Coping: Personal ADHD Battles We All Face

Yet again this week I faulted myself for two serious mistakes in how I conduct my personal life. and as I worked through each of them, it occurred to me that lots of adults who are marginally ADHD may have the same issues and not realize either the source or the symptomology.

ADHD is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Usually, it is more prevalent in smart people but its expressions make it hard to actually be the smart we  have the potential of being,.

As a result, a lot of ADHD folks tend to self-medicate in order to “slow themselves down” in their minds because one of the more difficult things for us ADHD-types is completion.  The brain simply moves ahead of the rest of the world.

Consequently, you’ll find ADHD people in high performance, high stress jobs that are like candy to us.  News reporting, flying, first responders and such.  It’s grand to be able to run into danger instead of running from it.  There’s a lot of discipline to that kind of thing and it makes it a real challenge, sometimes.

Which is something I’ve been personally coping with for years.

The problem goes like this:

  • I get an idea in my head, like “I want to build a such and such.”
  • I order the parts while my “brain is on fire” and I can hardly wait for the parts to arrive.
  • But, while waiting, life intervenes… – competing ideas pop up… I get distracted..
  • When parts do eventually show up, now the problem is scheduling the time to use them.
  • But, while I was waiting for the parts, care to guess what happened?  Even MORE ideas popped up and more parts were ordered (don’t be shocked here) and shortly later I’m swimming in parts by now.
  • So, now I have bazillions of other parts – for OTHER hot/brain on fire projects – and they are all vying for my attention.

As a result, not as much gets done as I’d like because I’m spending more time ordering parts and chasing documentation than I’m actually finishing (completion is an issue, remember?) so I get into a loop…

The “self-treatment”  has been simple enough, once I focused on the issue  (“Why do I have so damn many parts around here?)..

  1. First I began to log what I was doing with my time.
  2. Second is I considered (and noted) whether I was working on a future project or actually completing a past idea or project.
  3. Third, when I discovered I was “futuring too much” and not outputting enough in the completion column in present-day, I came up with a simple answer which is…


As a result of this “New Years Pact” with myself, I’m pretty sure I will actually still get as much – or more – things done.

Frankly, I have enough projects “in progress” right now that I need to live at least another 10-years just to complete the ones that are underway.  That’s just who we ADHD people are:  Smart, full of energy, fine sense of inquiry, but the lag-time between starting with an idea and assembling the pieces to actually finish is where a lot of fallout occurs.

Project Parking

I find another thing that helps a lot is to divide anything that comes into my head into one of two general categories.

If something is a “project” then it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  In between there are holes in time while I wait for material to arrive and when materials do finally get here, I line them up now in my new “project holding area.”

Projects used to create a terrible mess wherever I went.  Scattered all over hell and gone.  But then – for no particular reason – about five years ago while I was eyeing what was then a disaster of a shop.  Parts, lumber, tools, all over.  It occurred to me that I needed to separate current work from pending work in an orderly way.

Since we have almost unlimited space, I set up (in my office for the electronics projects) an area that I refer to as my “project parking” area.

Anyone with even a hint of ADHD will find such an area useful in helping to get a lot more done.

Sure, it looks a little messy, but when you zoom in, you’ll see that it’s actually a highly structured “bull pen” of projects:  If the project isn’t obvious, the boxes of parts are all labeled…

At a glance, I can see each of the “projects” and can find one that fits my mood when project time is available.  You will see most of the boxes have labels on them, so, for example, one box is an “Outernet” patch antenna so I can build an Az-El mounting so I can get back to pulling down content for my personal prepping library from the Outernet.

As you might guess, this is a lower priority project than, oh, stopping a roof leak, or something like that.  And where you see a piece of equipment, it is either a stepchild – waiting for something to be made in order to be RTS’ed – returned to service) (Like that Icom VHF/UHF scanner which is lacking an available computer and an antenna project pending over on the shop side to pull down my own satellite-direct weather imagery, or that DC power supply which I got the parts in to fix – but haven’t yet gotten around to installing since I don’t need another DC power supply at the moment…

Thing is, there’s an order to things.

This “Project Parking Area” is great because, just to give you an example, I ordered a speaker that had to be a particular size (and with a small diameter magnet) to fit inside a power supply for one of my vintage tube type SSB radios.  Only place to get it was from a fellow in Ukraine who had collection of old Soviet era speakers and one would fit.  Thing is, that was paid for and shipped on December 6 of last year and just arrived this week.

