Q&A

We’ve been piling on episodes the last 8 weeks so it’s time to take a break to do a little listener email! This round we’re taking on routines, planning for adaptation and change, home exercise, separating work from personal time at home, taking breaks, clogging tasks, and more! Thanks to all who have written in — please keep ’em coming: questions@takecontroladhd.com.

Links & Notes


Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Pete Wright:
Hello, everybody and welcome to Taking Control, The ADHD Podcast on Rash Pixel FM. I’m Pete Wright and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer. Hello, Nikki.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello, everyone. Hello, Pete.

Pete Wright:
We’re doing some housecleaning today.

Nikki Kinzer:
We’re doing a lot of questions and answers to our best ability.

Pete Wright:
To our best ability. We’ve been doing a lot of shows over the last couple of months now. If time matters to anybody, it’s been a couple of months and we haven’t done a Q&A show in a long time, so we’ve cataloged questions and our dear Discord mom has been helping us to get more questions and clean the house.

Pete Wright:
We’re going to take them all on today and see what we come up with.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right.

Pete Wright:
Before we do that, head over to takecontroladhd.com and get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website, or subscribe to the mailing list and we will send you an email each time a new episode is released. You can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook @takecontroladhd, and if the show has ever touched you or helped you change your life for the better, if you’ve ever found that you understand your relationship with ADHD in a new way, thanks to something that we’ve said, we invite you to consider supporting the show directly through Patreon.

Pete Wright:
Patreon is listener-supported podcasting. With a few dollars a month, you can help guarantee we continue to grow the show, adding features, invest more heavily in our community. Visit patreon.com/theadhdpodcast to learn more. One of the features of the community is access to our Discord Online Members Community which is an amazing place to get support, to give support, to feel like you’re giving back to your own community by helping others in need and also the Brain Playground which was a trip down memory lane this weekend. Thanks to our very own Discord mom and the community who just dominated the Brain Playground with history and just wonderful, wonderful, wonderful contributions, the pictures and the tchotchkes and pets and moustache pictures. It was a treat every single time I turned on the community this weekend. Thank you very much, for Melissa for owning the Brain Playground for the weekend.

Nikki Kinzer:
Can I just say I am so thankful for the accountability groups? Because I’ve been popping in there a lot lately because it’s really been helping focus. It was my focus and just getting things done in a timely manner, not procrastinating and waiting until the last minute. I’m sure nobody here listening understands that …

Pete Wright:
That’s fine.

Nikki Kinzer:
… but I’m just really appreciative of all of the people, including myself who puts them on Discord mom puts them on a lot, Ellie in Discord puts them on a lot. I do Thursday afternoons. It’s just such a benefit to just know that somebody’s out there to possibly work with. I just say thank you, ladies and gentlemen, who joined on and who start those up because it’s really, really helpful.

Pete Wright:
I do want to add a new feature. Thanks to Discord and their constant development. Usually the accountability groups are handled through Zoom and somebody who has a Zoom account will post a Discord link in the accountability channel and people can jump in and join that and it’s free. There’s no cost to do it. It’s all on video, right? Your camera is on. That’s right. It’s the fishbowl. You’re working. You don’t have to have your video on, but most people do. You’re helping each other. Nikki, if Nikki’s running it or if Melissa is running it, they run the timer for Pomodoro.

Pete Wright:
Well, Discord has released video in voice channels in Discord. You’ll notice there are a whole bunch of text channels in our Discord, but there are also voice channels. They have a little speaker next to them. Now you can click on the one of those channels to join the voice channel and turn on video for up to 25 people simultaneously. If you don’t have a Zoom account, you can actually use the new video features right in Discord and turn on a video accountability session, instant session anytime you want.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s awesome.

Pete Wright:
We’ll have them all going at the same time, but it removes one more limitation for folks.

Nikki Kinzer:
Zoom.

Pete Wright:
If you don’t want to sign up for a Zoom account and feel like you can’t join the accountability groups, it’s built right into Discord. If you are in discord, we encourage you to use that. There is an accountability instant session if you’re a deluxe member of the community and I have added the impromptu meeting place for the supreme members of the community. I don’t know if you want to have … We can put accountability groups anywhere we want.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
Hopefully, folks will make use of that. We’d love to see some names floating around those accountability groups going forward. There you go. Thank you again. Check it out at patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. We are honored by your participation. All right, Nikki, Q&A.

