Are you frozen somewhere between, “There’s too much information to consider” and “I can’t make up my mind?” People with ADHD excel at making split-second decisions under high-pressure circumstances. What’s much tougher: weighing complex information to make an informed choice. These strategies can help.
Those with ADHD are often great at making “hot decisions” at urgent moments — a sudden household crisis or getting a friend to the emergency room. Fast-moving events light up the neurotransmitters of the ADHD brain and focus attention. We are not as good at making “cold decisions,” which are information-driven and require us to make up our minds after a lot of thought.
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“There’s just too much information, and I can’t seem to decide in time” is a common refrain heard from many of us with attention deficit. Throw in problems enlisting our executive functions and a desire to get things over with, and we make a lot of decisions we wish we could take back. Here are some strategies for making smarter decisions we won’t regret.
Did you know the word “decide” comes from the Latin word “to cut off?” Limit your choices. My client Olivia, who has ADHD, found choosing a summer camp for her kid excruciating. We narrowed her choices by budget, application deadline, and proximity to home. Nothing beyond those criteria was given a glance. She was able to make the decision in record time, once she kicked her "analysis paralysis" to the curb.
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Pay Attention to Your Intuition
Studies show that long before your reasoning mind kicks in, your emotional brain has been sensing the way to go. Consult your heart. Good decisions are often a mix of logic and emotions.
Noise, visual clutter, and too much hustle-bustle overload an ADHD brain, making it hard to make a decision. Find a quiet room or nook to think.
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Set a Decision Deadline
Post your deadline on your calendar. Having a date to decide can help you prioritize by adding focus and motivation to a decision that has no time frame. People with ADHD love visual reminders.
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Crowd-Source the Decision
Delegate the decision to people you trust in your social media network. They make the decision, but you assume the responsibility or accountability for it.
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Put It On Paper
Write down the risks and benefits — the pros and cons — of a prospective decision on a piece of paper or a large erasable white board and evaluate them over several days. One of the pros or cons might leap out at you and trigger a decision.
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Ask for More Time
Buying time counteracts knee-jerk (bad) decisions. When someone is forcing you to decide now, say, “Let me get back to you on that” or “Can I sleep on it?” or “Will you e-mail me next week for my decision?”
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Pause and Reflect
After you gather a lot of information to make a decision, pull back to assess what you have. People with ADHD are often more captivated by gathering information than by deciding. You might already have enough information to decide, but unless you pause, you won’t know.
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Just Say It
Saying the options of your choices out loud sometimes leads to making your decision. Externalizing thoughts cuts through the clutter of competing thoughts.
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See the Silver Lining
Spend a minute thinking of what you’ll gain after making a decision. If you’re putting off organizing the top of your desk, say, think about how it will get people off your back, enable you to find that missing flash drive, and give you more surface to work on. Better yet, write the gains down.
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Decide On Small Things Ahead of Time
Make as many small decisions ahead of time as you can. Freezing pre-made meals eliminates mealtime decisions. Putting outfits together on a hanger reduces what-to-wear decisions, and reading menus online can end the infernal “what to order at the restaurant” question.
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Spend More Time On Important Things
Research a decision in proportion to the consequences or risks. A wrong decision about a backpack is less consequential than picking the wrong summer camp. Allot less time to thinking about the backpack.
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Feel Good About Deciding
If you have lost your confidence in decision-making as mistakes in judgment of the past pile up, recall the good decisions you have made or the ones that were really tough. If you feel like a decision-maker failure, talk with a counselor to help you overcome it.