Making ADHD Work – wait, I had to pick up the kids?

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This is probably the simplest and best life-hack ANYONE out there will be able to use at their advantage. But as mentioned before; for me this is only way I can make it work. Implementing this in your daily life and it will bring the efficiency in the relationship with your partner to a whole new level, avoiding a lot of possible daily conflicts.

Blabla … 3:30PM … blabla

After work everyone comes home, having been in traffic for 90 minutes after a long Monday of fighting a huge backlog of work. Father throws some stuff in a pan to put some food on the table, mum checks the kids' homework and the list goes on and on. When everybody is finally at the dinner table, the whole story of the day needs to come out. A haze of words, bigger than the longest blogpost I have ever written, crosses the table in both directions. After dinner the kids go in the shower and by the time they are in bed, we take our iPads, turn on the television and it’s really time to chill now. Sounds familiar?

The next day at 15:45 you cell phone goes off. It’s your mum. “Are you bringing the kids or do I need to pick them up at school?”. You call your partner and after some yelling back and forth it appears there was a customer visit and you were responsible for picking up the kids and bringing them to their grandparents. “I told you yesterday at dinner!”

Warning im not listening

Are you even listening?

The example is a classic that happens to everyone. At a certain point in a conversation you sign off and everything that follows is lost in thin air. For most people that happens when they are really tired or when they are troubled with other things on their mind.

For people with ADHD every single conversation is a challenge to actually record what is being said. Most regular conversations don't sparkle enough interest to make us go into hyper-focus (more on this in a later post). The result of this is that although we can be truly interested in what you were saying, the chances are really big we leave the conversation with the feeling of the conversation rather than the details of it.

So you lose all those tasks and appointments or at least the details that actually make it work. Sometimes you remember that it’s up to you to pick up the kids but you will not remember the time to do so. For me that’s already at the end of the conversation. Not even hours or a day later.

Best life-hack = synced notes!

It is of utmost importance that every single meeting/event/appointment I have or the family has is in a calendar somehow. That’s for most people the same. It makes it possible to schedule a friends dinner in a few weeks. You just look on your smart phone if the time-slot in your calendar is available, you note it down and send everyone a meeting request so we are all on the same page.

Golden Rule: if it’s not written down, it doesn't exist!

This rule is quite harsh but it helps making sure you don’t schedule that friends’ dinner while you should be at a family event that was not in the calendar.

But a calendar doesn’t work for small tasks! A calendar works best for appointments and for scheduling in the future. The life-hack we found that works best (especially for me) is syncing notes. We share a single note in Evernote that is called PLANNING and it just says in as short as possible bulletpoints what’s next. Here’s the (translated to ENG) note as it was last Friday

Screenshot 2014 06 30 11 29 37

My laptop has evernote, both our phones have evernote, our tablets have evernote and it’s even reachable through any webbrowser in the world. Every morning I delete the bulletpoints of the previous day and check on what is important for today. When I have meetings I would just put in a line: “meetings in Gent. leaving before 10am, back before 6PM” so Lynn also knows what I am up to. We use a second note for groceries that has the exact same working process; we both add details, it’s always in sync on all devices and we remove the information line by line when we go shopping. Cleaning out the grocery-list feels like InboxZero 🙂

Golden Rule: remove all irrelevant information

This rule is the most difficult part of working/living with people that have ADHD. We don’t process irrelevant information. In fact: it enhances that feeling of a haze of words which is why we don't process the important information in there as well. So here’s a few bulletpoints for a conversation with ADHD people;

  • Start with what is important to know (could trigger focus!)
  • Ask if he/she is up for more background information. If so, proceed the conversation.
  • Summarise and make sure details are written down if necessary

You may think it is quite selfish of me to ask this. Yes, it is. But this is – for now – the most efficient way I can deal with information that is important to me to function in couple/team.

Book Tip

A must read for everyone that has that feeling that we are neglecting our partners in this overly distracted world. Written for and by people with ADHD but a great book that works for all.

ADHD book02


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  1. Hey Hans –
    This is another great article, keep ’em coming.
    I’m in the same situation but found that for the tasks sometimes toodledo (a structured task manager) is my better option. It allows me to link tasks to objectives (short term goals, who are linked to longer term). It helps me to focus en triggers the question what purpose a task serves. It also allows to alert me for tasks based on lication (when I’m at the library, it will know that, and tell me about the things I must pick up there)
    Love your articles, especially the ones on our mutual friend ADHD 🙂

    1. Hi Koen,

      I love it when someone gives a comment that leads straight to the next blogpost! I use Toodledo as well but that’s for professional tasks and actual work. I’ll talk there about the benefits of splitting tasks, priority setting and trusting the technology to do what it tells you to do. But Toodledo still doesn’t help me enough when it comes down to inter-relational conversation. Those synced notes work best becasue they remove all the clutter of irrelevant information.

  2. Good job Hans!

    I can hardly wait for your “hyper-focus” content. People tend to focus on the negative symptoms of ADD/ADHD and how they impact them, and often forget that there are some very positive symptoms. Frankly I can honestly credit hyper-focus for much (all?) of my success in whatever I put that focus on be it wood working, martial arts or IT.

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