Archives for April 2016

16 Dos and Don’ts of Using Your Phone When You Have ADHD

phoneWhen it comes to using the phone, most people with ADHD fall into 1 of 2 camps. Which camp are you in?

Camp 1
You love your phone!
It’s your favorite way to communicate with people. You enjoy conversations, and talking is easier than typing an email. Your phone is glued to your side and you feel excited every time it rings.

Camp 2
You hate the phone!
You avoid using it as much as possible. If the phone rings, you might not answer it even if it is a friend. Initiating a call takes a lot of mental strength and sometimes days of pep talks.

Whichever camp you are in, it is good to learn the dos and don’ts of using your phone. ADHDers are always on a quest to be productive and organized, so they feel good about themselves. Plus, when you feel organized on the inside, you look organized and capable on the outside to the people around you.

The phone can get in the way of that goal. It can trigger so many impulses and emotional reactions that you look and feel disorganized and scattered. These suggestions will help!

As you are reading them, it might be tempting to discard them and think only ‘young’ people do that. However, it is less to do with age, and more to do with ADHD. Read each point with an open mind and see if it is something you do. If it is, don’t feel bad, knowing is the first step to making changes.

1. Do check your messages

If have a missed call, it can be very tempting to call back right away. However, resist the urge until you have checked your voice messages. If the caller left a message, listen to it. They will tell you who they are and why they are calling. This is helpful because then, you can feel prepared when you call back.

Sometimes that preparation only takes few seconds as you retrieve the information from your memory. Other times, you might have to physically hunt around for the information. You will also have an idea of how long the call will take and plan accordingly.

Listening to your messages before returning a call:

  • helps you to look and organized
  • saves the caller having to repeat what they said on the answer machine
  • save you both time

It also saves conversations like this:

You: Hi, you just called this number.

Caller: Hi Johnny. Yes, it’s Tony: the accountant. You called yesterday and left me a message.

You: Oh that’s right. Listen, I don’t have time to talk right now. Can I call you back?

2. Don’t call everyone back

Imagine you have missed a call, the person didn’t leave a message and you don’t recognize the number. Many people with ADHD are so curious, they can’t relax until they find out who it was. You might have many conversations like this:

You: ‘You just called this number.’

 Caller: ‘Sorry, I called the wrong number.’

or no one answers, and you are even more curious and it becomes hard to focus on your tasks.
Save your time and focus on your day; if it is important, they will call you back.

3. Do use your contacts

Add names and phone numbers to your contact list, even if you think you will only be speaking to that person a couple of times. It is helpful because:

  • you won’t lose their number
  • if they return your call, you see the Caller ID, and those extra few seconds gives you preparation time.

4. You don’t have to answer

If your phone rings and it isn’t a convenient time for you, don’t answer the phone.

Perhaps you are driving or in a busy place. If you answer the call when you can’t give the caller your full attention, you won’t remember what you talked about and will be left with an unsettled feeling afterwards. Also, the caller will sense your distraction and won’t feel appreciated. It can be hard to break the automatic reaction of answering the phone when it rings, so switch it off when you are busy.

5. Do pick up when you can

If you are in the second camp, and dislike the phone, you have the opposite problem of 4). It is very hard for you to pick up the phone. Even if you are in a quiet place, you might sit and watch your phone ring but not answer it. Remember that for you, it takes less mental energy to pick up the phone when someone calls you, than it does for you to muster the energy to call them back. It might take you weeks to return a call and you will feel guilty every day. Get into the habit of answering the phone when you can.

6. Do remove Call Waiting

It is a lethal invention for people with ADHD. Focusing on a conversation is already hard. So the minute you hear the beeps letting you know someone else is calling you, it is impossible to be in concentration mode. Whether you are listening or talking, half of your mind will be running through the list of people who could be calling.

By removing call waiting, you can give your full attention to the person you are talking to. Then, listen to your messages and call the second person back and give them your full attention.

7. Don’t ever say these words

“I have another call, can I call you back?”

Suppose you haven’t removed your Call Waiting feature yet, or you are on a land line and your cell phone rings, never cut a call short because you have another call coming through. It doesn’t matter how long you have been playing telephone tag with the second caller, or if they have an important title, finish your first call. Here’s why.

  • The first caller will feel they aren’t important if you dash off to speak to someone else.
  • It takes mental energy to transition from speaking to one person to another and then remember to call the first person back.
  • If transitions are hard for you, you won’t give the second caller your best, because you mind will still be processing the original call.
  • You might forget to call the first person back.
  • The first person might not be available to take your call when you do call back.
  • Phone hopping as such, takes time and decreases your productivity.