Project parking works…but another key concept for managing chaos in an ADHD life is…

Managing Your “Softs”

These are things to have to be done but there is no particular timeline for them to be done by.

I am trying to keep a reasonable balance between my “softs” and “projects.”

What are some of my ‘softs?”

  • Martini time with Elaine – generally about 4 PM but it moves around due to whatever we each have going on.  Often, one thing leads to another and we get dinner…er…late…lol.
  • Paying bills:  No particular deadline, but usually I try to get to the bottom of that inbasket every day or three.
  • Taxes and other necessary evils.  These things go into folders like my 2018 tax paperwork has its own file. This week, the 2018 “all scans drawer” (will be labeled and go into the storeroom with other past return backups and the finishing of the return is waiting for a couple of forms and the trading platform people won’t have the account download ready to be sucked into TurboTax for several more weeks.
  • The yard is a “soft” too.  With 30 acres to manage, nature seems like a dandy idea, but needs my assistance with the tractor, pole saws,, lawn mower, and this year we’re planning a huge wild flower area for the birds – which will be applauded by the cat.
  • Reading is a “soft” in that I can pick up anything, any time, and chew on it for a while….

One could easily see what goes on around here are nearly total chaos.  But no, not really.  If Elaine wants to go on a trip, she tells me when to be ready.  And when I get wind of a deal, I ask her and then we’re synced up on it.

ADHD can be your best-ever friend in life – if you develop some personal coping skills to manage it.

One CEO I worked for years back was a highly ADHD person.  He coped with his “condition” by being meticulous at every step of any process.  Drove people crazy who worked for him.  He would take forever it seemed to get to highly obvious conclusions to those of us less ADHD than he.

Asked him about it and he admitted “George, it’s the only way I can make sure I do things right.  When I don’t stick to processes – even if they seem to take more time, I end up making obvious mistakes.  And that eats up more time fixing things that doing it right in the first place.”

There may be something to it.

A while back, I bought a second “component tester” for my electronics bench.  years back, I thought the CEO with ADHD was a little nuts for checking every resistor value and so on before letting something pass through his approval.  Now I appreciate that may not be such a bad idea..

Oh, sure, I can look at a capacitor with “104” written on it and assume it is a 0.1uF cap.  BUT, more than once I have found that what should be one value can actually be off by more than 20 percent and that’s enough to make a piece of equipment function marginally, if at all, depending on whether the component was “mission critical” or not.

I don’t have plans to put everything in my life in a planning program (like MS Project) because to my way of thinking that verges on OCD.  (Interestingly, my son’s ham call sign is KF7OCD which he uses as KF7 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: which spoken on 20 meters phonetically…)

For now, I’m using the system borrowed from an attorney pal back in 1970, or so.  Walked into his office one day and every horizontal surface in the room was covered with stacks of paper. Floor, desk, chair seats, window ledges…

“What the hell, John?”

“File by Pile, George.  Fast, efficient, and you can do it anywhere.”

“Project Parking” is like that, except all the piles are in one area or series of shelves.

The biggest problem I’m still working on is that you have too many interests.. and as a result….the number of piles can multiply like rabbits like they have around here.

Time for a drop more of that Maoist “criticism-self-criticism” stuff, maybe?  But, while “We have the Marxist-Leninist weapon of criticism and self-criticism,” we carefully turn it on ourselves befroe turning it on anyone else, so we can discover where we can be certain that change will be implemented…

Write when you get caught up…

25 thoughts on “Coping: Personal ADHD Battles We All Face”

  1. George

    You live at too high an elevation. Down in the Nawlins area, that’s New Orleans to everybody else, we have the ocassional hurricane to take care of those overdue projects. There’s nothing like ten feet of nasty flood water to reset everything to zero. Been there done that twice!
    The second time I predicted it, but the wife wanted the house house anyway.

  2. A person will react to a stressful situation exactly as he or she has trained muscle memory. When adrenaline kicks in, your mind shuts down and you will react based on instinct & muscle memory learned from training. That is why the military trains over & over so soldiers don’t fall apart at the first sign of danger, but react instinctively to quell the situation.

