The ADHD Solutions Blog

A writer's perspective: The challenges of ADD

This post was written by guest blogger and unpublished fiction novelist Matt Chiappino:

As both a budding fiction writer and a person with ADD I’ve noticed a few similarities between the career and the condition. ADD can actually be a boon or a hindrance depending on the situation. In some ways the condition can almost prove helpful, as the ADD mentality is certainly creative in nature. I’ve found myself rattling off idea after idea once I get those creative juices flowing. It’s when the actual work part comes along, focusing on a single chapter, organizing and editing my manuscript, where problems start to surface. So even though I’m not an officially published author yet I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts I had on writing and the condition based on personal experience.

FOCUS: The hallmark of ADD. One day I could be doing great. I’m focused on what I need to be, my thoughts and mind zeroed in on that critical chapter or paragraph. The next day I might not be there at all, instead thinking about how I’ve going to have a bad day at work because someone called off and we’re shorthanded blah blah blah. Outside of medication, which works for some like me but not all, the best way to focus one’s mind is during those spare moments of open mental acuity when one’s mind is unencumbered by distractions. When I want to work but can’t blot out the day’s events past or present I might try taking a quick shower. Not only do I feel physically clean, it gives my mind a chance to eject the clutter and junk clogging it and let me refocus with a fresh perspective. Or might try to lay down and take a nap. Even if I sleep just an hour or two, the sheer fact of disconnecting from the junk lets me wake up fresh and renewed, like starting over with a clean slate. The key here is to get that instance of hyper-focus that comes every so often when are minds are latched onto something for a significant time and latch onto a subject of our choice.

PATIENCE: Yes, I know, that dreaded word we’ve all come to hate hearing. I’m no different. A huge part of writing anything though, is patience and persistence. Especially with the longer projects like novels, one has to keep plugging away, writing, rewriting, revising, several times over. Writing is a lengthy process that’s difficult for most people to see through to the end. With ADD thrown in, it can be even more frustrating. But it’s not impossible if one wants it bad enough and is willing to put forth the effort. The best way I’ve found to be productive writing is in small pieces. Don’t sit down and tell yourself it’s time to write the next best-selling novel or short story, it could very well lead to excess pressure or perfectionism. Just write a little bit at a time, say one page a day. It doesn’t sound like much, but think about it. One page a day is 365 pages in a year, a full length novel. Granted, it still takes time for revision and editing, but the bulk of the work, and focus, is already done. Turn creativity into part of the daily routine. Even if you can’t write a full page for whatever reason, just dedicating time every day to creative work does wonders for productivity. And when you do accomplish your goal for the day, treat yourself somehow. Make sure to remind yourself you’re doing well when you are and that every page, every hour spent working is another step closer to the goal. It does wonders for keeping up with the next issue.

CONFIDENCE: From what I’ve seen and lived, the insidious nature of ADD isn’t the condition in itself but the real world implications it often has on the person dealing with it. Unable to budget priorities, unable to get or hold down a job, feeling like a complete failure at life itself as you see your friends and family succeed with apparent ease while you struggle with basic survival, all that tends to devastate one’s belief in their own ability. And nothing kills a writing session faster than self-doubt. This sucks…no one’s going to like it…I’m going to fail again, that’s the ADD talking, don’t listen to it. With focus, patience, and confidence you will succeed. Don’t hope you will, know you will. Imagine yourself standing on a podium, answering a bazillion questions about your best selling novel or short stories or whatever, while getting your picture taken by the media. Healthy fantasies like that help keep people going during times of difficulty so don’t be ashamed to use them.

PUTTING YOURSELF OUT THERE: For a lot of people this is the most difficult element, not just with writing but anything creative in nature. Let’s face it, words can hurt, and negative criticism of something you’ve spent months or even years on hurts so much more. But as much as we all love positive feedback, as writers we need the negative feedback. We need to know what we’re doing wrong to learn from it in future. Take in the criticisms, not to heart but examine them rationally. Are they right? Are their points valid about my work? Some will give you constructive feedback that you can use to good effect in future. And others will just spit fire with no constructive use to the writer. You have to be daring, willing to face any fears of hurtful criticism or slander to make a writing career.

Case in point, I have a confession to make. Even though I’ve written and used the internet extensively I’ve never actually had anything posted for the whole world to see. The fact is I’m terrified of the world at large, but it’s a fear I have to conquer if I’m going to be successful. This very blog post you’ve just read is my own way of facing that fear. I hope you found it interesting.

And thank you so much Beth, for giving me the opportunity.

