I’m amazed at how often I read ridiculous advice about how to manage ADHD. To me, the most damaging advice of all is “just try harder.”
An expert recently gave that “insightful” advice to a client of mine, and it left me fuming. “If you’re rushed in the morning, just get up 30 minutes earlier,” said the expert. That’s right. Get up earlier and all our ADHD morning problems will be solved. Goodbye to confusion, to frittering away time, to lost car keys, and to no clean underwear. Get up earlier and life will fall right into place.
Outsmarting ADHD isn’t a matter of trying harder, as you know. Outsmarting ADHD is a process of adjusting your habits, environment, and structure. It takes time and energy and practice.
The “just try harder” approach touches a nerve in me. Like most adults with ADHD, I have a long, unpleasant history with those words. My elementary school teachers wrote on my report cards, “If only Dana would try harder….” Teachers said the same thing in junior high and high school.
It wasn’t until my second semester of college when I realized that, in order to learn and get good grades, I needed to change the way I went about being a student. I slowly changed how I thought about school and studied — I switched from a large university to a local community college, with smaller classes, moved my seat to the front of the class, and took notes as I read my assignments. These changes allowed me to pay attention, focus, remember, and organize. As I created new habits and structure, my school career started to turn around.
To others, it may have seemed that I had finally tried harder and applied myself to my studies. Wrong. What changed was that I designed my days and life around my zany, beautiful ADHD brain, years before I even knew I had attention deficit.