QUESTION: What Is One Strategy You MUST Do If You Have ADHD To Be More Productive?
Since becoming diagnosed with ADD at 48, I’ve made several ‘adjustments’ to my life:
- I left an unfulfilling, soul-sucking position.
- I’ve created a thriving career that motivates me.
- I enjoy a life that is now defined by my wishes, rather than other’s expectations of me. (BTW-It feels great once you get past the fear. I’m just saying…)
- I’ve lost friends by becoming my own advocate and believing in myself.
- I’ve found some new tribe members based on a shared passion, not just geography.
- I have delved into deepening my understanding of the brain I was born with.
It is this last bullet that has lead me to define myself by becoming, as Joseph Campbell says, “the privilege… to be who you are.” The good news? I’m getting it. I’m figuring how this brain-wiring, thingy works for me. I’m seeing a process… that is followed by customization. A ‘tweaking’, if you will, that is needed for each person’s individual brain.
Executive Functions…We All Have Them
The word that bests describes this overall process is “externalize.” To be successful with ADHD you are going to have to externalize your memory and build motivation into your lifestyle! To do that you must understand your brain and how it works for you. How the prefrontal cortex works to provide you with the decision-making, planning, and follow through processes.
Let me shed some light on what has been determined so far. Dr. Russell Barkley (and associates), Dr. Thomas Brown (and associates), and many other researchers in many fields who study the brain are making some incredible discoveries. One part of those discoveries, I call the “meat and potatoes” of ADHD is the Executive Function (EF).
Every single person born has an executive function. It is part of the prefrontal cortex and started developing through play and pretending when we are very little. As we grow, our executive functioning grows, too. We have developmental milestones psychologically that have a distinct order in development. But somewhere along the line, ADHD people’s development starts to become delayed and they are no longer keeping up.
Measurable differences in the development of ADHD people differs from their peers. Research has shown that genetics, genetic predisposition combined with environmental toxins and brain trauma are the three main causes of ADHD. So you can forget bad parenting, too much watching TV, and over-playing video games are THE cause of ADHD as popular media likes to persist in sharing.
Many of the current EF debates are centering on the orchestration of EF (Is it the conductor?) or the individual functions ability to work (Those broken instruments?). The consensus on an exact definition of what EF is still being developed as we speak by the professionals, but what I’ve been able to determine from my reading is that EF has to do with your mind’s ability regulate all the abilities used for decision-making. Function abilites like… organizing materials, sequencing tasks, prioritizing what’s important, regulating self talk and actions, starting tasks, keeping track of time, finishing tasks,and remembering to do the task…EF is the part of the process that manages your abilities so you are able to PRODUCE and be PRODUCTIVE.
All researchers seem to agree it is a problem with working memory (short term) and emotional self-regulation. So what I culling from research is this…
- IF our INTERNAL brains are wired differently and we have issues with TIME and SELF-REGULATION
- THEN we need to develop EXTERNAL ways to systemize our time blindness to the future and create motivation to start, maintain and complete projects. Especially, those projects that seem uninteresting.
Customizing to Your Brain Function
Here is where the customization come in! You need to find strategies to keep your short term memory functioning for you through the use of external memory systems. These systems can include paper pencil logs and planners, schedulers, task management software, audio recording apps, alarms set with labels…anything that works for your particular EF strengths and downplays those parts of EF that don’t work so hot for you. You will have to experiment, read and become aware of what works for you. This where ADHD coaches and other support groups can help you learn about EF can help you to determine strategies that are customized for your brain.
Set up a motivational system that works for you and your personality quirks. When you work out do you need to be with others or by yourself? Pay attention to what works for you use them to your advantage. Create some rules that work for your lifestyle. Here is a great example, I have a coaching friend who won’t get on her computer until she has had breakfast, brushed her teeth, taken her shower and dressed for the day because if she does, she will still be in her jammies by lunch! Knowing herself and creating a set of rules help her, allows her to regulate her habits to be more productive.