Grace in the New Rhythms. Part 4: How to Manage Your Days When You’re Type ADD Instead of Type A

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Perhaps most productive people approach their days like a speed skater — eyes on the goal, undistracted, full-steam ahead. If that’s the case, then I approach my days like a figure skater — twirling and cutting figure 8’s and over-applying lip gloss. And sometimes crashing into the wall because I’m not paying attention.

It’s painful to admit but I’m a Type A wannabe trapped in a distractible Type ADD person. Not in a hyperactive, high-energy way but in a dreamy, overthinking, struggles to complete a task before starting five others kind of way. Instead of conquering goals through a systematic, linear approach, I am sort of…circular. {See above reference to the figure 8s.}

I drive myself crazy with my haphazard ways.

The only thing I can sit down and complete from start to finish without distraction is writing. Believe it or not. But because I have laser focus and intensity while writing, I can easily neglect or forget about other things that need my attention. Things like laundry and housework and eating lunch and picking children up.

Kidding about that last one. Mostly kidding.

I would drown in the depths of the everyday if my Type-ADD-wanting-to-be-Type-A self hadn’t picked up a few hacks along the way. And with each triumph or failure, I continue to pick up more.

So this is the part of the series where I share the love and continue to embarrass myself along the way because who really wants to admit to going about life in such cuckoo ways?

Whether we’re really conscious of it or not, we all tend to develop compensation skills as we move through life. {It’s important to note that “coping skills” are not same thing as “compensation skills.” If Ben and Jerry or pretend online shopping show up on the scene, one might be coping, not compensating. Just thought I’d throw that out there.}

Here’s Marian’s list of personal hacks, the compensation skills I bring along for the person I am and the life I have, not to be confused with the person I wish I was or the life I sometimes wish I had.

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1. What helps me focus? {Since my brain is in overdrive all the livelong day.}

  • Taking notes when I need to really pay attention. {As you can see, I’m a big fan of the bullet point.} If I’m reading a needful article or book, if I’m organizing my thoughts, if I’m studying anything at all, I’ve got my pencil and journal. It’s the only way I don’t drift into Neverland.

 

 

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  • Leaving my phone out of reach. Yeah, my smart phone has actually made my dumber because it has has only contributed to my distractibility and inefficiency. So I choose to sometimes leave it out of reach. I purposely leave it in another room or with the ringer off in my purse. I obviously can’t do this all the time because the school may call with a sick kid. But when everyone’s accounted for and I simply need to read, rest, or get work done, the iPhone gets banished.
  • Not multitasking when I’m doing work that matters. When I do, I’m prone to put dinner on the table and then tell all the kids to brush their teeth because it’s time for dinner and when I say such things, they will look at each other and laugh and say, “Mom, did you mean to say wash your hands instead of brush your teeth? And I will reply Yes — now please do what you know I meant to say and not what I actually said!” Sometimes multitasking is good. I don’t really talk on the phone much but when I do and I’m at home, I use the time to unload the dishwasher or some other dreaded task. But most of the time, multitasking only leads to multi-wreckage instead of increased productivity.

 

2. What helps me complete necessary tasks and goals?

Built-in accountability and deadlines. Plain and simple. I need these things for everything from getting the groceries in a timely manner to studying the Bible. The right amount of “pressure” forces me to accomplish my goals. Some people don’t need much external accountability to be productive. Some of them are even my friends and I’ve envied their efficient, self-startery ways. But we’re all different and I’ve accepted that I absolutely need external accountability for pretty much everything. Here are a a few examples.

  • Get groceries before I have to do something else — like pick up the kids from school. It gives me a built-in timer. Otherwise I will wander the aisles of Walmart like a lost child and buy $4 earrings I don’t need. {Like I did two weeks ago.} This is also why I love Aldi — tiny store, fewer choices, in and out.
  • Going to a Bible study that gives me directed study during the week and the accountability of meeting together. Otherwise I will try to study something on my own but not understand it and not have questions to keep me focused and I will stare, glassy-eyed and distracted, at the same page of Hebrews day-in and day-out. {Like I did this summer.} Or I won’t do it all because I lack direction and discipline.
  • Friends, deadlines, and dressing in workout clothes first thing if I want to work out. So I have done this many different ways depending on my schedule and season of life. I’ve gotten up crazy early to run but only if a friend or friends are waiting on me. Otherwise I will not get out of bed. Right now I’m injured and unable to run and this year’s schedule prevents me from going to the gym crazy early. So I got an early-bird membership at the gym. It’s cheaper but it also means I have to go before 11am, which means I do it in the morning or not at all. Getting dressed in workout clothes first thing tends to help too.

