- I Use Multiple Task Management Systems Simultaneously, And It Works For Meby Annette Lang
A common joke amongst ADHDers is, when some well meaning but misinformed soul says, “All you need is a planner/bullet journal/to-do list app,” the response is “OMG, I’m cured! Thank you!!” Cue laughter.
Many folks with ADHD have tried a variety of task management strategies and systems. Whether it’s handwritten or online, ever hopeful folks with executive function challenges sample these systems, reading articles and purchasing apps. And it may work-for about two weeks. That’s when the newness wears off, and the planner is chucked in a corner, ultimately collecting dust.
This is not a judgment of anyone, ADHDer or otherwise, who does not stick with a particular task management system – I personally have many, many apps and journals that didn’t last. But I will say this: if we know that the ADHD brain is interest based, and is going to pursue the new and exciting option, and will eschew something that has lost its luster, we need to work with that.
Enter my Many Systems System.
I use a variety of systems and tools to keep track of my tasks, and to get them done. And while there is some method to my madness, a lot of it is driven by my mood. Yup, I said it-my mood.
I use Todoist as my main task management system. It works well for me, as I’m able to schedule the many repeating tasks that are part of my coaching business-prepping for sessions, writing summaries, and reconciling my bank account.
But I don’t just use Todoist. For example, sometimes something will pop into my head-let’s say “get my oil changed.” Now if I was Todoist only, I’d stop what I was doing, and put this task into my app, perhaps in the “Inbox” section, which is kind of the brain dump area.
But sometimes, it’s easier to just write it on a Post-It note-or more fun (there are some very cute Post-Its). Or I’ll tell Siri to remind me at 4pm to call the mechanic and make an appointment. Or I might just make it a Google Task, and pop it into a specific day on my Google Calendar. Or I have an app called “Quicky Sticky” on my phone, which is basically a virtual Post-It-also a good place to jot something down. Whatever floats my boat in the moment.
If I have a task that I KNOW I will avoid, I put it into my Due app. Due will remind me of a task over and over, all day and night, until I either move it, or do it. So for things like “give the dog the flea and tick meds she hates,” Due is my go to. It is a silent but forceful nag.
Then there are the days that I have a lot to do, and I feel overwhelmed. On those days I like to write all of my to-do’s for that day on actual paper, and cross them off as I complete them. “But aren’t your tasks on Todoist? Isn’t this a waste of time and effort?” Yes, there is something less efficient in doing this. However, if writing it all down on paper helps me to feel less anxious, and allows me to get that “Zing!” from crossing off tasks, it’s worth it to me.
So, in case you are counting, I actively employ six apps, and two written methods-all being used simultaneously.
Now you might wonder if this gets confusing. Honestly-no, it doesn’t. There are a couple of practices that I’ve learned over time to help. First, tasks on apps all have reminders attached to them. This way, no matter where I’ve put the task, it will pop up. Also, I take two minutes at the end of every day putting any written to-dos, and those on Quicky Sticky, into Todoist or Due, so that they too are residing on my phone, with a reminder.
Having a Many Systems System can take some getting used to. But one thing for sure-I never get bored. And that means abandoning my task management system doesn’t happen very often. Which helps me to stay on task much more consistently. And that’s the goal, right?
- The One Hack You’re Probably Ignoring To Get Things Doneby Annette Lang
ADHDers don’t just love novelty – they need novelty. If something isn’t interesting, or new, or about to burst into flames, it’s just not on the ADHDer radar.
So when boring tasks need to be tackled-folding laundry, sending thank you notes, responding to emails, paying bills-the neurodivergent ADHD mind says “No thank you. That is incredibly dull, so I’ll just ignore it.” Which can cause a whole big set of problems.
The solution is to turn boring jobs into…less boring jobs. Finding ways to have cleaning the kitchen become even the slightest bit enticing. Because once we start, we most likely will keep going, right?
There are many ways to add some spice to tedious chores. Put on music. Watch TV. Listen to an audiobook or podcast. Promise yourself you will work for five minutes and then take a break.
But there’s one hack that you, as a responsible adult type, are probably turning up your nose at. And you shouldn’t.
“Sure,” you say, “I gamify tasks for my kids all the time. They’re kids though!”
I’m here to say it-gamifying is for adults too. It is the secret sauce that makes an otherwise deadly dull task-dare I say it-fun. Which means you’re more likely to actually do it.
Here are a few ideas on how to gamify grown-up jobs:
Beat the Clock – Set a stopwatch, and see how long it takes you to empty that dishwasher. Write it down, and then see if you can beat it next time. Turn it into a family competition-give those kiddos a reason to help out with chores!
Snowball Fight – can be played alone, or with others. On small strips of paper, write down each task you need to accomplish that day. Crumple each up one, and throw them into the air! Then pick one up, and complete it. And another, and another.
Trashketball – works for anything involving paperwork. When you have read/dealt with any paper, crumple it up and try to toss it into your trash can from a distance. Keep track, and reward yourself after 5 baskets.