    When people train at the shooting range they treat it like a marksmanship challenge which does nothing to prepare you to defend the home from invasion. In a stressful situation, the adrenaline kicks in & it will trigger a flight or fight reaction. If you have not trained to fight, it is 50/50 on which one will kick in & your mind will be divided which is not good in a deadly encounter. You only have 2 to 3 seconds to react. Also, your chances of placing one good shot with adrenaline pumping thru your veins is close to 0%. You have to train at the range shooting in bursts at center mass. One shot will in most cases not stop the attacker unless you are lucky, & if the intruder is hopped up on meth, you will need to unload the magazine in him. In news video footage, how many police fire only one shot.

    • Well stated! Experienced thieves know that if they’re in the house when someone comes home, they can rely on cognitive dissonance in the victims to give him up to a minute to finish up and escape. Most people don’t come home armed, and finding even an opportunistic weapon will consume 20+ seconds. A weapon out of reach is useless, and it’s legally tough to carry in your car in many states. How and whether to train to enter the house each night as though there’s bad folks in your home is a real conundrum. You want to live your life, yet be alert for something amiss. It’s even more challenging if you have a S.O. or kids.

    • I got the best possible instruction on “firearm response to home invasion” from a Louis L’Amour novel — don’t remember which…

      The hero had to leave the heroine alone. She’d never shot a gun before. He said: “When you point your finger at something, you just point it. Think of the gun as an extension of your finger. If you have to use it, just point and shoot.”

      This technique is called “offhand shooting.”

      After I get a person used to the noise and recoil, this is the first actual technique I teach. As a bonus, it seems to make using a square or “V” sight with a conventional (two-hand) grip, easier to teach, with faster results…

      In a home intrusion or street attack where actual firearms use is necessary, “offhand shooting” is the technique required to achieve the best result with the lowest potential for either being shot, or causing collateral damage. Have you seen the video of the cop-cam traffic stop (I believe it was either in Georgia or Florida — been bouncing around TV and the ‘Net for 10 years or so) where the individuals throw ~20 rounds at the traffic cop, and he fires 14 back, with no hits on either side? This is because cops and sojers are trained on a range, with emphasis on “qualification” (putting rounds in the ring.)

      Most SpcOps go through “qualification” on any firearm they might be issued, but are then trained to qualify offhand. The episode of “The Unit” (I think it was — not a show I watched, but I did catch pieces of several episodes) where the Team is protecting the President (or VP) Elect from assassins in body armor, demonstrates this. Baddies rush, and one Operative ventilates three, quickly, with offhand head shots, ain’t all fantasy. I doubt it has ever happened, but I suspect Delta Force (and SEALs, and Force Recon, etc.) are offhand qualified…

  3. George,

    I suggest that instead you use the “power of positive procrastination”.

    So long as it’s not causing a health or safety issue, leave the clutter alone and enjoy the life you have left. Your heirs will sort it out and it won’t be your problem.


  4. UFO’s “Unfinished Objects” is what I call my huge amount of incompleted craft projects.

    This causes CHAOS “Can’t Have Any One Over Syndrome.” Living room looks like it vomited stuff as I’m in a major overhaul of my life. Better hurry up as I’m 80, LOL

  5. I heard a psychologist with ADHD speak on that topic. He included the fact that ADHD people are restive and more daring than most folks. His theory is that the reason the USA became such a powerhouse is because the people who left elsewhere to come here were predominantly ADHD to some degree. They brought their high IQ’s and energy levels to build a new life so as a group built a mighty nation.

    I am about as anti ADHD as possible and relate more to sloths. Like the one in Zootopia, I do like to drive fast.

  6. LOL! I never thought of myself as ADHD, though I’ve got other challenges. This article reads true to my own experience, and it’s always trying to get ahead of the curve and never quite getting there. Organization is key, and secure covered space is always at a premium. I’ve been working on the completion phase of projects as a priority over the last year, and part of the problem is to know how complete IS complete! What level of finish is optimum, and is that the way I want to leave it for the rest of my life? Floors are most challenging, since they can’t be worked on unless everything is out of a room, so the room remains empty while the other projects are being dealt with. Then I have no space!

    The problem of project materials is a real one. Storage containers and shelving is a partial solution, but even there, discipline is required.

  7. I solved my ADHD issues by timeblocking my day and letting Siri at work, Alexa at home, and my Tesla when I am on the road, keep me on schedule and on task. I schedule my day by syncing google/Apple calendar every night and make tweets when I first get up…after my coffee of course.