 

3. Compensating for my absent-mindedness. {Which is just downright embarrassing. I forgot my own anniversary last month if that tells you anything.}

  • Set alerts on my phone for everything. From remembering that I have carpool on a certain day to making a doctor’s appointment, my phone is literally my personal assistant.
  • The Weekly Calendar on our fridge. I am obsessive about this. Not because I am organized, but because I am not.
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  • I transfer the schedule from my phone onto the dry-erase calendar at the beginning of each week. Seeing the week in black and white helps all of us to know what’s going on and also allows me to create margin when it’s missing. If I know I’ve got a crazy Thursday, it means I need some margin {code for nap, a nature walk, or a date on the sofa with my book} on Wednesday or Friday or both.  And if the schedule is more jam-packed than I realized, I look at what’s negotiable and try to reschedule or just erase altogether. This is also the place where I write our dinner plans for each night. I can always change it but having a plan is 99% of the battle. Seeing just one week at a time keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. An entire month is a bit much for me.

 

4. Compensating for my utter dread of mundane but necessary tasks. {Like laundry, meal-planning, and cleaning.}

  • Binge-watch a show while you binge-fold the clothes. I am not systematic about laundry. Surprise! I know lots of fine and efficient ways to keep up with it and yet? I do not. The only thing that seems to work is letting it pile up to a reasonable amount {but not to a crazy, overwhelming, I want to go in a closet and cry amount} and then knock it all out in one fell swoop. Besides, this is the only way I’m able to keep up with quality television like Scandal and Parenthood. This is probably a terrible way for most people to do laundry but it works for me.
  • Watch Hoarders when you need to clean the house. Guys, I wish I was joking here. If my husband finds me watching Hoarders while folding clothes on a Saturday, he might say something like, So…I see you’ve got some cleaning planned. That crazy show truly lights a fire under me. I guess fear and disgust are powerful motivators. So is having company over. Oh and I also clean when I’m unbelievably stressed or angry. Basically, if I watched Hoarders every day, planned to have company once a week, and remained in a constant state of anger, my house would positively sparkle. {And let me just say this. If you’re a mom who works outside the home or works from home, consider hiring a house-cleaner. I so believe in this and have done it myself during seasons of work, even though we are not rich. We can’t do it all. Your time and energy may be better spent elsewhere.}
  • Put your kids to work. My boys clean their bathroom on Saturdays. The kids all clean their own rooms but this doesn’t mean they stay tidy. I make them do a clean sweep once a week so things don’t get out of control. Plus they’re learning to help with laundry and the dishes and it really makes a difference. As they get older, they’re contributing more. I don’t do chore charts or a fancy system. It’s more of a “Hey, your room is a mess so please clean it before you can go outside” or “I see you’re playing your iPod and therefore not busy so will you please unload the dishwasher?”
  • Find a meal plan that works for you and use it. There’s no perfect way for everyone. Some people are cook-in-bulk, freezer-meal people. Some of you have each meal written out for a month. Some may do coupons and then plan meals from your stockpile. My own process is pretty simple and has arrived after plenty of trial and error. I wrote about that process here if you’re interested. I don’t do this every month but it’s what I aim for. Because when I do, it saves major time, stress, and money.
  • Make lunches the day before. If I wait until the morning to make lunches, my children leave for school in tears. I’m not a morning person which basically means that I do not want to speak or be spoken to, nor do I want to rush or have to process lots of information. Once I’m awake, morning is my favorite time of day. But the process of waking cannot be rushed without soul-crushing consequences. I’m also not a late-night person. Apparently asking anything of me when I’m tired is just a bad idea. This means I avoid making lunches late at night or early in the morning. Instead I make them in the afternoon or while I’m already in the kitchen with dinner prep. This small accomplishment seems huge in my mind. And on a good day? I put out my boys’ clothes ahead of time too. {All of this to avoid the late-night or early-morning beast.}

