Become the Master of Your Day

top-picDo you make the most of your time? At the end of the day do you feel like you had enough balance between work and pleasure? What about time for exercise, eating well and engaging in meaningful activities?  Most of us would answer, unequivocally, No!

 Life is demanding, yet there’s a high cost to letting your day master you – from chronic stress to pure exhaustion.  When you react to what’s in front of you instead of consciously deciding how to spend your time, you lose autonomy!

 The ADHD Factor
People with ADHD often feel like the sky is falling. This overwhelming sensation is understandable when you consider just a few common symptoms, like distractibility and difficulty remembering and prioritizing multiple matters. Think about getting ready for work in the morning.  What’s straight -forward for a neurotypical person is highly stressful for someone with ADD.  There are all the small decisions about what to wear or bring to lunch – as well as the need to remember what’s ahead.  (Just think about how often you run back from your car to grab a forgotten item!)  This extra effort is taxing and is not a good start to the day.  

Below I will review four areas that, when mastered, can help you move forward in new ways.  These are not simple ‘How- To’s’ but concepts to work with over time.

Concepts to Help You Master Your Day

I. Have something to look forward to.
No one is happy when life tips out of balance towards ‘all work and no play’.  But for procrastinators, it’s particularly hard to proceed when there’s nothing pulling them forward.  I’ve listed this first because pleasure is too often the last priority.

Feeling positive about your life is really the main purpose in mastering your time.  Consider what you want more of, or what’s missing in your life.  It could be something simple like more time with friends or getting away for a weekend.  Maybe you want to expand your life by volunteering or taking a course.  Or perhaps you need a major change in your life like moving or finding a new career direction. 

While adding something new can feel daunting, focusing on these important goals is empowering and will give you a sense of purpose and pleasure. For those of you who aren’t natural planners, unfortunately, there’s no way around it – but you can enlist help. Be brave and expand your life!

II. Free yourself from indecision.
There are no perfect decisions, yet we act as if there are, endlessly pondering our choices.  The fear of making the wrong decision or wanting to keep options open is often behind this difficulty.  And if you have a history of making poor decisions, this is understandable.

But consider how indecision impacts you and those around you.  When you endlessly deliberate, you’re pre-occupied, waste time and energy, and also risk becoming overwhelmed, which makes these decisions even harder to reach!

I encourage you to work towards being more decisive.  Learn to distinguish which decisions deserve your time and analysis and which are time-suckers. One quick way is to consider how much money, time, or effort is at stake. For important decisions, go ahead and take plenty of time to decide, enlisting the help of others as needed.

Remember that few decisions are irreversible or catastrophic – and that it’s impossible to have all the knowledge you need to make many decisions. There are advantages and disadvantages to every decision and there is great freedom to be found in accepting this. In addition, even if you make a poor decision, you are likely more resilient than you think.

For less important decisions, adopt the mindset that you will be more empowered, present, and available if you are decisive!  People tend to be kind towards those who make mistakes, but less forgiving towards those who are wishy-washy or stuck in decision paralysis.

Try these simple questions when you just can’t decide!

  •  If no one was impacted but me, what would I choose? 
  • What potential consequences am I worried about, and just how important are they?
  • Would I feel better doing nothing or choosing an option?

III. Learn to pick your top priorities every day:
Each morning, ask yourself the question:  “At the end of the day, what completed action(s) would best meet my/my families needs?” 

Look over your list and commit to just one action a day.  I hesitate to suggest that you schedule it because many people do fine fitting them in naturally. Do what works best for you. Once you get used to completing one priority a day, add another.  Feel the sense of completion and how it helps you feel more in control. Consider using the free ADHD HealthStorylines App to track your completed priorities and gain a sense of success.

 IV. Remember that you don’t need to feel like doing something in order to do it:
We all postpone tasks we don’t feel like doing, focusing solely on the present and ignoring the future consequences.  According to Ned Hallowell, MD, people with ADHD tend to think in terms of NOW and LATER, emphasizing that they usually focus on the present moment and fail to connect with later.  By slowing down, you can learn to make choices that take both the present and the future into account.

 There is also the common saying that what you focus on expands. When you focus on how much you don’t want to do something, it makes it harder to do!  When you shift your focus from reluctance to deciding to complete a task – despite the feelings – you can make enormous strides.

While I always cringed at the Just Do It campaign, I’m advocating for a version of it, when you: a) need to get something done soon, b) know it will not harm you to do so, and, c) have time in your day.  Under these circumstances, take your mind off your negative feelings and tell yourself, “I am now going to take care of business!”  Distract yourself by being in the moment, taking in your surroundings, and letting go!

Being the master of your day will lead you to a more satisfying and meaningful life.  When you feel on top of things there’s a sense of control that’s powerful.  Each adjustment takes some time and effort, but taking even one step in a positive direction will pay off.

If you can master one day you can learn to master all your days.


Fall in love with getting back on track

heart and arrow_269702When it comes to making life changes, consistently sticking to your plans is challenging.  Whether you’re trying to follow an exercise plan or cutting back on spending, there will be times of high motivation followed by serious lags. It’s tempting to give in – but consider:

“If you do not change direction, you may end up
where you are heading.”    
~Lao Tzu

When you give up, not only do you remain stuck but feelings of failure or even self-disgust can set in. We all know that the longer you flounder, the bigger the setback.  So why does it take so long to get back on track?

