Don’t “Should” on Yourself

On September 25th, 2014, Margarita Tartakovsky posted another great article at PsychCentral on Adult ADHD. For it she interviewed both me and Dr. Ari Tuckman. Here are the first few parapgraphs:

Adults with ADHD often hold all kinds of “shoulds.” These include everything from I should be able to remember that to I shouldn’t need a pill to do what I’m supposed to do to I shouldn’t need all these reminders or alarms, according to Ari Tuckman, PsyD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in ADHD.

Other common beliefs include: I should be able to do this by myself and I should be able to do it that way, said Sarah D. Wright, a life coach who specializes in working with people who have attention disorders.

“These statements aren’t helpful because they put a value judgment onto a factual matter,” said Tuckman. That is, they assume that you should be able to do something you can’t do.

You can read the rest of this great article here:
Adults with ADHD – Shrinking Shoulds

Manging Adult ADHD

Margarita Tartakovsky, Associate Editor at, has written many excellent articles on ADHD. She’s just completed two more. I’m telling you about them because in doing her research, she interviewed me and several of my colleagues.

The first one, 10 Daily Habits That Help You Manage ADHD, was posted last week.

The second one, Fidgeting Strategies that Help People with ADHD Focus, was posted today.

Check them out!

7 Tips for Finishing What You Start

Earlier this year I was interviewed by Margarita Tartakovsky, Associate Editor at, for an article on how to finish what you start.

The article was posted today. Check it out!

Adults & ADHD: 7 Tips for Finishing What You Start

Because of the nature of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), adults with the disorder quickly lose interest in what they’re doing. The ADHD brain gets bored easily and needs novelty (this helps to boost dopamine levels, which are low in people with ADHD).

Of course, this doesn’t bode well for wrapping up tasks.

The need for newness also means that adults with ADHD often start many different projects and simply get too busy to finish them all, according to Sarah D. Wright, a life coach who specializes in working with people who have attention disorders.

Plus, they can get stuck on a task, because they’re unsure of how to move forward, she said.

In order to finish what you start, it helps to have support and get clear on the parameters of your project. Below, Wright revealed how to do just that, along with other specific tips for following through.

1. Work with a buddy.

It’s a lot easier – and more entertaining — to complete tasks when you’re working with someone else. For instance, you might ask a family member to help you do the laundry or cook dinner.

2. Have a body double.

This is a person who works alongside you, but isn’t doing the same thing. Rather, they’re “doing the behavior that you want to emulate,” said Wright, also author of Fidget to Focus. She gave the example of a couple doing household chores on Saturday morning. The wife works on organizing the closet, while her husband works on the yard.

3. Race the clock.

“Set yourself a time limit to get work done,” Wright said. For instance, set a timer for 15 minutes and see how many emails you can get through or how much of the bathroom you can clean. Make it a game to see how quickly you can accomplish each task, she said.

4. Create reminders.

Find ways to remind yourself why you’re doing the task in the first place, Wright said. Why is accomplishing this important? Why does it matter? For instance, as a reminder, you might print out an image or place a sticky note on your computer.

5. Have a clear finish line.

Before you start a project, get clear on what you’d like to accomplish. For instance, “cleaning the garage is too nebulous a goal,” Wright said. Get specific: Do you want to clean the garage so you can park your car? Do you want to create shelving and organize your tools and other items? Do you want to get rid of everything?

In other words, she suggested asking yourself: “What do I want the end to actually look like before I go in there to make something happen?”

6. Start small.

Starting small is a more manageable way to work, Wright said. It feels great when you accomplish something, and it helps you gain momentum. For instance, if you’re working on your garage, again, maybe your goal is to clear off the worktable.

7. Know when to move on.

Sometimes, finishing a project just isn’t worth it. “Sometimes, the best thing is to cut your losses, and move on,” Wright said.

For instance, she invested her time and money in a training program. In order to receive the certification, she had to complete a final project. She realized that she received everything she wanted from the program without needing the certification. So she didn’t do the final project. “This was the first time in my life that I’d chosen not to do something.” And she found it liberating.