Nikki Kinzer:
Q&A. Before we start with the questions, I have a success story that I want to share and I want to, if I was on a mountain, I would scream how proud I am of this young lady. I work with adults with ADHD, but I also work with college students with ADHD. This gal is a PhD student. She just completed her first year. She’s got four more to go. Because of COVID, she had to move from where her college is or university to Florida. She had to live by herself and her dog, her family dog. She had to do this for weeks because we were in quarantine. We all know that when you’re isolated especially by yourself, it can be very challenging, but she continued to work on her school, her research and excel.

Nikki Kinzer:
She had two very cool recommendations come at the end of this year. The first one was she got Student of the Year for the Geo Club. What it said is that … Well, I should say she was recommended. I’m not sure if she got it, but she should get it. I’m saying she got it. For my eyes, she’s Student of the Year. What the reasons were, she was instrumental in keeping the grad student Slack up to date and full of resources for keeping people motivated and on task. She was a great mental health advocate in the department, a wonderful and supportive friend.

Nikki Kinzer:
In response to COVID–19, she created a Slack channel for grad students and postdocs to stay in touch and maintain a sense of camaraderie. Through this forum, she helped organize volunteer activity, celebrations, virtual social events and study home, right? That was one of the things that she was able to do is get people that she’s going to school with, other fellow students to work in these Study Halls together so they could push each other and motivate each other, inspire each other. Then after this, she was also nominated to be one of the three presidents of the club for next year and she is taking that position on.

Nikki Kinzer:
Very proud of her and she’s a great example of thriving. Let me get you … I don’t want to get anybody comparison trap because she has struggled and this has not been easy, but it is such a success and I’m so proud of her. I just think she’s an inspiration for people who are having a difficult time that you just keep working, you keep trying, you set up the systems that you need to to help you and you can get through that first year of PhD doctorate school.

Pete Wright:
I love it. Congratulations.

Nikki Kinzer:
Anyway, I wanted to start with that.

Pete Wright:
What a great way to start. Let’s dig into our first question. I want to make sure that this is a question we wanted to take on. The question was, “I’d suggest modifying the planning and routines when nothing is routine question to ensure that it’s not too corona specific. At least to me, this is a problem in all situations when I don’t have external sources of routine and structures, vacations, holidays, etcetera.” I think I understand that question.

Nikki Kinzer:
I think so too. What I said is I’m just going to make sure I knew what they were talking about. You clarified that and so did Melissa that it was just really the title, that just making sure that it wasn’t specific to just COVID, but I agree. I don’t think it is just specific to that experience. I would say that anything that was tagged under COVID, under our library could be relevant to anything, right? You’ve got a high stressful situation that you’re dealing with. We have shows about that on, yes, how to deal with COVID, but you can always transfer that context into something else, right and be able to use those tools. Yes, I agree. It’s certainly relevant to a lot of people at any time.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, I think so. I absolutely agree with that. I think that it’s important to remember that there are going to be few things in the whole series that are so unique to COVID in our experience that it should at some point be obvious that this is not a day-to-day thing, although we’re going to talk about later, there’s a lot we don’t know about what’s coming down the road. Who knows what’s going to be relevant or not? I think the real trick is it’s hard to plan and adapt when you’re not your own best hall monitor, when you don’t have work and external schedules to influence your day. How do you do it by yourself?

Pete Wright:
My response to that is yes, it is really hard and we should, absolutely, all of us continue to work on our muscles of adaptation and flexibility to make sure that we can continue to thrive.

Nikki Kinzer:
Which goes into our next question.

Pete Wright:
Right. “What can we do to plan for a return to ‘normal life’ when that finally happens? For me, that’s going to be just as hard, if not harder than it was adjusting to suddenly being at home.”

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, what I have to say about that is, first of all, I read this and I had to like actually process and think about it before I put my response because this is a tough question. I’m not sure that you can plan, which as we have talked about before, that drives me crazy personally because we don’t know what that normal is going to look like. Life as we knew it back in the beginning of the year, I don’t know when we’re going to look like that. Again, I think that we’re lucky in the sense that we’re opening up again but in phases. It’s a little bit like, “Okay, phase one, how do I adjust to this? Phase two, what am I comfortable with?”

