For years I was aware that I possessed many of the typical characteristics of of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Every time I would see something about ADHD in a magazine or online, I would go down the checklist of symptoms and think to myself, “Yep, that’s me. That’s me to a T.” But during all that time, it simply never occurred to me that I should march myself down to a real doctor for a real ADHD evaluation.
I think that my biggest misconception was that ADHD diagnoses only mattered for school-age kids, not for adults like me who are well past school attendance of any type and already in the workforce. But then a couple of years ago, I somehow ended up picking up one of the most highly regarded books about Adult ADHD at a used bookstore one weekend afternoon, and by the end of the weekend, I’d finished the whole thing. I could not believe how clearly this author – a physician who specializes in treating adults with ADHD – had managed to describe me, my life, my strengths, my weaknesses, and most of all, the struggles I never seemed to be able to get past in my work and home life. Suddenly, so many things made more sense. By the next week I’d made an appointment with a local adult ADHD specialist, and not long after that I was officially diagnosed with ADHD. Actually, to be more specific, I was diagnosed with ADD (without the “H” for hyperactive), Inattentive Predominent
This “official” diagnosis doesn’t mean as much to me as the fact that I finally accepted for myself that due to the way my brain is wired, certain things that are routinely required of me both as a mother and as an employee – things that many other people seem to find easy – present serious challenges for me, and thus, these things require me to find specific solutions,workarounds or tools to make sure certain that I can do what needs to be done.
Luckily for me, an ever-increasing array of technological helpers make my life as an ADHD working mother more manageable. I am always on the lookout for the latest tech helper, and in fact, I have to be careful or I will allow my ADHD tendency to hyperfocus suck me into a lengthy black hole of reading about new productivity software online for hours, meaning that I am actually not being very productive at all. Periodically, I do update the collection of gadgets and software that I am using to stay on track, but at the moment, this is the system I have in place, and it’s working pretty well. I thought I’d share because I am guessing that many of you also “struggle to juggle” as I do, whether you have an official ADHD diagnosis or not.
So I present to you…
KATIE’S TOP TECHNOLOGY LIFESAVERS FOR “ORGANIZATIONALLY CHALLENGED” MOTHERS LIKE HERSELF
- 1 -A connected, cloud-based approach to life: When my information, documents, calendar, to-do lists, contacts, project management tool, etc all live “in the cloud,” I am no longer able to misplace them, or fail to have them at hand when needed at a meeting or pediatrician’s appointment. Before discovering cloud computing as an ADHD helper, I very often found myself somewhere without the materials or information I needed, simply because I was too disorganized to remember bring it along. But by using products like Google’s calendar and documents (I heart Google!), I can easily access the information I need wherever I happen to be. The other great thing about cloud-based organization for an ADHD adult is that it means less physical clutter in my life. No more stacks of unfiled papers lying around various nooks and crannies of my desk, car, briefcase, etc. I am now also exclusively using cloud-based music services rather than keeping up with an iTunes library that has to be synced and moved around when it gets too big. My favorite cloud-based music services are Amazon’s relatively new Cloud Player along with Spotify’s premium streaming plan (the latter has turned out to be one of the best ways to improve my quality of life for only $9.99 monthly that I can imagine. )
- 2 – Three distinct types of gadgetry: While my cloud-based “stuff” is floating around out there waiting for me to tap into when needed, I have three distinctly different but equally important ways to access it depending on where I am and what kind of work I need to be doing. My three must have types of machines are: 1 – my mobile device/smartphone – which is permanently affixed to my person at all times. 2- my carry-around computer (I have a laptop and a tablet now, and I use both regularly but in different ways) 3 – my “main” computer that is the hub of it all. Making the investment in a good machine for each of these three very different needs, and then having them all synced up properly has made a world of difference. It’s like I always have a better organized version of my brain at hand.
