Tag Archives: Time management

Unidentified ADHD Probably Ended My Marriage

(Image/cognitivetherapysf.com)

(Image/cognitivetherapysf.com)

Okay. How do I explain this so people can understand?

Favor request: Please set aside any preconceived notions, biases or opinions you have about ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ADD. Less than a year ago, I thought it was a bullshit, totally made-up thing drug companies used to sell pills to kids who were just being kids, or undisciplined, irresponsible adults who didn’t want to grow up.

But then I was introduced to other explanations.

For this post, maybe imagine that “ADHD” is a generic umbrella label to describe common behaviors you may believe to be nothing more than immaturity.

Is that too boring of an intro? Should I maybe just write about how I experience life? Probably. But I’m out of time. Dammit.

I write about marriage and relationships a lot because my parents divorced when I was little and I got a divorce a few years ago and it was all very bad for me. Because of how bad it was, I’ve worked almost as hard as someone like me can to figure out why it happened, because I never want to go through it again.

I look around and see things that should be better than they are: the political process and how elected officials conduct themselves (I’m American); our public education system; the insane economics of the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries; silly rules at my job, or the inefficiencies I run into unexpectedly just living daily life. You know the ones I’m talking about. Like when a company screws you over with crap service or an accounting error, and then when you call their customer service line, you have to give your full name, phone number, and account number to the automated system only to have the person who picks up following 35 minutes of ‘80s-pop-song elevator music ask for your full name, phone number, and account number a second time.

“Why don’t you already know this, Call Center Person!?” God.

In many industries, there are accepted “best practices.” After trying something a kazillion different ways, the people with the most knowledge and experience conducting a particular process or task compared notes and settled on a mostly universal “best way” of doing whatever they’re doing.

Because there are—forgive the expression—multiple ways to skin a cat, there are sometimes many very good ways to do something, which is great. All good ways are probably good.

I feel like with today’s technology and global mobility, we should be able to easily figure out what those good or best ways are.

Take the United States for example. Our biggest and most-debated problems are what? National security. Government debt. Illegal immigration. Public education (including the insane and financially unworthy cost of higher education). Health care. Environmental policy. And all the social issues people scream about.

There is a country that is “the best,” or very good at national security.

There is a country that is “the best,” or very good at managing finances.

There is a country that is “the best,” or very good at handling immigration, or the education system, or achieving high citizen satisfaction in (insert thing you care about here).

And at the risk of oversimplifying complex issues, I’m always dumbfounded by the deliberate choice people or organizations make to NOT do things in a way proven to be successful. Why not just round up the five leading experts on any given subject, or study the five most successful governments or organizations at whatever problem you’re trying to solve, and model solutions after them? I don’t get it.

Good God. Look how long this ranty tangent was! Over 350 words! Just so I could make a silly point about marital best practices which wasn’t even the main reason I’m writing this! People sometimes complain that I write too much. Maybe this will help them understand why. No. They probably stopped reading already, or ignored this altogether. I wonder if the people who called me fat, boring and pathetic this morning are reading. They probably still think I’m boring and pathetic. Fine. But, fat? I only weigh 173 pounds fully dressed with stuff in my pockets. I wanted to tell them, too, because: Screw those bastards, but then even more people would see how defensive I am. Which is what’s happening right now. Dammit.

There is a “best way” to behave in marriage. Just like there’s a best way to manufacture corrugated polyethylene highway drainage pipe, and a best way to design emergency stairwells in high-rise buildings, and a best way to prepare and bake angel food cake.

There is—taking into account the differing needs of our partners, children, and lifestyle—an optimum way to treat those we love, and give our relationships the best chance for success. Best practices for dating and marriage, if you will.

I think it’s worthwhile to try to figure out what those best practices are. That’s why I write about this stuff all the time. I don’t know anything, so I try to write in the first-person to make it clear that I KNOW I don’t know anything.

I just think things.

And I’m mega-ADHD! Are they getting this? I can’t believe how long this is getting. That’s what she said.