Nikki Kinzer:
I think at this point right now because we don’t know what fall and winter is going to look like, for me anyway, personally, I’m just taking it day by day and seeing what is today about and what can I do today. That transition is difficult for everyone and I just hope that we take care of ourselves, we take care of our mental health. We’re doing what we can do to handle that uncertainty and adjustments because we just don’t know. It’s such a hard question to answer.

Pete Wright:
I think this is a hard wall to climb because I deeply do not believe that we will return to normal. I think this is normal. What we have now is going to be normal for not weeks or months but years going forward. I think that is what we are planning for. We’re planning for growing a new muscles around being able to adapt to whatever comes ahead, right? We just don’t know. It’s a wall of fog. I interviewed the knowledge management guy behind a massive New York-based law firm. It’s about a mile from the World Trade Center location. He has been there for 25 years. He’s been through Sandy and 911 and now COVID and Katrina in the Gulf Coast.

Pete Wright:
He’s got 25,000 attorneys working in locations around the world and his job is to make sure that they can all communicate with one another. When asked a very similar question, he said, “Just plan to not be there. Wherever there is, you have to plan so that you can do anything you need to do anywhere in the world you might be whenever you need to do it.” For his firm, that’s having the right information when you need it, but what do you, you and me and all of us need to put into place so that we are as adaptable wherever we are for whatever the world throws at us?

Pete Wright:
We are going to go back into self-isolation and quarantine again. By all rights, we will not all do it at the same time. That adds another layer of complication to what is happening in the world because we won’t all in fact be in it together. There will be isolated pockets around the world of people who are having to dealing with hotspots and having to isolate and protect one another. What do you need to do to develop the adaptation skill to be able to survive and thrive and take care of yourself and take care of others? This is a whole new thing that we have to figure out how to do.

Pete Wright:
Honestly, I don’t mean this as a downer kind of conversation, but I really believe that we will have a chance to develop a tank of optimism as soon as we give up trying to return to January and start planning for whatever comes next in June, July, August, September because the world has changed on us and the world constantly changes. This one just happened fast. We can do it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, it did. I hope too that … It did. If you think about it happens so fast within a week, we were shut down and governors were shutting schools down very quickly and all of this stuff happened so fast. I hope that when you look at just even the transition piece, we know what to expect, right? We’ve seen the worst. Well, I don’t know if we’ve seen the worst, but we saw the worst back in March of what can happen here. I think there has to just be a little bit of confidence too that you have gone through it before, you’re going to be able to get through it again, whatever that looks like.

Pete Wright:
Not to assume that our worst is the same as everybody’s worst. Rural communities are being decimated right now.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
Hospitals are overrun. Even as big cities like New York are seeing their curve come down, we have to be aware of that. If you’re just reading your local community news, I know here we’re doing relatively okay. It is terrible for those who are going through it, but we haven’t been hit by what many of our small rural, small towns are being destroyed by right now in terms of cases overrunning resources. We can’t assume that our experience is generalized. It goes miles toward being able to adapt as soon as you can start empathizing.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right because you have to think about if you talk to a family who lost a family member, who lost two family members, who’ve lost coworkers, whatever it is, they’re going to have a very different experience. Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
I don’t know that that necessarily gets to the nut of the question, but I think it will go toward feeling like you’re able to be flexible as soon as you-

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
This whole normal thing, this is life. This is life.

Nikki Kinzer:
You’ll be able to get through it.

Pete Wright:
We’ll get through it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Whatever it is, you’re going to be able to get through it.

Pete Wright:
It just won’t look like before.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, you’re not alone. All of the feelings that you’re feeling, you’re going to find somebody that feels those too. I really believe too we’re not dealing with this alone. We are all dealing with it. It’s all new and it’s all uncharted territory.

Pete Wright:
Next question, “The ADHD mind, at least my mind, tends to think in extremes. Over the coming months, we will be asked to partially work from home, go out to restaurants where tables are spaced apart or to travel for family work events. What are some ways we can help ourselves be flexible as the world asks us to tiptoe back into a partially open world?”

Nikki Kinzer:
A lot of what we just said, but I have to say my first sentence when I wrote my notes on this is patience, kindness, an open mind and an open heart. Please, please be nice to the service workers and to the people around you. Like we said, we are all going through this together. This is uncharted territory for everyone. Everyone has a story and no one really knows what someone else is going through. We are all, I think all, being called to be flexible right now and to care for one another. Be a good example to other people.

