A Planner – Your External Brain

The Planner: Your External Brain!

Do you remember that almost every negative about ADHD has a valuable positive related to it? Well here is an important one! While we ADHDers can seem quite disorganized, we can really respond well to structure! Once we get into the routine, that habit frees us to let our minds hyperfocus on those great, out of the box ideas that we are great at! One client told me “When I go on autopilot, my brain can soar!” What a perfect way to say it.

One of the most important structures we can adopt is a planner – the ONE place where everything in our lives is organized. Most successful ADHDers – and people in general – use a planner. It is a portable organizational system that they have with them always, to keep on top of life. It holds their calendar and master plans for all kinds of things like money, health, kids, hobbies, dreams, household info, gifts, birthdays, committees, school, etc. Think you don’t need one? Let’s see.

*Do you make lists that you lose or never use?

*Do you write down appointments, number and ideas on sticky notes then lose those notes?

*Do you forget appointments?

Now, one of the great debates is whether to use a paper planner or smart phone planner.

Here are some things to think about.

Paper Planners:

* Paper planners have a lot of different types to choose from and a wide range of prices.

* It is nice to get a custom fit. You can organize, and reorganize it just your way.

* They allow you to view an entire day, week or month at a glance.

* They are inexpensive to replace and easy to use.

* There is something wonderful about using a pencil to write everything down. Research tells us that physically writing something down helps us remember it.

*Never has to be charged!


Smart Phones:

*Easy to focus on one day, one week or one month at a time.

*If your phone is with you, then your calendar is always with you.

*You can add and delete information easily.

*With a smart phone, you can download information onto a hard drive , an online calendar, or a cloud.

* The alarms are wonderful to set 1 hour, 30 min or 15 minutes before an event you do not want to forget.

Both have advantages and disadvantages. You get to pick. However, the point is, pick one and ONLY ONE! Duplicate calendars will only cause trouble. Put your entire world in it, work, money, play, family, household maintenance, dreams, health, etc. Then, use it every day. You will be amazed at how this structure will help you go from seeming disorganized to being one of the most organized people in the bunch! Think of it as your external brain!

You Are Not Broken, Crazy or Dumb!

You Are Not Crazy, Broken or Stupid!

Today we are going to talk about something near and dear to my heart – one of the saddest things about ADHD. It’s effect on our self concept.

Often times, because our brains work differently than most, even as young children, ADHDers hide a deep feeling that they are different, broken, crazy, stupid or a freak!

For today’s adult ADHDers, what might have made it worse was that, when we were kids, teachers and parents didn’t understand ADHD, and so we may have been pegged the “problem child” This kind of poor self concept can reek havoc on your whole life!

Well, that is absolutely not necessary! The truth about the ADHD brain is that, yes, it does process things differently, with tendencies toward inattention, impulsivity and mental hyperactivity. That type of “out of the box” brain can be difficult to tame at times.

However, for every challenge, there is a definite strength that makes your brain and you as a person, perfectly made for some pretty amazing things, that most people cannot do.

Albert Einstein had ADHD. He was a terrible student! He made bad grades and was unenthusiastic. However, once through school, when left to his own passions, when he let his brain out of the box to think the way it was meant to, he had one of the most gifted minds in history.

The good news is that, if we learn to understand and manage that unique brain, we can maximize those unique strengths, minimize the challenges and be amazingly successful. Look at these famous and successful ADHDers. They all learned how to use the unique talents of their brain to create amazing careers!

Beethoven Ralph Waldo Emerson Walt Whitman

Ansel Adams F. Scott Fitzgerald Robin Williams

Alexander Graham Bell Malcomb Forbes Tennessee Williams

Admiral Richard Byrd Benjamin Franklin Woodrow Wilson

Andrew Carnegie George Bernard Shaw Henry Winkler

Jim Carey Steven Spielberg Stevie Wonder

Samuel Clemens Robert Louis Stevenson Vince Lombardi

Christopher Columbus Jackie Stewart Jules Verne

Leonardo da Vinci James Stewart Vincent Van Gogh

Emily Dickinson Nicolai Tesla Henry David Thoreau

So what are those unique strengths that ADHDers have hidden? Check out this list, and see how many you have.

