It is often said that everybody has a little issue with concentration from time to time. Forgetting things, procrastinating, getting antsy or quickly jumping around between ideas are commonplace occurrences. But for the person living with this, these feelings, and others like it, are present nearly all the time. People are often losing hours of their day looking for lost items, like keys, wallets and cell phones, truly at the mercy of their own misplacement.
Forgetfulness, procrastination and lack of focus can range on a spectrum from mild to severe, but nonetheless, these qualities must be so severe as to impair a person's quality of life in order for them to be signs of truly having ADHD. If you have ever lost your keys or spent an hour looking for some misplaced paperwork, only to find it right where you first looked, you know just how discouraging it feels and how helpless struggling with concentration issues can make you feel.
The Benefits of Learning to Work with Your ADHD
Although learning how to cope with concentration issues can be a struggle, this can be one of your greatest life teachers if you learn to work with it. Unlike your neuro-typical friends, you have to be on guard and aware of your actions at all times. The ability to stay on task that comes so easy to others requires extra effort on your part just to get the same job done.
The benefit of this is that it gives you a different way of looking at things and experiencing the world. Embrace this positive aspect and it will help you cope with what may seem like a disadvantage when your trying your best to stay focused and in the moment. This usually means you are more creative in music, art and problem solving, are generally good salesmen and are in the company of many famous people They have embraced their uniqueness and are able to focus on the positive, aspects to bring about advantages. People aren’t neuro-typical are able to deal with critical crisis as they can think outside the box and see things from different perspectives to help solve very difficult problems.
They love to get feedback immediately about how they did. They are the sprinters in a race. They are quick off the starting blocks and are able to focus for a short race and love the immediate gratification they get when they cross the finish line. Sprinters do not need to plan out a strategy of winning, they don't need to figure out when to hold back and when to push forward, who to pass and when, all they need to do is go forward with enthusiasm and high energy. The plan is to cross the finish line as fast as possible. This is how it works best.. They love to go, jump in and do it and get immediate feedback about how they did.
Everyone's concentration issues effects them differently. Knowing your strengths will help you capitalize on the benefits you can receive. Knowing that you need help with follow through and completing tasks allows you to admit the faults upfront and make plans for someone else to pick up your slack if possible. Don't let this weakness hold you back from completing your day to day chores or your dreams in life. Embracing and learning from your uniqueness will better equip you in managing your daily life.
The Risks of Ignoring Your Concentration Issues
If you choose to ignore your concentration issues, your life can quickly become a series of small disasters. Simple slips of the mind, like losing your keys, may not seem like a big issue, but it is the constant obstacles created that turns simple hindrances into serious problems that take away from the quality of your life. Here is another example of how something as small as losing your keys can snowball into a much larger issue.
Losing your keys isn't new, and that's how your day begins, which leads you to being late for work. You can't call into work to let them know that you're running late because you forgot to charge your cell phone, and your cell phone is the only place that you stored the number of your new job. In a hurry to your new job, you get a ticket for rolling through the stop sign, and you even saw the police car just up the road. Finally, you make it to your first day of work, beyond late.
Later in the week, you have to make a court appearance for the ticket you got rolling through the stop sign. You get a bench warrant because you lost your ticket and you can't find the paperwork for the court appearance. Finally, you find the paperwork and realize that you were due in court 10 minutes ago, and you were scheduled for work a half an hour ago. You call your new boss, thinking your work will understand. It turns out you have been late so many times in your first week that your boss has no choice but to terminate your employment. Now you can't even afford to pay your ticket.
Do you get the idea of the snowball effects? What started with losing your keys turned into losing your job. How would have this situation unfolded differently if you had structured systems in place to help you?
What if you had your own version of a brass-monkey key holder in your hall closet? What if you agreed to put important papers related to your car in your glove compartment? What if you placed your cell phone charger on top of your desk, so each night you would remember to charge it? With systems like these in place, you don't have to struggle.
You Can Be Successful and Have ADHD
Life with concentration issues don’t have to be a total disaster. You can be successful. While the symptoms are the same for everyone, some people find it easier to cope with their symptoms more than others. Often people with a caring, flexible and understanding support network find it easier to manage the daily demands of life.
You have to see this as a call to action and not as an excuse for forgetting things, misplacing things or for always being late. Eventually, you will realize that the little bit of extra effort that is required to avoid these mountain-like obstacles is well worth the extra five minutes it will take you to follow the simple and proven strategies that I'm going to show you to manage your symptoms.
If your whole life is spent looking for lost keys, rushing to find a lost cell phone, chronically running late or constantly feeling being behind in your work, you will find it nearly impossible to experience the good in life because you will always feel one step behind. There's good news: you don't have to live your life this way.