Card Catalog – For jobs with several steps, write each step on an index card. Then, write 1-5 prize cards that say “take a break” or “dance to one song” – whatever works for you. Insert the prize cards randomly into the deck, and when you hit one of those cards, follow the directions. The anticipation will keep you going! This is also a fun one for family chores.
“But wait,” you say, “I’m going to feel really silly doing this.”
Yup, you might. But you know what won’t feel silly? Getting things done. That’ll feel great. And I truly believe, we could all use a drop more silliness in our lives.
So get a little goofy. And get that stuff done.
- How To Stop Sending Hidden Negative Messages To Your Kidby Annette Lang
Let’s start with the basic premise that you love your kid. Let’s also recognize that if you are raising a kid (or kids!) with ADHD and other challenges, parenting is hard. The frustrations and worries one has as a parent of a neurotypical kid is multiplied by 1000.
As loving parents, we try our best. We not only make sure that our kids have what they physically need, but we also work hard to nourish their self esteem. We praise them. We spend time with them. Some of us even volunteer on teams and in classes, to show them how much we care.
But…somehow, our kiddo still thinks they stink. And still has a completely messy room, and flips out when we ask them to start their homework, or get ready for hockey practice.
Why?? Why are they not getting the message that we are sending, that they are just the greatest?
I am going to quote one of my mentors, and the founder of the Chaos Free Family program (for which I am an affiliate), Mary Smith, and talk about “leaking negativity.”
When we think about negative reinforcement, we tend to go to punishment, yelling, or even physical consequences. And so if we aren’t employing those tactics, we think we are not engaging in negative reinforcement, right?
There are other more subtle disciplinary tactics many parents employ that are pounding our kids with negative messages that impact your child’s self esteem, and, as you’ve probably seen, aren’t effective in changing your child’s behavior.
Here’s an example of “leaking negativity.” Your child played in their softball game. They had a decent game, although if they had practiced their skills with you between games, as you’d suggested, they might not have missed that ground ball in the second inning. So you tell them how great they played, praise them about all of their highlights-and then, in an effort to help them improve their level of play, you mention that if they’d only practiced more, they could’ve played even better.
“What’s wrong with that?” you say. “I just want to help my kiddo be the best they can be!”
Here’s the issue. Your positive message is followed by “this is what you did wrong.” Your child will come to expect that, so that the impact of the positive message is completely wiped out; in fact, when they hear praise, they are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. No matter how well you tell them that they performed, they will only hear what they did wrong, from you-not their coach, but the person who is supposed to be their biggest supporter.
It’s no wonder they dawdle when it’s time to get ready to go to the ballpark.
It’s important to recognize that many of the ways in which we discipline our kids are negative reinforcers. And that emphasis on negativity can snuff out the ability of the brain to recognize positive reinforcement, causing the reward circuit to weaken, and motivation to decrease.
And your kid’s self esteem to plummet.
So let’s watch out for “leaking negativity.” It’s a sneaky little devil-and our kids deserve to have it removed from their lives.
For more information on leaking negativity, positive reinforcement, and ways to help you have a Chaos Free Family, reach out to me here for a Discovery Call: https://calendly.com/constellationadhdcoach/30min
- ADHD Books That I Love!by Annette Lang
As promised, here is a list of some of my favorite ADHD books, just in time for Prime Days on July 11 and 12. Here we go!
Your Brain’s Not Broken – Tamara Rosier
If you are only going to buy one book from my recommendations, this would be the one I would say is a must. I have been fortunate enough to attend a few webinars held by Tamara Rosier, so I was excited to read her book-and it did not disappoint! Your Brain’s Not Broken has user-friendly explanations of ADHD brain differences, including examples. Additionally, the strategies presented, which take the emotional dysregulation ADHDers can experience fully into account, are explained so well that they can be put into action quickly and easily.
What I love about this book: I love everything about Your Brain’s Not Broken! First of all, the notion of motivation being determined by emotions is so thought provoking; it makes so much sense, but this is the first time I’m seeing it spelled out so clearly. Also, Rosier’s presentation of different clients, and her own ADHD, makes this book so relatable. I couldn’t put it down! https://amzn.to/3NF0YzH
ADHD 2.0 – Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey
Dr. Hallowell could be called one of the Grand Poobahs of ADHD research, treatment, and writing. ADHD 2.0 is an update to Hallowell’s original book, Driven to Distraction, which was (and still is) the ADHD bible. ADHD 2.0, in addition to explaining the brain science behind ADHD, also discusses different ways to enable ADHDers to thrive (such as exercise and connecting with others).
What I love about this book: Dr. Hallowell’s approach is strengths based, meaning that rather than focus on what one has difficulty with, ADHDers are encouraged to lean on what they are great at. Dr. Hallowell is such a positive force in ADHD treatment, and that shines through in ADHD 2.0. https://amzn.to/44EculN
how to keep house while drowning – KC Davis
This book, and the YouTube and TikTok videos that KC Davis has created, are legendary among ADHDers. Ms. Davis has developed Struggle Care, a very basic plan for keeping your house in some form of order, based on the (very true) concept that having a messy house is not a moral failure, it is simply a functional challenge. how to keep house while drowning has suggestions for housekeeping that take into account ADHD, depression, anxiety, postpartum…basically, life. You can use the 31 day plan that is presented, or just read through and choose what you’d like to work on.
