The ADHD Solutions Blog

Featured on How to finish what you started

For adults with ADHD, keeping a mental to-do list just doesn't work. It takes up brain bandwidth you could be using for other things. You forget stuff, and then remember while you're in the middle of doing something else. You jump up to do it, and never go back to the original thing. Your natural tendency for impulsivity takes over, and that can be stressful. Detailed planning is the answer.

Often, adults with ADHD only try new organizational and time management strategies when they feel immense pressure — at work, at home, in social situations — that makes them feel they need to change something, right away. But, organizing under pressure can't be done. You need to disconnect from feelings of, "If I screw this up..." and take some quiet time to do the organizational thinking...

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Now offering psychotherapy!

I've been working hard on my master's degree in counseling, so I can help people with the full array of issues that can go along with having ADHD. Things like low self-esteem, hopelessness, negative programming from childhood, and even co-existing conditions like depression and anxiety. After nearly two years of hard work, I've accrued enough credit hours towards my master's that I can begin offering psychotherapy in addition to ADHD coaching. Since I am not yet licensed (that will take another two years), I am working under the supervision of a licensed professional counselor (LPC). This is standard in Pennsylvania and many other states - therapists work under supervision until they accrue 3000 hours working with clients. Unfortunately, I'm not yet able to accept insurance. However, I am offering reduced rates to make up for it. Contact me to schedule a free consultation and we'll figure out the best way for us to work together.

A Smoothie with No Added Sugar is Still As Tasty

Some people think smoothies are a great way to get a serving or two of fruit. Others criticize them for their high sugar content. It’s true, a lot of the smoothies you get at restaurants have a bunch of added sugar in the form of sucrose or high fructose corn syrup. Sugar, of course, is the enemy of anyone with ADHD who wants to get anything done. Sure, it gives you a quick burst of energy, but it’s followed a very short time later by a sugar crash, and you’re worse off than you were before. So try to limit your consumption. (BTW, I also try to avoid artificial sweeteners even though they’re supposed to be safe – just my own personal bias.)

Here’s a tip: At some places, you can ask them to not add any sugar to your smoothie. You don’t really need it, fruit already is sweet enough. Today I had an Island Green smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Café, with spinach, kale, mango, pineapple, and banana, hold the sugar please. Delicious! I didn’t even miss the (extra) sugar.


Today was a lousy focus day.

It happens. Even ADHD coaches have lousy focus days sometimes.

I’ve been taking short-acting Adderall on an as-needed basis for the last few months. Grad school is incredibly demanding – there’s a ton of reading and writing involved. I’m a full-time student and a full-time ADHD coach. Spending time with my family is important to me, as are self-care activities like exercise and a good night’s sleep. Reading is particularly challenging for me. So I simply don’t have time to read the same paragraph four times and still not know what it said.

What I’ve noticed about Adderall is that although it can help you focus, you will focus on whatever you set your sites on and nothing else. It’s like using a sniper rifle instead of a shotgun. But you have to aim the gun at the right thing. So if I get the idea in my head that my web site needs to be revamped, for example, I will be able to immerse myself in my HTML code for four hours straight. Sadly, that was not today’s target. I lost a good chunk of time to a project that isn’t even on my to-do list.

But! I’m a coach. Coaches don’t beat anyone up for less-than-stellar performance. We ask, “What did you learn from this? And what will you do differently tomorrow?” What will I do? Tomorrow, I am going to be more intentional with my time. I am going to identify my most important task, select my first action item, fire up my “let’s get focused” music, maybe take an Adderall, and get to work on the task I selected. Perhaps most importantly, I will NOT say “Let me just”. Once I get in the groove, I know I will be able to stay there.

I see staying focused as two-part process. First, you have to prime your brain for optimal focus. This involves sleep, diet, exercise, maybe medication. A distraction-free environment is important too. Second, you have to get off the fence and decide what you’re going to do. Figure out what’s most important, and commit to doing it and nothing else. That is my recipe for focus success. I’m not saying it’s easy – it’s certainly NOT easy when you have ADHD. But it is possible if you do these two things.

Tomorrow is a new day!

Featured on PsychCentral: How Adults With ADHD Can Become Better Listeners

Here's an excerpt from my interview with PsychCentral associate editor Margarita Tartakovsky on the topic "How can adults with ADHD become better listeners?":

Because adults with attentive deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are easily distracted by their environment and their own thoughts and feelings, listening to others is a challenge, according to Beth Main, a certified ADHD coach. It’s a challenge in all kinds of settings, from one-on-one conversations to classroom lectures to work meetings. After all, “Inability to sustain attention is one of the hallmark symptoms of ADHD.”

Adults who are hyperactive find it difficult to stay in the same place for a long time: “We need to keep moving. It’s as if we’re driven by a motor.” This may manifest as remembering they left something in the other room, and rushing off to retrieve it while the other person is mid-sentence.

Adults with ADHD also tend to blurt out comments before the other person is finished talking, she said...

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Featured on PsychCentral: 10 Daily Habits That Help You Manage ADHD

What should you be doing every day to improve life with ADHD? That's the question several ADHD experts, including myself, were asked in an interview for It should come as no surprise that sleep, diet, and exercise were high on our list. Good task management (i.e. an effective to-do list) and positive thinking are super-important too.

Here's the link to the full article:

Here's the secret link to my ADDitude Magazine blog

I used to blog regularly for ADDitude Magazine. Maybe you remember it: the ADHD Coach blog? That was me. It had some really good stuff in it if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, I couldn't keep up with it when I started grad school, and the good editors at ADDitude understandably took it off the menu. This is an example of how sometimes you have to make difficult choices and recognize that you can't do it all.