    This keeps me from taking on too many fringe tasks. If it doesn’t fit on my calendar….or make me money…it gets shoved to the weekend or another day. The key is to be honest with yourself on timing each task. If it is a stretch to get one task done in an hour, just to fit in the next task, then you are being counter productive.

    Give yourself enough time to complete each task in a realistic timeframe…then go on to the next task. If you get a single task done early…then move on to the next task…I don’t take time off between tasks. The extra time reward is at the end of the day…not during the day.

    The Honey do’s are scheduled for Sunday mornings…I plan that too….grudgingly. It’s sort of refreshing to be able to manage the household and get those out of the way, before most of the neighborhood gets out of bed. Plus, being in real estate, our weekend afternoons can be full of work related tasks.

    There is a personal, endorphin rich feeling to be able to look back at a crossed off calendar and relish in what I have accomplished each day. It’s that routine that keeps my very active brain from orbiting aimlessly into the yonder. It’s as if I am balancing a trade off between an OCD schedule to avoid a ADHD breakdown.

  8. You, too, George? Here I thought all this time you were simply uber-organized by default.

    What you’ve described is exactly what I’ve gone through over the past few years overhauling the ranch house and other projects. Kitchen table covered in a truck load of parts and tools spilling over into the den area or depending on where I’ll be working for the next period of time. Half the time I’m standing there looking at a project area and I’m thinking I must look like Michael Myers in the first “Halloween” staring silently with my head moving from side to side as I compare one schematic and procedure in my mind to any number of different ones that occur to me trying to figure out how to do it best while trying NOT to over think things. Honestly, if I had any kind of help at all besides what I absolutely couldn’t do myself I’d drive anyone with me nuts before I actually got down to working the project. The standing and staring part probably takes up about a third of the actual time worked but it cuts ‘way back on the backing up and starting over events.

    The ADHD has been really bad over the past couple of years, though, when it comes to reading your submissions and others like them I find myself reading everything 2, 3 and 4 times before I can clear away all the other damned ideas and thoughts that are flitting through my brain and comprehend what I’m reading, otherwise it’s just mental noise coming off the page or screen that means nothing. It really has to be something gripping, like the story in the “One Second After” series to clear them out and get my attention. Part of it is the fact I’ve read so much financial stuff over the years it all started to fall into familiar patterns a while ago, no offense intended on your part as I’m going to remain a loyal subscriber for the duration because you DO bring out both current news as well as concise evaluations of the trends in the markets – plus your “Coping” articles. The best time to read and think though, for me, has always been between half way through the first cup in the morning and noon. After that, fuggedaboutit. The brain stops most high functions and life is done all by rote as I muddle through the afternoon slump. The only thing that helps is getting up off my duff and moving around to keep the blood flowing.

    Full, not half pills, of multivitamines + minerals and sometimes the Tumeric pills are instrumental in getting things done more often than not but for the delicate work and intense writing I often have to leave them off the menu to let my mind quiet down which could mean at least 24 hours of no supplements. Know thyself.

  9. when i was in power mechanics, 6th grade, my teacher instilled a motto that has rung true… “if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it again”?

  10. To me this is one of your better post that could be made into a small booklet like the how to live off of $10,000 a year this was really good George I liked it and there’s a lot of people who could use this information because not everyone is at the top of the pyramid financially or mentally or or physically located.
    I predict information like this could be a top seller instead of how the universe works because most people don’t care or don’t even want to know about how the universe works or who the next president is they care about how to function and their life to the maximum that they have been given the ability to do so.
    Mark keep coming out with some good stuff

  11. “slow themselves down” in their minds because one of the more difficult things for us ADHD-types is completion. ”

    Amen….I have a thousand things..a thousand questions..all running through my mind at once..
    Acquaintances usually ask then tell me to mull it over..digest it from different angles.
    What I do is listen to my wife.. She’s my ground rod..if she says step back sit watch a show with her.. I do.. And do not analyse it and tell her the end while we are watching it.
    I meditate.. Put on Tibetan meditation music and read a book. My reading a book drives anyone around me crazy. Because I have to research books with other books..its not a one book read.
    Make a list small pocket spiral notebook and pencil. Check the projects off in the order of their importance.
    Listen to the wife if she says I’m being a non caring but head she’s right more compassionate to others..
    She is my match my stabilizer.
    Yet she allows me the ability to do my what if projects..

