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Resolved: This Year, No Resolutions

Don’t set yourself up for failure by making ADHD-unfriendly New Year’s Resolutions. Small, achievable goals are much healthier.

As this year rolls into next, people start promising New Year’s resolutions. Will you lose the excess pounds? Stop yelling at your kids? Maybe you’ll resolve to do the dishes more often, or to be kinder to strangers. The pressure’s on to pick something. And holiday tradition makes no allowance for ADHD.

But I need to, or I’ll find myself backsliding in January, forgetting in February, and giving up by March – if I even make it that long.

Most resolutions seem like a good idea, and they are-for the neurotypical among us. For those of us with ADHD, not so much. They ask me to do precisely the things my disorder makes incredibly difficult, and set me up to crash and burn. So, no, I won’t be making the following resolutions:

Resolution 1: Keep Your Car Clean

I make this resolution about once a month – at about the same time I’m hauling a garbage bag full of trash out of my minivan. As I collect the toys, books, cups, coats, and other kid ephemera, I resolve that this time, I will keep the car clean. It will look shiny and sparkly from this day forward.

This lasts for three days. Then I visit a fast food drive-through. I drop my straw wrapping on the center console. I don’t think; I just drop. The cups are emptied and sit in the cup-holders. A Splenda packet appears. It multiplies. My children haul possessions to the car for every trip out of the neighborhood and somehow, they forget to bring them inside, and I forget to make them. A week later, my car looks as if it were never cleaned.

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Resolution 2: Be on Time

I always plan to be on time. But then I can’t decide what to wear, and I lose my keys and/or my cell phone, then I have to Facebook message someone to call it. I remember that I haven’t fed the dogs and the kids need a snack to bring with us. And where were my keys again? Then I have to stop and get coffee or I’ll risk sudden death. So I’m late.

And then sometimes I set my alarm three hours before we need to get somewhere. I don’t linger over coffee and Facebook; I get the kids up with their outfits in hand. I do my makeup with their toothbrushes lined up at the sink, toothpaste pre-applied. No one loses a shoe, I feed the dogs much earlier, and I manage to brew coffee, so I don’t have to stop on the way. On those days, I have keys in hand, the car seat is ready, and I have an hour to kill, so I hit the drive-through for a second breakfast. And I’m early.

But never right on time.

Resolution 3: Keep a Datebook or Planner

The one on my phone doesn’t count. I need a central place to write down every play date, doctor’s appointment, co-op meeting, field trip, special event, and birthday. This, in theory, is a good idea, except that I will immediately lose the planner. If I have the planner, I will not have a pen. If I have the planner and the pen, I will realize I’m about to double-book myself (again).

Using the planner will last through January, when I forget to write down a doctor’s appointment and double-book a play date – at my house, which I can’t cancel. I will have the card for the doctor’s appointment tucked in the pocket of the planner, which is where I put it when I intended to write it down.

Resolution 4: Plan Our Meals Ahead of Time

Some people manage to do this. They are type-A, obsessive, and/or have more spare time than I do. First, I’d need to sit down and actually write down the meals that are easy, quick, and not corn-dog nuggets. Then I would have to actually buy the food. This involves a precision grocery run with no room for error. I would have to remember every single thing on the list (which, of course, means making a thorough list in the first place).

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I have tried this – and forgotten, missed, and messed up enough that we were unable to eat more than 50 percent of the meals without repeated trips to Publix.

Resolution 5: Go “Organization Queen” On the House

This is initially very satisfying. One or two small tasks leave me feeling pumped and ready to tackle the world. Then I try to sort the mail, or clean up and put away everything in the office (the room we throw stuff in when there’s nowhere else to put it). I clean out the kids’ drawers, or try to tackle the plastic dinosaur problem. Halfway through, a deep sense of futility descends on me. The task looks so enormous that no one could ever tackle it. I don’t know where to start or how to keep going. Nothing else gets done.

These are the New Year’s resolutions I won’t be making. They set me up for failure, and who needs that?

Instead, I’ll resolve to take my vitamins or hang my keys on the same hook every time I use them. These resolutions are difficult enough for me, and they might take a long time to become habit. But they aren’t overwhelming, which means I won’t self-sabotage. And that’s as good a resolution as any.

[My 10 Secrets for Preserving Self and Sanity]