1. Creating Structure for Success
There are strategies you can implement to turn your struggles into success. In order to handle your day-to-day activities, you will need to put systems in place that are proven to reduce the number of hours a day spent chasing after the details of your life. Once in place, these systems are not to be altered. Think of them as mandatory rituals for important things in your life. If you make the systems described in this article mandatory, you will reclaim hours of your life. It doesn’t take long for these systems to become a habit, and that habit becomes a pattern and that pattern quickly becomes a way of life.
Below are some simple, quick and proven strategies that you can apply today to improve your everyday life.
Life-Saving Rituals To Improve Your Everyday Life
Life Saving Ritual #1: Never Lose Your Keys Again
Never Lose Your Keys Again- If you spend valuable time hunting for misplaced keys try this: Get a nail or a screw in hook, find a place by your front door that you can clearly see as you enter or exit. (This can later be traded up for a key holder if you like.) Now find a yellow sticky note or piece of paper and write the words “Hang Up My Keys” in big letters on it. I know it sounds elementary but this stuff really works. Now tape it above the hook or nail. Be sure to tape your post it note or paper sign on the top and on the bottom. Don’t rely on the post it note adhesive, as it will easily blow away when the door opens.
Now go get your keys (provided you can find them) and place them right now on the hook. This is their new permanent home. You must place your keys on this hook FIRST THING when you walk in that door. That means you put your keys on that hook before you greet the dog, get the mail or run to answer the phone. No matter what you know that your keys are only ever to be found on this hook and nowhere else.
Now when the inevitable happens, and your sitting on the couch watching television, and you notice your keys in your pocket, run like the house is on fire and put your keys back on that hook. Remember that hook could save your job one day and keep you from getting arrested, yes that hook has that much power – but only when you use it!!
Life Saving Ritual #2: Find Your Wallet Every Day
If you are always misplacing your wallet or important things like cash or checks or other things in your pockets, I have the solution for you.
1. Go into the kitchen and get a medium size bowl, colored if you have it. This bowl should be bigger than a cereal bowl and large enough not to look like a dish you just left out the night before. This bowl could be end of forgetting your wallet at home or having no money on you when you run to get a video or head to the gym. Just think what you could do with all of that extra time in a week.
Find a place by the door that is easily seen right as you walk in. Ideally you don’t want to put your bowl more than a few paces away from the entrance as this is stop two of your daily time finding ritual.
Now reach into your pocket and find your wallet. If you can’t remember where you placed your wallet, put something else in the bowl for right now- like your cell phone, or whatever else you find in your pockets. (If you go off trying to find your wallet now like most of us, you will forget you ever read this life-changing paragraph, and won’t get back to your bowl). This bowl can be traded up again for some fancy bowl of your choosing, but the life-changing event is to start using the bowl right now and not get lost looking at really cool bowls on eBay or amazon.com for the next four hours.
Use this bowl, use it every day as station number two of your end of day ritual. Just like your keys who will never be anywhere but on that hook, so to will be all the contents of your pockets including your wallet never be anywhere but in that bowl. If you ever sit down and notice you have junk in your pockets, rush to that bowl that instant and unload your pocket cargo. Never tell yourself the lie that “I will do that in a minute!” Yeah right- like most of us, you will totally forget in about 10 seconds, or just keep telling yourself that until you believe it, and yes we will still forget. Remember we are much better sprinters, go race win, do it now that is your new motto.
Just think, no more “Honey what did I wear last night?” or “Where did I use my wallet last” scenarios. How much time would you save if you never had to rummage through your pants pockets convinced that you know “these were surely the pants that had on last” only to remember three hours later and after half a dozen “did I leave my credit card in your calls” that it is in your jacket pocket on the back seat of your car.
Just one day of not losing or misplacing your wallet is easily worth four hours of lost time, agony and frustration. That is almost an entire half-day of time you get back!!
Many people with concentration issues live by the saying out of sight out of mind or as I like to say: If it’s out of sight, then I’m going to be out of my mind trying to remember it! Use these tired and true visual cues and daily rituals to rid yourself of these deadly time wasters.
Now that you have your keys, you have your wallet, cash and other pocket cargo you would think you would be ready to go right? The answer is almost. Let’s put one more ritual in place that will free you from having to speed to get to work on time, or have to make still yet another apology for being late to meet friends and family.
