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My Life with ADHD, Strategies for Survival

Updated on October 12, 2012

This is the second of a two part article on my life with ADHD. If you wish to read the first part, which relates my experiences with ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type, then go to my Hub entitled My Life with ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type. It also explains the differences between the types of ADHD.

Surviving with ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type

After years of difficulties with disorganization and inattention, I consulted a psychiatrist and was diagnosed as with ADHD and prescribed medications. The medication has helped tremendously. It is much easier for me to read professional material. My ability to focus and concentrate improved, even with distractions. When I have a problem to solve, it is easy to choose between many solutions. The psychiatrist also pointed out that in the process of dealing with daily life I had developed many strategies to live more effectively. I began to think about these tools, and more about myself and my learning style.

I realized that I am basically a linear thinker who likes to approach things in a structured, organized style. ADHD makes that difficult. I get distracted, lost on tangents, forget tasks, meetings, ideas, the grocery list and can be indecisive. Gradually, over time I developed solutions that worked for me. How do I manage life and many complex tasks at once?

  • I am usually juggling many different tasks at once. I have a sheet of paper with me and immediately write down anything that is important. If I don’t my mind may go to a different topic and I will be left with some vague notion that I had an idea that I no longer remember.
  • I have a paper and a computer folder for each task. This is where I collect articles, lesson plans, notes, PDFs, school calendars and anything else that I have acquired. For example, I have a folder for each Hub article I am working on, one for my science lesson plans, three folders for each of three grades of spelling, a math folder, grade sheet folder, etc. The many folders may overwhelm some people but they keep me organized.
  • Color coding files helps. I use green folders for spelling.
  • I used to keep a task list in a small notebook that I carried with me. That was before desktop computers were available. That should give you an idea of my age. I now use the task list on Microsoft Outlook.
  • What was once a paper calendar is now an Outlook calendar. Others may find Google calendar more to their liking.
  • Every Sunday I print out the Outlook Today page from Microsoft Outlook. It has all of my current tasks and the appointments for the week. I keep it with me and handwrite reminders of new appointments or tasks. When I get home I transfer the additions to the computer.
  • If I am at work, I sometimes email myself reminders of items that are particularly important or time sensitive. Once home I will transfer the information to Outlook. Just today, a teacher asked me for a copy of a study guide I had written. Once back in my classroom, I sent a reminder to my home email. Once home, I read the email, found the study guide and emailed it back to the teacher. Task complete.
  • When I had a smart phone I also transferred my information from Outlook to the phone.

If you came into my office, you would see that my desk is a cluttered mess. However, you will also notice many stacks of folders. Ask me a question and I can find the folder easily and respond to your enquire. My piles at home drive my wife crazy. To her it is too untidy, but piles of folders work for me.

Another challenge is remembering those things I will need to have during the day. Gradually, I developed methods to remember what I need and to ensure I will have it with me. How do I do it? Brace yourself; it’s a pretty wild ride.

  • I have a space on the kitchen counter. I walk by it each morning before I go out the door. Anything I need to take with me, I place on the counter; right away when I think of it or I may forget it. As I leave I see everything there and take it with me.
  • If there is something I can't place on the counter, like a recharging cell phone, I will take my car keys and place them on the phone. I will need to lock the door as I leave; when I retrieve the keys I will also get the phone.
  • I have a pocket regimen. I do not empty my pockets until it is time to change clothes. The next morning, when I have on the shirt and pants I will wear that day, I then move things from yesterday's clothes to todays. I have never forgotten my cell phone, ID badge or keys for work. By contrast, my ADD coworker, her description, forgets her keys at least once a week.
  • My keys are always in my pocket. If I take them out to unlock a door, they go right back into my pocket. If I lend my keys to someone, it is with the instruction that they return the keys to me and not leave them anywhere. My glasses become shaded when I go outside. I don't have to member the location of my regular glasses while wearing sun glasses and vice versa.
  • There are set sequences of how I do a series of tasks. Every morning, in this order, I shower, put on deodorant, comb my hair, take medications, brush my teeth and shave. Some days things will get out of order but I usually remember to get it all in. Life is interesting for me as my mind will wonder off to many different places. This means I won't remember if I had completed a task or not. I will reach for the body wash and then not remember if had conditioned my hair or only shampooed it. Three days ago as I was going through my morning routine the thought crossed my mind that maybe I didn’t need to be so rigid. As that thought crossed my mind I forgot to take my medicine, which I realized after I got to work. I knew this would make the day a little tougher and I that I would have to work harder at staying on task and organized. For those of you who would like another example, I offer this. Each week I prepare spelling work for students. I take the worksheet and make two copies. One copy stays unchanged and filed in a folder of original copies. The second copy is modified for use by special education students. Once changed, I make a copy for each student and place it in their homework folder. The modified original then goes into the modified file, so I will have it ready for next year. This process is required three times a week for the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.

Strategies are also needed for social situations. My social skills are good but inattention can cause me and those around me some grief. So I warn people that:

  • At times, I am so focused on what I am doing or thinking that I really don't hear what you are saying. It is important to make sure you have my attention. This inattention is more than just the regular guy thing.
  • It is especially important to have my attention if you need an accurate response from me. I have been known to answer questions without remembering my response or that I have been asked the question.
  • I let people know that I have a hard time remembering faces and it will take me longer to associate their name with their face. I have some trouble remembering the details of faces, which may only be partly attributed to ADHD and may also be the result of some other processing limitation.

I would also like to mention two items that did not seem to fit in one of the previous areas.

  • With rote tasks, such as recording grades, I know I have to concentrate and double check the entries. My mind will easily wander with tasks that are too repetitious.
  • While I am extremely patient with people I am very impatient with long waits. I get bored really easily. I have a book with me at all times. When I am stuck waiting in line, or at a doctor's office with boring magazines, I take out my book and read. It really makes the time go by.

As I wrote these strategies, I was hit with the realization of how much time and energy I put into them. As they gradually developed (took over?) through a slow, long process I never felt overwhelmed. In reality, these techniques have kept me more organized and functioning more effectively. In the long run, they save me time and energy.

One last word. These strategies work well for me but they may not work for everyone. It is important for each person to find their own solutions because every individual is unique and every one's solutions will be different. Find out what works best for you. For other strategies, go to the website for the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA). Another site that provides a great deal of information is the Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). See the instructions below to find their websites.

Another last word, really this is the last one. Taking medication for ADHD was the right choice for me. Finding a qualified physician is very important. For my suggestions on locating a qualified doctor, see my Hubpage Medication for ADHD? Choosing a Psychiatrist.

I hope my words have been instructive and helpful.

Find the Websites

Attention Deficit Disorder Association: For information on ADD go to their website at www.add.org. To find the additional strategies, once you are on the homepage:

  1. Find the "Resources and Support" link located on the left side of the page.
  2. A list of resources will pop out to the left. Click on the :ADHD Articles.
  3. When the list of articles comes up there will be many articles about ADHD. Go down the list to the heading "Organization and Time Management."
  4. Select an article from the list.

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD): this is a large and well known organization. Their website is located at http://www.chadd.org/.

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