Friday, July 29, 2016

Stop Using ADHD as an Excuse to Not be a Functional Adult

It's ranting with Noel time, folks.

Your ADHD is not an excuse to not be a functional adult.
It's not.
Deal with it.

I have moderate ADHD. Some days, it's more severe than others; like most of us, it's 10x worse when I'm off my schedule and/or stressed or overloaded.
Hahahahahahahahahaha welcome to my life.
I have a full-time job in a department that's severely short-handed with two product releases coming out days before my wedding, which is in 7 weeks. I'm a mom to a little boy with multiple extracurricular activities, I have 2 romantic partners, and I'm in leadership for a 3,000 person event that takes place 3 weeks after my wedding.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that I'm planning a wedding?!

And you know what? I'm a functional fucking adult anyway.
Some days more functional than others, but I get my shit done.
You know why? Because I listened to my goddamned doctor when she gave me advice. Listen, folks, medication is amazing and is a huge part of how I manage. But it ain't everything, and it's useless without coping mechanisms. 
Let me say it again for the people in the back: you cannot rely on medication alone to make you a functional adult with ADHD. Medications will make you capable of focusing, but it won't teach you how to. Medication will make it possible for you to sit down and read a whole book, but it won't teach you to make notes. Medication will make you capable of remembering that appointment, but it won't teach you to manage your calendar.

"Butbutbutbutbut Noel, I don't know how to learn any of that!!"
Bitch, you got Google in your back pocket. Use it.
(Seriously, you can literally google, "adulting skills.")

Ok, you don't want to wade through Google results and risk getting lost in a Wikihole that leads to the Heisenberg Principle and conspiracy theories around Hillary Clinton. Fine. I'll do the work for you.

Basic Adulting Skills (solutions & suggestions to come after):

  • Accepting when you're wrong, without getting defensive
    • This one is hard, yo. We are raised to believe that, "I did something bad," actually means, "I am bad." That's bullshit. The Dalai Llama screwed up sometimes, and so will you. This does not make you a shitty person. Refusing to accept responsibility for your screw-up and fix it does, however. 
  • Managing your schedule
    • I don't know about y'all, but this is really, really hard when you're ADHD. You start the day with all these good intentions, and suddenly, it's 2pm and you've cleaned the whole kitchen top to bottom but haven't even put on pants to go to work. Whoops! 
  • Maintaining Friendships
    • I forget your birthday. I don't remember your kids' names. I have no idea where you work. I will tell myself I should drop you a line for 4 months straight before I actually text you. And God forbid I manage to actually make plans with you, keep them, and show up on time.
  • Working at work
    • Ok, I finished this work-task, I'll just take a second to answer some Facebook messages that came up..... OMG how did it get to be 3 hours later and what is this blog post I just wrote?!?!
  • Managing Your Money
    • Dude, ADHD folks suck with money, as a general rule. We're impulsive, we don't track our spending, and next thing we know it's 3 days after payday and we're fully stocked on video games and beer, but forgot to pay the cable bill and our bank account's screaming hysterically.
  • Taking Care of Yourself Physically
    • Am I the only one whose meds (and life in general) mean that I get up at 6am, and then start doing stuff, and only realize that it's 5pm and I haven't eaten when I get dizzy? Because, yeah... that's a thing that happens. 

So, feeling like you're never going to be a grown-up, yet?
You're good, trust me, because there's an app for that! (Seriously, I utilize technology heavily in managing my ADHD, and I firmly believe that you should, too.)