If you are a person who is ALWAYS LATE- you are not alone. Time is only an abstract concept at best.. We are not good at planning how long it takes to get places, or how long things will actually take, and this often results in our being late for things and that can often have devastating results. Let me offer this proven suggestion that can mean the end of meaningless apologies for being tardy to the party, or late for date. If you implement this ritual, you may never find yourself making that dreaded “hi, I’m running a little late” phone call only to arrive well past fashionably or acceptably late. Ready, here it is:
Life Saving Ritual #3: “The One Hour Rule”
Simply put, always allow one hour to get anywhere. If you walk out of the door with an hour go get everywhere, you can eliminate the stress of rushing to get to places on time. While a little stress can actually help your mind work better, there is a point where the stress of rushing leads to being careless, that leads to forgetting things or getting lost or worse you get another ticket or in a car accident.
Get into the habit of telling yourself “ I will need about an hour to get there”. Yes, I did say an hour. This seems excessive, but think about it. Last time you had to be somewhere on time, how late were you? Were you 15 minutes late for the fist thing, then that makes you late for your next activity, and in just a few hours, you are easily running an hour or more behind your life’s schedule. (Blue link schedule) One ticket alone can set you back 30 minutes of precious time not to mention countless hours of frustration thinking about how you should have given yourself more time (like an hour) to get somewhere. Only to find that when you called your boss to tell them you would be late for work because you just got a ticket you underestimated the time it would take and were late to being late! I think you get the idea. Implement the one hour rule, and I think you will be surprised just how much of that hour gets used in getting to and from places, people and appointments.
There is one caveat that I talk about in much greater detail in my eBook. That is the time trap of thinking you have tons of extra time now that you have an hour to get to and from places. There is an undeniable temptation for most of us to see this hour an opportunity to squeeze in some little or seemingly little errand into that one hour of sacred travel time. It usually goes something like this” Well I am only going to the market to get a gallon of milk…. I will just drop this off at the post office on my way…it is literally right next door to the market…and after all it will only take 5 minutes extra and I will still have 55 minutes to get to the market, no sweat, easy as pie right…WRONG- if you have concentration issues, you probably have an uncanny ability find the only post office that does not have a drop off or self service window. Instead you will find the only “wait in this line and pay to a real person” post office in your entire town…AND the line has only 1 person ahead of me, so you get into line. Now you find that you recognize the logo on the persons jacket in line, wait that is the same Montessori school you have been looking at for your daughter…. only one quick question, and now your hooked. You start a brief and appropriate conversation with the person in front of you, meanwhile the only person being helped at the service window is looking to mail 15 dozen promotional packages to 15 different advertising agencies and each package is insured, certified and is taking forever to complete…. BUT you do see that they are just finishing up and your new Montessori friend is just picking up a package so you will be fine…. WELL, your luck is right on today, your new friends package is nowhere to be found, and when they gracefully step aside to allow you to buy one single stamp, they tell you they only have books of 20 stamps left and all you brought was 5 dollars, after all you were only going to the market to get some milk!!! Does this sound familiar?
The moral of this story is: Resist the temptation to add in “Just one more thing or one little stop”. Treat your newfound hour as sacred, something to be respected and treated with respect. Time is tough for people with concentration issues, give yourself lots and lots of it and you will do great things, try to manipulate it and you will usually lose out. The one exception that seems to work ok is getting gas. If you have to make a pit stop for gas, just buy gas, and try to pay at the pump. Today’s gas stations are really convenience mini malls of distraction selling everything from car parts, cloths to sunglasses and soda pop. These distraction zones can quickly eat up precious time in your day.
Remember that every time you think about adding a stop, even for gas, you increase the probability that something can go wrong or some unexpected delay can occur and you run the risk of being late again.
Life Saving Ritual #4: “Forgetting things”
Those with concentration issues are not concentrating when they speak or when they try to listen. They nod their head and later find out they agreed to do something but they do not remember promising to do anything. Sometimes they can volunteer for a particular job or say they will be home at a particular time. When they do not come forward and admit their mistake but instead blame someone else for what they should take responsibility for their actions.
Life Saving Ritual Bonus: “Feeling like you can't be relied upon”
Forgetting things, running late, feeling like you can’t be relied upon is all damaging to your self-confidence and ultimately and are damaging to your psyche. They erode at the confidence that comes with completing the task at hand in a timely fashion. This decrease in confidence begins to take its toll on you and others around you. By getting a handle on the day-to-day details of life, your confidence increases and so does your performance.
These are just a few of the things you can do today to get a handle on your concentration issues and reclaim hours of lost time in your week. Just think how much time you will save, never having to look for your keys (3 hours gained) or having to search through your stuff and find your wallet (another 3 hours found). If you only save 2 hours in being late, you will have easily gained 8 extra hours in your week. What will you do with all of that extra time? You will have 8 extra hours to relax and enjoy the fun and creative parts of your life. If you only implemented one of these strategies, you will have 3 extra hours to call your own. Time is precious and it is worth a few extra minutes each day to get hours back to use as you wish, not to mention it will bring you great peace of mind. Let me know what you think…give me feedback.