Adulting with ADD: How I've Adapted

I was first diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (and associated depression) as a junior in high school when I basically collapsed under all the stress I was under and the pressure I was putting on myself. As a 31-year-old lawyer, I still struggle with my ADD on a regular basis, but over the years, I’ve developed numerous strategies to adapt for my monkey brain.

 All tasks and commitments have to be put on my to-do list or my calendar, or it WILL be forgotten.

I used to keep my to-do list scribbled on the back of my hand in college. In law school, I graduated to using a notebook in an attempt to look more adult, but I was so very good at forgetting those notebooks in various places, that I finally just kept my to-do list on my phone. I have a massive to-do list in the Notes app that also includes other information I struggle to remember, such as the details of when my student loan payments and mortgage payment come out of my bank account. 

I also put every meeting, appointment, and rehearsal in my phone calendar as soon as I learn about it. Otherwise, it’s just way too easy for me to forget it.

While on the subject of financial obligations…..

• I automate all the payments I can. Any non-automated obligations are literally put in front of my computer so I can’t forget them and are paid ASAP.

In this day and age, we thankfully can automate almost everything. Our utility bills all automatically come out of our bank accounts. Our mortgage check sends out from our account automatically every month. It makes life so much simpler.

As we speak, I have a medical bill that I need to pay placed right in front of my work computer so I keep looking at it and remembering to deal with it. Once I pay a bill, I actually literally write ON the bill “Paid online on [date]” so I don’t think I need to pay it again.

• I plan ahead as much as I can.

It took me a startlingly long time to actually build the habit of taking my medicine every single morning. What finally worked for me was getting one of those organizers that holds a week’s worth of pills. 

I also keep all the belongings I use regularly in one place so that I always know where they are. My purse, wallet, keys? They live next to the coat rack in my house. If they go somewhere else, I’m in trouble.

• I use SO much technology.

Oh my gosh, my life has gotten so much easier with the advent of various forms of technology! 

- ZocDoc has changed my life, as I can actually make an appointment at any time of day or night just on a website without having to call someone or track down a doctor who takes my insurance.

- I use a website blocker on Chrome on my work computer to help block out distractions. I also have one on my iPhone, but I haven’t used that one as much lately because it just hasn’t been an issue. I do also turn my airplane mode on if I really need to concentrate.

- I’ve been using the app Habit Bull to remind me of specific things that need to be done daily, like water the plants, give my cat his medicine, etc. It also helps to remind me of various tasks that I KNOW will help with my chronic pain issues, like performing my neck stretches or using my massage machine on my back.

- I get reminders for everything. Email reminders on when my library books are due. Text reminders to pick up my prescriptions. I also use alerts on my phone which subtly remind me of upcoming commitments an hour or two before the actual time.

- When I’m writing, I use a white noise app on my phone and a timer to keep me on track. Just working in 15 minutes increments helps me SO MUCH. This is an offshoot of the Pomodoro time management method, which has also really worked for me in the past (there are numerous Pomodoro apps and websites out there that work well).

• I take the medicine when I need it.

I stopped taking ADD meds sometime in college (I frankly don’t remember when) and did not actually get back on it until about 1.5 years ago. Yes, that means I went through my first 6 years post-college and all of law school without ADD meds. Having a generally flexible schedule helped a lot with that. But after 9 or so months in my current job, I had to admit that I needed the meds to focus. A lot of my work is pretty repetitive, and I just needed it to keep going. I take it on work days and on weekends when I have a lot of work that requires focus. It significantly reduces the amount of stress in my life, as it just calms down the "SQUIRREL" moments in my mind a lot.

Comic from the brilliant XKCD. Used under a   Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License   .

Comic from the brilliant XKCD. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

I'm sure I'll write more about this soon, but that's what I've got for now!

If you have ADD, what do you use to manage your symptoms and accomplish your goals?