But all is not lost!  The blog itself remains even though it's not listed anywhere.  Here is the secret URL to get to it: Scroll down, it's under my bio and feature articles.

I still write for them occasionally on their "Ask the Experts" blog as well as the print magazine.  ADDitude is a wonderful resource for adults with ADHD as well as the parents of children with ADHD. So check it out if you're not familiar with it.

Product Review: the Time Timer PLUS watch

The good people at Time Timer recently asked me to review their new Time Timer PLUS watch.   Although the product is intended primarily for kids, there is a version for adults, and my review is from an adult's perspective.  Here's what I found:

The first thing I noticed about the Time Timer watch is its hefty size.  This could be a good thing, seeing as how its primary purpose is to provide a visual cue of the passage of time.  Also, it should be able to stand up to all sorts of ADHD-inspired abuse.  Adults with thinner wrists like mine might prefer the Youth model; go with the smaller version if you’re between sizes.

Operation is intuitive and straightforward if you’re used to sports watches like the Timex Ironman.  Press the “Mode” button to toggle between Clock, Timer, and Alarm.  Press and hold “Set”, press the up and down keys to set the hour, press “Next” to get to minutes, press “Set” again to make it stick.  There’s no complicated instruction manual in the box – I guess they know we ADDers won’t read it anyway.  There is a “quick start” guide printed on the box, and a video at in case you get stuck.  Cool, one less thing to file.

The Time Timer feature is clearly the main attraction, and the primary reason you’d want to buy this product.   It displays the time remaining graphically as a fraction of a pie.  (The pie, incidentally, isn’t nearly as red as it shows in the pictures, it’s more of a vaguely reddish gray unless you hold it at exactly the right angle.)  When I first started using it, I was perturbed that I couldn’t easily see how many minutes remained, although this is displayed in a small font down at the bottom (I had to look closely to see it).  But I quickly discovered that what I REALLY wanted to know is, “Am I almost done?” The watch tells me that instantaneously.  I don’t have to do the translation.  This is key for the ADD brain.  Half a pie?  No, not even close to being done.  A sliver?  Yeah, I can start winding down now.  You can set it to vibrate, beep, or do both when the time is up.    I really like the vibrate mode.  That way I’m not announcing to the whole room that the time is up.  I can use it for meetings so I know when to start wrapping things up.  The downside is that I have to remember to set it.  As I mentioned, setting the timer is fairly straightforward.  But it does take quite a few key presses  – at least five, not including the number of times you hit “up” or “down” to select the number of minutes.  This is not an issue if you can leave it set for the same amount of time, for example a 25 minute work block.  Then it’s only two key presses, “Mode” and “Start”.   I mention this because realistically, something has to be easy to use or we probably won’t use it at all.

The Clock feature has an analog display (hour and minute hands), with a digital readout (HH:MM:SS) at the bottom.  This gives you the best of both worlds, but it’s a little difficult to see.  Nothing unexpected here.

The Alarm feature has an analog display too.  It’s very similar to the clock, but different enough that I can tell them apart.  Like the Time Timer, I can set it to ring, vibrate, or both.  There is no snooze option.

My chief complaint about the Time Timer watch is that some of the characters are really hard to read.  They’re either so small that I need to put on my reading glasses to see them, or they’re so faint that I have to put the watch under a light and turn it in different directions to make them out.   All the buttons are labeled, but the labels are either light gray on a dark gray background or engraved into a brushed silver background.  I’m guessing that this design decision was based on aesthetics – the watch is very clean and crisp.  Fortunately, the button text isn’t terribly important because you’ll quickly memorize the functions anyway.  Unfortunately, some essential features, like the a.m./p.m. indicator, are so small that I cannot see them at all without the dreaded reading glasses.  A younger set of eyes should be able to read them just fine.

Bottom line?  This is a great extension of the Time Timer product line.  If you like the original Time Timer, you’ll love this watch.  It’s exactly what it’s meant to be: a Time Timer that you can wear.   This could be the solution for someone with no sense of time.

Get it Done, Now!

Join Beth Main, certified ADHD coach, founder of ADHD Solutions, and ADDitude blogger, as she hosts the "Get It Done, Now! How to Stay on Time and on Task With Adult ADHD" webinar on January 22, 2013 from 1PM to 2PM EST.  There is no cost to attend, and the session will be recorded.

This webinar is in Q&A format, so bring your questions.  Register here:

Who? Who? Who's distracted?

There's a new web site blocking tool for Google Chrome called "Productivity Owl".  It works a lot like "Leechblock", which is an add-in for the Firefox browser that I've been recommending to my clients for years.  You can tell it which web sites you want to keep yourself from visiting, and when.  You can also white-list sites that you want to be allowed to access any time (such as :))

But the killer feature of Productivity Owl is defining how long you want to be allowed on any random web site during work hours.   It will close the tab automatically when you've exceeded the time limit.   This is really cool because we often don't plan to visit a web site, so we don't have a rule set up for it.   You just go there impulsively because it caught your attention - maybe there was a link to it in an email from the boss.  And before you even realize it, you've wasted an hour.  With Productivity Owl, you can stay for just long enough to see what it's all about, then choose to save it for later (another nifty feature) or get kicked out.

The Owl has a sense of humor, too.  There's an option to Get an Exception - and when you click it, you're told that the owl doesn't grant exceptions.  The app is new, so it's still a little quirky.  But I like it enough that I switched to Chrome just so I can keep using it.  Check it out here:

I have to finish this quick, because The Owl is telling me I only have 61 seconds left before he kicks me off this page.  See ya!


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