It can be challenging to regulate your attention most days but, for an individual with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD), it's even more difficult. Problems with organisation and prioritisation come into play and can leave you feeling overwhelmed.
Sometimes just figuring out where, or how to get started is challenging enough when you're easily distracted by outside stimuli or internal thoughts, particularly if the task isn't intrinsically interesting to you.
And once you do finally get started, you can find yourself becoming sidetracked, and the original task becomes further delayed. Or, you become so engrossed in the task, you lose your sense of time and forget to pick the kids up from school.
With ADHD, the concept of time isn't as straightforward as it is for neurotypicals, and life brings a constant barrage of stimuli competing for your attention.
This week we spoke to ADHD coach and focus booster supporter, Brooke, from Coaching with Brooke.
Brooke touches on the strategies individuals with ADHD can adopt to improve time management, and plan an achievable to-do list.
Credit: Photo by Todd Trapani on Unsplash
Brooke has changed personal, professional, and academic lives for people with ADHD since 2006
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?
Since 2006, Coaching with Brooke has partnered with thousands who struggle with the daily chaos of their ADHD in their personal, professional, and academic lives.
We provide individuals with ADHD and executive functioning challenges the tools and accountability they need to live an empowered life.
And at the age of 35, I finally realised I too had ADHD!
A psychologist diagnosed me by reviewing surveys I had completed along with family and friends. I was diagnosed with ADHD Combined Type. My diagnosis has helped me further support and relate more to my clients, including adult females who are often diagnosed later in life.
I feel blessed every day to love what I do and be able to work closely with individuals to overcome the symptoms of ADHD like I have.
The goal of Coaching with Brooke is to empower the lives of 10,000 individuals with ADHD over the next five years through our coaching services, public speaking engagements, and yearly ADHDEdCamp events.
In February 2020, I rolled out the first ADHDEdCamp with the help of my colleagues and experts in the field. This allowed adults struggling with ADHD, or parents of children with ADHD, to feel supported, educated, and connected on ADHD topics.
On October 3rd, 2020, we hosted our first free online ADHDEdCamp worldwide, with over 360 attendees and 30 ADHD experts.
What are some of the everyday struggles adults with ADHD face when it comes to managing their time and prioritising workloads?
I've created a free ebook, "How to Focus by Focusing Your Time: 13 Ways to Be Productive," to help adults manage and prioritise their workload.
Adults with ADHD often need a friendly reminder to stop and plan their workload. In my own experience, and working with other ADHD adults, we like to jump right into our work.
By reminding and permitting ourselves every Sunday night or Monday morning to plan our week, and each day to review the upcoming day, we can save ourselves a lot of time on the backend.
I also find it's important to "Eat The Frog" each day as Brian Tracy says. Eat the frog is to do one important task first each day. It could be a task that you've been procrastinating on or something uncomfortable. When you Eat The Frog, other to-dos become more comfortable.
Previously, I've been the Assistant Director of Special Education for a school district in New York. I've worked in multiple administrative teams, including one with over 1800 students. I've been a special education teacher for many years. I'm a soon to be step-mom, and am now the CEO of Coaching With Brooke.
Emergencies happen, priorities supersede scheduled tasks, and things can get pushed to the side. So, I often refer to Stephen Covey's "Urgent/Non-Urgent Matrix" to recognise my priorities.
Lastly, we tend to have "Shiny Bright Object Syndrome." These are those exciting new ideas, projects, and tasks that come across our desks. I find it extremely important to understand how your priorities align with your goals. Have your goals and actions written down, and focus on your goal-oriented tasks until completion.
You recommend the use of digital timers and the pomodoro technique for your clients to encourage focus. What are the results you have personally experienced, or seen from your clients, from the use of these?
I've recommended thousands of individuals to focus booster. I've included the app in talks for Chopra Global, ADDA, the upcoming 2020 Virtual International Conference on ADHD, and several news stories.
In my 3C Activation Program, an adult ADHD 12-week group that meets every three months, I discuss the benefits of the pomodoro technique that focus booster provides.
focus booster comes equipped with a 25-minute timer and a 5-minute break. It then repeats multiple times until a 20-minute break after the fourth session. For individuals with ADHD, including myself, I notice when we first start, we can find it scary to stop after 25-minutes when we've finally become focused on the task.
It's widespread for individuals with ADHD to have an all or nothing mentality. However, in my favourite book Limitless, Jim Kwik discussed that optimal focus time is anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes. What I discuss with my clients is that, after 40 minutes, whatever you're focusing on loses attention until it appears again after some time. So there is a gap in whatever you are focusing on, studying, reading, etc.