Nikki Kinzer:
If the grocery store line is long, I know it sucks but if you don’t want to be in that line, then just leave and go a different time, but don’t get mad at the workers. Don’t get mad at the people that are in front of you. Just be kind to each other. I know that sounds maybe, I don’t know, World peace …

Pete Wright:
Pollyanna.

Nikki Kinzer:
… but I just think it’s so important that we smile at each other and we’re just going into this with patience and kindness.

Pete Wright:
I will say beware of your eyes because I’m wearing a mask everywhere when I go outside and it strikes me that eyes tell a lot, and even when I’m normally smiling to people, I’m generally not smiling enough to make my eyes do anything of note over the mask.

Nikki Kinzer:
Different.

Pete Wright:
I have to really be aware to say hello in a kind tone and a kind voice to make sure that I’m communicating what my face would normally be communicating. That means a lot. The other thing I find people mad about especially when they’re in a grocery store, the reports that I’m hearing is people were so irate, they take it out on the service workers, they take it out on the cashiers, whatever. What they’re really taking it out on is the fact that the grocery store was not designed when grocery stores were designed to be amenable to a COVID universe.

Nikki Kinzer:
Pandemic.

Pete Wright:
Right. That’s what you’re really mad about, right? Let’s just figure out what it is that we’re really upset about and channel that into maybe a more productive, less antagonistic experience because it’s hard. It’s hard not to feel strongly when you go out into the world right now. Whether you’re feeling exuberance, like the kids in the beaches, the families in the beaches this weekend or if you’re feeling fear, it’s hard not to feel those extremes, especially for, I agree that ADHD mind feels extremes.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
Next question. “It would be great to talk about exercising during the pandemic. Nikki Kinzer, for a lot of people, not just ADHDers, used to rely on workout partners or gym classes to stay in shape. Also, a lot of us don’t have equipment at home which is why we went to the gym or joined a sports club in the first place. What have folks done to adapt to exercising from home? What are some common struggles? Also, what successes have people had in recreating the social component of exercising?”

Nikki Kinzer:
Right now, in phase one or phase two, I don’t know what it is, depending on where you live, there is good news that if you are comfortable, some of these gyms and sports clubs are opening back up. If you’re not comfortable, then you’re going to need to get creative. A lot of people have gotten creative in the last few weeks. If you even just do a simple Google search, you’re going to find several exercise classes that you can do on video. Your cable or streaming service probably has lots of different things on demand that you can watch.

Nikki Kinzer:
It doesn’t really help the social piece, but it does help you getting some of that exercise inside of your home, but simply just going outside and walking can make a big difference. Meet a friend, practice social distancing, but you can still walk or jog or have a workout in the park. I know I worked with a trainer when this first started happening and he said that what he’s doing is he’s just moving his clients to the park, so there’s still social distancing, but they’re outside which is safer. Then, he can direct their workouts that way.

Nikki Kinzer:
There are lots of things you can do without workout equipment. You just get a mat and some weights and you can be good to go. Many of the parks are open right now, especially if you’re looking at like that type of social distancing thing. Hiking is another option that I know a lot of people did. I have a great little couple that I work with. I say little, they’re not little, but they’re older and they’re just so sweet. They do their 10:00 Zoom every day at 10:00 and it’s the same class that they did in the gym. The instructor just gets on Zoom and they are in their living rooms and they’re doing the Zoom class which is nice because you get the exercise, but you still get the social piece as much as you can which is good.

Nikki Kinzer:
I would say, even if you have a workout partner too, set up a Zoom meeting with the partner and get creative. You guys can bounce ideas off of each other, all kinds of things. I think you just have to be creative and maybe find one person that you can buddy up with and see what you can do.

Pete Wright:
My sister-in-law, actually she’s a personal trainer and fitness coach. She leads a bunch of classes and she moved all of her stuff on Zoom. You can actually from anywhere. My wife and son just got out of our garage. They go into the garage and they set up an iPad and they watch the class on Zoom and they do the whole class in the garage. I think that is an adaptation, right? That’s a thing that they can do together. I’ll post the link. She does it for everybody, right? She’s got a library of these courses. That’s really exciting. I think, order a set … You say you don’t have any equipment. I totally get that. Order a set of resistance bands. They’re cheap. Get them on Amazon and they’re easy.