 

5. Strike while the iron’s hot. Do the mundane while the iron’s not.

  • Work when your brain is at its best. As a writer, I know when my brain is at its best. I do 95% of my writing between 9am and 1:30 pm. I’ve found that when I spend my morning running errands and don’t get home until late morning or lunch time, I’m tired. My brainpower has lost its edge. So I’ve learned to put off other things and get. to. work. while my brain is at optimal capacity to produce.
  • Save the mundane for when you’re dumb. I can clean the kitchen, tidy the house, and make lunches when my brain has shut down its creative juices. I can do these things while my kids are working on homework at the kitchen table. When my kids first went to school, I thought I had to do all of the housework while they were gone and get my writing done. It never worked and I felt guilty all the time. For some reason, using the daytime to write and study and be a hermit felt wrong and indulgent. But I’ve learned that I actually have to do it this way or both things — my intellectual work and my housework — are done inefficiently and with much grumpiness and distraction.
  • Take advantage of ideas and impulses when they show up. We can’t always do this but I’ve found that when I’m feeling creative, I need to be creative. When I motivated to clean, I need to just stop the world and clean. When I’m inspired to work on the finances, I should. Why? Because I’ll complete the creative task or the cleaning or the budgeting with so much more gusto and efficiency than I would have otherwise. Real life means that we don’t always have the luxury of doing things when we feel like it and that’s not what I’m saying. But for flexible people like me, harnessing the specific energy that’s on the scene can work and it can work well. I wish I’d embraced this sort of life earlier instead of trying to cram unnecessary rigidity into my life and then always feeling guilty.

 

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You might be thinking that Marian actually sounds way more organized and productive than she claims to be. So many tips! So much inspiration! Just ask those who live with me and they’ll set you straight. All of these hacks are very much in process. Forty-one years of process. I don’t always manage my days with these tips in mind. I mismanage each and every day to a certain extent because I’m a person, not a machine. But each day I begin again. Each “failure” provides valuable information for trying a different way next time. And it goes without saying that life is fluid and unpredictable. Needs arise whether we’re prepared or not and days get thrown off course all the time.

The tension comes when we try to impose someone else’s personality onto our days, when we’re blind to our natural bents, or when we freak out each time life throws a curve ball.

Acceptance is always the first step.

For the most part, we can’t change our internal wiring and we definitely can’t change the “interruptions” or emergencies. But we can take a hard look at ourselves and reconcile our tasks and responsibilities with who we are. We can receive our days with grace and acceptance when the unexpected comes calling.

As you move forward into a new season, take inventory or who you are and your family’s needs. Then take inventory of the strategies that work well for you, regardless of how crazy they are. Start slow. Pick one. Hacks and habits don’t overhaul a life all at once. Be mindful of adopting a system that overwhelms you or that’s too complicated.

I have one more post in this “New Rhythms post.” We’re going to talk about the beauty of trial and error. As I’ve written this series, I’ve had some days that have literally blown up in my face. I’ve wanted to stop writing about this topic altogether. But failure provides the best data for each new day and I’m learning to see her as a friend rather than an enemy to my new rhythms.

If grace can’t keep us afloat through the days gone well and the days gone train wreck, we’re tempted to give up altogether or to try harder with clenched fists and teeth bared. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to live in either extreme.

Here’s to a new season and new rhythms upheld by grace.

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I would LOVE to know what works for you as you manage the everyday. What personal hacks and simple solutions have you found? Nothing is too crazy. Go.

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    Just yes to all of this, especially the in process part. I’m still learning how I work best (and sometimes I feel so dumb about that) and I have to remember that. Sometimes I get tied to old ways of doing things instead of being willing to step back and look at where I am in my life RIGHT NOW and what that means for me.

