10 Tips for the Inattentive

Apr. 10th, 2017

Many challenges face those with the classic hyperactive ADHD brain type. These are better known in general and tend to have more straightforward solutions as a result. More knowledge about something results in better and more numerous remedies.

The predominantly inattentive subtype, however, is not as well known, even to those of us who are of this brain type. We are inattentive, after all, and are not very good at paying attention to things that bore us. And what could be more boring than the existence that’s been around since I first came into existence? Well, small talk, that’s more boring. But I digress...

There are some things that I’ve found work remarkably well for me as an inattentive ADHD individual. Obviously everyone is different, but I hope that these strategies can help spark ideas at the very least. Some or even all of these might work for the hyperactive or combined subtypes as well.

1. Timers

By this, I mean all three functions of the clock app on my phone: timers, alarms, and stopwatch. The first two are great for bringing attention to where it needs to be and the last one is fantastic for giving accurate feedback on how long things really take. Time awareness, in essence, that we with ADHD often lack. This timer was made specifically with ADHD time insensitivity in mind and visually depicts the passage of time. There are even alarms that will not shut up until you solve a math equation, puzzle, walk a certain number of steps, or scan a specific barcode. (All of those are iOS, but there are also Android versions.)

2. Best Time

Another use I put the stopwatch to is attempting to beat my own best time at an activity. I set the stopwatch when I start my evening routine, and when I finish I find out how fast I was today. Knowing I’m being timed gives me a little boost of motivation and focus.

3. Music

I honestly don’t know where many of us would be without music in general. I use music, a podcast or audio book to help smooth out transitions. When I’m listening to a stream of audio, it helps me switch between the tasks of my evening routine faster and without getting stuck on one or between two.

4. The Hat

When I was studying my ADHD coach training manual I needed my husband to know, without telling him each time, that I needed to be left alone. I pulled out the Stetson his Grandfather had given us and now wear it anytime I need space and quiet. The agreement we reached is if there’s something urgent, he can bring it to me, but otherwise, wait until I remove the hat.

5. Preemptive Strike

I try and remove anything I know will side-track me before it gets a chance. My phone and smartwatch both go on silent at 7 PM, I do not keep Facebook open on my computer, ever, and I always take care of any nagging chores before settling down to leisure time. Getting to know ourselves and our environments well is key for this strategy.

6. Stray Thought Corral

Trying to remember things while working on something else is challenging for us. I use the notepad on my phone as an instant corral for any stray thoughts that may distract me from the task at hand. It may seem counter-intuitive to interrupt work for this, but it is much easier for me to quickly jot the idea down than to be continually distracted.

7. “I am but a humble dopamine farmer...

The neurotransmitter dopamine has many functions in the brain, and we with ADHD often have trouble producing, maintaining, and utilizing it, resulting in a multitude of problems such as lack of motivation, lack of energy, decreased focus, and decreased willpower. Farming dopamine is a technique of engaging in some enjoyable activity, thus producing dopamine, for a short period of time, then switching back to the boring task, and using the dopamine just farmed to work on that task. This is often repeated many times throughout a boring task.

8. Kill Willpower Drains

Every human being has a limited amount of willpower. Add the impulsivity ADHD is so infamous for and you have a recipe for willpower deficits. I try and get rid of any drain on my willpower, even small ones, because they all add up. I have a specific outfit I wear every day I do not leave the house and I decide on the meals I will cook for the week on Monday.

9. To-mate-oh, To-maht-oh...

I am in love with the Pomodoro technique: 25 minutes work, 5 minutes break, repeat (and customize as needed). So simple, so freeing, so kind to our brains.

10. Write It Down

One of the biggest ADHD traps is three little words: “I’ll remember that...” No. I won’t. I realized this long ago and adopted my reminder app as my external memory. I write everything down. Every request from my family, every plant I need to water, every thing I need to ask so-and-so next time I speak with them. Every. Single. Thing.

And there you have it, my ammunition against my wandering brain.

Where does your brain go when it isn’t around here?