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LIving in the now vs. planning ahead

Nov 9, 2019

As ADHDers we are often a mystery to others and to ourselves. Our behavior regularly contradicts itself and as a result can be very difficult to change. We generally have difficulty being mindful in the moment and being aware of what we are doing on some levels. Though sometimes we are so immersed in the moment that the rest of the world might as well not exist. Yet we also struggle with planning for the future and perceiving time. Though at the last minute we can often pull off miracle of focus and planning. But often a great personal cost.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the real estate adage, “Location, location, location.” Well, for ADHD, I always say, “Planning, planning, planning.” That is one of the main skills I’ve worked on over the years and one of the key skills I work on with most of my clients. But the fact is that we can’t only look to the future. We have to learn to be more present in the moment in order to plan for the future and create the future that we want. I like to think of it as having both feet firmly planted in the now but always having one eye on tomorrow through next week. 

I guess what I’m saying is that as we attempt to strengthen our execute function skills we also have to manage our attention. We have to balance the attention we focus on today, while also devoting enough focus to what is coming up that we can be prepared for what’s next. Let’s take a very simple example. My wife and I are going to a concert next week, two actually. I have both on the calendar. It’s unlikely that I would forget about either of them. But they are on Sunday and Monday. If I hadn’t been looking ahead on my calendar, I might not have been able to get a babysitter in time. Small, not super significant example. But if you are always looking ahead, things like that don’t surprise you. If you aren’t looking ahead, multiply the problem of finding a babysitter last minute by everything in your life. That sounds like a pretty overwhelming scenario. 

Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much,  if at all. Please excuse typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. In my humble opinion, an imperfect post posted is infinitely better than a perfect post that goes unfinished.

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Mental Mise en Place

Oct 31, 2019

It’s been a few weeks. My last post was about the importance of physical Mise en Place. But I’ve always adapted the term and thought about mental Mise en Place. That is the idea of being mentally prepared for what’s coming and mentally organized. I guess, now that I think about it, it is sort of a combination of the executive functions of planning, organization, time management, and working memory along with mindfulness/ presence in the moment. 

If I can continue the cooking analogy… when I was a chef, my shift really started at the end of the night the day before. I would do the ordering, make my own prep list, look at everyone else’s prep lists and start to mentally prepare for the next day. What time did I have to come in? Did I need to leave any notes for the morning guys? What do reservations look like for tomorrow? When I come in, what are my priorities for my station? What are the priorities for the kitchen? What’s the staff look like tomorrow and who’s going to need help? 

I learned these lessons well in the kitchen. Perhaps I owe the choice of my first career for many of the skills I have. Regardless, I’ve taken those skills into the rest of my life, so I know it’s possible to strengthen those abilities. One obvious place I’ve utilized those skills is in my own kitchen. I’m always thinking about what’s for dinner tomorrow and for the rest of the week. I’m making sure I’m using up ingredients that need to get used. I’m adding things to the shopping list as I get low on them. (Essentially the rule of thumb is that when I no longer have enough of something to get through NEXT week, it goes on the list. If it is a specialty item that I use one in a while, it goes on the list after I don’t have enough for the next batch.)

But it’s not just food prep that has to do with mental Mise en Place. I’ll talk more next week about planning and scheduling.

Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much,  if at all. Please excuse typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. In my humble opinion, an imperfect post posted is infinitely better than a perfect post that goes unfinished.

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Mise en place

Oct 4, 2019

According to Merriam Webster: a culinary process in which ingredients are prepared and organized (as in a restaurant kitchen) before cooking.

As many of you know I was a professional chef for about a decade before I became a coach and an organizer. I learned many of the foundational principles of organizing while I was a chef. Actually, that learning process began while I was at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA.) They are serious about being organized and prepared. Mise en place is actually the school motto. For me it was a survival strategy. I need to be organized to be successful. But that doesn't just apply to the kitchen, but to my whole life. Here are some organizational principles that I used in the kitchen that in one way or another translate.
  1. Keep the things you use most closest. 
  2. If you can achieve the same end goal with fewer steps, do that!
  3. Get rid of stuff you don't use/need.
  4. Clean up after yourself constantly so there isn't big project clean up at the end. 
  5. Be 100% prepared with everything you need before starting a larger project. It will save you time and completion will be more likely.
That's off the top of my head. I'll post more if I think of them. Next week I'm going to discuss "mental mise en place."