Because I write a lot about relationships, people sometimes ask me questions I don’t have answers for. I created the Ask Me Stuff page because I thought it might be a cool way to interact with readers and generate good writing topics, not because I actually know enough about anything to help people. But still, people ask me stuff. One frequently asked question in comments and emails following the new and unexpected attention this blog received from a recent popular post focused on to what extent I thought my ADHD behavior contributed to my divorce.

I didn’t even know enough to ask that question before last spring when I was diagnosed.

The most honest answer I can think of is: No matter how real ADHD is, I exhibit a series of specific behaviors consistent with the ADHD diagnosis which I believe not only doomed my marriage, but also damages many of my other relationships. I tend to have great relationships with people I see regularly, people who love me unconditionally, people who exhibit patience and don’t take personally my erratic and infrequent communication, and everyone who totally relates because they’re the exact same way.

Everyone else gets inconsistent attention from me, and that sometimes causes friction and hurt feelings for some people, and sometimes that ends with me never talking to them again, which isn’t ideal.

I think if my wife and I had more knowledge about, and respect for, ADHD (along with everything I’ve learned about relationship dynamics in the past four years), I’m pretty sure our marriage would have survived, and maybe thrived, with fewer fights and headaches.

We’re 1,000 words in, and I haven’t done what I set out to do. Maybe some of the people who don’t think I’m fat and pathetic and boring will keep reading. Do I really look THAT fat in the photo? Maybe I should have a new one taken. I totally should. Maybe I’ll look skinnier. Probably not. Dammit.

Does Your Partner Have ADHD?

Here are some things that have always been true about me, and because I didn’t know there was another way to experience life, I never wondered whether it was weird that these things happened.

Through the prism of hindsight, I remember all these little moments where my wife must have thought I was a stupid moron, but since she can tell by things I say and think that I’m sometimes smart, certain ADHD moments must have felt to her like I was doing them intentionally, or at best, mindlessly as if I didn’t respect her. You know—like leaving a glass by the sink, or forgetting about some event on the calendar she had mentioned three times, or putting off a home-improvement project she wanted me to do or help with.

You can be talking directly to me and I can be paying attention to you, and then you’ll see my eyes sometimes wander off because something you said triggered another thought, OR something weighing heavily on my mind overpowered your story for a second and I accidentally thought about it instead. She used to say: “Please look at me, and not through me.”

I, along with most people with an ADHD diagnosis, have a superpower. We can sometimes “hyperfocus.” It happens a lot when I’m writing. It happens when I’m meeting a girl for the first time. It happens when I’m reading a good book or article. It happens when I feel particularly motivated to finish a project or am up against a deadline. And because we can demonstrate competence, attention to detail, and the ability to complete complex tasks successfully, it must appear to some during other times as if we are bored, disengaged, thoughtless, stupid, high, mean, or neglectful. Maybe even some other bad things. Sometimes I’m awesome at stuff. And sometimes, I feel overwhelmed in ways hard to describe.

But I wanted to try (and totally failed) in this post! I guess I’ll try again Monday. Maybe if I can accurately capture how I experience a day, or an event, or life management tasks, something will make sense to someone.

I’m sometimes awesome at idea generation but bad at execution.

I misplace things.

I sometimes forget a portion of a set of instructions, making something harder than it needs to be, or failing altogether.

I often avoid things requiring sustained mental effort (long conversations I am not motivated to have, reading and answering email, making phone calls for personal or professional reasons that will take a lot of time, including my parents and other family).

I talk a lot.

And the most interesting (to me): I have trouble estimating how long something will take. I struggle with time perception. People with ADHD often do not develop the ability to accurately gauge the passage of time. Like, moving from task to task at an appropriate speed when getting ready for work or my son ready for school. Or mapping out a future schedule where I block out time necessary to accomplish something (like writing a book). Or remembering to make restaurant reservations or doctor appointments with sufficient time clearance.