8. Do call once

Calling a person once, and then waiting for them to return the call can be agony when you have ADHD. So often, ADHDers will phone repeatedly until the person picks up. Although you were just excited to connect, the person who received 22 calls can feel annoyed or harassed.

Call once, leave a message and then go keep yourself busy until they return your call.

9. Do answer machine housekeeping

  • Make it easy for people to leave you message.
  • Set up your answer machine service, if you haven’t already.
  • Regularly delete your messages, so there is always room for new messages.
  • Check your answer machine at least once a day (but not more than once an hour).

10. Do use notes

Before you make a call, write down in bullet points what you are calling about. This is helpful for all calls, not just work related ones. The notes help you to focus on the main points of the conversation and have important facts at your finger tips. If also means you don’t have to call the person back 2 or 3 times with information you forgot.

11. Do introduce yourself

When you call someone, always introduce yourself. Don’t assume they will recognize your telephone number or voice.
A simple introduction for people that know you well would be:

“Hi Sophie, it’s Jacqui.”

If you don’t know each other so well, include a little more information, “It’s Jacqui here, the ADHD coach.”
This brief introduction saves time and you can dive right into the reason for the call.

It is better to introduce yourself to someone who knows it is you, than to have someone have try to figure it out as you are talking.

12. Do pre-call prep

Before making a call, have the items out in front of you that you might need.

For example, if you are making a dental appointment, have your calendar. If you are phoning your bank, have a bank statement. It’s much better than having to go hunting for these while you are actually speaking to the person.

13. Do take notes

If you don’t have a good memory, write as you are having the conversation. You might never need to refer to those notes, but just the act of writing helps to solidify the information in your mind.

14. Do check your battery

If you are using your cell phone, check to see how much battery life you have. This will save calls from being cut off when your battery dies. Make a habit of recharging your phone over night. Plus, have a phone charger at home, work and in your car, just in case.

15. Don’t make calls from your car

Even if it legal to drive and talk on the phone where you live, don’t do it. You want your full attention on the road.

16. Do speak slowly

When you are giving your name and telephone number, say it slowly. Many people with ADHD speak quickly and because you know you name and number very well, it is easy to say them super fast.

Which telephone camp are you in?


5 Stages of the ADHD Emotional Journey

coloredstepsHave you heard of the 5 stages of grief? It is a model that psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first wrote about in her book, ‘On Death and Dying.  Elisabeth identified 5 emotional stages that someone goes through when they lose a loved one.

Ever since her groundbreaking work, Elisabeth’s model has been adapted to other emotional losses such as the end of a relationship.

In today’s article, I adapted the ‘5 stages of grief’ to describe the emotional journey adults with ADHD go through when they are first diagnosed with ADHD. While finding out you have ADHD, though it doesn’t involve the loss of a loved one, you are grieving the loss of your old identify. The old you who didn’t know they had ADHD. This might not seem like a big deal… in theory. However, when it happens to you (even if you were 99% sure had ADHD), it can still be earth shattering.  Everything you knew about yourself changes with this new piece of information.

Everyone processes their ADHD diagnosis slightly different. Some people spend longer in one stage than another. Some whizz through all the stages while for others, the processing takes longer. No one neatly goes through one stage to the next; there is lot of jumping around.

Here are the 5 stages:

1)     Euphoria  It might last minutes, or days. Finally, there is an explanation for why you are the way you are. You aren’t crazy! There is a name for your struggles.

2)     Disbelieve  Finding out you have ADHD gives you a greater understanding of yourself. But, it also shakes your selfidentity to the core. You have to rebuild your sense of self with this new knowledge. You might question if the person who tested you was accurate.

3)     Anger  The anger can be at yourself, at other people or at ADHD for existing. Why didn’t I find this out sooner? Why didn’t my teachers, parents or wife / husband notice?

4)     Depression  Sadness and depression. A sense of loss of what could have been. You might find yourself thinking that your life would have been easier, happier, more successful, richer, etc. if you had known years ago.

5)     Acceptance and Hope  This is where you embrace the new part of you. You realize that the strengths you have are related to ADHD; that without ADHD, you wouldn’t be the person you are today.

While I dont have ADHD, when I was 28 years old, I was diagnosed with severe dyslexia.  These are how the stages played out in my life: For the first 24 hours, I was exceptionally happy; almost ‘high. I had always thought my struggles were because I wasn’t clever, now I knew that wasn’t the case. There was a reason why the world seemed confusing and muddled for me.