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ADHD life hack: Flossers

Sep 26, 2019

I've always been underwhelmed by "sliced bread." I have a knife. I can slice bread. But you want to talk about inventions that blow my ADHD mind. Let's talk about individual flossers. These things are the best invention ever. I never flossed before these Bad Larry's. Now I've flossed mostly every night for year. I don't even keep them in the bathroom. I have them in my bedside table so I can floss while hanging out and watching TV with my wife. Tedious task made easy. Boring task made quick and able to be done while doing something else. Win. Win. 

I suggest the store brand of the Plaquers brand. I suggest the actual floss, not the "slides." Great for kids too. Wish I had these in my teens and twenties. I'd have less dental work.
ADHD life hack: Flossers

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Scheduling 101

Sep 20, 2019

I am going away this weekend. My wife's friend is getting married in Chicago and we have found fabulous souls to take our children for 4 days, I got a sweet boutique hotel 100% with credit card points, and my wife got the airfare 100% with her credit card points. That's all good news. 

The other (though I won't call it "bad") news is how much planing this it taking. Next week I'll post a redacted copy of the schedule and meds schedule that I wrote for both my kids to confirm all of their movements this weekend. Today I'm going to start really simple. We fly out on Friday at 11:29. I want to get my workout in before that, because sitting still in and Uber, at the airport, on a plane, in an Uber goes much better for me when the exercise happens first. We also need to drop off the kids bags at the houses of the families they are going home with on Friday. Oh... and we need to get the kids to school! 

I don't know about anyone else, but I can't possibly know if I have time to do all that unless I write it down. So, I did:

@5:40: Alarm for pills
@6:00: Wife gets up to work out
@6:30: I get up and do my morning stuff
@7:00: I get kids up and get them showered
-> 8:30: the rest of our normal morning routine
@8:40: Drop kids off at school
-> 9:45: I work out. My wife closes up the house, drops off the kids bags and does any final packing
@9:45: She calls the Uber & checks in online
@9:55: We depart the homestead
10:20 - 10:30 we arrive at the airport with an hour to get through security for our flight.

It's tight but it works. If I hadn't done this, there is no way that I would have had enough time to get it all done. By planning ahead and by being intentional that morning, I will make it all happen.

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Why don't we treat ADHD all the time?

Sep 13, 2019

I've probably written a similar post in the past, but I've recently had a thought that makes me feel it is worth revisiting. Can anyone think of a medical condition that doctors only treat sometimes? Is there anyone with diabetes who only monitors their blood sugar during the work day? Is there anyone who is epileptic who only takes their medication during the school week? Is there anyone with high blood pressure who takes a break from treatment over the summer. Is there anyone who wears glasses or contacts who doesn't wear them on the weekends? Anyone with depression who stops dealing with that after 5pm?

I'm better the answer is NO to all of those questions. So, why is that our societal approach to ADHD? Now, I understand that ADHD meds are complicated and some people can't take them all the time. But what I see is that many doctors don't even consider medicating kids and adults in the evening or in the morning before work. And many doctors give up way to easily when side effects get in the way. Again, I'm not saying that there is a 16 hour solution for everyone, but don't prescribing doctors owe it to their patients to be aggressive in at least trying to find one before giving up?

I have ADHD all the time. It has been my experience that other who have it, have it all the time too. We need to get past the notion of medicating for school or work only. I'm raising two kids and can tell you that parenting time and household time is just as demanding, if not more so than my work day. Keeping the house clean, getting dinner ready, staying on top of everyone's schedules and activities, getting the oil changed, finding the time and energy to exercise and practice other self care... All that stuff takes attention. 

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