7 workaround solutions for staying on task
It has been determined that ADHD is not a lack of or deficiency in attention. It is a problem with the ability to regulate attention and activity. Those with ADHD struggle with how and when to switch on and off their focus.
Experts have said the executive function is like the train conductor of the brain’s activity. If the conductor doesn’t do his job there will be a train wreck of some kind.
Gracie and Dennis, an average young newlywed couple, were faced with challenges they had never anticipated when Dennis finally revealed that in high school he had been diagnosed with ADHD.
They had lived across the street from each other all through high school. The ADHD subject had never come up until one day on their way to dinner Dennis completely lost it when a car cut them off.
Gracie was stunned and instantly afraid of Dennis. She had never seen that side of him.
It was after that Gracie began to notice that Dennis had times when he was not present in a conversation. At first, she took it personally, assuming he didn’t want to be around her or was bored with her company.
Gracie began reading about ADHD and trying to incorporate the workarounds or solutions she read about into their lives.
There were times when she wanted to end the marriage, but when Dennis was the loving man she fell in love with, she couldn’t walk out. She had to find workarounds for his way of processing information.
Gracie studied active listening and how ADHD adults had a very difficult time listening because of their inattentiveness. She began practicing good listening skills with Dennis, such as making good eye contact and giving verbal and non-verbal cues. She tried to over-emphasize her attentiveness hoping Dennis would notice and start using them also. It worked to a small extent.
There were other times when it seemed like Dennis was being “driven by a motor”; his excessive talking; blurting out answers before the question was finished; jumping in to complete a person’s sentence or thought after five words.
She also began to notice other behaviors, such as hyperactive fidgeting, impulsivity, and compulsive behavior. He would jump from one project to another without completing the first one. Most of the time, the cleanup or finishing was left to her.
He began saying or doing everything that popped into his mind immediately. He said it was so he didn’t forget.
Gracie noticed that when Dennis started doing a new project, he would drop what he had been doing. This often created a trail of unfinished projects. For example, he had promised Gracie he would vacuum and clean the carpet.
He had it all mapped out in his mind how he would do it, where and how to move the furniture, and the solutions and techniques he would use. The carpet came out beautiful.
But, the dishes and mess from when he made breakfast was totally forgotten in the kitchen and left to Gracie. The area in the house where he kept his tools was in a state of total disarray. His closet, well, we don’t want to even go there.
Gracie started politely reminding Dennis to complete his unfinished projects before starting a new one. It worked about 50% of the time.
She also started a prioritized To-Do List. It wasn’t long until she realized that she could only put one or two items on the board or it would become too difficult for Dennis to process in his mind and the jobs would not get done.
She realized that when using a list, she had to keep it simple.
Long prioritized lists cause problems for the ADHD mind. Problem-solving, decision-making, and prioritizing drain the energy from their executive function.
Some people have so much trouble prioritizing, that they skip the organization and go straight into the action with no plan.
Keep the list simple, with no more than two or three items, so the list can be prioritized.
Dennis had too many things on his list, so Gracie started two lists. One for long-term projects and one for do-it-now items.
Gracie helped Dennis map out the things he needed to do at night when his executive functioning energies were high. With the list complete, he seemed to be able to sleep better.
In our digital age, distractions are a given. Even non-ADHD adults find themselves distracted by popup ads and notifications on their phones or computer. ADHD adults are faced with millions of distractions per day, especially if they work online from home.
“Dennis, what would you like for dinner tonight? Or do you want to go out to eat? Remember that new restaurant we saw the other day? Why don’t we go there, we haven’t had a night out in months?”
Silence. Gracie walked into the office where Dennis was supposedly working on his work proposal for the next day.
He didn’t move or acknowledge her arrival. She walked over to stand behind him so she could see his screen. He was watching a Youtube video. On the side of his screen were the videos he had already watched, most of which were political.
She laid her hand on his shoulder. He jumped then looked up and said, “This is an awesome video filmed by some guys who hiked Mt. Everest. Do you want to watch it?”
“You didn’t hear a word I said did you? Is your proposal finished?”
“I forgot all about it. I saw these videos. I’m sorry. I got distracted. What did you say?”
“I was suggesting we go out to dinner, but if you haven’t started your proposal, I guess not. I’ll call DoorDash.”
After Dennis’s work proposal was complete and dinner was finished, he walked into the room where Gracie was working on a paper she was writing.
“Can we talk?” he asked. “I want to try taking notes while you talk to see if it helps my focus.”
They moved to the kitchen table. Dennis asked some questions to get Gracie’s opinion on the subject of ADHD. As Gracie talked, he wrote. He did ask her to stop occasionally so he could catch up or ask questions to clarify.
Gracie was impressed.
ADHD according to the Bible
The Bible speaks to many of the behavioral characteristics associated with ADHD. First of all, God’s Word gives hope and help for every situation we face. ADHD, other similar situations, and emotional wounds are no different.
The Apostle Paul said:
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’ For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10, ESV)
When we are weak, when we have challenges, then we can be strong and overcome by Christ’s power in us when we have accepted Jesus as our savior.
As mentioned above, distractions are a big problem for ADHD adults. Yes, they have to work a little harder than some of the non-ADHD adults, but it can be done. God knows that it can be difficult to stay focused.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23, ESV)
Proverbs states that there are rewards for staying focused and doing what needs to be done.
“Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” (Proverbs 12:11, ESV)
Proverbs also tell us to plan and set priorities.
“Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” (Proverbs 24:27, ESV)
God tells us to listen carefully to what others say.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” (James 1:19, ESV)
Back to Dennis and Gracie
Dennis wanted to do what God’s Word said, but as with anything else, he had trouble staying focused to read God’s Word or even listen to it. He would drift off into his never-never land where he would come up with different creative ideas, things to try, and projects to do.
His pastor had said one time that when he first began to study the Bible he would write the scriptures. Dennis decided to give it a try. He began writing a list of scriptures that were personalized.
The results were amazing.
The Word says to renew our minds with the Word.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, ESV)
He found that writing helped him stay focused, whether in writing the Word or in conversations with Gracie. He was amazed that he actually heard what she said, which lessened the conflict between them.
Getting the Word into his mind began to change his attitude. He became more loving and kind.
Key takeaways: How to help ADHD adults organize and accomplish important tasks
- Ask questions to help in prioritizing the project.
- In the grand scheme of life, where does this fit in terms of importance?
- What things can be postponed, canceled, or completed first?
- What is the outcome expected or the benefit of the project?
2. Plan the date and time.
- On the calendar schedule the date and time for projects.
- Execute schedule.
- Adjust if necessary.
3. Plan the scope of the project.
- Break the project into doable chunks.
- Prepare and acquire the resources necessary to complete the project.
- Sequence the steps to accomplish the project successfully.
4. Manage distractions.
- Turn off the TV, computer, game station, or any other unnecessary input device.
- Put the phone on silent or a low-volume ringtone.
- Eliminate or disable any and all unnecessary phone notifications.
5. Manage what works best.
- Consistently apply successful routines.
- Build successful habits.
6. Write down what is discussed.
- Focus attention on what is being said.
- Document what was said for reference.
- Use writing to combine sensory input of sight, touch, and sound of the words being spoken in your mind as you write.
7. Be in God’s Word.
- Find scriptures that apply to each of your specific situations.
- Personalize them.
- Write them down.
- Speak the Words out loud often.
What other specific protocols do you or your ADHD adult apply to accomplish important tasks?