85% of us are of above average intelligence.

We are interested in many things and new ideas.

We have incredible energy and enthusiasm.

We make intuitive leaps! We don’t just go from A to B to C, We can quickly go from

A to Q to Z!

We are really creative.

We are out of the box thinkers – idea people!

When we are interested in something, we can be more focused and detailed than anyone!

We are spontaneous! Enthusiastic! Fun!

So, don’t let the differences of your brain get you down. Yes, you have to make it through school, keep that job learn to deal with the mainstream of life. However, you also have some remarkable gifts and talents hidden in there. Let them out!

You are not broken, crazy or dumb. You have the gifts of a unique, creative and energetic brain! Focus on THAT – and you will be amazed at what you can do!






Enrich Your Relationships

Enrich Your Relationships!

Today we are going to visit the topic of marriage and ADHD. ADHD relationships face the same struggles as every other relationship, just more so! It’s about balance & fairness & making sure that both partners get their needs met.

We are not going to spend time on the negative patterns; but instead, focus on key elements of creating success! And YES, there are great ADD marriages!!

*It is a great idea for both partners to learn about ADHD symptoms and how it affects marriages. Knowledge leads to understanding, accepting and working with each other.

* This one is huge!! Have a sense of humor – stuff happens! I had one client that went in to buy some dog food and came home with a horse!!

*Set some ground rules: No nagging, no disregarding of others’ concerns. Schedule specific times to focus on each other in loving ways.

*Praise freely. Stuff happens – life is not fair. Look for the good!

*Something to note: Both partners DO NOT perceive the world the same way. Structure your communications around this in the present. Then create a healthy plan to move forward.

3. Identify what spouses love about each other. “I love your energy and enthusiasm”

4. Identify and reinforce each persons’ strengths!!!

5. Create a new structure for communication. Set a rule that you aren’t allowed to use negative words such as: “you never do”, “it won’t work”, “you’re dumb”, “you should try harder”, “you can’t” etc.

6. Learn to give what you want to receive & become what you want to attract. Example: If you want courtesy, respect, attention, affection and communication… give and show those traits!!

7. Look for progress, not perfection! Work as a team!

Good Luck!

Your Brain on Overwhelm

Your Brain on Overwhelm

Last week we talked about how ADHDers function much of the time in overwhelm. It is exhausting! Today we are going to talk about what is going on in your brain during overwhelm, so that you can, again, take steps to control your brain, rather than your brain controlling you.

The two action points we are going to give you are:

1) Show up in the now!

2) Stop “shoulding” on yourself.

Now, imagine that you are walking into an important meeting. While you are trying to focus on being your best, you may also be noticing the smell of the coffee (that reminds you of grandma’s house), or the artwork on the wall (that reminds you of a vacation). ADHDers have to work hard just managing staying in the NOW!

In addition, most of the time we are still trying to process what has happened in the PAST. We are beating ourselves up about how we greeted the CEO in the elevator, or wishing we would have spent better time with our child before their spelling test today.

And, if that is not enough, we are worrying about the FUTURE too! We have so much to do and are afraid that we will not get it all done. We will probably feel like a failure again!

WHEW! That is a lot to handle all at once!

It is important to note that all of our intentions are good. We are always trying to do a good job at all times. We are just trying to manage too much all at once. No one can do that!! Our brain is in OVERWHELM!!! Remember how that causes our system to be flooded by adrenalin that shuts down our logic? Not good, huh?

The first thing to do is to get out of the past and out of the future and just show up in the present. So, plan ahead. Once a day take time to process the things you did yesterday, and decide it is good enough. Let it go! You can’t change it anyway. Then, during this same time, plan the things that you need to get done today. Plan well! Then…….decide to let the past go, let your plan take care of the future and show up in the now!

This is a good place to put a P A U S E …… – remember those? Stop, relax (take a deep breath) and think about what you need to do right now. Shut down that amygdala! Show up, in the moment and do your best. It will be enough!

That brings up the second point to overcoming overwhelm. Stop “shoulding” on yourself!” “I should do this” “I should have done that.” It only creates more adrenalin that shuts down your logic. You need that logic for now!