Nikki Kinzer:
They’re great for you.

Pete Wright:
Get the one with the door attachment. You can do it anywhere. With a little bit of YouTube foo, you can find exactly the workout that’s going to work for you. Explore bodyweight exercises, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
We totally underestimate the power of body weight exercise routines and yoga and those kinds of things for-

Nikki Kinzer:
Basic. What is it? Is it base camp? Whatever those trainings, like push ups and pull ups and sit ups, all of those basic exercises that you can do on your just body.

Pete Wright:
Squats, push ups, pull ups if you could do those three.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
It’s hard if you don’t have the pull up bar, but you can get one of those too. They’re not expensive Amazon orders and find a doorway, put up a bar, put your resistance bands and you can do a lot to keep yourself in shape. My daughter, she’s no longer a senior in high school, weird, but she sets up a 2:00 exercise session with a couple of her swim team friends and they do it on FaceTime every day in the garage, and then, they’ll all go out for a run at the same time and then come back and check in and do a team call. There’s a lot you can do.

Nikki Kinzer:
My daughter is doing that too with a couple of friends.

Pete Wright:
It’s really valuable. For me, you put me in a social situation with somebody else, that’s a recipe for me to stop exercising completely. I don’t care for it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, it’s funny because I see what you say here. You said, “I have never liked the social aspect of exercise.” I have to tell you I’m right there with you. I don’t know if I would really be chitty chatty exercising with a group of people I don’t know anyway. I don’t know. I guess everybody is different, but-

Pete Wright:
Well, in my family, I’m the isolated person. Everybody else loves the social aspect and I can’t stand it. I’m one of those people that I am much more conservative when it comes to going back to the gym. I feel like …

Nikki Kinzer:
I am too.

Pete Wright:
… my experiences and in reading the some of the research it is that those places that huffing and puffing and heavy breathing and sweating and all of that stuff, I wait to see what kinds of accommodations they put into place for making those kinds of facilities work in a post-COVID world.

Nikki Kinzer:
Anyway, in our part of the country, it’s starting to get spring or it’s starting to get to be summer, a nicer weather. If you can just move those things outside like some of the classes, gosh, then I would do it in a heartbeat because you’re outside and it’s nice, but I worry about that too. Everybody has their own comfort zone, so we’re not here to judge.

Pete Wright:
“What are good strategies for separating work from personal time?”

Nikki Kinzer:
This has been a question that I have actually had to deal with a lot with my current clients over the last few months because of working from home. Couple suggestions that I have, if possible, have a dedicated room for just working and preferably have one with a door. When you’re in that space, you work you associate it with working, and then once you leave, you can close that door and now you’ve transitioned to home. However, I still think that it’s worth having a little bit of time to transition. Even if you can take a walk or just go outside and take a few deep breaths before you come back in, almost like pretend like you’re coming back into the house like coming from work, have that buffer time, whatever you need to and use it like as a commute like what you would do during your regular commute.

Nikki Kinzer:
Give yourself that time to settle from one role to the other. That’s one thing is just really separating where you work. If you don’t have a place in your home that has a door even if it’s a corner or something that you can just associate with work and maybe stay in the same place. I don’t know, I say that, but now I say it and I think, “Well, that’s boring. You might want to move around.”

Pete Wright:
Right. That’s the biggest struggle that I have when I’m dealing with this. For me, there’s the time, and then, there’s the place constraints, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
The time constraints, I really am a routine guy, but I am fine being flexible as long as I’m gating my time right. If I am doing something at 7:00 in the morning, then I just really have to be conscientious about taking lunch and then taking breaks and then ending the day at 4:00, 4:30. If I’m doing something at 4:00 in the afternoon, then I have to start my day a little bit later because I know I’m going to be working into the evening. I try to really be aware of my time and I do it all zealously on my calendar. It is minute to minute booked because I have to do that. That’s just the way my brain works.