The next emotions were (2) disbelieve and (3) anger. The detailed report by the psychologist didn’t match who I thought I was. I was really angry it had taken me 28 years to find this out. The anger then disappeared, and was replaced with (4) depression. The disbelief continued. I kept replaying in my head all the embarrassing things that had happened during my school days and felt really sorry for the little girl who used to worry in bed at night because she didn’t know how to spell words. Finally, there’s (5) acceptance as I realized that I didn’t want to waste any more of my life. I made a decision not to struggle any more. I made changes in my life to work with my strengths (which is what I encourage all my clients to do). I made peace with every part of me.

When you are first diagnosed with ADHD, there is so much to learn and research.  There are also important decisions to make, such as whether or not to take ADHD meds; which means, paying attention to how you are feeling can take a back seat. You might find your emotions creep up on you gradually or suddenly hit you one day. Acknowledge each one when it appears. Knowing about the 5 stages of emotions is helpful. It doesn’t take away the pain, but it does help to know you aren’t going crazy.

Surround yourself with understanding people. Getting diagnosed with ADHD can make you feel very lonely. There are still people who dont believe ADHD is real or wonder why as an adult you would ‘bother’ to get tested. There will also be people who aggressively question your decision to take ADHD medication or your decision not to take meds. It can be hard navigating these people when you are feeling vulnerable. Find people that are understanding and kind to spend time with. When you are feeling stronger, you can deal with everyone else.

Don’t judge yourself or your emotions. You are unique; so are your emotions. There is no right or wrong way to feel. If you are feeling it, accept that its important for you to be feeling that emotion at this time.

Process them in a way that works for you. Work with a therapist, join a support group, write a journal, etc.

Be extra kind and gentle with yourself during this time. If you are feeling fragile, don’t set yourself on big projects or put yourself in unnecessary stressful situations. Practice extreme selfcare.

If you are new to ADHD, download ‘Adult ADHD 101’. It will help you to navigate the practical things you need to know and it’s completely free


What emotions did you experience after being diagnosed? leave a comment below!


ADHD Checklists. A Simple Way to Feel Organized

A few years ago, as I was flying back to Montreal after visiting my family in England, I was catching a short flight from England to Paris, followed by a long haul flight from Paris to Montreal.

When I climbed on board the airplane in England, someone was sitting in my seat. The air stewardess asked me to wait until all the passengers had boarded then she would find me another seat. Meanwhile, the pilot and copilot walked onto the plane and invited to me to join them in the cockpit (as this was a before 9/11). Sitting in the jump seat, I had the best flight ever. It was a bit like a fair ground ride. As exciting as the experience was for me, it was all in days work for the pilot and copilot. They were chatting to me and each other about regular things such as going to Tescos  that evening to pick up groceries.

Taking off and landing required their full attention. Though before takeoff, they explained they couldn’t chat with me for a while. Then, the copilot pulled out a binder full of checklists and methodically read out each line while the pilot physically checked out each item on the airplanes dashboard.

When I was a nurse, we used checklists too. Before a patient is escorted from the ward to surgery, a nurse uses a pre-op checklist. They check the patients hospital ID, that they have the right notes and xrays, that all jewelry and false teeth have been removed. Each item on the checklist is designed to help keep the patient safe during surgery.

With all the modern technology available these days, a simple checklist can get overlooked because it seems like a basic tool. Nevertheless, basic can be powerful!

As someone living with ADHD, you can use checklists to your advantage. They make you feel organized, competent, support your memory and help you to use your time more effectively.

Here are some suggestions of how to use checklist.

*Have checklists on the front door, with all the items you need for the day. Phone, wallet, keys, lunch, bus pass etc.

*Have checklist of actions for daily routines. For example, your morning routine checklist might include shower, shave, eat breakfast, take meds, clean teeth, etc.

*If you have a hobby where you need to remember a lot of items, a checklist is very handy.

*For tasks you dont do every often, such as taxes, create a checklist. Your list will help you break any resist or overwhelm you feel in starting these task, because you know exactly what actions you need to do.

*At work, there might be multistep tasks, where it is easy to get distracted or lost. Having a checklist helps you see a task through to completion.

*Is there another area of your life where you would like to feel more organized? If so, write a checklist!

Some ADHDers feel that they shouldnt need a checklist to remember to do basic things like getting ready in the morning. Or at work, you might feel silly because no one else has one. Still, there is no shame in having a checklist and just because they dont have one, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t benefit from having one! 🙂 Checklists help you to feel and look highly organized.