Since we all have the same 24 hours in a day and like to be as efficient as possible, why not do something you enjoy. Take a break, have a coffee, water, stretch, go outside or text a friend back before returning to your next task.
Once my clients learn this, sometimes they set their pomodoro timer to 40-minutes, or keep the recommended 25-minutes. They notice that if they have a timeframe, they get their tasks done in 25 minutes. Time shrinks or expands depending on what you are given.
Another thing my clients notice is they're breaking up longer tasks into shorter ones. They're acknowledging what they have completed after their timer rings and can keep track of it.
I have had many people reward themselves for getting through multiple cycles through the day. focus booster helped one of my former clients (a senior at NYU) focus on his thesis paper. He was able to get more done, organise his time, and ultimately feel more confident.
He turned in his thesis paper, is now getting published, and graduated from New York University!
A well planned and productive morning routine has the power to set the tone for anyone's day. What are some productive tips that adults with ADHD can use to set them up for a productive day?
What's important is not how long you spend on each of your morning tasks; it's that you do them.
I worked with a client recently who compared herself to others. She felt convinced that she needed to read for an hour in the morning to be productive. When I challenged her on the "why" for this, she didn't know the answer.
Now she's reading for 10 minutes, exercising for 10 minutes, drinking her morning matcha and meditating. She feels more confident, productive, and less chaotic during her day.
She, along with many of my clients, notice that when they miss their morning routine, their day feels stressful and chaotic. In my ebook, I give some ideas of things you can implement in your morning routine.
For me, I enjoy reading, meditating and drinking a glass of water before my morning coffee. I also avoid electronics until I "get to work," and exercise (even if it's 10 minutes) to enter my optimal focus.
What does an achievable to-do list look like for you?
An achievable to-do list should include 1-3 tasks per day.
One important item, "Eat The Frog," followed by two medium-sized tasks. If completed, then I add two smaller sized tasks, totalling five items per day.
In my ebook, I discuss ways to do this. I create my to-do list for the week when planning and break these to-dos down per day.
I also mention ways to keep track of your to-dos, including actually putting them into your schedule and assigning them times of the day.
Individuals with ADHD love to cross out, throw out, and rewrite. So write your to'dos down on paper or one side of playing cards. Once the to-dos are complete, throw it out and start the next day.
As prolonged focus is a common struggle for adults with ADHD, what are some simple strategies, you would recommend if they were to become distracted or uninterested by an important task?
Remember why you started!
Before starting a task, it should align with your goals, and you should be extremely clear on your motivation behind it.
In my 3C Activation Adult ADHD Group (Next one starting on November 17th), my clients do a "Why Goal Funnel" to feel clear on the motivation behind their goals.
We've heard of SMART goals but, without your "why," the core feeling that helps drive you. You can become unmotivated or develop "Shiny Bright Object Syndrome," and often we can become distracted from our goals.
What book would you say changed your life?
I am a HUGE fan of Limitless by Jim Kwik.
I recommend this book to everyone. It truly resonates with the work I do in serving clients with ADHD and with people who want to improve upon their mindset, habits, and ultimately their executive functions to make lifelong changes.
If a reader wanted to learn more about working with you, which of your services would you recommend?
Coaching With Brooke offers 1:1 and group coaching services for students and adults.
Our signature process, 3C Activation, helps individuals who are ready to step into a new paradigm of living. We help you find order in the chaos of your ADHD life and transform yourself to be more productive, confident and lead a thriving life.
In our 12 week process, the first four weeks focus on gaining control of the chaos.
In the second phase, consistency, you'll learn the path to action your unique and specific goals by developing your "why's" and "what's". You'll become equipped with the tools and support you need to stay focused, in a way you can manage for years to come.
In the final phase, confidence, you'll allow space for consistency in your new healthy habits and routines, leading to newfound confidence in yourself, your abilities, and your power.
You'll feel the most challenged in this phase because we must ensure you're equipped to maintain long-lasting habit change. Without this, you'll revert to your old ways; the biggest challenge for ADHD individuals.
Here is where we introduce the habit-stacking process to reinforce these changes.
Habit stacking starts with small expectations (as-built upon in phase 1 and 2). We build the muscle memory of completing your routine and add more tasks once you're consistent.
We'll add new tasks to your routine and take you to a whole new level of productivity through real-world experience, along with support and accountability. You'll learn how to prioritise your to-dos and to-don'ts, delegate unwanted tasks and maintain momentum for the next three months.
This is about changing how you show up in the world: with greater control, consistency, and confidence than you ever thought possible!
No longer feel held back by your ADHD; instead, feel empowered by it.
You can learn more about working with Brooke through your ADHD on her website.
And to discover the wonders that the pomodoro technique can do for your ADHD, try focus booster for 30 days, for free.