Pete Wright:
The thing that I suffer with the most is having too few places to go work to the point where I’ll get in the car and go drive to a parking lot and sit and work for a little while if I just write something or do an edit or something because usually, I go to a coffee shop. Down the hill, I go sit someplace with a cup of coffee and I actually get some work done. That has been a real struggle for my day to day.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, I think you make a really good point though around the time. I think it is being really intentional with how you’re using your time during the day, protecting your boundaries that you’re so good at gaiting your time. Pete, I hope that people see that, that doing that helps with the whole … It helps with separating work from personal time when you have those boundaries set and you’re able to really follow through with them. You and I have been doing this for such a long time. I forget, I was talking to a friend of mine over the weekend who is just now working from home for the first time.

Nikki Kinzer:
Some of the things that she was struggling with, I’m like, “Well, I don’t struggle with that,” because we have been doing it for so long that there is a definite way of figuring out how to do it without spending so much time at work. It’s interesting because like I was even saying, when I go to work, I don’t think about the dishes. I don’t think about the laundry being done. I know you do some things in between to break it …

Pete Wright:
Yeah, I use them as sprint timers.

Nikki Kinzer:
… but I don’t. I completely block it out. I’m just, “I’m at work.” Then when I’m not working, I shut the door. I turn all the lights off and I’m not at work. I’ve just trained myself to really think of it that way. It’s hard though when you are just now put in a situation that you’re not used to and that’s working from home.

Pete Wright:
Well, I want to bundle in the next question, which is, “Is there a good structure for taking breaks during the day?”

Nikki Kinzer:
I am a big believer of breaks for the ADHD mind and for the non-ADHD mind, but I think it’s amazing how beneficial they really are when you do them, but it’s so easy not to. I think it’s something that people have to play with. One of the comments that I got from Study Hall, because we do the 25-minute, five minute break, I had a comment and she was saying, “I can’t believe how helpful those breaks really were. I never really associated productivity with having a break.” I think it’s the opposite of what we’re so used to. We think we have to work, work, work, work, work to be the most productive, but to pull back is hard.

Nikki Kinzer:
I think that one of the places I would start is the Pomodoro Method, the 25 minutes of focused work, take a five minute break, just get up stretch, whatever. Maybe for you, it’s better to do work for 45 minutes with a 15-minute break or 10 minutes with a five minute break. I don’t know. You have to figure this out for yourself, but make a game out of it and see what works best for you. I think it’s always a good time to take a break whenever you’re feeling distracted. I know that, and I’m not talking about just normal like every day or normal distractions, but when it’s so bad like you can’t concentrate, it’s so hard to focus because you’re thinking about this or the buzzing is really annoying you and that’s all you can concentrate on, it’s time to take a break, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
When you really can’t get anything done, take a break. So many people don’t take lunch breaks, but I really highly suggest that you do, especially when you’re working from home. Set a timer for a lunch break, even if it’s just 30 minutes. They can be a really important part of your day. They can increase your productivity because you’re not forcing yourself to do something that you just can’t do at that moment.

Pete Wright:
“I tend to put off tasks for months, and then when I end up doing them, they take a very small amount of work, maybe only 10 to 20 minutes, but there’s an embarrassment factor that prevents me from doing it. What are good strategies for overcoming this fear, embarrassment, especially given that there are fewer coping mechanisms available? By that, I mean, sometimes I would go to a coffee shop to get such tasks done, changing context.”

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
We’re just talking about that. That’s big for me too. What do you think?

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, the first thing that came to my mind about this is prevention. Is there a way to actually prevent this task into becoming an embarrassment factor? What I would first look at is what are the kinds of tasks, identify those tasks that could be a risk of being this embarrassment factor. Most likely, they deal with other people because that’s what you’re embarrassed around or about or whatever. When you get a risky task, when it comes your way, how can you set yourself up for success. I think it’s about looking at the strategies that you’ve learned. We talked about getting started. I write about getting started.

Nikki Kinzer:
The listeners out there probably have 10 books on ADHD and probably one chapter in each book about how to get started. I think look at the strategies that you’ve learned and put them in practice. It could be an accountability person. It could be putting a deadline on the task, body doubling, those Study Halls work tremendous for these kinds of things, reward yourself during the task or right after the task, but I think that maybe trying to prevent them and having less of them can be really helpful.

Nikki Kinzer:
Those tasks that you have now that are risky, I would say lean into it and do what you need to do to get them off your list. Maybe it’s giving an update to someone and just letting them know where you are with the project or if you do need to apologize about something being late, go ahead and do that, but some communication is always better than none. I would try to just figure out how to get it done and then follow up with that person, so that they know that you’re working on it.

