The ADHD Solutions Blog

I'm comfortable in my own skin, it's my clothing that's the problem

Fitness.  Ah yes, I remember that.  Back in the day when I kayaked, ran, worked out at the gym, biked, and went for long hikes - all in the same week.  Every week.  Now I'm ten pounds heavier and feeling like a sausage.

My problem is that I'm content.  I don't feel like a lioness in a cage any more, so I'm not driven to exercise.  Even though I know how important it is,  especially for those of us with ADHD, it's everything I can do to get in half an hour a week.  I'm just not motivated like I used to be.

So I hired a personal trainer.  He works for a dollar a week.  What, you say?  A dollar a WEEK?! 

Yes, that's right. He's my son. He created a workout plan for me.  And wrote up a contract - I'm free to discontinue his services after two months.  He counts my crunches as I do them, and runs with me.  He's very motivated by money, but more than that, I think he digs telling me what to do.  I let him be the boss. I encourage him to yell at me when I'm being lazy.  I even agreed to let him shoot me with an airsoft gun if I become difficult, but so far, it hasn't come to that. We're both having fun. And we're both exercising.  Every day.

If you have a child, or access to one, I highly recommend this approach.  You may have to fork over more than a buck (sssh, don't tell my son), but it will be worth it.

Get back to work!

In my last post,  I wrote about Instant Boss, a free computer application that helps you stay on task by running a timer to manage your work and break periods.   You tell it how long you want to work before taking a break (say 25 minutes), how long your breaks will be (say five minutes), and how many times to repeat the cycle (say four, for a total work period of two hours). One of the pitfalls of using this system is extending a break and never getting back to work.  So this time, I’ll share some ideas for what to do on your breaks to ensure that you get right back to work when your time is up.

  1. Drink a glass of water
  2. Do some light stretching
  3. Do some simple aerobic activity (maybe a few dozen jumping jacks)
  4. Meditate
  5. Step outside for some fresh air
  6. Grab a quick, healthy snack
  7. Spend five minutes reducing the clutter in your immediate vicinity
  8. Check your email and phone messages IF you can do so without responding to any of it
  9. Avoid activities that exert the same sort of fatigue as what you’re working on.  For example, if you’re writing a report, don’t switch to writing a blog entry on your break.  You won’t feel refreshed when it’s time to get back to work.
  10. Above all – and this is the one that gets most people - avoid activities that draw you in.  Don’t start something you can’t wrap up in the time allotted.  Don't do anything you know you’ll get lost in, like internet surfing or reading the paper.

It’s helpful to think about your break activities in advance so you don’t spend half your time wondering what to do.  Or worse yet, get sucked into something that draws you away from your work for the rest of the day. Remember that the purpose of your breaks is to recharge yourself for the next work period.   Use them wisely.

Stay on task with Instant Boss

Sometimes you can get more done with two hours of sustained effort than you can in an entire day.  There’s a great little free computer application called Instant Boss that helps keep you on task.  Like a real boss, it tells you when to work and when to take breaks. Here’s how it works:

  • You tell The Boss how long you think you can work without getting distracted, how long of a break you need, and how many times to repeat the cycle.  For example, maybe you decide to work for 25 minutes, take a five minute break, and repeat that four times.  That gives you a total work session of two hours.
  • You start the timer
  • The Boss tells you when it’s time to take a break
  • The Boss tells you when it’s time to get back to work
  • The Boss tells you when you’re done for the day

 This is a beautiful thing for those of us who do well with timers, but aren't so good about setting them for breaks - or setting them again afterward. There is a bit of flexibility in case your good intentions are unrealistic.  You can tell it you want to extend your break, or skip your break, or stop the clock to answer the phone.  But try your best to follow the schedule.  The results will be worth it.

Friday the 13th

Lucky or unlucky?  Depends on your perspective.  I personally think it's lucky because I was born on a Friday the 13th.  My mother?  Probably not so much, since she had to walk herself to the hospital while she was in labor.