- 3 – My own, personal operating system: Recently, I’ve been trying much more diligently to adhere to the basic tenets of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) productivity system in everything I do for my work and my family life. For me, this means clearing informational clutter as it comes flying at me through my several email accounts, five children’s needs, full time job, two blogs, volunteer work, etc , etc. I now try not to let things sit in my inbox, and I delegate whenever possible. I label incoming emails (email is ground zero for me with regard to organization in my life, and I receive an average of 200-300 emails daily), and I send them to an appropriate folder in my cloud-based, synced up system, prioritizing by urgency. The more diligently and consistently I use the GTD system, the more helpful I find it to be.
- 4 – Productivity central: After several years of trying various personal productivity and time management apps and software systems, I have finally settled on the one that works best for my needs. It’s called Producteev. It’s cloud based and it works seamlessly across all 3 types of machines that I use (smartphone, carry-around computer and hub computer). It syncs with my Google calendar (which is synced to my Outlook calendar that my employer prefers all of us to use), and it allows me to immediately forward email to straight from my inbox(es) to the appropriate folders within Producteev, ready to be dealt with when I sit down to work on my to-do list or a multi-step project. I have a tendency to become paralyzed when I am overwhelmed with too many tasks in front of me. I can easily shut down neurologically when this happens, meaning that nothing gets accomplished and I feel terrible. Using Producteev conscientiously and as they recommend is really helping me to have fewer of these info-overload-brain-turns-off moments, which is helping me be much more productive overall. Producteev also helps me meet dealines – a MAJOR on-the-job problem for me due to my particular inattentive-type of ADHD.
- 5 – A nagging friend: Two of the specific problems that my own ADHD causes for me are an inability to estimate accurately how much time something will take, and a tendency to allow myself to become so engrossed in whatever I am doing that I lose track of time and end up being late for my next meeting or behind on other projects or tasks. Now, however, I use what I call a “nagging alarm” on my smartphone (remember, it’s glued to my person, and now you see why) to remind me to take inventory of what I am doing at any particular moment to be sure it’s the highest and best use of my time. So if I know I only want to spend 30 minutes on a particular task or activity before needing to move on to the next item I need to address that day, I set an alarm for 30 minutes to remind me to switch tasks. Otherwise, I can get lost for hours in what I am doing. I also use my nagging alarm to help refocus me on very foggyheaded days. Sometimes I reset it every 15 minutes with a reminder to pop up and literally ask me, “What are you doing?” That way, if I’ve drifted off into daydreaming or whatever, I am reminded to refocus on what I should be doing. Last, I use my nagging alarm for things like turning off the oven or the dryer. Without the external reminder that my brain doesn’t have naturally, food burns and clothing gets fried. One of the best nagging alarms I’ve found is the Bug Me App.
So there you have it: my own top five tech helpers for better organization and less chaos. Even with this technological assistance, though, I still struggle. My brain wiring is a daily challenge. It just is. And of course, these things only work if I actually use them consistently; if I step outside my “system,” things start heading south for me pretty quickly.
So how about y’all? Are any of you also moms – stay at home or work outside the home – with an ADHD diagnosis? When and how did you find out you have ADHD, and what type is it? How does it challenge you in different areas of your life? If you don’t have ADHD but are simply “organizationally challenged,” what does that look like for you? Are there specific technological supports or helpers that you’ve discovered work for your life like these work for me? (I am always on the lookout for apps and gadgets and machines that I should check out, so please share!)
Guidelines for the Dell Inspiron Giveaway: This giveaway will run until Friday, October 28th at 11:59 p.m. EDT and is open to all U.S. residents. A winner will be chosen at random using Random.org from all eligible entries. Each reader has (3) chances to win by leaving a separate comment on each of my Dell posts (the one you are reading is the first post, the second one is here, and one more will be posted next week). The chosen winner must respond within 48 hours of notification to claim the prize. Good luck!
READ MORE FROM KATIE OVER AT MAMAPUNDIT (HER PERSONAL BLOG)