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Mission Impossible: Tips for Getting Through the Most Torturous Project on Your To-Do List

My life-changing advice: work on one thing at a time.

Every adult with ADHD has his own personal torture project. These projects are so complicated and time consuming that your brain flees out of your ears to parts unknown every time you think about them.

Oh, you think I’m exaggerating? My brain has been mailing me postcards from all over America because of the last project I tried to finish up. It’s been a crimp in my productivity, to say the least.

I’ve been trying for three years to find a therapist for my two daughters and me. All of us are on different insurance plans: I need adult facilities and they need youth facilities. To complicate matters, the lists of providers for the girls were out of date, so every facility I called no longer took our insurance plan! Or they wouldn’t call back. Or they gave me another number to call. Or they’d lead me back to the same insurance provider who would give me an outdated list again.

This was my most recent attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) torture project. My kids needed me to pull through, so I kept plugging away, but my notes became a jumble of crossed-out phone numbers and irrelevant names as each phone call led me further and further away from a resolution. In frustration and fatigue, I’d take a break for a few months, then I’d start the process all over again when life reminded me that my girls still needed some therapy.

[Free Download: Stop Procrastinating!]

The last lead I had tied me up for months with phone tag. I was no closer than I had been when I started. Who had I called now? Where did I put that number? Wait-is this number for the kids or me? Finally, I had an epiphany. Work on one person at a time.

I can’t emphasize enough how much this changed things. It was as if my brain had returned from vacation. Instead of the typical ADHD state of mind where focus swirled around me like tendrils of fog, constantly out of reach, the fog cleared and I saw the path clearly. Within one day I got in touch with a person, found out I was calling the wrong facility (yay! ADHD!), called the right one, and then suddenly remembered something. This was the same number I had been trying to reach for three years. Each time, somebody said they’d call me back. Then I’d forget about it and start all over again.

I explained to them that I had been trying for three years to set up an appointment, and would they kindly call me back this time? Twenty minutes later I spoke with the right person with the right insurance with the right age group! My daughter had an appointment!

[Quiz: How Seriously Do You Procrastinate?]

Although the insurance companies made things difficult, they weren’t the problem. The problem was that I was trying to handle three different projects simultaneously. They all seemed related, but they had very different solutions.

When you are faced with your next ADHD torture project, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Have a separate note file for each project. Even if projects seem related, it’s best to keep each project/person/phone call separate from the others.
  2. Take detailed notes of the facility/service that you called, especially its name and the people you spoke with. Don’t forget to label those phone numbers!
  3. Set reminders to follow up. Don’t rely on your memory.

Maybe the next insurance company won’t be torture to track down for me. Now that my brain’s back from vacation, these tips will give it less of a reason to leave home.

[Read This Next: 10 Therapists Who Do More Harm Than Good]

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4 Comments & Reviews

  1. I hear you! Several years ago it took me weeks and over 50 calls to find a therapist for my son who was diagnosed with Selective Mutism (severe social anxiety disorder/not autism). I finally found someone who didn’t specialize in SM but she was willing to help. But most therapists in our area don’t take insurance (for pediatrics) – so we paid hundreds of dollars out of pocket every month for her to talk to our son and we didn’t talk back. Eventually he started speaking at age 7 (after being silent in public, at school and with extended family). Today he is 13 years old and sees a new counselor – still $150 cash – no insurance but we pay it because it is necessary for him to be successful and confidant in school and in society. It is a crime that pediatric therapists aren’t required to take insurance in a state that requires all residents HAVE insurance!

  2. good god…. ive been trying to find a therapist for myself since march and im about at my wits end with all the calls and none returned, all the emails and only one has messaged back (not taking new clients).
    i feel like asking someone with ADHD to make their own therapy appointment should be a form of medical neglect, i hate saying it but when it comes to things like juggling multiple phone calls and trying to figure out who takes what insurance im DISABLED. for my primary care dr to have just printed off a list of providers that she ~thinks~ take my insurance is akin to pointing a man with no legs to a stairwell and telling them they can get help on the 50th floor.

  3. Brilliant and so simple. I’m “working on” aka “planning to” aka “in the process of” … updating 3 rooms in my house. They’re all the “same” project. All need paint, all need new curtains, all need new lighting. So I’ve been making myself dizzy trying to decide on color schemes for all three spaces and looking at fabrics for all three sets of windows. I’m not making any progress. Your article is a refreshing reminder to JUST PICK ONE PROJECT. Thanks!

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