Bullet Journals:
First, the low-tech option. Bullet journals, or BuJos as they're called by aficionados like myself, are rapidly growing in popularity. They're referred to as, "the analog system for the digital age." Personally, I find that writing down my list/tasks/calendar/meal plans/etc helps me remember them, and science agrees. There are thousands of ways to handle your bullet journal, but the main points are these:

  • Write everything down. Everything.
  • Mark what's done and 'migrate' what's not
  • Do not spend forever writing things down- this is rapid logging, not blogging

Here's a picture of the founder, Ryder Carroll's, BuJo 
Here's mine. 
How I set mine up: I use a 'dutch door' method that lets me see the entire week's schedule at a glance, and I take an entire page for every day. I also track the weather and sunrise/sunset times because I'm a geek. Tasks written in red are professional/at work tasks. Tasks in purple are personal tasks. I also draw a tarot card each day as a general reminder/guide for the day. 
There are a million ways to do this. Mine is probably not the right way for you. Bullet journaling is incredibly adaptive. In fact, set aside a couple of hours to get sucked into the rabbit hole of perusing potential layouts.
Important points to remember about BuJos:
  • You do not need a fancy notebook, or fancy pens, or washi tape (the decorative tape on the side. 
  • You do not need to learn calligraphy. 
  • If you compare yours to people on Instagram with way more time on their hands than you, you will toss the whole notebook. When you start to feel this way, go back and look at Ryder's. He uses one pen, one notebook, and absolutely no decoration. You don't have to, either. Do not get sucked into the rabbit hole of making it super fancy until it isn't functional.
Set a Freaking Schedule and Stick to It
No, you are not the magical exception to ADHD that doesn't need one. No, you don't thrive on chaos. You just make the rest of us frustrated and miserable. Routines give your brain one less tab to keep open, because you can cruise on autopilot.
Set an alarm for every day, even weekends. Put a hook by the door and put your keys there every. single. time. Meal plan. Build a routine. Routines and schedules are touchstones in the whirling chaos in our minds. Trust me. Do the thing.

Forest App/Extension:
Having your tasks listed is useless if you are playing on Facebook for 6 hours instead of working on them. That's where Forest comes in. It's both an Android/iOS app, and a Chrome browser extension. If you navigate to a different app on your phone, or go to certain websites on your computer, you kill the adorable little tree that you're cultivating with your focus. Time is measure in 5 minute increments, starting at 20 minutes and culminating in 2 hours.
Focus requires practice. Forest helps you get that practice. I also find that working for 20-25 minutes, then giving myself a (timed!) 5 minute break makes me significantly more productive.

Google Calendar, Google Keep, and Google Reminders (and their Apple equivalents)
Google owns my life. Let me just get that out of the way. I'm a Google/Android fangirl all the way, but this advice applies to Apple folks as well.

Personal Assistant
Your phone has either Siri for iPhone, or OK Google for Android. Siri is pre-packaged. Android folks, here's a tutorial.
Think you already know how to use your phone's personal assistant? You're probably not using it to its full potential. My favorite commands:
Ok Google, remind me at Publix [my local grocery store] to get toothpaste. 
Ok Google, remind me in 2 hours to set up that blog post about forgetting things.
Ok Google, call Dad.
Ok Google, open Gmail.
Ok Google, create appointment Coffee with Logan 9am tomorrow. This one is key. make your next plans with someone you're out with while you're still there, and then create a calendar event immediately.
Ok Google, what is traffic like?
Ok Google, what is 3.5% of 95,000?
Siri does all of these things, too. You have a personal assistant in your back pocket. Use it.

Google/Apple Calendar
Use it. Seriously. You already know it exists, so I'm not going to explain it. Use it. Put things in it, set them to have reminders that pop up the day before, the morning of, and an hour or 2 before. Again- do this while you are with people so that a) they can see that they are important enough to you to schedule time for them immediately, and b) you don't forget.
Calendars can also be shared with friends, partners, and whoever you want so they know when you're most likely o be free... if you use it.
Google Calendar even has an awesome new feature that lets you set goals, and it will find time in your schedule for you to meet them- and one of those prepackaged goals is, "Reach out to a Friend".

Google Keep/Apple Notes
Caveat: I haven't messed with Apple Notes. I use Google exclusively, but I have heard good reviews of Apple Notes.
Keep lets you make lists, take notes, 'pin' pictures, set reminders, and share all (or some) of the above with other people. So the next time you're thinking, "I really need to tell Sarah about that cute kitten I just saw," you can add it to Keep and it will be there waiting for you.
I use mine to keep track of wedding and burn stuff. 

