Making ADHD work – I’ll do that in a minute

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So, We've had an introduction two days ago why I wanted to write some stuff on ADHD. Yesterday I shared some self-reflection tips on your career-path and feeling good about what you are doing. Today I'll start with practical life-hacks that make my life a lot easier.

Adhd squirrels

Short attention span

You are driving in your car and a very specific idea pops up in your mind (happens on the bike as well of course). You have no way to note it down so you keep repeating it in your head because you’ll be home in just 2 minutes. At that last stop light before turning in your street you recognise someone coming from the opposite direction and you wave at them … BOOM, gone is that idea. Even worse: you don't even know you had an idea.

You get out of your chair, go up the stairs, walk into the bathroom … euh, what am I doing here?

I’m reading a blogpost on my iPhone that I opened from within a tweet, I get a notification of an Instant Message (IM) halfway through the read. Tap on it, get redirected to messenger and quickly reply or I’ll forget it. I go to Safari/Chrome to read further on the article. Oh, it wasn’t there it must be on Facebook. Going to Facebook I see an update with a funny movie and from there on I spend an hour surfing Youtube. That blogpost comes back whenever I reopen my twitter feed and it doesn’t look like tweets 🙂

Feeling familiar? Happens to you? I’m sure it does. It happens to everyone. For me, it happens all day long, 24/7/365. EVERYTHING is a combination of random flashes of time.

Could you take out the trash?

If you are on your own, you could try to live with this and there is no harm done. When you work with people or live with them together this can be extremely annoying. Here’s the most classic example of all times and everyone knows it:

  • Lynn [friendly] : could you talk out the trash, please?
  • Hans [uninsterested] : in a minute
  • Lynn [30 min later] : if you put the trash out now, we can still watch a movie together
  • Hans [reading twitter] : hmmmm …
  • Lynn [30 min later] : am I going to have to do it by myself again?
  • Hans [oops] : sorry honey! give me just a second [finishing an important email]

1hr later … Lynn has taken out the trash. I haven’t even noticed 48 hrs later

It’s a classic example that relates to everyone but it’s the easiest way to explain the life-hack I found to deal with small tasks like this.

Can I do it NOW?

What Lynn can’t know when I say “in a minute” is what I am doing at the time and how important that is to me that I finish it before it gets completely lost. That email for example could be worthless if I stopped working on it and take out the trash. But catching up on twitter can hardly be seen as a priority here.

So the question I ask myself now when a task pops up: Can I do this NOW? This seems logic to you of course but the result of that question is what is important. If I can stop doing what I was doing and make time for that task, I’ll drop everything and do it immediately. If I can’t stop, I’ll say that. At this point we both know that I will forget about the question in one second so it will never happen if it’s not asked a second time.

Knowing that changes the whole conversation. Lynn will ask the same question again a little later and I’ll ask myself the same question again: can I do this now? I am no longer annoyed by being asked twice or more and Lynn knows that I will remember she already asked so I will up the priority of her request over what I am doing.

This system is not perfect but it’s a lot better than it used to be. There is a ton of shit that now gets done immediately, there is a second part that gets done be me later than immediately and only a small portion will in the end be done by her.

These tips can help you as well but are necessary to me. Next up? You didn't tell me to pick up the kids. 🙂


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    1. The last thing I want to acomplish here is making paranoia of course. But there is a fact that the majority of adult people with ADHD are not diagnosed.
      IF you have ADHD, getting it diagnosed is a great step forward though. I will definitely write a post for people that have this question themselves.

  1. Hi Hans!

    I’m not entirely sure what I was going to do before reading this, but I finally ordered the ifixit screwdriver to replace the battery in my macbook.
    (It said “replace battery” since December)
    Yhe tab where i was browsing / trying to decide which kit to get was open for many hours… Now I simply got the screwdriver I need to do what i needed to do 🙂

    Doing things NOW can help. I think you need some mental time budgeting though – worked with a guy once who’d completely forget about the input I needed b/c of some NOW thing (and the next and the one after it) and then in the evening he’d be “I’m done for today and heading home”. Ugh.

    But thanks for the nice writeup and advice. It’s interesting & I will try to apply it more often anyway.
    “Can I do this now?” is a very simple question and it is nice to have a little less things to remember. 🙂

    1. Ha Florian, you actually tap right into one of the blogposts that is scheduled last: how to start achieving things. That is still the most difficult part for me. I have a lot of life-hacks now that make small things easier but I still have that gigantic backlog of big tasks that don’t get started. But I found something lately that is helping a little. More on that later 😉

      But you do bring up a good point which I didn’t emphasise enough: this ONLY works for small tasks like making coffee, taking out the trash, going to the bakery for bread, … Bigger tasks require different approach.

  2. Hi Hans

    Know you “pain”…lots of people have told me I have ADHD (yea I know I have) and my son have also been diagnosed with ADHD.

    But I see it as a gift…I can make decisions faster…troubleshoot faster…read twitter much faster…do more at the same time. it really helped me in my work…just had to learn to use it correctly.

    Yea…the above does happen in our house also…every day but I have learned to deal with this in my way.

    I had to learn to :
    Listen to people – respect people that do not think as fast as you…let them think…I might already now what they will say…but give them the opportunity to say what they want to

    Think twice – just step back and think what you going to do…take me the same time to go over things 3 times than some people once…but learn to take a step back

    Patience with people – frustrates me if people don’t work as fast as I can…but have learn that they also need to be given the opportunity to do what they can do in their own time.

    Lastly my take on ADHD = Evolution gift to mankind to process “Social Media Big Data” faster 🙂

    Keep well !

  3. Something that has helped my wife and I (we both have ADHD). Is eating a more natural diet as well as taking fish oils. We have also had some minor communication issues which we turned to a book from Melissa Orlov called The ADHD Effect on Marriage. The biggest thing for me is to eat natural no preservatives and what not. I also take adderall but was able to cut my dose in half by taking 3 fish oils with it in the morning. I’ve been taking adderall for many of years and its effects on my blood pressure and heart haven’t been good. Saw a cardiologist and did a stress test said he didn’t see any reasons for the high blood pressure or the heart palpitations healthy as an ox. Then was asked how much adderall I took and he basically told me that is my problem.

  4. Hahaha! Ja precies, dat heb ik oooookkk!!!! Als je het niet nu doet, dan doe je het anders gewoon nooooiiittt…. En dat is echt niet met opzet ofzo maar de gedachte is gewoon weg, alsof die er nooit is geweest en dan ergens in de nacht komt de shock: NEEEEEEEEE IK BEN DAT VERGETEN!!!!!

    1. Belangrijkste is dat we hierover kunnen en durven communiceren zodat onze medemensen weten wat ze al dan niet van je kunnen verwachten. Het leert hen ook met jou een beetje meer geduld te hebben dan met andere mensen.

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