In his book, ‘Scattered Minds’ Dr. Gabor Maté tells a story about a gentleman with ADHD and his dog. They, like other humans and dogs, go for daily walks together.
In preparation for their walk, the man puts on his coat, shoes and hat, and the dog stays peacefully under the kitchen table. The man leaves the house, and the dog waits under the table. The man comes back several times for forgotten items, such as keys and wallet. Then the third time the dog gets up and joins his owner for the walk. This wise dog has gotten the hang of living with an adult ADHD!
Does this sound like you?
While this is a funny story, forgetting daily items before you leave the house can have big implications. You can end up being late for work and feel scattered, frantic or down on yourself.
Your delays might cause members of your family to be late for their commitments too, and not everyone is as patient as the dog in the story :).
Being prepared and having everything you need as you leave the house involves memory and organization skills. This might not come naturally to you as an adult with ADHD; however, there are work arounds.
1) Have External Memory Prompts
Create a check list of everything you need before leaving the house. The list could include the standard items such as your wallet, cellphone, keys and bag. It should also include other items that are personal to you.
Tape your checklist to the back of your front door so it doesn’t get lost and is easy to see.
Before you leave the house, run through the list and check that you have everything. Using a checklist isn’t cheating or childish. You can learn more about checklists here
2) A Home For Everything
Do you get a sinking feeling when it’s time to leave, and you have absolutely no idea where your keys are? They could be anywhere. You might look in the logical places first, like in the pockets of the clothes you wore yesterday, or your bag, or on your dresser. Then, feeling a bit more panicky, you look in the less obvious places like under sofa cushions and even in the fridge until you find them.
If you have a huge search every time you leave the house, you end up feeling completely exhausted before you have gone anywhere!
Go to your front door and take a look around. Could you put a hook in the wall by the door? Or is there room for a table where you could have a key dish? Pick somewhere, and designate it the new home for your keys.
Now look around and think where you could designate a good home for your other important items that you take with you every day. Finally, is there a wall socket where you can plug your cell phone in? That way it will always be fully charged when you leave for the day.
3) Create a New Habit
Now that you have a memory prompt (checklist) and are organized (key hook), it’s time to create a new habit.
When you come home, even if you are really tired, the cat wants petting or your phone is ringing, put your keys on the hook. Then put your other belongings in their new homes.
Since it is a new habit, it might feel strange at first. However, the great thing about habits is they require no mental effort once they have been formed.
It can be helpful to talk yourself through your actions. ‘I am now putting my keys on their hook,’ ‘My bag is now on the shelf.’
If there are people around you can talk quietly; however, talking yourself through your actions like this helps you to stay fully present in what is happening in the moment. You are less likely to absentmindedly wander into a different room for instance.
This new habit only takes a minute (time yourself if you don’t believe me) yet it will save you hours and help to seriously reduce your stress levels.
How do you remember everything before you leave the house?
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