Tell yourself that the past is past. You can’t change it now. The future has not happened. You can’t change it now. However, if you do your best right now, you can change THAT – – – and that is ENOUGH.

Overcoming the Cycle of Overwhelm

Overcoming the Cycle of Overwhelm

Today, we are going to visit the topic of “chronic” overwhelm. It feels like this:

* You wake up feeling like you’re behind.

* You spend all day trying to “catch up” (or thinking about it) as new to-do’s, pressure and guilt build up.

* You go to bed feeling even more behind than you were when you woke up.

*Your life is all about your to-do list.

*You find yourself running around trying to get things done but mentally overwhelmed and paralyzed by the pressure.

Each of these situations is challenging but there is good news! We can break the cycle of overwhelm through stress management, and stress management equals ADHD Management!

We can manage our stress in two big ways!!

1. By slowing down – pausing

2. By making self-care a priority

1. Slowing Down – Pause:

*Try a daily balance of things you need to do & things you want to do. For example: biking. If it was a “need to” activity, it might be to loose weight. If it was a “want to” activity, it would be to bike for joy. A healthy day needs some of both.

*Practice mindfulness meditation or prayer by being aware of the present moment.

*Learn to NOTICE and then step back from stressful situations before you lose it.

*Take time for daily relaxation – every day – to “recharge” (at least 30 minutes).

2. Make self-care a priority:

*Look at your sleep, nutrition and exercise. Even simple physical movement for a short time, helps you get out of your head and into your body. Improve ONE (sleep, nutrition or exercise) & the others will follow with little effort

*Engage in your interests & passions. Do things because you want to, not because you think you should.

Do things that make you happy – just because!

Try a couple of these tools and watch your feelings of overwhelm turn into feelings of self-control and peace.

Your Brain on Procrastination

Your Brain on Procrastination

Last week we talked about beating procrastination. This week, let’s find out what actually happens inside the brain when we procrastinate. This stuff happens at a cellular level, and the better we understand how our brain works, the more WE can control it, rather than IT controlling us.

When we procrastinate, we are thinking of a task that is usually hard, dreaded, boring or threatening to our confidence in some way. It is not pleasant! So, when that awful thought happens, our amygdala interprets that thought as overwhelming – a threat!

When the amygdala senses a threat, it does two key things in 1/32 of a second:

  1. It starts sending out signals that floods our system with adrenalin to prepare us to fight the threat or run quickly away to safety.
  2. It shuts down the logic part of our brain because that part takes a much longer 3 seconds to engage.

In 1/32 of a second we become fearful and we can’t think! THAT is what procrastination really is. That is why staying calm and using the tools we reviewed last week really work!

So, when we:

Write down a plan

Move past the plan to actually start the task

Break the task into small tasks

Allow for a margin of error

Set a timer for small units of time

Stick to the timer

Stop for breaks

Prevent distractions

Stop striving for perfection

Reward ourselves and

Use an accountability partner,

We feel more in control and our amygdala does NOT go off. We can stay calm and logical – VERY productive!

So, next time you find yourself procrastinating, STOP! Pause for 3 seconds, and start using these tools to remain calm and productive.

You will quickly become an EX- procrastinator!

Outsmarting Procrastination

Outsmarting Procrastination

Many of us are challenged by procrastination. The most interesting thing about procrastination, to me, is that we often times spend more time worrying about the fact that we are procrastinating, than the task would actually take to do. Wow! How silly is that! So here are some tips on beating procrastination:

1. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Break it into small short tasks. Do one small task at a time. Now, I know. This seems fairly obvious. We’ve heard this one for years! So, here are some practical tricks for making this tried and true plan actually work for you.

2. DON’T spend too much time planning ahead. We are really great at making the plan or perfecting the list. However, making the plan is just the first small task. Making the plan does not complete the project. Don’t get lost.

3. Be honest. Leave time or a “margin” to procrastinate – because you know you will. Allow time for “fixin’ to get ready to commence to start”. You may even want to leave time for a breakdown, temper tantrum or a couple of distractions. Sometimes it takes 30 minutes to start and only 5 minutes to actually complete the task. If that is reality, schedule that much time. It’s ok.