I read one neurologist say: “To an ADHDer, there are only two types of time: NOW or NOT NOW.” And yeah, that sounds about right. I procrastinate in ways I imagine most people could never believe or understand. (My navity set is still out from the holidays, and just this morning I found some unopened Christmas cards in a stack of mail in my kitchen. Seriously.)

Maybe it’s the way my brain naturally works. Maybe it’s just a lifetime of bad habit formation. I won’t pretend to know.

But ADHD behavior is commonly interpreted by people who don’t understand as self-centered and/or narcissistic.

And it makes sense to me why spouses dealing with those behaviors without information they need to manage it effectively can find their lives and relationships spiraling out of control and ending in painful, messy failure.

In my experience, having an explanation or reason for why things are a certain way can make all the difference in the world in my ability to deal emotionally or psychologically with things that suck. Maybe if ADHD is affecting you or your relationship, and then you connected those dots, you’d feel better and maybe as if you now have some control and the power to make things better.

They say knowledge is power. So, if any of this makes sense to you? Get powerful.

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A Blog Vacation

(Image/fpchiro.com)

(Image/fpchiro.com)

I try to explain how it works in my head but most people don’t or can’t understand.

It’s probably really hard for a working mother to empathize. After all, she’s a superhero. Raising children. Managing calendars and balancing them against the scheduling needs and wants of the family. She is often working harder around the house than the rest of us, doing the things I spent the first 34 years of my life taking for granted. Keeping bathroom mirrors and porcelain shiny and spotless. Keeping floors swept and vacuumed. Keeping caught up on laundry. Keeping countertops and home offices uncluttered. Keeping the pantry and refrigerator appropriately stocked. They do all that AFTER working 40- to 50-hour weeks.

I sometimes come off undisciplined. Forgetful. Irresponsible. Unreliable.

I’m not proud of it. I’m even a little ashamed. Unless other people are relying on me, I am unlikely to meet a self-imposed deadline. Unless someone (probably a girl) is going to come over and pass judgment on the way I keep my home, I am unlikely to keep it as clean and organized as I’d prefer.

To be sure, I DO like the feeling of a clean and orderly home. I DO like the feeling of accomplishment following completion of a job well done.

But if there are competing interests? Even ones that matter less? I have an amazing capacity for procrastination. And despite my self-awareness, I’ve never found a way to overcome it.

I was diagnosed with ADHD. If I’m remembering the data correctly, about 5% of people’s brains work like mine. It has its advantages. It does. But the effective management of too many things suffers when I don’t have help.

My young son keeps me busy, even though I only have him at home half the time.

Me and two partners launched our start-up company in recent months. We even have clients now. It means that all of the extra professional work I do, errands I run, and housework I (sometimes) complete, is squeezed into nights when my son is with his mom. I try to stay socially active, too, because it’s really important. But that’s usually the first to suffer when life beckons.

I spend 40-plus hours per week at my full-time office job.

I’m trying (somewhat poorly) to write a book.

I’m trying to maintain good exercise and eating habits.

And I’m trying to keep this blog active, and God-willing, interesting to a few people.

Because I’m me, EVERYTHING suffers when the task list gets long. I do good work when I channel all of my focus and energy into one thing. I can do that, one project at a time.

But I’m kind of a disaster when life demands more than one thing from me at once. And in the real world, being an adult—especially a parent—requires that I be on top of more than just one thing at any given time.

In addition to the emotional, spiritual and physical (giggity) balance having a partner provides, I’ve really learned the value of having someone who helps and supports you each day (and whose mere existence motivates me to provide return help and support).

I was an emotional disaster in the aftermath of my marital separation and divorce two years ago. And that—BY FAR—is the worst part of divorce. Feeling dead inside.

But once you get back on your feet and find the internal balance, peace, confidence, hopefulness that had been missing, what you’re left with is this realization about—for lack of a better phrase—the logistics of being an adult. Especially one with parental and professional responsibilities.

