Think Small: Conquer ADHD One Pile At a Time

Sometimes, little things can make a big difference in the life of an ADD adult.

Daily calendar, today

I am not depressed when I come up short; I see it as an opportunity to try again.

As I write this, I'm surrounded by one of the "markers" of ADD -- those ever-growing piles of paper. My desktop is covered with a pile, and there’s a pile on the floor. Still, after three years of ADHD medication and self-imposed behavior modification, I’ve noticed changes in my life. To a non-ADDer, they wouldn’t seem monumental, but, to me, they are significant.

Last year, one of my relatives bought me one of those page-a-day calendars. It was put out by the satirical newspaper and website, The Onion. I received such calendars in the past, and I usually looked through them a few times, put them on my desk, and maybe, just maybe, I pulled off pages every six months. But this time the Goddess Frontalobia -- the imaginary character I conjured up to explain these changes -- descended from the heavens and touched me. Today’'s calendar page is staring me in the face.

Grabbing Time by Its Tail

For the most part, I’ve kept up with the ritual of tearing off a page each day to keep me focused and anchored. Sure, there were times when I missed a day, but, miracle of miracles, I made tearing off the page a routine... and it didn't require self-flagellation or wearing a hair shirt.

In a small way, it seems, my ability to visualize and handle time has changed. I now see time as chunks that I can grasp, manipulate, and act upon. For me, time has become something I live in, not something I'm always losing or chasing. It is no longer a blur that rushes past -- though there are days that are nothing but a blur, and it is only in retrospect that I realize how much time has lapsed.

These changes are small, but they have a cumulative effect. I see how today's actions translate into tomorrow's completed tasks, which become the basis for another set of actions. This cycle moves me forward.

For the first time in my life, I maintain a daily planner, in which I record upcoming business meetings and related information. Of course, I have weeks when I don’t use it much and need to bring it up to date. But, unlike in the past, I have not lost it.

I also pay bills consistently on time. Admittedly, I pay them at the last minute, but at least it's the minute before they are due, not after. Now my thoughts are haunted by my need to pay them on time, as opposed to figuring how long it has been since I missed the payment deadline.

Slow Change

How did these changes come about? As you’ve guessed, my life hasn’t been transformed by my imaginary friend, Goddess Frontalobia, though I kind of like that explanation. Instead, it’s the result of doing many small things over time. I am more determined these days to stick with things. I also allow for, and tolerate, failure better than I used to. I am not depressed when I come up short; I see it as an opportunity to try again.

Small things, like scribbling notes in an appointment calendar, have altered the fabric of my life. They seem insignificant but, like drops of water dripping on a rock every day, they leave their impression.

What is most important, and most difficult, for an ADDer is to alter his time frame for measuring progress. It can take months or years to bring about change, but, if you keep at it, and you see things get better, it will inspire you to tackle bigger changes.

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