4. Set a timer. Make it a contest with yourself. This is how I take down my Christmas tree every year. I set a timer and make myself get that tree from up to boxed and in the garage before the timer goes off. It works great!

5. Set the timer for a short period of time, say 20, 10 or even 5 minutes – whatever your attention span is on this project. There are some things we cannot do for more than 5 minutes without a break. Be realistic.

6. Stick to the timer. As soon as you start the timer, start working. Then, when the timer goes off, STOP! We often get sidetracked or hyperfocused on the details of a task. What should take 20 minutes becomes 3 hours. Then, we avoid starting the next task on the list, for fear it will take 3 hours too. Stick to the timer.

7. Avoid distractions. You know your mind will try to wander. So, at the beginning of your task, try extra hard to stay focused. Then, as you begin to make progress, you will become more focused on the task and the distractions will not be as tempting. Protect the time you have set aside. You and your task are important.

8. Dare to be average. Yikes, I can’t believe I said that, but it can be true. Perfection paralysis can happen. DONE trumps perfect every time!

9. Enlist support. Choose, very carefully, someone supportive. Call them daily to report on your wonderful progress. Supportive, guilt-free accountability really helps keep us motivated!

So, remember, beating procrastination is like eating an elephant….…one bite at a time. Good luck becoming an EX-procrastinator!!!!



Temper Tantrums and Your Brain

Temper Tantrums and Your Brain

Last week we talked about a great trick to tame our temper. We used our creativity and imagination to “self-distance” from a situation and choose the way we want the situation to play out. So many times, when we are angry, we feel that we have no choice but to blow up. The “self-distancing” gave us our choice back!

Remember that all we had to do was STOP, RELAX and THINK. In order to get that distance, and rewrite how we want the scene to play out. Well, today we are going to tell you how that works at the cellular level, in your brain. Remember, we can retrain our brain out of bad habits – like a bad temper – and into better ones.

OK, First, let’s look at what happens to the brain when we get angry. Our amygdalas are two almond shaped parts of our limbic system that sense danger. They are put there to keep us alive. When they sense danger, they go off – “danger-danger-danger” – and they do two very important things.

1) They send a message to our adrenal gland to pump lots of adrenalin to our heart, lungs and muscles, so we can fight the danger, or run away from it – fight or flight! This is what gives our body that awful, fearful feeling that is the basis for most anger. It is extreme! It is very upsetting! It is also very fast! It happens in about 1/32 of a second and we really can’t control it!

2) Those amygdalas also shut down our prefrontal cortex – the logic part of the brain.

Now why does it do that? Seems we could use some logic when we are angry! Well, that would make sense, except for the fact that it takes about 3 seconds for the logic part of our brain to click on – about a nine hundred times slower than the amygdala. Now which part would you like to be in charge of saving your life? Bet you would choose 1/32 of a second.

Unfortunately, however, the amygdale is pretty dumb. Remember our soccer dad from last week? Well, his amygdale can’t really tell much difference between someone trying to hurt his child, and the umpire just throwing a red flag on the play. Either way, that amygdale is going off, and that dad is angry!

Now, here’s the super power! By STOPPING and RELAXING – taking a three second pause to breathe and push the pause button on our scene – we can effectively shut down that adrenalin pump and re-engage the logical part of out brain. When we do that, we can “self distance” ourselves and THINK of a better scene in the movie of our life – one that will give us the results we really want.

Those 3 seconds of self-control can make a huge difference in our lives if we use it every time we begin to feel a temper tantrum coming on. Try it!

Taming Your Temper

Tame Your Temper

It is not uncommon for ADHDers to become overwhelmed. Often, when we become overwhelmed, we get angry and our temper gets the best of us. Remember, when that happens, we are flooded with adrenalin and our prefrontal cortex, the logical part of our brain, checks out. We can do and say things that are not truly a reflection of who we really are or what we really want. So, let’s talk about how to tame that temper.

Two of the great gifts of ADHD are our creativity and imagination, so let’s use them to tame our temper! Here is a wonderful strategy to help us remain cool, calm and collected when someone or something makes us angry.