Pete Wright:
This is for me, it’s a definition of a clogging task, right? It’s that task …

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, definitely.

Pete Wright:
… it may be as big in my head as it is in real life, but it probably isn’t. It feels bigger than it is. When I finally get to it, I’m usually surprised at how easy it was, and then, I’m shamed at not having done it sooner and the added feeling of frustration there that it’s likely gotten in the way of other work that I should have been doing as well. It’s clogged. I need to find a way to unclog it. I think what you’ve said about communication is huge. Sometimes you can unclog it just enough by reaching out to the person that is most directly impacted by this task and saying, “I’m sorry. I’m not finished with this yet. I know it was already due. I know maybe it puts us behind schedule. I’m going to do my best. I just need you to know that this is where I am right now.” That may be the first and best step for you.

Pete Wright:
For me, I have to find momentum, right? I have to find momentum where I can start work on it before I give myself a chance to judge myself with it, right? For me, that’s early in the morning. Set my alarm for earlier than I would normally wake up, roll out of bed, have what I need to do, throw in some sweats, have what I need to do to start the task so fast that my head isn’t completely clear yet from sleep. I know it sounds crazy, but I start the thing before I have a chance to second guess starting the thing.

Nikki Kinzer:
Good. It’s smart, really.

Pete Wright:
Well, it is an accommodation that works for me to trick my own brain and body into working through things that I generally struggle with. Before breakfast, before coffee, whatever, just start before you wake up. Sounds crazy, but for me, it’s worked wonders. There you go.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right.

Pete Wright:
“In an environment that has no isolated space to work, hubs and I are both work from home and share an office which is the sunroom with no door. How can I best close off my surroundings visually and mentally so that I can focus? I’ve really struggled with this a lot. Yes, the most logical thing would be to move to another room. I do have a laptop. However, we’re both coders, developers and need multiple monitors and use of the office printer, etcetera. Suggestions?” I love this one.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, it’s hard because a lot of “people’s normal,” I say that in quotes, work environments is this, right? They’re in a big huge room with a bunch of cubicles that are divided with these little half walls and you hear everything and everybody. This is definitely one of those questions that doesn’t necessarily need to be like COVID related, but in my idea for her specifically, if there’s anything way you can vary your work schedule and I don’t know if that’s possible or not, just so that you’re not in the same room all the time. Maybe if you could even just take a different lunch break, even just having that hour might help.

Nikki Kinzer:
If you’re sitting there saying, “What lunch break?” well, one, I would say take one because we just talked about breaks, but the other is that even if it’s just an hour of you working in a different room doing something else, I don’t know what’s possible or what’s not, but just even having some time where you’re in there by yourself. You can get creative too. You could build some kind of wall. I say that and I totally think of like, Trump.

Pete Wright:
Totally.

Nikki Kinzer:
Build a wall with boxes. One of the things that came to my mind was hanging a blanket across the room.

Pete Wright:
You know what you get? You get a moving blanket. You know those insulated blankets that are super thick and they use them in moving trucks?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
Right. That is a great blanket to get because it’s thick and padded, insulated, and it’s totally sound deadening.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, that’s a great idea.

Pete Wright:
I know so many at-home engineers over the last eight weeks who have gotten those moving blankets to deaden their office space, so that they can actually have quiet rooms for recording. That’s a huge benefit. You can put some hooks in those big moving blankets and hang them from your ceiling between you. That will go a long way to deaden sound.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s a great idea. I love that. I think the mental part is hard because you’re listening to everything and everything’s around you. I would say headphones, white noise, taking some, again, small breaks when it’s just too much and you can’t focus at all. I know you have some notes written here about some different headphones. What are your thoughts around that?

Pete Wright:
For me, it really is all around sound, but I spend a lot of my time with headphones on anyway, so I adapted. I use ATH-M50X’s, their older model, but I’ve had them forever. Super comfortable, closed back headphones. They’re over the ear with nice comfortable cups. If you don’t have a nice set of over-the-ear, not your earbuds just over-the-ear comfortable headset, it’s worth doing, it’s worth finding something that works for you. I really agree on the different schedules, but I definitely add ambient soundtracks, explore headspace or trance music, EDM, any Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross soundtrack. They’re all great working tracks for me.

