Why It’s Okay To Say “Hey, Siri?”

I was chatting with a client the other day, discussing a strategy we had designed together to help keep her on track with keeping her house more organized and clean. When I asked her the question, “How will you remember to do this?” her response was “Well, I can set a reminder, but I really should be able to remember without it.”

She SHOULD remember without a reminder? What does that even mean??

The word “should” implies a rule or requirement, like you should eat vegetables, or you should drive under the speed limit. But as far as I know, there is no rule in this world that requires people to remember tasks, birthdays, and anything else, without any sort of support.

And yet, this is a common ADHD lament…I SHOULD be able to do this without using any of the many things that would make it easier/shorter/more likely to happen.

Interestingly enough, neurotypicals don’t feel this way. In fact, they embrace any and every thing that will help to make life easier. Apple watches, Alexa, air fryers, dashboard reminders for oil changes-these are all ways that technology helps to make things smoother. And it is not just ADHDers who are calling out, “Hey Siri?”

So that got me thinking about why neurotypical folks embrace futuristic enablers, and ADHDers feel guilty about using them.

I realized that, because ADHDers often feel like they are AT FAULT, they are incapable, they are lazy-possibly because they’ve been told that by teachers, family, and others-they want to show that dammit, they don’t need help! They can do it! I’m not going to need no stinkin’ Alexa!

This is quite the conundrum. Because ADHDers are NOT at fault, they ARE capable. They are NOT lazy-and there is nothing wrong with using supports that are available, just like neurotypicals do. In fact, it can be a real game changer for ADHDers.

Look, I sew things. Now I certainly know how to thread a needle, and sew by hand. But, when given the choice, I will always use my sewing machine. And that’s not because I’m lazy, or incapable. It’s because it makes it much more likely that I will complete the project I’ve started-and I’ll enjoy it more, because the time and drudgery of hand sewing is eliminated.

So, my ADHD friends, please do NOT eschew technology, or planners, or any of the things that can make it more likely that you will succeed. Be the intelligent, creative person you are, and utilize anything you can to improve your life.

I’m not going to say you SHOULD embrace supports. Maybe…just strongly consider it.

Structure Overload

Make a list, they said. Make a list, and a time to check it, and an alarm for that time, and an alarm to set the alarm for checking, and, and, and…

Yes, structure can be super helpful to ADHDers trying to survive in a neurotypical world. But when does structure become a barrier to success?

Some of ADHDer’s challenges stem from weak executive functioning, and compromised working memory. Recognizing this, and realizing that support for these areas will be necessary, is pretty crucial for improving one’s ability to stay organized, meet deadlines, and generally deal with obligations that keep us employed, sheltered, and not pissing off relatives by forgetting their birthdays. There is no shame in needing strategies and support for executive function, just like there’s no embarrassment in wearing glasses if you have impaired vision. 

And those supports really need to be the right ones for you. If I wear my husband’s glasses, I will easily walk into a wall. And if he wears mine, he will likely drive off a cliff. If I tried to use his to-do list, I’d probably lose my mind. And vice versa.

Sometimes, though, we go overboard-and the very structure that is supposed to help us becomes a burden. It might be too much structure-scheduling every minute of every day-or not the right kind. Some people thrive with bullet journals. Personally, not my jam (and I have tried, I have the gorgeous journals with 5 pages filled to prove it).

When we over-structure, it can cause discomfort, even resentment. And that’s the tipping point at which one might say “I hate all of these lists. That’s it, I’m done!” And the ADHD free fall begins.

We’ve all been there. It lasts…until the scales shift, and there’s more discomfort with the free fall than the structure. And back and forth we go.

But, what if we built some free fall into our structures? For example, one day a week without a to do list. Or an hour every day built in for just…being. Or maybe, including some time every week for going down rabbit holes.

It’s tough to balance one’s ADHD tendency to go down the rabbit hole with the need for a plan, to not just get stuff done, but also to feel good about the effort. But both are parts of the ADHDers’ make up. So why not just own that…instead of trying to extinguish it?