- Matt Chiappino

100 Fans Contest: Win 100 minutes of coaching!

ADHD Solutions now has over 100 fans on Facebook! We're celebrating by giving away 100 minutes of free ADHD coaching to one lucky Facebook fan.  Just tell us your favorite ADHD Solution (i.e. what works for YOU), and be eligible to win. There are two ways to participate: 1.  Send an email to contest@adhdsolutions.net.   Describe in 150 words or less the ADHD coping strategy that works best for you.  Please include your Facebook profile name in your email (see Rule #3, below). OR: 2.  Add to the discussion on the ADHD Solutions fan page.  Same thing - describe in 150 words or less the ADHD coping strategy that works best for you.  Log in to Facebook and click on the Discussions tab from the ADHD Solutions fan page. Contest rules:

  1. One entry per person, please.
  2. Either email OR post to the discussion area, but don't do both.
  3. You must be a fan of ADHD Solutions on Facebook in order to participate, even if you choose to enter by email.
  4. A panel of judges will select the winner based on the perceived effectiveness and creativity of the entry.  If there are multiple entries with the same idea, a winner will be selected at random from those entries.
  5. The winner will be selected and notified on April 30, 2010.
  6. The winner is responsible for all long distance telephone charges incurred during the 100 minutes of free coaching.
  7. By entering this contest, you agree that your idea may be used by ADHD Solutions, with or without attribution.
  8. If, in her sole discretion, the ADHD Coach (Beth Main, CAC) determines that coaching is unsuitable for the selected winner, another winner will be chosen.  (Certain co-existing conditions, such as extreme depression, may make coaching inappropriate.)
  9. Employees of ADHD Solutions and their family members are not eligible to win.
  10. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to ADHD Solutions and not to Facebook.
  11. Any questions about this contest or these rules may be sent to contest@adhdsolutions.net.

How to make decisions

Back in January, I wrote about how difficult it is for people with Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to make decisions. I suggested making choices based on who you want to be instead of who you’ve been in the past. That’s great advice for those big decisions like staying in college  vs. going pro, but what about the small stuff? Like which GPS to buy? There are two extremes when it comes to making decisions: People who shoot from the hip, and people who spend way too much time analyzing and ruminating, stuck in indecision. Surprisingly, the solutions are nearly the same regardless of which end of the spectrum you’re on. Here are some steps you can follow to make better decisions more easily:

  • Determine how much time to spend on the decision.  Set a deadline for yourself, or determine an appropriate amount of time to spend making a choice.  If you tend to make impulsive decisions, this will help you be more methodical.  If you usually spend too much time, this will help you rein things in.
  • Define your requirements.  What is your goal?  Spend a few minutes thinking through what it is that you’re trying to accomplish.  It doesn’t matter if you’re choosing a college or deciding whether to accept a party invitation, being crystal clear about what you want - and why - will ensure the best outcome.
  • Go on a fact finding mission.  Spend some time researching your options without evaluating them.  You're just gathering information at this point.  Trying to decide before you have all the facts complicates things immensely.
  • Consider the consequences of each choice.  What will it cost you?  What will you gain?  It’s okay to consider your emotions.  “I just want to” is perfectly valid, as long as you’ve considered the other factors as well.
  • Evaluate.  Does anything jump out as the answer?  If so, you’re done.  If not, eliminate the options that don’t make sense and consider those that remain.
  • Do the “yum-yuck” test.  Think about each option, and note how it makes you feel.   The one that is more “yum” than “yuck” is probably the winner.
  • Follow Occam’s Razor.  This is the principle that “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”.  In other words,  when all things are equal, the simplest option tends to be the best one.
  • Last resort:  Flip a coin.  If the choice is still not clear after you’ve gone through all this, just pick something.  You may be fighting perfectionist tendencies, which include a fear of being wrong. It’s okay to be wrong sometimes!  If you’ve gone through this process, you’ve done everything you can to make an informed decision.  You’ve done your due diligence.  Make a choice and move on.  Even if it doesn’t work out, you can take pride in having made a well thought out decision in a timely manner.

What are you having for dinner?  What are you doing this weekend?  What career will you pursue?  Life is full of decisions.  Here’s hoping these tips help you make them wisely.

Workshop: Intro to meditation and yoga for people with ADHD

Are you looking for holistic options to help you manage your Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder?   Yoga and meditation are both excellent choices.  They can help you increase your attention span and self control, while decreasing restlessness and tension. I've teamed up with Tina Stroh and Ron Blouch, co-owners of the Just Plain Yoga Studio here in Camp Hill, to offer a three hour workshop on meditation, yoga, and ADHD.  If you are even mildly affected by ADHD-like symptoms, including distractibility, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity (which usually manifests as restlessness in adults), you won’t want to miss this one. Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • How yoga and meditation can reduce ADHD symptoms
  • Meditation techniques designed specifically for people who have trouble concentrating
  • ADHD-friendly yoga techniques that can calm the mind and body to help improve your ability to focus
  • Success strategies for integrating yoga and meditation into your daily life

This introductory workshop is designed for adult beginners.  There are no prerequisites or advanced knowledge required.  You don’t even have to be able to sit still for very long.

