You Can Be the Decider

Overwhelmed by choices? Paralyzed by possibilities? You need this guide to thinking clearly and choosing wisely with attention deficit.

Big Decisions

  • Be closed-minded. Did you know the word decide comes from the Latin word "to cut off"? Limit your choices. My ADD client Olivia found choosing a summer camp for her kid excruciating. We narrowed her choices by budget, application deadline, and proximity to home. Nothing beyond those criteria was given a glance.
  • Pay attention to your intuition. Studies show that long before your reasoning mind kicks in, your emotional brain has been sensing the way to go. Consult your heart. Good decisions are often a mix of logic and emotions.
  • Quiet things down. Noise, visual clutter, and too much hustle-bustle overload an ADD brain, making it hard to make a decision. Find a quiet room or nook to think.
  • Set a deadline to decide, especially if there is no due date involved. Post your deadline on your calendar. Having a date to decide adds focus and motivation to a decision that has no time frame.
  • Crowd-source the decision. Delegate the decision to people you trust in your social media network. They make the decision, but you assume the responsibility or accountability for it.
  • Write down the risks and benefits of a prospective decision on a piece of paper and evaluate them.
  • Learn to ask for more time. Say, "Let me get back to you on that" or "Can I sleep on it?" or "Will you e-mail me next week for my decision?" Buying time counteracts knee-jerk decisions.
  • After you gather information, pull back to assess what you have. ADHDers are often more captivated by the gathering information than by deciding. You might have enough information to decide, but unless you pull back, you won't know.
  • Anticipate recurring decisions. Put that annual date to pick a 401(k) or a Medicare drug plan on your calendar. You will not be blindsided by it and make a hasty (bad) decision.

Small Decisions

  • Try investing more in the outcome. If you're putting off organizing the top of your desk, think about how it will get people off your back, enable you to find that missing flash drive, and give you more surface to work on. Spend a minute thinking of what you'll gain. Better yet, write the gains down.
  • Research/search in proportion to the consequences or risk. A wrong decision about a backpack is less consequential than picking the wrong summer camp, so allot less time to thinking about the backpack.
  • Make as many small decisions ahead of time as you can. Freezing pre-made meals eliminates mealtime decisions. Putting outfits together on a hanger reduces what-to-wear decisions, and reading menus online can end the infernal "what to order at the restaurant" question.
  • Saying the options out loud sometimes leads you to make a decision. Externalizing thoughts cuts through the clutter of competing thoughts.

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