What I love about this book: Throughout how to keep house while drowning, one feels like you are sitting and schmoozing with a friend who is telling you that it’s all going to be okay, and that you’re being too hard on yourself. It’s a comforting little booklet. https://amzn.to/46EJfAY
Smart But Scattered – Peg Dawson and Richard Guare
Smart But Scattered is a great book for parents who are looking for practical advice on how to help their ADHD child work with their challenged executive functions. There is a terrific explanation of what the executive functions are, with examples. A section on general strategies to employ when dealing with your child follows. Finally, there are suggestions (with implementation plans) and examples relating to a variety of issues that any ADHD parent will recognize.
What I love about this book: The approach that is presented in Smart But Scattered towards working with your ADHD child is on point. Dawson and Guare tell parents to “modify tasks to match your child’s capacity to exert effort,” and “begin by changing things outside the child before…strategies that require the child to change.” In other words, work with your child, not against them. Doesn’t sound terribly profound…but it is. https://amzn.to/3O4zUuR
All Dogs Have ADHD – Kathy Hoopmann
All Dogs Have ADHD is a picture book full of dogs doing, well, dog things. But what makes this book special is that the pictures tell the story of ADHD. So, a dog jumping into a lake is “diving straight into a situation without thinking about the consequences.” You get the idea. This book is great for kids who have ADHD, and also those who don’t, but spend time around ADHDers. The photographs are beautiful, and the pups are adorable.
What I love about this book: Parents often want to sugarcoat for their kids. All Dogs Have ADHD doesn’t do that-while the book does end on a very positive note, the positives and negatives are given equal time. Also…dogs. Need I say more?? (PS-there is a companion book, All Cats Are On The Autism Spectrum) https://amzn.to/46RhntE
I could go on and on..but I’ll save some of my faves for another post down the road. Happy Reading!!
Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate, and have an affiliate relationship with Amazon.
- Must Have Products for ADHDers!by Annette Lang
With Prime Day just around the corner (July 11 and 12), I thought I’d share my favorite products and books for ADHDers! This week – all the things.
Mr. Pen Highlighters
Why highlighters for ADHDers? Several reasons. First, it might be a way to fidget/let out energy. Second, color makes everything more fun, which in turn can give us that dopamine boost we crave. Using highlighters as a study tool to sort text, or when going through your to-do list and calendar, can help to keep you focused. https://amzn.to/435x2m2
These strips are about the size of a band-aid, and can stick to the underside of a desk, a phone case-wherever you want. They are very soothing to rub, and can satisfy that fidget urge when you are stuck on a Zoom call and you can’t get up and pace around. https://amzn.to/3r8JGDm
The Time Timer
ADHDers struggle with “time blindness,” which means that telling your child “be ready in 15 minutes” is bound to end in frustration for both of you. Enter the Time Timer, which shows time passing-the smaller the red slice, the less time is left. Get the 60 minute version, to have more flexibility. The Time Timer comes in many different colors-I just happen to like this tie dye model. https://amzn.to/3XuD12x
Mr. Pen Dry Erase Pocket Sleeves
I learned about these when I was teaching. These pocket sleeves are great for morning/evening routines, checklists, chore lists – anything that requires the same steps each time. Make the list, pop it into the pocket, and use a dry erase marker to check off items. No need to rewrite the list! https://amzn.to/3CStJng
I use Post-It notes for so many things. One use that I have found to be super helpful is to jot down anything that pops into my head, and stick it to the counter, desk, sink…wherever I am. I can add it to my calendar or Todoist app later on, but using Post-Its for those sneaky little things that you remember in the middle of the action keeps you from then forgetting they exist. Perfect for the ADHD working memory challenge! https://amzn.to/3pt7f9p
hOmelabs Sunrise Clock
Getting your ADHD kiddo out of bed in the morning can be a real challenge. Research has shown that the use of sunrise alarm clocks, also known as dawn simulation clocks, can improve sleep quality, as well as make waking up a more natural process. This particular clock also has the ability to have nature sounds play during the “sunrise,” and has a simulated sunset as well. The colored lights are always fun for the kiddos! https://amzn.to/3rbmGUp
Uppower Essential Oil Diffuser
Radha Lavender Essential Oil
Speaking of sleeping, I swear by this diffuser and lavender essential oil. All it takes is one deep inhale and I am halfway to Slumber Town. Lavender is known to be calming, so breathing it in during the night keeps me soothed, and asleep. The diffuser has different color settings, so it can double as a night light; it also can be set on intermittent or full blast. https://amzn.to/3pw5wQO https://amzn.to/435x2m2
Next week…the best of ADHD books and movies. Happy Shopping!
Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate, and have an affiliate relationship with Amazon.