When you’re trying to figure out if you’d like to finish a project, consider: “Is this still in line with what’s important to you and in helping you move you forward? Or is it time to cut your losses and move on?”

ADHD makes it much harder to finish what you start. Using strategies like the ones above can help with following through — when necessary.

Thanks, Margarita, for a great article!

Distractions and Cooking Don't Mix

Right after I posted this Blondie cartoon, this real-life story came across my desk:

I was trying so hard to not miss the show I was staying in the kitchen near the radio so I wouldn’t forget. I realized I had enough time to put the laundry in the dryer before the show started. I had put the tea pot on the stove. My husband always reminds me I should never leave the room with the stove on. Well he wasn’t home and I thought I could make a fast trip the laundry room. When I got there I thought I might just turn on the watering system to be efficient. I remembered I had never tried to set a new watering pattern myself and thought I would give it a try. When I got back to the kitchen the tea pot had boiled so dry it totally warped the bottom. The good news was that the glass top stove did not crack and I did get back in time for the show!

Boy, can I relate! I have boiled my kettle dry on several occasions. Because of that, I now heat tea water in the microwave. If I forget my tea water there, all that happens is that the water gets cold!

A more spectacular story for me is I once forgot about a tamale I was steaming for lunch. I had (notice the tense) a favorite non-stick pan I used to cook just about everything in. Because it was non-stick, I’d found a plastic steamer basket to use with it so I wouldn’t ruin the finish. Well, I put in the water, the steamer basket, and the tamale, turned on the heat and went back to my desk to knock off a few more emails. By the time I remembered my lunch, it was a stinky mess of scorched masa corn meal on a bed of melted plastic in the middle of my now ruined pan. It looked like one of those gags you get in the joke shop…

So that was the end of my pan. And I now have a personal rule that I don’t leave the kitchen while I’m cooking my breakfast or lunch. Dinner isn’t a problem because when I’m cooking dinner I have hungry family members asking me when dinner will be. It’s hard to forget about the cooking with that kind of automatic reminder at my elbow!

What’s your story?

Four Tricks to Get Back On Track

Well, here it is, almost Labor Day. Many families, including my own, are now looking at starting up their “regular” routines again. And many are looking forward to it. I know I am. I had a great summer that included traveling, camping, visiting with people I am fond of whom I don’t get to see very often, chauffeuring my son all over the place, and getting to some projects I really wanted to get done.

What I didn’t do though, is work on this blog. And it isn’t because I didn’t think about it or didn’t want to. What I did was a very ADHD thing. I took time off from a routine, thinking it would only be for a couple of weeks, and then the routine totally fell apart. It’s now been a couple of months since I wrote regularly.

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve got a good thing going. You can trust yourself to do what ever it is on a regular basis. And then in a matter of days it’s like you never had that habit or routine at all? This happens to everyone some of the time, but people with ADHD are particularly prone to this kind of lapse.

We all know that the level of payoff or consequence of letting a routine go doesn’t affect a darn thing. What does matter is the more immediate the payoff or consequence, the easier it is to do something. It doesn’t matter if the payoff or consequence is big, if it’s not immediate, it’s hard to take it seriously. Unfortunately, even with immediate payoff or consequence, there’s no guarantee of follow through.

So now that I’m working to get back on track myself, I thought I’d share four of my strategies for developing routines:

  1. Make it easy, make it quick.
  2. Find ways to make it interesting.
  3. Up the ante of doing or not doing it.
  4. Get a buddy to do it with you.

Here are some applications to help you get the idea.

  1. Assuming you brush your teeth regularly already(!), put your pills out next to the tooth brush so it makes it easy to both remember them and take them (the “easy and quick” trick).
  2. If you need to exercise and like numbers, keep statistics on your progress (the “make it interesting” trick).
  3. If housekeeping is your bugaboo, invite people over on a regular basis so you’ll have to clean up or be embarrassed (the “up the ante” trick).
  4. If doing the dishes is something you usually put off, get someone to do them with you (the “buddy” trick).

So, those are my tricks. What do you do to develop and stay with your important routines?