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Why ADHDers are late, pt. 4: Fear of being early

Mar 29, 2019

Most people with ADHD have a borderline pathological fear of being early. If you are always trying to walk in exactly on time, erring on the side of not being early… you’re going to be late a lot! So, why are we so afraid of being early? Easy. We are afraid of being bored and of “wasting time.”


To truly understand this, you need to understand how we as ADHDers experience boredom. Granted there is always an exception. Some ADHDers are so involved in their own rich inner life that they can get lost in their own heads anytime, any place. (From this point on, assume that I'm speaking for the majority, but not all ADHDers.) And for most of us, boredom is our Kryptonite. We experience boredom as almost physically painful. We need stimulation in a way that neurotypical people don’t. When we don’t have that stimulation, it’s super uncomfortable.


Being early requires us to wait in one place, observe generally accepted societal norms of behavior like leaving our shoes on, not be optimally stimulated, and not get anything productive done… or at least that’s how it feels. And that was more likely the case in the past. But, these days, we can play on our phone, get work done on wifi, step out of the waiting room and take a call, read on or phone or kindle, or any number of things that I’m not even thinking about right now. Yes, there is still an element of forced structure. And, we probably still can’t take our shoes off. But, being 10 minutes early is hardly the cruel and unusual punishment it was before.


But sometimes the reality takes a while to catch up with us. We often have such a strong aversion to being early, and it’s been so long since we were early, that we don’t notice that it’s not so bad. In my opinion, it is certainly better than that horrible feeling of always being late, rushing, and feeling incompetent. Over time I’ve learned to enjoy being a bit early. All I can do is read, which gives me an excuse to do so and not worry about what I’m not getting done.


Just try being on early once in a while. You might actually like it.



Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please excuse and 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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Why ADHDers are late, pt. 3: When we know we are late and do 'it' anyway.

Mar 22, 2019

But there are also many times that ADHD folks are late and are 100% aware that they are late or at least, if they took the time to slow down and be honest with themselves they'd know they were late. I think this behavior comes down to two causes.


The first thing to know is that we run on adrenaline when our brain chemistry is not managed optimally. Adrenaline produces dopamine which is the primary neurotransmitter responsible for attention. So, anytime there is a deadline, we are more capable of attending. A typical ADHDer who may not have gotten anything done all morning, may feel a rush of adrenaline as the time that she needs to leave for an appointment approaches. That deadline indirectly produces dopamine, making her more productive in that moment than she has been all morning.


That attention, regardless of its reason for being is intoxicating. It can also feel terrifyingly fleeting. It feels like an opportunity that needs to be taken advantage of. "I didn't get anything done all morning. I can't walk away now that I'm finally productive." And when we are in that place, we feel like we have to "get one last thing done before we leave." Too bad that the reality is that that one last thing never fits neatly in the time we actually have before we need to leave.

But the pull is powerful, so we go with it until the last possible moment. which is actually well past the last possible moment. That's when the mental gymnastics begin. Any of this sound familiar?


...I got there in 15 minutes that one time...

...I might get all green lights...

...There was that one time I got a parking space right in front...

...The doctor will probably be running behind anyway...

...I can just drive a little faster....

...Google Maps always estimates longer that I need...


Yet, more often than not, you will be late. And you will be anxious and flustered. And, of course that affects your cognitive abilities and drains you, setting it up to be more difficult to focus for the rest of the day and to engage in compensation strategies like planning ahead.




Part 4 coming soon!



Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much. if at all. Please excuse and 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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Why ADHDers are late, pt. 2: Overcompensating instead of skill building

Mar 15, 2019

When confronted with this situation and a lack of compensation skills, most people I work with will then over do it and create an entirely different set of problems. So, a person who is chronically late and realizes that it may be because they set their alarm for too late a time everyday tends go super far in the other direction, intending to build in a huge cushion believing that then they couldn’t possibly be late.


This doesn’t work for two reasons. First, there is no incentive to get up super early. This person has no evidence that it is the appropriate time to get up and should be already. But, they know in their heart that they don’t possibly need two-and-a-half hours to get ready in the morning. So, they hit the snooze button and end up getting up when they would have anyway with more anxiety and less rested. Or they semi-consciously turn off the alarm and way over sleep.


(Preface to this next paragraph: I found the easiest way to write this was in the second person. But having written it, it seems kind of accusatory. Please don’t feel like I’m trying to shame anyone for their behavior. And, if this resonates with you, please don’t feel like speaking to you directly or chastising you in any way. Just trying to point out a pattern.)  


The other way this method malfunctions if you can actually get up at 5:00 am instead of 7:00am. What are you going to do with those extra two hours? Are you going to take your meds early and clean the house? Are you going to go to the gym and get your dopamine on for the day? Are you going to meditate? Are you going to make a big batch of something healthy to take for lunch the next few days? Are you going to get to work early and get in a few extra hours so you can take a long lunch, get fresh air, catch up on person stuff, have some down time? I’d love to say the answer is yes… but it probably isn’t. You’re probably going to drag out your coffee and checking your phone and maybe even avoid the shower until it’s too late to be on time anyway. Or you might get a rush of inspiration and do one of those productive things. But if you still don’t know what time you need to leave, you can still be late. It almost doesn’t matter if you’re sleeping, playing candy crush, or curing cancer. Late is late.