  12. My lovely and endlessly patient wife cruelly calls them “piles,” but they are not. They are Multi-Modular, Chronologically Stratified, Structurally Randomized Information Caches. MMCCCRIC.

    …and they work beautifully for me, thank you very much.

    It amazes, astounds, and confounds her no end when I can find almost anything in one short jiffy.

    She is also amazed that when she moves something — ANYTHING! — I can detect this nearly immediately.

    To her, it is Chaos: to me it is the Sublime Music Of The Spheres Of Knowledge.

    So, there.


  13. Bear in-mind, ADD and ADHD didn’t exist, until the drugs required to treat them were invented in the mid-1970s.

    Before that time, it was called things like: “Drive,” “initiative,” and “creativity,” …and “disorganization.”

    • Having partially raised an ADHD son I can assure you this is NOT the case. The syndrome has been ar0ound forever.
      BUT what HAS changed is the community response to it. IoW, it used to be that if a kid did something wrong, they would get a butt=spanking and they would get serious time outs. Like no desserts, no TV and that was it.
      Today, as part of the left’s feminization of America, the “poor little darlings” are given drugs, do-overs and all kinds of other outs; such that Elaine refers to the USA as Do-Over Land.
      And she is right of course.
      Spare the rod and spoil the country.
      Parents are SUPPOSED to teach and it’s an important enough area (learning life) that “by any means necessary” is the fact.
      My son has thanked me literally a dozen times for being his dad (more, actually) but he said “I wish you had disciplined me more so I wouldn’t have gotten in trouble” – well, well….life gets 20-20 in the rearview for all of us.

      • I have one of those too. When he was in the 4th grade, the school system tried to force me to put him on Ritalin — We eventually compromised — No drugs, provided I sign a waiver, allowing his teachers to use corporal punishment whenever they deemed necessary, which I did.

        The proper application of the Board of Education to the Seat of Knowledge works wonders!

        AFAIK he was never paddled. The knowledge that he could be was sufficient to adjust his focus.

      • Elaine is absolutely correct. I think of Adrian Peterson. Peterson was a running back for the Minnesota Vikings and one of the best, ever. He dared to spank his kid. Someone complained. He was arrested, eventually found “not guilty” of child abuse, but was banned from playing in the NFL for a year, and became a League pariah, for spanking his kid. Had he been tried in a Cali or Massatuchetts Court, instead of one in Texas, he’d probably have gone to prison, for spanking his kid. He’s back in the League. After being bounced out of Minnehaha and to several other teams, he’s now rolling up yards for the Washington Redskins, such that he’ll one day be a Hall-of-Fame inductee, but regardless his performance, will never be considered “the greatest,” because he spanked his kid.

        The “community” has done an awesome job of destroying the family unit and degrading personal behavior and responsibility. ‘Thing is, LIFE dosen’t give do-overs. It gives tests. They’re pass-fail. Every living thing gets one, every day. (Hint to young’uns: One failure, and you’re dead. Once you are dead, you will NOT respawn…) The better the job PARENTS do in teaching their offspring, the fewer problems a society will have, and the more-likely individual offspring will score a passing grade on their daily life-test.

  14. All it took was one word. “OuterNet” (now known as OtherNet.) It has prompted a multi-hour time sink as I have pursued yet another project of hardware, accessories, 3D printing (that I was looking into already) and all the satellite/space news info that I’ve been following on and off for years. Good Lord, there’s a whole other world out there.

    Do I have ADHD? Probably. :)

    Thanks, George! (I think.)

  15. George, there is a fix for that ADD/ADHD that is permanent w/o R/X that I bet you would find fascinating. This lady, Diane, restructures the brain in a 2 day process with results quite life changing. Bonus… she has an office in AZ at ASU and in north ID in Coeur d’Alene, two areas of the country I know you enjoy visiting.

    A guy who plays in those Vegas poker tournaments Greatly with a capital “G” increased his winnings after having his brain done by her. Compared it to getting HD vision from partial blindness, comparatively speaking. He said just look up GoSeeDiane and I’ll find her. I did. He was right…life changing. Been a reader since 07 and appreciate the passion and wit that comes across the pages.

Comments are closed.