Date:  Saturday February 27, 2009, 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Cost: $60

Location:  Just Plain Yoga Studio, 1845 Market St. & 19th, Camp Hill, PA

Register online at www.justplainyoga.com  or call 717.975.YOGA

Give me a call if you have questions or would like more information.  I hope to see you there!

Free investment management seminar on February 9, 2010

Want to start investing but aren't sure how? You're not alone. Many people with ADHD struggle to reach their financial goals. Here is an opportunity to learn a little more about the financial markets that might be of interest:

"Kim Lutes, a financial advisor with Waddell and Reed, will hold a free investment management seminar at Funck’s Family Restaurant in Palmyra on Tuesday, February 9th. Doors open at 6:00, the seminar begins at 6:20 and will last approximately 30 minutes with a 10 minute question and answer afterwards. A dessert buffet including cakes, pies, and cookies will be served along with coffee and tea. This will be an educational workshop where we will discuss five myths and truths of investing. We’ll show you sound strategies that can help you succeed in the financial markets and pursue your investment goals. A workbook will be provided. Please RSVP by February 2nd by calling 541-9606 ext 112 or email at klutes@wradvisors.com. More information can be found at www.klutes.wradvisors.com. Mutual funds and variable annuities are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest."

Finding motivation when you just don't feel like it

It was dark and rainy outside.  I was cranky.  Almost 10 a.m, and I hadn't gotten anything done yet.  The CD I play to help me focus better (Bach's "Lute Suites") was on its second time through and still wasn't helping.  I was starting to feel guilty for being so unproductive. It was shaping up to be an ADHD kind of day. Exercise would help, but I didn't feel like it. 

What do you do when you know what you should do, but you just don't wanna?  It's sooooo hard to get started. I went over to the spot where I usually stretch and apathetically did a half sun salutation, my favorite yoga movement.   I stopped and looked out the window.  Still raining. Then I looked back at my computer, thinking about all the things that had to be done.

The phone rang.  It was a client, checking in.  She said she'd accomplished most of what she committed to and feels on track.  Then she commented offhandedly, "I went for a walk yesterday.  I think that's a big part of why I did so well."  I expressed full agreement, being a huge proponent of exercise, diet and sleep to keep ADHD symptoms in check.  She went on to say, "It's always hard for me to exercise.  I feel like I'm wasting time.  There are so many things I should be doing instead."  I asked her about her productivity before and after the walk.  "Oh, I got a lot more done after the walk.  It totally rejuvenated me."  "Mmm hmm," I replied.  "I'm not surprised.  Exercise is like that.  It's like medicine.  It helps you focus and stay on task."  I went on to help her reframe it as an investment.

As I helped my client make the connection between exercise and productivity, I immediately felt more motivated myself.  Sometimes what it takes to make you want to do something is to resonate with how great you will feel when it's done. Not just to think "I should", but to actually recall the clearheadedness, the limberness, the energy.

Although I still wasn't completely ready to exercise (did I mention it was dark and rainy out?), I was ready to take the next step.  I pulled out the yoga mat.  This is another one of my favorite anti-procrastination strategies: literally, physically touch the thing you are avoiding. I was in the right state of mind, the mat was out, and I got moving.  And sure enough, I was soon feeling better.  By 10:30 I was thinking, this is shaping up to be quite a productive day.

TIme Management Workshop on January 28, 2010

When people ask me how I learned to manage my own ADHD, I often tell the story of a very supportive boss I had back in the 90s, who helped me develop organization, planning, and time management skills. That boss, Kent Frese, is now a nationally recognized expert in leadership development, strategic planning, business development, and operations process improvement as the president of Leadership Management Institute. Kent is offering a time management workshop on January 28, 2010 at the West Shore Country Club in Camp Hill, PA. This workshop would be great for anyone who could benefit from an improved understanding of goal setting, focus on high payoff activities and good time management practices. The cost is $249 and includes a 12-month My-Tyme planner. More details are available on the LMI web site.

Look ahead

Decision making is something most adults with ADHD struggle with. We also tend to be time blind, meaning it's hard for us to look back or ahead in time. We sometimes need a reminder to look in the right direction. Some of the best advice I ever received about making decisions came from a fortune cookie. It read: "Make choices based on who you want to be, not who you've been." This is a fundamental guiding principal that can lead you directly to the best answer. Think about where you want to be in the future. Which choice leads to that outcome? That's your answer.