Consider these common reasons:

“It’s too hard!”
When you believe that a change will be near impossible or unsustainable, you’re jumping too far ahead. It’s important to choose small attainable steps and to know that you’ll get over the initial hump quickly. We forget that our perspective changes, often significantly, as we make gradual advances.  Get support, celebrate your successes, and switch your focus from catastrophic thoughts to what it will feel like to succeed! 

“I already blew it so I might as well give in.”
This type of ‘all or nothing’ thinking is common but will slow or halt your progress.  Since it’s highly unrealistic to sustain ‘all’, this perspective leads to the ‘nothing’ side of the equation far too often. Refuse to minimize your accomplishments! Would you tell a 5 year old that none of their efforts mattered, so why bother?  Obviously not, and the same goes for you. Instead, hold on to all your successes, however small, and don’t succumb to the false belief that they don’t make a difference.

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Confused by Coaching vs. Therapy

Man Scratching HeadFrom my perspective, both therapy and coaching fall under the umbrella of ‘the helping professions’. They each involve listening carefully, asking provoking questions, establishing a trusting relationship, and helping clients gain a new perspective to ultimately improve their lives. I think the difference is seen when you consider why someone is seeking help.

People usually see a therapist because they want to[�] Continue Reading

Parenting Your Children with ADD

Girl Getting Piggyback RideChildren with ADD require more parenting than other kids. What do I mean by that? More reminders; assistance; structure; patience; behavior strategies; coordination with schools and doctors; and ultimately, innovation. ADHD undermines kid’s ability to regulate their behavior, and despite good intentions,[�] Continue Reading

The Art of Apology

I have a friend who was a chronic apologizer for many years. Yes, I’ve decided, there is such a thing. Whenever we got together, I would brace myself for the slew of apologies that I knew were coming. And they did. Mind you, if I had to choose being around someone who was never culpable vs. someone who was a chronic apologizer, I’d choose the latter. There is something reassuring about a person who is aware of their shortcomings and takes responsibility for them.

But there is also a problem. It takes work to be with someone who always apologizes. You find yourself in the position of having to reassure them when much of the time, the apology wasn’t needed in the first place. And it changes the balance of the friendship. When someone is always highlighting his or her failings, it’s hard to maintain a sense of even footing. You want to know that your relationship can withstand some conflicts, but if apologies are always required, there may be a sense of fragility.

Of course, a statement of apology when warranted and done in the right way, can go a long way in building and keeping a relationship solid. A sincere apology indicates that you value the relationship and regret that you hurt or inconvenienced the other person through your actions, words, or in some cases, inaction.

Chronic apologizers tend to apologize for everything. They may feel like they mess up a lot and have found that saying they’re sorry is the best way to show that they are taking full responsibility. It becomes their go-to response, and without realizing it, they assume too much blame and shift the power in the relationship onto others. On the other extreme, some people are too reluctant to apologize. They may fear admitting guilt because they believe it will be used as fuel against them. Whichever end of the continuum you fall on, learning how and when to apologize effectively is an art worth exploring.

Tips on how and when to apologize:

1. Chose an appropriate time – You may need a few hours or a few days to cool down. Once you are clear that you would like to apologize, pick a time when the two of you will have some privacy and won’t be distracted.

2. Recognize what went wrong and own your part in the conflict – Be specific and take responsibility. A generalized apology can seem insincere. If you are truly apologetic, it is important to show that you understand the ways in which you let the person down, regret your actions, and are sorry for your piece in the conflict.

3. Separate your apology from a lengthy explanation – If you focus too much on explaining why you did something, it can take away from the actual apology. Instead, state your apology and if needed, include a brief description of the surrounding circumstances. You can include that it was not your intention to upset them, but do not go on about your intentions – it puts too much focus on you and defending your actions, rather than the other person’s feelings.

4. Plan ahead – Consider what you want to say beforehand to avoid saying the wrong thing. If a significant conflict occurred it can help to write out your thoughts in advance. Be careful with your choice of words. Don’t say, “I am sorry if you were hurt”, or “if I was hurtful”, but instead fully own your piece in the argument by saying, “I am sorry that I hurt you.”

5. Discuss any damage done and how you will address it –If there were actual repercussions from your actions, talk about your plans for making it right. For example, if you forgot to attend an important meeting, discuss how you will obtain the information and attend to any follow-up needed.

6. Know when to refrain from apologizing – Assess the situation, and determine if an apology is truly warranted. If the impact on the other person is minimal, consider a brief acknowledgment. For example, if you were five minutes late, you can say, “ I hope you weren’t waiting long,” vs. “I’m so sorry I was late”, followed by a lengthy description of what held you up. Over- apologizing can indicate that you don’t think there is any wiggle room allowed which can set a tone of rigidity. Have your apology match the offense and move on. It shows you trust that your relationship can handle these little upsets.

7. End with how much you value the relationship – When a major apology is given and there are still lingering feelings, take the opportunity to let the other person know how much you value him or her in your life.

While there may be times when an apology does not produce the result we hoped for, most often, a heartfelt apology will be well received and can be an important part of maintaining a healthy relationship. We cannot control how others respond, but by apologizing with sincerity we show that we care and are trying to make things right again.