Routines and Habits: Yes You Can

Baby Steps and ADHDIn my article, “Decisions, One of the Hardest Things You Do,” I described the amazing power of routines, habits and systems to reduce the decisions you make.  Making decisions is hard work, and adults with ADHD struggle to make decisions more than most.  Replacing decisions with routines gives you more energy.  But, I often hear new clients (or people who’d love to be my clients, if they only believed it would work for them) say they can’t develop routines, systems or habits.

If You Think You Can’t

I choose my clients carefully.  If you can’t imagine at least a tiny light at the end of a long tunnel, even the best coach in the world can’t help.  You don’t need to believe in your unfailing ability to make your dreams come true.  As an adult with ADHD, you’ve faced too many setbacks and fruitless struggles to have absolute faith, either in yourself, or in anyone who says they can help you achieve what you haven’t been able to on your own.

When I first meet a client, I often hear a familiar story.  Imagine Stan calls to inquire about coaching for his ADHD.  Even though he’s not happy, Stan works in the same job he’s had for years (or if he’s lost his job, probably not for the first time, he works in the same career) and he doesn’t like it.  It takes all his time and energy.  He leaves the office late, so tired he can only collapse in front of the TV, lacking energy to engage with friends or family, and he crawls out of bed the next morning to do it again.

When I tell Stan I work with Creative Geniuses, adults with ADHD who are bright, creative and ambitious, I hear Stan snort and I know he’s checking if he dialed the right number.  Stan remembers being like that, but no longer.  I want to encourage Stan, but encouragement isn’t enough unless he can find at least a nugget of self-confidence, a belief in the possibility that things could get better.

What does this have to do with routines, habits and systems?

Duane, my husband, an adult with ADHD (and my guinea pig), felt trapped in his life too.  He believed he couldn’t develop routines or change his habits.  But our lives are controlled almost entirely by routines and habits.  Duane wanted to be an artist, but he didn’t have time to draw or paint.  His job took all his time and energy, condemning him to an unfulfilling life.

And although Stan is unhappy, he’ll stick to his routine.  If he loses his job, he’ll find a similar job.  He watches TV out of habit.  Though he’s convinced he cannot develop routines and habits, routines and habits (that he created!) gave him the life he wants to escape!

Ironically, routines and habits provide the fastest route to create the life you want.  Duane’s poor impulse control and attempts to self-medicate (common in ADHD adults) led to an unhealthy lifestyle.  Duane was more than 100 lbs. overweight, smoked two packs a day and never exercised on purpose!  Every attempt to change his life (quitting smoking, crash diets, joining a gym) ended in failure.

You create your new life, whether you change your health, your career, your relationships, or all of the above, by developing routines and habits that guide you gently in a new direction.  When you give your life a drastic makeover, you lose your existing routines and habits.  But since you actually do want to get rid of them, who’d suspect there’s anything wrong with that?  The problem is that without existing routine and habits, you have nowhere to anchor new ones.

Baby Steps Will Get You There

Rather than changing his lifestyle all at once, Duane took baby steps, anchoring new routines and habits to the existing ones.  True story; to begin exercising, Duane decided to walk around the block each time he went outside for a cigarette!  It’s far easier to develop a new habit by anchoring it to an existing one, even if you know the anchor habit will eventually disappear.  Today, Duane no longer smokes; he exercises regularly, and has lost over 100 lbs. (and has kept it off for more than 10 years.)

This approach is guaranteed to work, but when Duane goes from morbidly obese and smoking two packs a day to a healthy lifestyle within one paragraph, you might think the changes took as long to make as they do to describe.  It didn’t, and you can’t instantaneously duplicate those results in your own life.

You can take the first step, but it’s the beginning.  Beginning is fantastic, amazing, beautiful, even magical, but no matter how your beginning turns out, you need courage to take the next step once that first step works (or doesn’t.)  Some steps will fail.  Perseverance matters more than any one event.

I am picky choosing my clients because beginning is not a magic ticket to freedom.  That first step is the tip of the iceberg.  And unless you can imagine that light at the end of the tunnel, you probably won’t try.  And if you do try and it doesn’t work (and by “work,” I mean getting you 100% of the way there) you’ll quit.

Instead, you’ll keep your job (until you can’t anymore), you won’t have time and you won’t enjoy your life… but you’ll accept it because you everyone says you should be grateful for what you have.  You fall for, “You need to face reality.”  But “reality” is a lie.  If you don’t get what you want, it’s because you believe it’s impossible, and if you get what you want, it’s because you start, even though you know it’s impossible, and you keep at it even though you know it won’t work, until one day you look around and realize, you did it.  When I choose a client, it’s someone who’s ready to start even knowing it’s impossible.  When we work together, you’ll be surprised just how far we can get.

Adult ADHD : From Curse to Gift

I keep reading discussions around the question of whether ADHD is a curse or a gift. Most ADHDers are divided on this. As an ADHD Coach, spouse and mother of ADHDers, I have seen ADHD in both ends of the spectrum.

On one hand my ADHD adults struggle to keep their jobs, keep a happy marriage, stay financially afloat. Many are overwhelmed, distracted, disorganized and have self-esteem issues. When you find yourself stuck in the negative aspects of ADHD, it’s understandable that you could see it as a curse.