STOP – – – RELAX – – – and THINK

Since anger disconnects the logic part of our brain, we must stop, or “freeze frame”, to get control. Then, we can take a 3 second pause to relax so our brain reconnects. Finally, we can think, logically, and choose what we really want to happen. It is a super power!

Here is a trick that really works. It is called “self distancing”.

When we realize that we are angry, and we stop, we can use that few seconds to pause, relax and pretend we are viewing the irritating situation from a distance, rather than actively participating in it. It’s like standing back and watching a movie. From that vantage point, we can direct our own movie, choosing what we really want to happen.

Here is a perfect example. Imagine you are at the soccer field and it is the finals. Your kid makes a score and the ref. throws a flag. You are the parent and you are furious! You are ready to lose your temper and pounce! So what do you do? First, STOP! Step back and see the movie two different ways – what would happen if you lost your temper, and what would happen if you reacted calmly and logically.

If you lose your temper, you will challenge the authority of the referee and make a scene, embarrassing both you and your child. Is that what you really want? Is winning the most important thing? Do you want to model that to your child? Do you want others to think that is who you are?

If you react calmly and logically, you may stay seated and vow to talk to your child later about how sometimes in life, things happen that may not seem fair. You can talk to your child about what you believe you can do in those situations. You might advise your child to talk to their coach to learn how to avoid a flag in the future. You might advise your child that, although sometimes life is not fair, if you always do your best and respect authority, it will turn out ok in the long run. You might point out that this is just soccer, and it will not be the end of the world if a game is lost. There is much to be learned either way. You are a good parent, and will make sure that, even if the game is lost, your child will become a better person for it.

Now, YOU get to choose how the movie will be played out. It can only take 3 seconds to stop, relax and think, but it can make a huge difference in how you and your child feel.

“Self-distancing” can really help minimize how angry and possibly aggressive we can become when someone or something aggravates us. We can actually visualize just how the scene will play out in our minds. We can become the movie director in our own lives!! How powerful it that?

The good news is, is that this technique can be learned quickly, and it can really help in the heat of the moment! It may take a bit of practice to stop relax think, but it is worth it when you know that it gives you back the choice. Remember, anger takes our choice away! Pausing gives it back!!

So, when your temper flares, Stop, relax and think. Then, create the movie – – and the life – – YOU want!

How To Organize Your Stuff

How to Organize your “Stuff”


ADHDers often complain that their lives are so disorganized – often referring to the mess their “stuff” is in. It is hard to stay organized when we are constantly fighting the “stuff”, trying to find things. However, it is also true that when our “stuff” is organized everything seems much easier.

Here are a few tips to help you get that “stuff” organized. Take it a little at a time, and you will get there!

1) PACE YOURSELF: Set a time limit or a task limit each time you tackle your “stuff”

Don’t try to do it all at once. You will become overwhelmed and quit.

Set a deadline. “I’m going to organize the top of my desk by the end of today.”

Take breaks. After each chunk of organizing, stop for awhile, enjoy the view and reward yourself.

A little bit at a time, day after day, will get you there!

2) BODY DOUBLE: Often times we do better when we are performing for someone. If we have a friend with us to help, we always do an amazing job! If you cannot have this “body double” actually with you, imagine someone who will, sometime soon, see what a good job you have done. For example, imagine showing your organized space to an important friend next time they are there. Work with them in mind.

3) HIT THE HOT SPOTS FIRST: We all have areas that drive us crazy. Do those first and you will become really motivated to do the next job. It might be your car, your closet, your desk, your purse, your brief case, your kitchen counter, your dining room table or your laundry room. You will be amazed at how much better you will feel by just organizing these key areas!

4) REDUCE VISUAL CLUTTER: Clutter creates visual stress by overloading the stimuli in your environment. Have a drawer, trunk or box that you can move things to until you can get to them. Or, just cover them up for awhile. Then, when the space “looks” clean you will feel more in control.

5) THE THREE BOX SYSTEM: When you are organizing, put things in three boxes

– Keep – put it in its place.

– Trash – get the bags full and toss them!

– Give Away – don’t save it for a garage sale. Good Will gives tax deductions. It will yield more money.

There, that wasn’t so hard. Once your “stuff” is organized, it is easy to keep it that way. It is a great investment in feeling so much better – every day! Good job!