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ADHD Strategies for Adults

Rick Green, Adult ADHD By Rick Green:

You’re reading this because at some point you, or a loved one, saw a video, read an article, did an online test, or took our Unofficial ADHD Quiz, and the penny dropped.

You got diagnosed. Or did so much reading and research you’re certain you (or a loved one) have this mindset. (I recommend getting it confirmed by a doctor who knows what they’re doing.)

Now you’re eager to learn more. (Or desperately worried and anxious to find help.)

When I was diagnosed I wanted to learn everything I could about ADHD. But I soon realized that while the science and neurology were interesting, what mattered more was getting it handled.

Tools, Strategies, Tricks, Tips… Please!

It was enough knowing this disorder is highly heritable, that many suspect genes are involved, that it’s very situational, and every adult with ADHD has a unique combination of symptoms.

The more I read about the symptoms, costs, and negative impact, the more I wanted to know what, if anything, I could do about it.

Some adults could care less about the neurology, genetics, and ‘neurotransmitter re-uptake. They get it. They want to deal with it and get on with life.

They look for a list of ADHD tools and strategies. But since your particular collection of challenges will be different from mine, (some common ADHD symptoms may not be a big issue for you) then not every strategy will be helpful to you.

If some aspects of your life are humming along brilliantly, no need to change a thing. If clutter isn’t causing you or your loved ones grief, then great!

The question to consider is, “Where does it hurt?” No point in putting a cast on someone’s arm if it’s their leg that is causing them pain, right?

I often say, “You have to figure out your particular flavor of ADHD.” And then decide which symptom is hindering you the most, and start there.


Take Small Steps and Experience Small Victories

15 years into my own ADHD diagnosis, I am convinced one of the most universally powerful ADHD strategies is to ‘Get Started & Start Small.’

Of the 36 ADHD-Friendly strategies that Patrick McKenna and I explore in our PBS show, ADD & Mastering It?, this may be the one I use most often.

Usually a dozen times a day. (It’s how I’m writing, or rather rewriting, this blog.)

Whether I’m overwhelmed at work, resisting a new fitness regiment, wanting to finish a complex project, or simply feel the need talk to my coach about feeling stuck, I can only get past if I do one small thing.

Otherwise I continue to stew and strategize and ruminate. And then go off and do something irrelevant, some trivial task that only postpones the feeling of frustration.

When I’m Procrastinating, which is often, it’s a powerful strategy.

Just Start? Sounds Simple

Don’t get ambitious. Curb your natural ADHD enthusiasm. Just pick one task. Something quick. A ‘no-brainer.’

Go for a five minute walk. Make one phone call. Sort one shelf. Donate three things you never use.

And then decide if you can continue walking for another five minutes. Or make a second phone call. Or add 3 more things to the ‘Charity’ box.

Taking that first step, no matter how small, is how anything and everything is ever accomplished, right?

Which I find reassuring. Because when I’m faced with something that feels huge and overwhelming, I can always find one small thing that is manageable.

ADD Anger Meme

It’s the Secret of My Success

After I was diagnosed I understood why I had written hundreds of episodes of skit comedy. Thousands of short sketches. And only a few ½ hour sitcoms, and heaven forbid, no full-length screenplays. Even the stage shows I worked on were basically a collection of skits and songs around a theme.

A movie screenplay takes months to write—tracing character arcs, blocking out action, the saw tooth of rising action, developing characters and back story. The fun part, the snappy dialogue, comes last. (I was so disappointed when I learned this.)

I can write a short skit in a half hour. (And then rewrite it, again and again, until I’m happy with it.)

I divide complex tasks into doable chunks. Not just creating a TV series, but things as simple as cleaning the car, or In fact, I keep dividing the task into smaller chunks until it does feel doable.

The Payoff? I Can Do This

With ADHD, having successes, achieving small victories, is so energizing. Each little win gives me a boost of Dopamine, which is what I need to do the next step. And every step. Until it’s done. It’s not just being on a roll, it’s having the mental juice to take on what’s next.

Of course, dealing with my ADHD is the one task that will never be ‘done’.

There’s no final destination. Just getting better and better. One step at a time.

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5 Responses to “ADHD Strategies for Adults”

  1. Rick says:

    Glad to know it was helpful ‘RITAC’.

    And yes, the problem is not just starting, but making sure you start on the right thing.

    Perhaps just write it on a few Post It’s and spread them around your work space. That often works for me. Bright neon-colored sticky notes, and the writing in a bring color as well.

    Becky, let us know what happens when your son tries this. In fact, when you each have something to do, try this: Sit together, or in the same room, and each start what you have to do. I find having Ava working at the other desk in my office helps me stick with what I’m doing. It’s enough activity to keep me alert, but not distracting.

  2. ritac says:

    Rick, thank you for this, and all your blogs, videos, and insights. I’m sitting here, a newly-contracted, er, contractor, having to arrange my time to get done the tasks that I agreed to do… and having no clue how to start! (I’ve been doing the work for 2 years, it’s just a more formal arrangement now.) And you’ve lighted the opening of the long tunnel, so that I know now where to begin on a day’s work. Not that it will be easy, there are still the hills and valleys to go up, over, and down again. “Just start.” Simple. Easy. No frills. Just start. I’m going to type that up pretty and print it and tape it to my (forehead!) computer, frame it, and find a nail, and a wire for the back to hang it, and then move some thing around on the wall to make room for it, and oh — that paint needs to be retouched, and what was the name of that color again? Do I still have it? What was I doing again? Arg! “Just start again!”

  3. becky says:

    Thank You so much for this wonderful information. I will pass it on to my son as he has ADHD and has lots of issues to deal with. So Thank You very Much. I will even take this information and try it out for myself and see if it helps me.

    Thank You for all the work you and others have done to pass on the information to other folks like myself. I am grateful that there is information like this out there to help folks and their families dealing with ADHD. Thank You very much!

  4. ladygogo says:

    never understood why I hated parties or raves until after I figured out I have this kind of wiring. (inattentive subtype)

    i just thought i was anti-social or that people are idiots but then I kind of put two and two togehter and figured out it was the noise and chaos. too much for my poor brain to parse and sift and cull and arrange into VITAL or CHAFF

    weird thing is if it’s TOO QUIET i get just as buggy

    my sister calls me goldilocks… Not to noisy, not too quiet… ah, just right! LMAO

  5. cjxtypes says:

    That is so funny and true. I clean the house this way. Start one room, half @ss it, then move to another, do the same there, and another, then back and forth between them all. It would drive my mother crazy. My philosophy was what difference did it make if the end result was the same. I tackle most things this way.

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