  2. says

    Well shame on me for reading so often and not commenting. Being a blogger, I know better and need to change this! But I just have to tell you I’ve loved this series…I love your blog and your words in general because I can relate to so many things. This one cracked me up with telling the kids to brush your teeth instead of wash your hands. I do this constantly throughout the homeschooling days. They’re always correcting me… I still haven’t figured out how to not multitask within this life, but maybe some day. :) Thanks for the gift of your words!

    • Marian says

      Angela, thank you so much! The life of a homeschooling mom requires a much different approach for sure because you are always multitasking. : ) I’m so glad you’ve benefitted from the series and I appreciate your taking the time to comment. Blessings on you in the new rhythms of this new season.

  3. Kate Howell says

    I really should comment more because I appreciate your words. We are very much alike and I’ve identified with so much of what you write. What seems like a huge accomplishment to me is putting hangers in the laundry room so I don’t keep having to throw my husbands pants and shirts back in the dryer. I have a rack in there to hang them on. I too am learning to embrace trial and error as I learn more and more to live in God’s grace. That keeps me moving forward instead of getting stuck in my own ineptitude. Thanks for sharing your heart.

    • Marian says

      Kate, thanks for your comment. Hangers in the laundry room–such a great, simple idea. : ) I’m glad the series has been an encouragement.

  4. says

    Love these hacks. And I can totally relate about you telling your kids to brush their teeth before dinner. My problem is that I am sometimes so lost in my head and my own thoughts that I occasionally blurt out the things I’m thinking, the family things I’m heading for crazy town. Maybe I am?

    My simple hack is to make a list. I don’t make a daily list, because that makes me feel pressured and stressed. I make weekly list of the things that need to get done and any appointments I have. Then I can stick it on the fridge and check off throughout the week. Sometimes this works. Sometimes, not so much. But it helps, when I can remember where I’ve stuck the list.

    • Marian says

      Gina, I love the weekly list. I am so on-again, off-again with my list-making. I never finish checking off a daily list but I do a bit better with a weekly one. And then I’m a bit more leisurely about checking it off. I think I need to return that model. : )

  5. Aneta says

    Love this series! As someone who feels like I am ADD at times, I make a to do list in my notebook at the beginning of the week (I work from home) , with 2 columns – Home and Work. I also use the ‘pomodoro technique’ when I really feel distracted, which is basically setting the timer for 25 minutes and forcing myself to focus for that long. If I feel distracted during that time, I write down my thoughts (to do items) and carry on till the buzzer rings. I give myself a 5 minute break, and then it’s back to another 25 minute session. It does work (most times 😉

  6. Mom says

    You are writing such real-life wisdom here, girl!

    No hacks to suggest . . . I’ll let you know if I develop some in this “new season.” Just wanted to let you know how much I LOVE reading what you are writing!

    LYF,
    MOM

  7. Lisa says

    Just catching up on the series after a long week with a room full if kindergarteners. As always, I’m totally relating to your words.

    “It’s painful to admit but I’m a Type A wannabe trapped in a distractible Type ADD person. Not in a hyperactive, high-energy way but in a dreamy, overthinking, struggles to complete a task before starting five others kind of way”

    Oh how often I’ve started things only not to finish or I have a brain full of ideas that never materialize because I’m distracted by the “next thing”. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Reading your blog is like having a caramel macchiato with a dear friend!

    .

  8. FancyNancy says

    I think the most profound advice from this post is accepting who you are. And that is not just in running a household. I have been struck over this summer that in many areas of life, we must confront who we are, accept it, and then learn to work with it. I have tried to be Martha Stewart. I have tried to be my cousin. I have tried to be my mother, an aunt, Lady Grantham, and Scarlett O’Hara (I won’t think about that now, I’ll think about that tomorrow). But here you have spelled it out for everyone so beautifully – figure out who you are and how you work best and make that work for you! I remember when my oldest was a baby and cried all day and night. He never wanted to sleep and loved being right with us, and on the go. Trying to get him to go down for a nap was a guilt filled exercise in failure. Then after he cried the entire time our sweet friend S-J was on the phone with me, she said “You know, this schedule thing is designed to make your life easier. If it doesn’t, don’t do it.” And I light went on! I realized then that I needed to work with the child I had. You have to figure yourself, your spouse, and your kids out a little and then work with it. Now, I have to go clean the kitchen before I can read another post….

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