Adult ADHD & New Habits for A New Year

New Habits for a New Year

You don’t need to wait for a New Year to develop new ADHD friendly habits around organizing your focus and energies.

“I spent a lot of time wearing training wheels before I learned these habits.” That’s how my friend Frances Strassman introduces her advice below. She was 75 when she wrote this piece.  That’s not her in the photo above, but it would well be her! She had finally been diagnosed only about 10 years before.

Frances was a well-known professional organizer and executive coach in the Bay Area. Yet, she described her pre-ADHD-diagnosis life as “walking on a mine field.”

Though we lost this dear woman last year (you’ll find the link below to this blog’s memorium), her wisdom endures. Happy 2016!

photo of Frances Strassman

New Habits For A New Year:

Dealing with Distractibility

There are many things that are a major help in focusing, but we are very willing to overlook them.

  • Daily exercise can make a huge difference.
  • Diet has a big effect, especially sugar.
  • A meditative practice has a large impact, like Tai Chi, a moving medication.

To excess, however, activity causes stress, making our brains blip out. Hard as it feels, reducing activity is a real aid to focusing on the task at hand.

We tend to confuse

impulsive with spontaneous.

There is a

very big difference.


Doing less is not standing still. Choose selectively, stay conscious of each step, and then derive full satisfaction, like savoring a delicious meal. It also results in far fewer mistakes and lost time.

We tend to confuse impulsive with spontaneous. There is a very big difference.

Though few in number, these suggestions below are powerful. They are the “meta” to your overall strategy. Fill in the particulars in a way that works for you.

The goal?  Design how you want your life to be and then methodically go about creating it.

Note from Gina: Does even the word change send adrenaline coursing through your body? I’ll link below to another post from Frances, about ADHD and fear of change.

ADHD-Friendly Tips: Short and Sweet

Here they are:

  • Design rituals as the framework for your activities.

 Identify what you need to do before you go to bed to bring closure to each day. Then design what you need to do to be ready for the next day.

 Find a way to do these things that is pleasurable.

  • Once you have a ritual that serves you well, make exceptions only in emergencies.

The keys go there. When not at home the keys go here. The wallet goes here.  And so forth. We tend to make a decision about these things and then make constant exceptions. We can change.

  • When you are engaging in an activity and get ideas about something else you want to do, write them down on an appropriate size sticky-note instead of random pieces of paper.

Write only one idea per note. Then continue your task. When done with the first task, paste the notes in the appropriate place in your time-management system, if it is a paper system. (If you use an electronic device, enter the information there.)  Or create a spiral book or binder in which you past all ideas and random thoughts. The point is not to have little pieces of paper flying around, but to gather them in one spot.

  • Consider that the end of things is as important as the beginning.

Ignoring the end or trying to quickly get it out of the way is  not doing justice to our creative ideas. It’s like always getting pregnant without giving birth. We need to value completion, and slow down enough to see what can happen. The full circle is beautiful.

Taming Time: The Meta Strategy

A time-planning/calendar system is a tremendous aid if you are a busy person.

  • The key is our commitment to mastering it.
  • Whether we consider software, paper-based planners, or some inventive new system, we cannot simply go out and buy it and think we are ready. These are sophisticated tools that require learning and customizing—but are supremely worth the effort.
  • One of the main features of having a system is that we have set up one place where we can collect all types of information (if we really learn the system) and then be able to find that information.
  • Have sections in your time-management system where you collect information, with a page for each category (e.g. grocery list, errands, ideas for a new book, etc.).
  • Without one of these systems, our brain has to put all its energy into trying to hang onto these random bits of information, and to the brain stays in an overworked mode.
  • More benefits: No more little pieces of paper, a “portable memory” in good working order, a system for continuously de-cluttering the brain (by downloading our ideas, etc.), so that our creativity can arise. In other words, we gain a focusing device.
  • To the extent that we master a time-management system, to the same extent we are likely to reduce crises. Pressure will begin to diminish.
  • Having a system allows us to plan a life that is what we want it to be.

If you have ADHD, have you adopted any of these techniques around developing new habits?

Did they improve your life quality? Did they reduce your stress?

Wishing you a Happy New Year free of “resolution pressure”! 🙂

ADHD-Fueled Fear of Change — More wisdom from Frances on this blog

Out of Chaos, Organization — an article about Frances in SFGate.

In Memorium: Frances Strassman, Bay Area ADHD Coach


 —Gina Pera


10 thoughts on “Adult ADHD & New Habits for A New Year”

  1. This is all so true and I have to work on it every day. I was diagnosed about 5 years ago and that in itself was so helpful (a minefield indeed! ). I have finally mastered my calendar and to-do list, but I struggle with ritual and procrastination. Sometimes I despair that is all so HARD, yet what can I do except keep on keeping on.

    Thank you, Gina, for all your posts and the diligent work you do on behalf of us ADHD-ers.

    1. Hi Marie,

      Thanks for your comment and kind words.

      And hey, you’ve mastered the calendar and to-do list. That ain’t nothing, honey! That is HUGE. I hope you have congratulated yourself.

      I am working right now, on developing online training for therapists helping ADHD-Challenged couples. It will be in conjunction with my new book: Adult ADHD-Focused Couple Therapy. A very significant chapter addresses using a calendar and a to-do list. It’s not easy to teach, or to master.

      I am impressed with what you have accomplished. Keep going!

      Also, remember that, if you’re taking medication, it’s important that it be active in your system when you attempt these things.

      Best of new years to you!

  2. This post itself is so organized, I feel motivated already! Thanks for such ADHD-friendly clear concise writing.

    1. Oooof, I hate telephone calls. They require me to do extra work in recording (writing) and keeping track of information. I like email/any written form of communication because it becomes a record that I can refer back to, if needed.

    2. I also find that with telephone calls, I often have to hear a person’s thought process as they work through a topic. There’s no real-time editing, and it wastes time. And the more cluttered a phone conversation is, the more work it is for me to distill and use the information. I actually stopped publishing my business telephone number, because the phone call were such a counterproductive waste of time.

    3. Hi Katy,

      I know exactly what you mean.

      But it’s funny: I’m old enough to remember being on the phone a lot. Especially as a managing editor in the newsroom.

      There are still times when I think a phone call is more expeditious than e-mail ping-pong. But mostly, it’s e-mail all the way. 🙂


  3. Gerald miller

    Time is my worst enemy. I’m constantly looking for new tricks and tips and ways of organizing that I can easily understand. For example years ago when you bought a software program for your computer you would get a book that would tell you how to use the program step by step and then they would give you an example of each step, a picture showing the steps, a roadmap if you will. That way you can quickly understand what they just said. Now days, instead of the book they give you a button that says help. Most of the time I don’t understand what they’re saying and their explanations are too long getting to the point and once you get to the point you have forgotten what you were looking for in the first place. Another thing is that while you are reading you may hit on a point that you have wanted to know in the past and find your self looking for information about that. Now you’re not even on the same page. For some people that are good readers it can be a good thing, information at your fingertips but for someone that is dealing with adhd it can totally put you out of the ball park because now you don’t even know where your at or what you’re even there for. It’s like making a phone call and getting an automated recording. When you finally get the person you needed to talk to you have to hang up on him because you waited so long on hold you forgot what you waited to ask.

    1. I know what you mean, Jerry.

      Most people who are serious about learning the software will buy a manual. Or get one at the library. The good news is that they are better than the ones previously produced by the software manufacturers. 🙂


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