, you’ll still be on time.
20. Pay all of your bills at once.
Arrange for all bills to be due at the same time. Since usually your mortgage or rent is due between the 1st and 10th of each month, contact all of your creditors and utilities and request the same time frame. Most will oblige.
21. Use technology to keep up with payments.
If you have trouble remembering to pay bills, arrange an automatic payment from your checking account. Your other option is to pay bills online and carefully check your payment history. All banks list everyone you have paid, along with the dates of the last payment. It is easy to check possible cases of fraud.
22. Don’t try to clean daily.
Schedule only one day a week for cleaning. The dirt isn’t going anywhere.
23. Have a medication backup plan.
Carry meds with you or keep a small supply in your desk at work, in case you forget to take them. At some point you’ll remember and you’ll be glad you had the foresight to prepare.
24. Count on loved ones.
Use supportive people like friends and family to remind you of things you need to get done and appointments you have.
25. Treat yourself.
Put rewards in place for yourself as you get things done. The bigger the task or project, the bigger the reward should be.
26. Divide up reading assignments.
If you have long reading assignments, divide the book up into sections between now and the due date. Put post-it notes on those divisions, and read each section on a schedule
27. Break big jobs into small tasks.
For long term assignments or projects, divide it up into individual tasks or steps and put each one on that calendar on your wall.
28. Multi-tasking is your enemy.
Stop trying to multi-task. Some people can do this – you cannot, and that’s totally fine. In fact, multi-tasking actually does not do any good for anyone.
29. Use your voice to commit important things to memory.
When someone gives you important verbal information or instructions, and you have nothing to write it down with, repeat it out loud 3-4 times between the time of the instruction and when you are able to get somewhere that allows you to write it down.
30. Always be prepared to take notes.
Carry a pad of paper with you- even just a tiny one- everywhere you go. You can also use an app like Evernote, but you will need to remember to access it at least once a day and get your notes on visible sheets of paper or that calendar.
31. Feeling emotional or stressed? Calm down first.
Do not take on a task or project if you are feeling emotional, especially sad. Wait until you are more even-tempered
32. Fidget respectfully.
If you need to tap, jiggle your leg, or do something similar as you work or sit in a meeting, do so as unobtrusively as possible so you don’t disturb others. Explain to others that it helps you to focus.
Don’t hoard. If you have finished a project or task, take all of that paperwork you were using and get rid of it.
34. Walk and talk.
When you are engaged in important phone conversations, pace as you talk. You will stay more focused if you do.
35. Pause before speaking.
Come up with a signal that you give yourself before you say something in class or in a meeting. It can be as simple as putting your finger to your lips. This will remind you to think before you blurt something out that you may regret later.
36. Embrace the sticky note.
Get a lot of post-it notes. Put your errands, one by one, on post-it notes and stick them on the dashboard of your car. As you finish each errand, get rid of the post-it note. It will feel good to do that!
37. Use colors to set priorities.
Put color-coded post-it notes on your wall calendar to prioritize your tasks. Red notes could signify urgent tasks, and so on.
38. ADHD does not define you.
Remind yourself of all of your strengths and talents, and do so often. Justin Timberlake, Jamie Oliver, Richard Branson and even Ryan Gosling struggle with the same things that you do!
39. Don’t let your active brain cheat you out of sleep.
If you wake up in the middle of the night because of thoughts running through your head, turn on the light, write them down on a piece of paper on your nightstand, and go back to sleep.
40. Go with the flow when you can.
Let yourself be distracted when it doesn’t matter. It’s okay to stop doing the dishes if you hear something on TV you want to watch and listen to.
41. Laughter is a great thing.
Find humor in your ADD and joke about it. You’ll feel better.
Having ADD or ADHD is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, you are destructible; yes you are “antsy”; yes, you may have more difficulty focusing in order to complete tasks. But you are also a person whose brain is in ‘rapid fire’ mode a lot more frequently than most others, and that allows you to be a creative problem solver! Using these hacks will help to minimize your ‘curses’ and maximize your blessings.
Featured photo credit: WarmSleepy via flickr.com