Tips and musings on organizing your way from chaos to calm

Posts Tagged ‘ADD’

ADHD and Avoidance

Friday, July 20th, 2012

You might have noticed that it’s July (late July in fact) and I haven’t blogged here since February.  I love writing and, as an ADHD person, never have a shortage of ideas. So what gives?

Perfectionism and anxiety, those same 2 nasty culprits that seem too often to rear their ugly heads.

I tell myself things like, “You need at least 2 hours to sit down and write this,” which isn’t particularly realistic when you’re the mom of a 3.5 year-old. Or I hem and haw over the “best” topic to write about and have difficulty navigating my way through all of the thoughts floating around in my brain.

In my mind, I’ve written 3 books on the topic of organization, including one specifically around ADHD. In practice, I have a head full of ideas, a relatively neglected organizing blog, and zero books. Even typing this makes me feel ashamed, I admit. I can’t believe how time has passed and how long I’ve been making excuses about something I truly love to do. The irony is incredibly funny and painful at the same time.

So much of the frustration of being ADHD is knowing you have the ability to do something (and the desire) while simultaneously struggling to follow through on that very goal.  Reminds me of the title of a great book on ADD, “You Mean I’m not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?”

It’s not that I’m not productive. In fact, I’m one of the busiest and most productive people I know.   There’s much more, though,that I would really like to be doing.  As my 40th birthday approaches (slowly, slowly), I’m beginning to panic ever so slightly about all that is yet to do – that I still want to do.  Deep down I believe I could excel in about 10 different careers, ranging from district attorney to stand-up comedian.  Currently, I’m balancing about 3 – professional organizer, gluten-free consultant, and mom.  Still, though,  I know I spend too much of my time on the unimportant, urgent stuff and not nearly enough time on my passions and activities that  give my life  meaning.

I suppose we all feel overwhelmed in many ways. It’s the nature of the beast.  Yet, ADHD compounds that feeling to the point where you are truly running in place. When you’re ADHD the reasons for poor follow-through are many: lack of mindfulness, perfectionism, anxiety, distractiblity, difficulty with impulse control, and a love of interest, variety, and complexity. I find at times that even washing a sink full of dishes is too boring so I need to stop half way through, do something else, and come back to it 20 minutes later.

The shame and anxiety also make it hard to be honest about my struggles. Here I am, a professional organizer with a doctoral degree, and yet I struggle with some of the very same challenges my clients do! My house isn’t cluttered, true enough. But my mind is, and the frustration I feel about my lack of progress on my professional and personal goals is palpable and depleting at times. I try to remind myself what I tell the people I help – that I’m a finite resource, I don’t need to please others, it’s okay to be imperfect, it’s not too late, my life is full of love and meaning even if I do nothing else, and I am more than my flaws and weaknesses.

I also tell my clients that the best antidote to anxiety is action.  The more I wait and worry and self-criticize about my lack of blog posts, the more I guarantee that I will feel more anxiety, worry, and even self-loathing.  You know, “What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I just…?”  So, I’m doing it.  Blogging my way out of shame and into the satisfaction of knowing that if I give myself permission to be imperfectly me, I CAN get things done!  Now, how about you?


Image courtesy of

Got late night anxiety?

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Look familiar?

Trouble sleeping or staying asleep? 

Here is some excellent common sense advice on how to prevent or manage ADHD-fueled late night insomia.   Great info for ANYONE who suffers from insomnia or has difficulty falling back to sleep due to too many thoughts or anxiety.

It reminds me, once again, of how important the mind-body connection is.  Wishing you restful sleep!

Photo by graur codrin

Pump up the volume

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Today I was washing dishes in the kitchen, keeping one eye on my toddler, and the other on a football game on TV.  Over the course of about 15 minutes I tried to pay attention to the game, keeping track of who had the ball, where they were on the field, and what ref was making a bad call.  You know, the usual.  But I was totally unable to keep my focus, and had the undesirable choice of having no idea what was going on in the game or interrupting my husband (once again) to give me a summary.   With so much distracting stimuli around me (the sound of the dishes and water, my son’s voice and movements, etc.), it was like being at a cocktail party, where you only hear parts of conversations and get the gist more than the details.  No interaction lasts very long.     This is, I’m sure, a typical ADHD experience.

When you have ADD or ADHD, it’s like you have 100 eyeballs on your head and you can see clearly with each one.  So, on the one hand,  one of the great assets of ADD/ADHD is the power of observation.  On the other hand, the challenge is telling our brains what to notice and how  much attention to pay something.   Add what’s going on in our heads (you know, one thought after another) to the mix and it’s a formula for frustration and confusion, if not disaster.

Clearly I wasn’t at a cocktail party, I was in my kitchen, so I called to my husband, “Honey, can you turn up the volume?”  And, then, “No, even louder – pump it up so I can really hear it.”    Suddenly, amidst the din of environmental and internal noise, the game emerged, with the colors of the players’ uniforms lighting up the screen against the backdrop  of green turf.    I found myself gesturing at the screen and analyzing the coach’s strategy.  I was finally paying attention to the game because I made it loud enough for me to hear it.

The same holds true for visual sources of attention/distraction as well.    Often my ADD/ADHD clients tell me that they keep To Do lists, write tasks on post-it notes, keep index cards in their pockets, or use other methods to try to remember to do things.  Yet, often, they fail to get things done or at least get them done when they need to.    Understandably, they’re frustrated by their inability to follow through, especially since they made an effort to remember.  The problem?  When you are ADD/ADHD anything and everything can draw your attention, from a commercial for a new supplement to a thought in your mind about your mother.    So many things are of interest and garner your enthusiasm, you have difficulty focusing your attention so you end up giving little attention to anything or, often, a lot of attention to the easiest thing rather than the  most important thing.

The solution?  Try pumping up the volume by enhancing your visual reminders and making them more “in your face,” like the loud volume on my football game, so you can’t avoid seeing them and being held accountable to them.  Sure, you may have a To Do list, but does it have 87 items on it in no particular order.  Prioritize your list, putting the high priority or hot items in red, the medium priority or warm items in orange, and the low priority or cool items in blue.  If that’s too fancy, just use the old-fashioned bold button or ALL CAPS.  It works – really.  One client I worked with liked to write reminders to herself on her bathroom mirror with a dry-erase board marker, so she would see them first thing in the morning.    Very effective.  Want to remember to take your returns back to the store or give Lucy that book back?  Designate a “can’t miss” area in your house, possibly near the front door, for action items.  Put it in a pile and it’s as good as invisible.

I love the creativity and speed and  multiplicity of ideas that comes with ADD/ADHD.  Yet, it’s these very things that can also make it hard to see, hear, or act clearly.   Metaphorically, it’s like having to clear a path through a forest of thoughts.  So, if you’re anything like me, then find ways to pump up the volume in your own life so you can be sure to devote attention to what you want, when you want.  Now, about that cocktail party…