Shortly after her son Kevin, age 7, was diagnosed with ADHD, about a year ago, Kathy found out that she had it, too. An energetic and talented decorator, Kathy worked from home, subcontracting part-time for an interior design firm.
Although medication increased her focus, and therapy helped control her emotions, she was overwhelmed with parenting an ADHD child, running a household, and finding time for her passion — decorating. Plus, she hoped to grow her design work into a full-time business. Clearly, things had to change.
Put your oxygen mask on first
We decided that, if Kathy didn't address her own ADHD first, her attempts to help her son would be fruitless. To be as efficient and supportive as possible in the worlds of work and parenting, Kathy needed to get a handle on her condition.
It wasn't easy. Chaos ruled even on slow days. Throw a dental appointment or — heaven forbid — a birthday party into the mix, and Kathy had real "excitement" brewing. Yet she had good reason to work at home - to be there when her children needed her. Kathy's therapist referred her to me for a management adjustment. Kathy needed to learn to work smarter, not harder. We identified the sources of Kathy's biggest challenges, and devised baby-step solutions to overcome them:
Kathy confessed that she occasionally missed business appointments, and that she tended to do what she felt like doing rather than what she needed to do.
PROBLEM: Kathy depended on her own memory, rather than her daily planner, to structure her day.
Solution: She set an alarm for 8 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. — the three critical transition points in her day. She agreed to check her planner each time the alarm went off, even if she had memorized her appointment times. We wanted to form the habit of using her planner to write down and check off items and other tasks on a daily to-do list.
Result: Because she completed her tasks from an ordered list, she accomplished what needed to be done. In addition, she got to all of her business appointments from then on.
Even with the three o'clock alarm in place, she still found herself dreading this time, because it meant she had to stop working and pick up the kids from school. It was then that she often lost objects, like the keys and her cell phone, as well as the details of the project she was working on.
PROBLEM: Kathy needed a system for remaining organized through transitions.
Solution: When moving from one activity to another, Kathy repeated these three steps: 1) pat down; 2) look around; 3) think about. "Pat down" to make sure you have your keys, purse, notebook, and anything else you need. "Look around" to make sure you don't leave anything, like a coat or umbrella, behind. "Think about" has two parts: "What was I just doing?" and "What am I going to do next?"
Helpful hints: Kathy placed a wire basket on her desk to hold her keys, phone, and other important items. She also set a timer to go off 20 minutes before the 3 p.m. alarm. The timer told her that it was time to stop working and to make notes of where she left off so she'd know where to begin after dinner or the next day.
Result: She was rarely late picking up her kids, and she moved from family to work and back again without a hitch.