Where do you keep your checklists?

You could keep them in a binder like the copilot did. Or you could tape them in convenient places around your home or office. For lists you dont use very often, you could keep it in your computer and print it out when you need it; for example,tax session.

How do you make a checklist?

Some things like your morning routine, you might be able to write it out from memory. For more complicated lists, such as for taxes, have a pen and paper nearby as you are doing the task and write down key steps in real time. Then, you have the list for the future.

After completing your checklist, try it out a few times, and make any alterations. Then, when you have a final list, type it out and keep it in a plastic envelope, or even get it laminated to keep it clean.

In The Checklist Manifesto, author Atul Gawande, identifies some key points to help you draw up an effective checklist:

1.     Have five to nine items. (You dont need to include things you do automatically; just the things that get missed.)

2.     Have all the items on one page.

3.     Keep the list clutter-free.

4.     Use upper and lower case text (as its easier to read).

5.     Choose a font that you can read easily.

What checklists are you going to make?



ADHD and Doing Nothing

ADHD and Doing NothingSometimes doing nothing is a good thing. After a busy week, it is nice to be able to relax and do nothing. It is guiltfree, because you feel accomplished and this is your reward.

However, there is another type of ‘doing nothing’ that comes with a lot of negative emotions, such as: shame, guilt, worry, anxiety and overwhelm. This is when you know you have things to do, but you aren’t doing them.

Here are 4 reasons you might find yourself ‘doing nothing’ when you have ADHD.

1.     You start one thing, get distracted and move onto the next thing. A whole day can pass like this and you feel like you have done nothing, because while you have started many things, you havent finished anything. If this sounds like you, watch this video!

2.     You have gone into hibernation mode. Something stressful happened and you withdrew from the world to recover.

3.     You spent the day thinking about your ‘todos. You have mentally jumped from one task to the next, felt worried and anxious. By the end of the day, even though you havent taken physical action, you are completely exhausted.

4.     You are stalled. You are experiencing internal resistance for a task or project and cant seem to get moving. When you are blocked on multiple projects, at home and at work, it can take a toll on your confidence and self-esteem.

 3) and 4) often go together and we are going to look at how to move from that stuck, inactive place to moving forward and taking action. But it’s not just any action; action that will get results.

Identify what exactly you have to do.

It is really easy to do nothing if you are vague about what your tasks are. Instead, write out exactly what you have to do.  It could be: clean every room in the house, or a project for work, etc. Or, make a list of 20 errands. Writing everything down forces you to be precise and it helps clear your mind too.

What is it about this task that is blocking you?

Identify what it is about this task that is causing the resistance. Here are some common reasons:

  • It feels overwhelming. I dont know where to start.
  • I don’t know how to do it.
  • It involves talking to someone (making a phone call, talking to someone in authority, etc.)
  • I have zero motivation.
  • It makes me feel anxious.

Now you know what you need to do and what is holding you back, it is easier to move forward.

Use the following suggestions to help.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, grab a pen and paper and brainstorm a list of actions to take. You might not know ALL the actions to complete the task. Nevertheless, you will know enough to get you started. If one of the actions still looks overwhelming, break it down further into even smaller steps.

If you dont know how to do somethingdo a quick Google or YouTube search. Many people with ADHD feel silly for not knowing how to do the basics like how to vacuum or clean a bathroom. Yet, they know how to do very complicated things in their areas of expertise. Learn enough so you can take action, without overresearching.

Many people with ADHD have social anxiety. If speaking to someone is hard for you, know that you aren’t alone. Sometimes an email is fine, but there are times when picking up the phone or physically meeting a person is required. Be brave. You can do it. Create a word document called ‘People I was dreading talking to. Write their name, the date and briefly what happened. Almost every time, there will be a positive outcome. Having written evidence (rather than your worstcasescenarios imagination) helps to make future conversations easier to initiate.

If you have no motivation for a task itself (and this often happens for mundane tasks), work out a reward system. Use a timer and work in 10 minute intervals. Have a mini reward every 10 minutes, and then a bigger reward when the task is finished. ADHDer s love immediate gratification. Your rewards will vary on what motivates you.

If something makes you anxious, dig a little deeper and work out why. Anxiety often accompanies overwhelm, etc. By taking action, the anxiety starts to disperse. Every time you cross something off your list, you get a shot of dopamine and that makes you feel good and take another action. Check out: ‘From Panic to Power’ by Lucinda Bassett.

What do you do when you find yourself doing nothing?