Is having ADHD lucky or unlucky?  I say I'm lucky to have it.  I follow my dreams.  I'm spontaneous, creative, smart.  My clients can relate to me.  I've been told by several that they see me as an inspiration.  I don't think I'd want to be all organized all the time, to have a flatline life.  I have lots of energy.  I take chances.  I love working on sixteen projects and seven books at a time.  I see details that other people miss.  I'm quick to forgive - because I can't remember to hold a grudge.  My life is no conveyor belt!

Luck is a state of mind.  It comes more easily if you're able to see the good in all things - including ADHD.

Take a dose of nature this week

Punxsutawney Phil must have had a breakthrough in coaching because it's shaping up to be a beautiful week here in central Pennsylvania.  Way to go, Phil, deciding to face your fear of shadows! Now we can take  a dose of nature to improve our ADHD symptoms.

We've known for a long time that exercise is essential to good health, both physical and mental.  But there's more.  A recent study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders shows that being out in nature does more to improve attention than exercising in an urban setting. "From our previous research, we knew there might be a link between spending time in nature and reduced ADHD symptoms," said researcher Andrea Faber Taylor, who conducted the study at Illinois University along with co-researcher Frances E. Kuo. "So to confirm that link we conducted a study in which we took children on walks in three different settings – one especially "green" and two less "green" – and kept everything about the walks as similar as possible." "When we compared the scores for the walks in different environments, we found that after the walk in the park children generally concentrated better than they did after a walk in the downtown area or the neighborhood area. The greenest space was best at improving attention after exposure." She went on to say that a walk in nature may actually be more effective than medication, at least in the short term.  "We calculated the size of the effect in our study and compared it to the size of effects in a recent medication study, and we were surprised to see that the dose of nature had effects the same size or even larger than the dose of medication."

Long term effects were not studied, although previous research suggests a relationship between the amount of time spent in green spaces and the severity of symptoms.  "Children who have regular exposure to green spaces have milder symptoms overall. So that's hinting that there may be a persistent effect," said Kuo.

I know I feel much more focused and alert after a walk in the woods compared to a walk around my Camp Hill neighborhood.  I notice a difference in my performance if I miss my weekend hike.   It's nice here in town, but it just doesn't have the same energy.

So try to get to the park this week and enjoy this marvelous weather.  If you happen to run into Punxsutawney Phil, give him a high-five for me.

The Issues List

Uncertainty is a productivity terrorist.  It's the unseen enemy.  You don't know what you don't know, so you can't fight it. Uncertainty is a very common reason for procrastination.

One of my clients started a small business last February.  She is currently in the process of entering eleven months worth of financial data.  Why?  Because she put it off until the last minute.  Why? Because she wasn't sure what she needed or how big of a project it would be.    She wasn't sure where to start, so she didn't.

One of the most useful tricks I picked up as a project manager is the Issues List.  The best way to nail down that swirling cloud of uncertainty is to maintain a list of all the things about which you are uncertain.  Just get out a sheet of paper and start writing them down.

My client's issues list looked like this:

  • What do I need to keep track of?
  • Who will be doing my taxes and what format will they want?
  • What software should I get?
  • Can I just hire someone to do this for me?
  • What is my deadline?

Naming your issues gives them form so you can deal with them.  Once you know what the issues are, you can start resolving them.  And start making progress.

Scholarships for ADHD-friendly camps

Another reason to join CHADD:  scholarships to ADHD-friendly summer camps for your kids.

CHADD is offering scholarships of up to $8,000 to children with ADHD for attendance at specialty summer camps.  The program is open to children of CHADD members only.

For more information, visit the scholarship page on CHADD's web site:

Harrisburg ADHD Support Group meetings

Dauphin County CHADD has recently split into two support groups: one for parents and caregivers of children with ADHD, and the other for adults who have ADHD themselves.  Both groups meet at the East Shore Library, Harrisburg PA, downstairs in Meeting Room B.

The next meeting for parents and caregivers will be held Thursday February 5 from from 6:00 -7:30 PM.

