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How to Shut Your Mouth — and Your Wallet

Poor impulse control can sabotage your relationships, your budget, and your self-esteem. Here, ADHD expert Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D., shares his strategies for solving five common impulsivity problems at work, in social settings, and in your head.

5 Rules Continued...


Many ADDers are "time blind"; they forget the purpose of their tasks, so they are uninspired to finish them. If no one is dangling a carrot in front of them, they may need some convincing to keep moving toward their goal. That's why Rule 2 is important: It helps you learn from your memories, to become adept at handling similar situations in the future.

But Rule 2 is not always enough. Some things have to get done because it is the right thing to do. ADHD sometimes makes it tough to grasp the moral imperative for getting a task done. Imagining the negative consequences of not doing something is not a potent motivator for most ADDers. Imagining how great it will feel to get to your goal works better.

STRATEGY: Ask yourself, "What will I feel like when I get this project done?" It could be pride, self-satisfaction, the happiness you anticipate from completing the project. Whatever the emotion is, work hard to feel it, then and there, as you contemplate your goal. Every time you sit down to continue working on the project, try to feel the future outcome. Give this technique a boost by cutting out pictures of the rewards you hope to earn from what you are doing. Place them around you while you’re working. They’ll enhance the potency of your own imagery and make the emotions you’re anticipating even more vivid.


ADHD makes the future seem ar away. A goal that requires a significant investment of time, incorporates waiting periods, or has to be done in a sequence of steps, can prove so elusive that you feel overwhelmed. When that happens, many people with ADHD look for an escape route. They might call in sick at work or shunt the responsibility to a co-worker.

Figure out which situations are likely to shut you down: Do you panic when someone gives you a deadline that's months from now? Do complex projects daunt you? Do you have trouble working without supervision? If so, you need some external motivators.

STRATEGY: Break down long-term tasks or goals into smaller units. If an end-of-the-day deadline seems remote to you, try this strategy.

> Break your task into one-hour or half-hour chunks of work. Write down what you need to get done in each period, and run a highlighter over each step as you work on it, to keep your attention focused.

> Double your chances of success by making yourself accountable to another person. Most of us care what others think of us, and social judgment adds fuel to the fire to get things done. At work, make yourself accountable to a supportive coworker, supervisor, or mentor. At home, work with a partner, spouse, or neighbor.

> Do four things after finishing each piece of work: Congratulate yourself; take a short break; call or e-mail a friend or a relative to tell him what you’ve gotten done; give yourself a reward or some privilege you enjoy a lot—just make it small and brief.


ADHD may be serious, but you don’t have to be.

STRATEGY: Learn to say, with a smile, "Well, there goes my ADHD talking or acting up again. Sorry about that. My mistake. I have to try to do something about that next time."

When you say this, you’ve done four important things:

> You owned the mistake.

> You explained why the mistake happened.

> You apologized and made no excuse by blaming others.

> You promised to try to do better next time.

Do these things and you will keep your self-esteem, as well as your friends. Disowning your ADHD conduct, blaming others, or not trying to do better next time will cost you a lot.

If you make ADHD an all-encompassing disability, your friends and family will treat it that way, as well. Approach it with a sense of humor, and they will too.


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TAGS: Organization Tips for ADD Adults, ADHD Time Management, ADHD Social Skills

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