On the other hand, others who see it as a gift usually excel in their jobs, or create a business they’re passionate about, keep the spice in their relationships, and are financially in control, to name a few. They tend to have a more positive outlook on life.

What’s the gap between these two realities? How do you close it?

The difference is that those who thrive with adult ADHD stay open to change and invest in improving their lives. They use their assets, such as their strengths, talents, energy, out-of-the-box thinking and risk-taking abilities and adopt ADHD-friendly ways to live. They change what they can and accept what they can’t.

Want to close the gap?

Join me for Get Your Year in Gear for ADHD Adults, a free teleclass, tonight, Monday, January 19th at 8 pm ET. We’ll discuss how you can close the gap. Register at http://tinyurl.com/adhdgift

3 Secrets of Good ADHD Money Management

ADHD money management is a paradox. The first thing financial experts say is never let anyone else have control of your money. The next thing they say is that you need to follow a strict budget, avoid impulsive spending and save for the future.

As an adult with ADHD, you know that is a recipe for disaster. After all, they are asking you to:

  • pay attention to the details of a budget,
  • consistently micro-manage your finances to get out of debt,
  • eliminate impulsivity in your spending,
  • planfor the future,
  • organize all your bills and receipts,
  • and so on…

It flies in the face of the very challenges ADHD adults face. Just think about how most ADHD adults see money management.

Typical ADHD Money Management

Budgets are so boring! Most people don’t use them, let alone ADHD-ers. Getting out of debt is the slow drip of water torture, unless you’re planning on winning the lottery! (Not an effective plan, by the way.) Eliminating impulsivity in something that’s as much fun as spending money? Forget it! Oh, and plan for the future? When there is only “now” and “not now,” you’re not going to put money you could spend NOW for sometime that is NOT NOW! Sound familiar?

Harv Ecker, the well-known author of “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind,” and a popular speaker on the subject of personal finances tells people that if you count on getting rich enough to have someone else take care of your money, you won’t make it. He explains that you won’t get rich if you don’t learn to manage your money, and you won’t stay rich if you let someone else take control of your money.

For adults with ADHD money management is so difficult that many (I’d even guess most) ADHDers never learn how to do it effectively. Studies show that on average ADHDers earn $10,000 less per year than non-ADHD-ers, and if you have trouble earning it, you’ll also having trouble keeping it. It doesn’t have to be that way though.

There are many ADHD-ers at the top of their game who excel in their careers, earning far above the average person with a comparable background. They’ve learned to work with their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. Your challenge is to become one of them, and it is possible, but it won’t happen by itself.

Learning ADHD Money Management

Where can you learn ADHD strategies for money management? Personal financial management is rarely taught in schools, so unless you’ve sought out extra education, you’re following the only financial model you’ve seen. You manage your money just like your parents. If your parents are excellent financial managers, if they are wealthy and are living the life style you dream of living in the future, good for you. However, if your parents aren’t living the life you want, it’s time to change your approach.

You can learn personal money management through books, seminars and classes. Unfortunately, even when they teach personal money management, nothing is said about ADHD money management, and without specific ADHD strategies, you might never get out of debt let alone build your savings. In traditional approaches, the first step to getting a handle on your finances is to “prepare a budget,” and as you know, those words will make almost any ADHD adult shudder in fear.

Keys to ADHD Money Management

While you can’t learn all about ADHD money management in one article (see here to learn more), to get your financial affairs in order, apply these three ADHD strategies. The three keys to ADHD money management are:

  1. Pay yourself first. You must save for the future. At some point, your income may be interrupted. You may need or want to stop working, and if you have no source of income, you’ll need to survive on what you’ve saved for a rainy day. Your first priority must be to save up for that umbrella! If anyone counsels you to pay all your bills and put the rest into savings, run away! You already know there’s never any left to go into savings.
  2. Make everything automatic. While you don’t want to delegate responsibility for your personal finances, you can make the decisions about your ADHD money management strategies and then set up systems to operate according to your wishes. When you drive a car, you decide to speed up and step on the gas. The car responds to your bidding, but it doesn’t demand that you get out and push it yourself. When you automate your payments, with Internet banking and other systems, you set the strategy so you’re not giving up control, but the system compensates for your ADHD challenges. You’ll save on late fees and interest charges by never forgetting a payment, and you’ll protect your credit rating too.
  3. Use what’s left over for whatever you want. If you’re saving for the future and paying all your bills, any money that’s left is yours to play with! It’s now safe to be impulsive if you want. Even if you spend every penny left over, your financial success strategy is still executing perfectly. You can spend it all, or save for a big purchase like a dream vacation.

Life’s Better with ADHD Money Management

While traditional approaches to managing personal finances may give you a headache, once you get an ADHD money management strategy established and the systems set up to make sure it’s executed as planned, things get really interesting. You see, once you stop concentrating on mundane tasks like paying bills, you can turn your attention to earning money. ADHD-ers actually have a good chance of outperforming the general population in terms of personal prosperity. Once you focus your energies on getting the most out of your strengths. Typically, an ADHD-er who chooses a career that plays to his or her strengths will excel far beyond the average person.

 

If you’d like to receive more details about ADHD money management and how you can improve your life by putting the right ADHD strategies into play, than can fit in this article, just enroll in this free ecourse at https://coachlindawalker.com/adhd-money-management/. You’ll receive your first email immediately and you can get started on improving your financial future today.