Part 3 coming soon!



Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please excuse and 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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Why are ADHDers late, pt. 1: We suck at time.

Mar 08, 2019

In my experience there are a few reasons that ADHDers are chronically late. The most  fundamental issue is our lack of time sensitivity. In my opinion, this stems from our basic neurochemical wiring. We don't experience time as a constant. Whoever said that time flies when you're having fun was most likely and ADHDer. When you are not aware of the time, it’s really easy to be late.


Our tendency towards hyperfocus is also a contributing factor. When we do effectively attend, it is often in this hyperfocus way, which blocks out the rest of the world. Whether we are doing something fun or have finally found “the zone” for something tough, we can get totally lost in that thing. There are no clocks in “the zone.”


There are also some ADHD folks who are so not present in the moment that it doesn’t even occur to them to interact with time. I always ask a clients who tell me that they are chronically late to work, “What time do you need to leave for work?” I am, (more often than you might think,) met with a very long pause and the answer, “I don’t know.”  My follow up question is usually, “How long does it take you to get to work?” There usually isn’t a great answer to that question either. Obviously, if we don’t know how long it takes to get to work, we can’t figure out what time to leave.


There is a basic skill set lacking here in terms of planning before doing. For example, if I were going to start a new job tomorrow, I would Google Map my route considering what time I would need to be there, figure out the parking situation and add in time for that, and probably add a buffer of 10 minutes. Of course, that takes attention, executive function, mindfulness, and a belief that taking these steps will actually work. But, if you avoid planning because it challenges your attention and executive function, you may be late on day one and never really know what time it is other than being “behind schedule.”



Part 2 coming soon!



Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please excuse and 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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The most dangerous word in the English language: SHOULD

Feb 15, 2019

It does not matter if you should do it faster.

It does not matter how fast the kid next to you does it. 

It does not matter how your grandmother did it back in the day.

All that matters is reality. It only matters what you can do.

If you live your life comparing yourself to everyone else, you will always be disappointed. There is always someone who is bigger, stronger, faster, etc. There is always a Michael Jordan or a LeBron James. (And, those best of the best people are often insufferable pricks anyway.)

The only thing that matters is what you are capable of. You have to know your strengths and weaknesses and accept them both. Yes, continue to work on your weaknesses. Always try to be the 2.0 version of yourself. But don't budget time based on how long you SHOULD take. That will lead to failure. Figure out how long it will take you and adjust accordingly. Find the way you can deliver with whatever your limitations (real or perceived) are.

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New Entry

Feb 7, 2019

It's no secret that I believe that exercise is one of the most important ways to manage ADHD. Even with successful medication therapy, exercise is key to managing our brain chemistry. And if you have depression and/or anxiety like I do, you get twice the benefit from the exercise, as I also believe it to be crucial to managing those issues as well. And for the record, it's not just me. There is more an more research all the time pointing to the neurochemical value of exercise.


I've written a good deal about how to get a workout routine started in the past. I've also written about how to make it a habit and other similar topics. Today I wanted to share some recent successes I've had in my workout life. This is not to toot my own horn, but to share some new insights that I've recently gained.


Let's start with today since that's what made me think about bringing this up. Well, actually, let's rewind to yesterday... Or maybe we should rewind and I should share where I am in my overall workout life...


My goal is to work out everyday... on average. That can mean many things. Typically I cycle through three different workouts: 5 mile run, usually on the treadmill at the gym, interval sprinting on the spin bike while watching hockey or Netflix, and one of three lifting routines. Sometimes I do two-a-days to balance out days that I don’t work out. Kind of maniacal, I know. But it works for me. I don’t necessarily recommend every do what I do.


Anyway, I had taken a day off on Sunday and really didn’t feel like going on Monday. But I don’t take two days off in a row, so I forced myself to go to the gym, stretched out, and got on the treadmill. There are definitely times when I get on the treadmill, take two steps, and my body tells me, NO. Then I just turn around and go home. On this day, (Monday the 4th,) I got on by telling myself that I’d just run nice and easy at 7:50’ish mile. That’s about as slow as I go and is generally pretty easy… but sometimes pretty boring.


Once I got on, I felt more energy and cranked it up to a 7:00 minute mile. But that was exhausting. Sometimes when I do that I can only last 3 miles. I’d rather do 5 miles at a slower pace and get in a longer workout. But ADHDers like novelty. I generally like consistency in my workout, but not that day. That day I needed to mix it up to get through it. Hint: I think the victory here is that I was willing to be flexible and innovative. So I changed my speed for each song on my running mix on shuffle. The catch being that I varied between 7.5 miles/hour and 8.6 miles per hour with no discernible pattern, while doing a different speed for each song. And I managed to make it 5 miles averaging about 7:22 mm which is pretty good for me.


Again this is not designed to toot my horn. I’ve been running for 25 years. This is the first time I’ve ever done it this way… the first time it ever occured to me to do it this way. And, even if it only worked this once, it worked this one. Victory!



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