I just got married on New Year's Eve. We bypassed all the wedding decisions by eloping - no guests, no cake, no dress. (That's why you weren't invited. :) ) The only major decision was what to do about my last name. Should I stick with Prosser, so I still have the same last name as my son? Or should I use my new husband's last name, Main, and hope that people can still find me? "What happened to that nice ADHD coach Beth Prosser, and who is this Beth Main person?" I gave serious consideration to hyphenating for business and parenting reasons. But, five years from now, my son will be in college and won't really care. My current clients will have moved on, and I will have met many new people using my new name. Why would I want the lingering connection to my ex? I don't. I just want to be Beth Main. So I'm choosing to be Beth Main now. It sure is going to be a hassle to change my name in 127 different places. But, five years from now, I won't even remember the transition. I'll just be happy with the decision I made today, because I made it based on how I want my life to be moving forward.

Keep your eye on the prize! And make your decisions accordingly.

'Tis the season to be patient

The holiday season is a test of everyone's patience.  People with ADHD – adults and children alike – tend to be less patient than most.  We hate waiting in line.  We want everyone to get right to the point (although some of us struggle with that ourselves).  We want our food right now.  Dang it, where is that waitress?! Maybe it’s our impulsivity.  Maybe it’s our hyperactive minds.  Maybe it’s because we have so many things going on in our lives, or our impaired sense of time.  Regardless of the cause, our need for instant gratification can be highly irritating to ourselves and the people around us. What to do?   Here are a few suggestions:

•    Always have something to keep yourself occupied. If you’re going to a place where you might have to wait, bring something to do.  Perhaps a book, or a crossword puzzle, or a notebook to write out your grocery list or brainstorm ideas for your next project.  Keep an audio book on your iPod.

•    Run errands at non-peak times. The lines at the grocery store are much shorter at 8PM than they are at 5.  Avoid the mall until January.

•    Get an estimate. It can be excruciatingly difficult to wait for something when you have no idea when it will happen.  You end up looking at the clock every 30 seconds.  But if you know in advance how long it will be, you can go find something else to do during that time.  Similarly, if you have to do something maddening, it can be much easier to tolerate if it’s not open ended.  If you can’t get an estimate, make one up: “I’ll wait for ten more minutes, then I’ll go see what’s happening.”

•    Ask for the bottom line. If you find yourself getting impatient with someone you’re listening to, there’s nothing wrong with politely interrupting and asking them to get to the point.  “John? (pause and wait for response) I’m starting to get lost in the details.  Can you just give me a quick summary please?”  If you’re talking with someone who has a habit of rambling, you might want to have a separate conversation with him about his monologuing.  You’re probably not the only one who gets impatient with it.

•    Communicate your limits. If your kids – or coworkers - ask one maddening question after another, decide how many questions you’ll answer before you say “no more”.   Tell them when the quota has almost been reached.  Don’t be afraid to stand your ground if you’ve been reasonable and provided fair warning.  This is much better than blowing up at them because you can't take it any more.

•    Release your grip. Accept that sometimes things will be what they will be, no matter what you do.  Try to let go of the things you can’t control.  As a Caribbean native told me years ago, “When you’re in a hot country, you’ve just got to move sloooooooooooow.”  Prone to road rage?  I like to think of slow traffic as more time to spend with my traveling companion.

•    Remove the obstacles. If you’re impatient with your own progress, try to identify what’s slowing you down.  Then figure out what you need to do to quicken the pace.  This is one time when impatience can work in your favor!

•    Find compassion. Try to understand why a person is acting the way she is, or why a situation is unfolding the way it is.  There’s nothing like walking in someone else’s shoes to make you appreciate the complexity of the situation and be more relaxed about it.  This goes for yourself too:  Be compassionate when you find yourself impatient with your own ADHD.

I’ll end with this quote from a sign that used to hang in my godmother’s kitchen:  “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get!”

Got my credential!

I'm pleased to announce that I've been awarded the Certified ADHD Coach (CAC) credential by the Institute for the Advancement of ADHD Coaching (IAAC)!  I'm the first ADHD Coach ever to receive the CAC designation, which the IAAC began offering in March of this year (see my blog post from March 31). The IAAC is the only independent worldwide credentialing organization for ADHD coaches. It was formed to promote excellence within the ADHD coaching profession by providing credentialing, a set of core competencies, and ethical guidelines. Getting this certification is a significant milestone in my career. The credential is important to me because I want potential clients and referral partners to know I meet an extremely high standard. It’s a milestone for the ADHD coaching profession too, because credentialing hasn’t been available until now except to the 66 coaches who were grandfathered in last year. Here's the writeup from the Central Penn Business Journal: http://www.centralpennbusiness.com/view_release.asp?aID=3328

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