Two years later, that’s the hardest part now. No question. If I could fire myself as manager of my life, I totally would.

I’ve been feeling—I don’t know—overwhelmed?—for a while now.

I’m doing a bad job staying in touch with people. My kitchen counter is an emergency of the cluttered variety. I have a bunch of projects that need finished for our growing small business. The book isn’t progressing as I’d like. My email inbox is piling up. And I have to leave town this weekend.

Again, to virtually any mom, or probably any woman (okay, or responsible guy), I probably sound like a dumb, whiny loser. I don’t care. I don’t know whether all the chaos I feel is real. It’s probably something I just manifest in my head. But my brain can’t tell the difference.

I’m not saying I won’t write. I’m not saying I’m going to intentionally post less often.

I’m just saying, I need to slow down in certain areas so I can put more energy into others, just to make sure I don’t totally lose it.

Maybe I’ll post again soon. Or maybe I’ll post again in three weeks. I don’t know.

I just know I need to reset, and I won’t know when it has happened until I feel it.

I hope I see you whenever that happens.

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The Book Project, Vol. 2

(Image/timemanagementninja.com)

(Image/timemanagementninja.com)

You probably think I’m procrastinating. (And you’re technically correct.) But in the context of my life, things are right on schedule.

This is how I operate. I’m not defending it, nor proud of it. It’s just a fact.

Remember that one time I pledged you’d want me by June 1? Because I said I’d be in good shape by then? I didn’t even start seriously working out and altering my diet until a week before June 1. I can’t be entirely sure you’d want me today, but it’s at least 200-percent more likely than before. You’re welcome.

In April of LAST YEAR, I told you about the book I am planning to write. And I do have several thousands of words written for it. It’s not like the workout thing, where I literally did NOTHING I said I would for a few months.

But, still. I’ve been putting it off. And that has to stop. Now.

My 500-Words-Per-Day Strategy

I won’t know I can do this until I actually do it, but there’s nothing particularly daunting to me about the prospect of writing 500 words a day. I think it might help.

My favorite writer James Altucher preaches generating 10 new ideas every day. (It doesn’t matter what for. It only matters that you do it.)

Bestselling novelist John Grisham has published 33 novels in 25 years because he commits to writing at least one page daily, and sticks to it.

Perhaps the most successful comedian of all time, Jerry Seinfeld, set a simple target for himself: One new joke per day.

It’s a productivity hack to harness the power of momentum and reap the long-term benefits of incremental gains.

Writes Cathryn Lavery in the Medium post that inspired this one: Persistence creates luck and experience.

I know it to be true. Now, it’s time to apply it to finishing this book project which I hope will lead to new ones.

I am a world-class procrastinator. I will NEVER publicly admit all of the problems that have cropped up in my life over the years because of my tendency to put things off.

I am the captain of the ADHD squad.

And I am a little bit childish in that I prefer to spend pretty much all my time doing whatever it is I want to be doing, and pretty much never wanting to do things that don’t fit nicely into that little Things Matt Likes silo.

I can continue to use those things as excuses and never achieve goals I set for myself, or I can make small changes and slowly but steadily inch my way toward the finish line.

The key takeaway from going through the StrengthsFinder program in May was the realization that I need to sometimes protect myself from myself and structure projects and parts of my life in ways that minimize the negative effects of some of my (less-than-desirable) tendencies. In other words, in order to finish this book, I need partners.

A friend and co-worker agreed to be the person to hold me accountable to writing 500 words per day. If she does her part, and I do my part, the book should be written by the holidays. I am grateful to have people in my life who want to help me with this project. Much like the workout thing, one morning it was finally time to move. For book writing, today is that day.

Improve at something 1% each day, and you’ll be twice as good at that thing in 70 days. Improve 1% each day, and at the end of the year you’ll have improved 3,800%.

All it takes is repetition and the will to say yes every day. And like working out and disciplined eating, I can do that.

Which is good.

Because it’s time to scare the hell out of Bruce Lee.

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