Relationship/Friendship Apps
Bond is one app that lets you pick people, set how often you want to check in on them and say hi, what messaging service you want to use (Facebook, Gmail, text, WhatsApp, etc), and will then remind you to do so.

Mint/Other Money Apps
Personally, I just use my USAA app to keep track of my spending, since it lets me import and keep track of my credit cards, my student loans, my car loan(s), and my bank accounts. It even gives me a pie chart of where my money goes. has something similar, that even comes with a credit score. (A free credit score app that i use is called Credit Karma. It's made a huge difference in my credit score.)
This is only moderately useful for the fact that I'm an impulsive spender, however. There are thousands of tips and tricks out there to 'trick' yourself into saving money:
  • Pay yourself first- move money into savings as soon as the check comes in, rather than saying, 'if there's anything left, I'll put it into savings. That never works for folks like us. 
  • If your bank has a 'round up' program, use it. These programs 'round up' every purchase to the nearest dollar, and put the change into your savings account. (Ex: I buy a $3.57 chai at Starbucks. My bank removes $4.00 from my bank account and gives $3.57 to Starbucks and puts $.43 into my savings account.) This may not seem like much but it does add up. 
  • Just pull from your savings accounts whenever your checking gets low, depleting any attempt at saving money? Use something like to 'round up,' and put it into an investment account that takes longer to pull from.
  • Level Money even provides you with a handy, "How Much Can I Spend Today/This Week?" based on your income, expenses, and savings goals. 
  • If you get direct deposit paychecks, set it up so that a certain amount goes straight to savings without you ever seeing it. I use multiple savings accounts, with direct deposit to each of them:
    • Personal Spending Checking
    • Household Expenses Checking
    • Play Money Savings (vacations, etc)
    • My Son's Savings
    • My Son's 529 College Savings
    • My 911 Savings (this is for the major emergencies- tree falls on the house, child needs emergency surgery, etc. This account is absolutely non-negotiable)
  • Use your bank's auto bill pay features. You almost certainly have it, and if you don't, you may need to switch banks. (Caveat: this is harder for people without steady incomes) I get paid a set amount, or somewhere within a certain range, the 1st and 15th of each month. Therefore, I have certain payments scheduled for those dates: my student loans, my car payment, my son's tuition, my cell phone bill, and other payments that don't change amounts. I never have to worry about forgetting to pay that bill. My bank even shows me when the last time I paid each bill was, and how much it was for, so I can usually guesstimate how much I'll owe if I want to schedule something ahead like the power bill. 
  • Put all those 'rewards cards' onto an app like KeyRing. I never, ever carry rewards cards with me. That's what i have a phone for. And those cards can actually save you quite a bit of money- I have saved $30-50 with Kroger Rewards before, on a $60 groceries run.
Google Fit/MyFitnessPal/Other Calorie/Fitness Apps
I know I'm not the only one who forgets to eat all day on my Adderall. Or who doesn't notice that I ate 6,000 calories yesterday. So track that shit- there are dozens of apps out there whose entire function is to track your calorie intake and your activity level. Every time you eat, log it. Every time you drink, log it. Then look at your weekly summaries. 

Think you get enough rest? Check the numbers. And no, you're not the special snowflake who only needs a few hours of sleep. Studies have shown, over and over, that people who consistently don't get enough sleep don't function as well as those who do, but think they are functioning just as well. In other words, you're not functional, you're deluded. Stop it. Sleep. There are lots of tracker options to help you. 

Meditation Apps
I know, I know: I'm not the Dalai Llama, what do I need meditation for?
Think of meditation as a workout for your brain. Remember that thing about how medication doesn't teach you how to focus, just makes it possible? Well, this is part of how you learn to focus. Keeping your ADHD mind clear for even a few seconds is work. Mastering doing it will help you focus on that one important task for a while- without descending into monofocus. 
My personal favorite app for this is Stop, Breathe, and Think, but a quick Google search will net you thousands of options.

TL;DR version:
ADHD is hard. But technology, and a little practice, can make you a functional adult, anyway. 
The trick is, decide you care enough about your life, your job, and your relationships to actually put some of this into practice.