The next adult ADHD meeting will be held on Wednesday February 11 from 6:00 -7:30 PM.

For directions and more information, visit their web page at

These groups are a great local resource and are worth checking out.  There are speakers at some of the meetings, and others center around support and information sharing.   Anyone with an interest in ADHD is welcome and encouraged to attend.

The Perfect blog post

Now that I’ve finally got my blog set up, I feel a lot of pressure to make my first post totally amazing since I procrastinated for so long.   It has to be a perfect vignette of me as a coach, everything I stand for, everything I believe.  All in 500 words or less.  Right?

Seems like a great time to write about perfectionism. After all, the thought of having to write an endless series of brilliant, well articulated posts is what kept me from starting this blog in the first place.  It’s kept me from getting a lot of things done, actually.

Like a lot of people with ADHD, I really struggle with writing.  It’s hard for me to organize my thoughts.  But I discovered recently that perfectionism is my biggest obstacle.   So I decided to do something about it.

I just finished reading a fabulous book called "Too Perfect:  When Being in Control Gets Out of Control", by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeannette DeWyze.  From it, I learned that perfectionism is actually a form of obsession.  That got me thinking about ADHD and co-existing conditions.  Most people with ADHD also have something else, like depression or anxiety.  Or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  Even if the symptoms aren't severe enough to warrant a clinical diagnosis, the tendencies can be there and should be dealt with.

Obsessive traits can also be a reaction to ADHD.  I'm certain that I was not obsessive as a child.  I was quite sloppy, actually.  My perfectionism was a learned response.  I suffered a lot of humiliation from my ADHD symptoms and resolved to overcome them.  I've had to work really hard at it, and I might have gone a little overboard with my desire to get things right, since I messed up so many things in the past.

In "Too Perfect", the authors' premise is that perfectionism results from a need for control.

“A disproportionate need for control - and an overwhelming fear of the uncertainty that can exist in uncontrolled situations - can lead [one] to adopt paralyzingly rigid roles almost like armor against life's uncertainties."

Can you see how this might be related to ADHD?  How perfectionism can become a defense against the chaos of impulsivity and weak executive functioning (memory, organization, planning skills, etc.)? Here are some strategies that may help:

  • Become aware of the negative ways perfectionism affects you.  Many times it’s subconscious.  You might think you’re being effective, but the cost is probably higher than you realize.  A few of the problems the authors address in the “Too Perfect” book are procrastination, missed deadlines, pickiness, difficulty making decisions, avoiding commitments, lost opportunities, general dissatisfaction with life, guardedness in relationships, and constant worry and ruminations.
  • Accept that life has time constraints, and that it’s reasonable to be “good enough” given the deadline and your other commitments (like family, and sleep).
  • Look for role models.  Notice how people you admire get things done – and what they leave undone.
  • Recognize when you’re being nitpicky.  And stop.  Tell yourself, “I don’t want to be a perfectionist.  I am choosing to let this one go.”   You might set up some practice situations for yourself.  For example, resolve to write one email every day without revising it (this worked especially well for me).  Notice how much more efficient you are.
  • See the positives.  You’re probably an expert at seeing the flaws in your own work and everything else around you.  Make it a point to notice more positive qualities than negative.  For everything you see that you don’t like, find something you appreciate.
  • Put things into perspective.  See the forest instead of the trees for a minute.  Are those details really important?  Is anyone even going to remember ten minutes later?

Regardless of whether it’s part of a coexisting condition, a reaction to being bitten too many times by a lack of attention to detail, or caused by the disorder itself, perfectionism is often part of having ADHD.  If you can relate, I highly recommend the book  "Too Perfect:  When Being in Control Gets Out of Control".


This is a blog about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).   Or more specifically, solutions to some of the challenges ADHD presents.   I’ll be posting tips, links to articles, and some general insights that I hope you find useful.  Thanks for stopping by!  Hope to see you again soon.


Subscribe to The ADHD Solutions Blog