Pete Wright:
I have to have something in my head to really be able to find focus. For me, if I am able to conquer the sound, then the visual element usually follows. I can’t start with the visual stuff because I find the sound too important. I can put up all the dividers in the world, if I can still hear somebody typing and I’m in that sensory overload mode-

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s all you hear.

Pete Wright:
It’s all I hear. I have to start with sound. That’s for me. The other thing is make sure that you’ve oriented your desk and your monitors, so your back is to your partner. If you can see your partner out of the corner of your eye, then you’re not turned far enough away. You got to fashion yourself a cockpit, right? That will help. Blankets, good headphones, breaks, shifted schedule, all of those things, that’s where I’d start.

Nikki Kinzer:
Great.

Pete Wright:
All right. “What steps can I take to improve my ability to plan ahead for near-term certainties? Obviously, there’s no shame in taking things one day at a time during a pandemic, but in general, I find that if I’m planning for an upcoming event or project, I either, a, spend way too much time planning and fall down a rabbit hole or, b, avoid planning altogether. Either way, it usually turns out that whatever prep work I had done ends up not being even being needed to complete the project or to be prepared for the event. I’ve usually neglected to account for something that was actually important. While it’s fine to just jump in with both feet on a school project or work project, there are other things in life like starting a family that you really don’t want to just wing as you go.”

Pete Wright:
Ironic that you’d say you really don’t want to wing as you go when and that’s my central memory of starting a family is just winging it.

Nikki Kinzer:
There’s never enough preparation to deal with that until you’re right in it. We won’t even talk about that because-

Pete Wright:
I’m not done. I’m not done talking about it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, you’re not.

Pete Wright:
Oh, I’m talking about it again later.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, no, I’m not talking about the question, but starting a family. It’s like that’s just crazy. That’s crazy talk. You can’t plan for that. I’m actually going to do a little bit of education here for our listeners, planning an organization or two, executive functions that ADHDers are challenged with. As you notice, a lot of what we’ve been asked is around planning because this is a hard thing to do. What this question is describing is exactly what’s happening is it’s hard to know the right steps to get to the goal that you’re looking to achieve and how much time to spend on each step. It is definitely a challenge with this executive function.

Nikki Kinzer:
Any other executive functions, just like working memory, we need to find in a combination that’s going to help you with planning. If the goal is to prevent this scenario from happening, again, where you’re planning too much or not planning the right stuff, I think it really starts with getting support. ADHDers are verbal processors. Find somebody to go over whatever project or whatever it is that you’re working with, even starting a family.

Pete Wright:
Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
Talk to somebody about what your thoughts are and brainstorm the end vision, "What is it that I’m looking to accomplish and then work with that person to break down the steps that it’s going to take to get there, but also be really clear of the expectations of what you’re trying to achieve or if you’re doing this for someone else, what do they want you to do, so that you can avoid working on the wrong thing. I think it’s processing what’s being asked, double checking what the vision is, figuring out the steps of what has to happen and really getting clear expectations of what’s expected.

Nikki Kinzer:
Then throughout the project or whatever it is you’re working on, keep checking in and reviewing your plan. Are things working the way that you expected them to? I can probably tell you that 90% of the time they won’t. You are going to have to change and change course or need to adjust things, but that’s something I just wanted people to understand is that this planning an organization is an executive function. That’s why it’s so hard and you’re not crazy. It’s part of ADHD and getting that extra support can go a long, long way.

Pete Wright:
I love all of that and I would just throw in that it pains me to hear anybody say, “The work that I did in this area of the project was unneeded.” I would encourage you to recondition yourself around that language. It may have taken you a long way around to get to what you eventually did, but there is such value to the work in general when … It could be that the work you were doing in this area just helped your brain to attune to the project. It could be that … You won’t ever know how that work on this area of the project, help you finish this area of the project.

Pete Wright:
I just feel like learning to value the process of learning and contributing and doing the work, it will pay off. It will pay off at some point. As for the baby thing and I’m not done with that, remember Jurassic Park? Remember Ian Malcolm? Life finds a way. Just keep your eyes open and you’ll be amazed at what you can learn through osmosis, so more on that in a minute.

Nikki Kinzer:
Fantastic.

Pete Wright:
Next question, “When faced with a large, complex, nebulous, ill-defined project, how do you figure out which parts are actually important and which parts are rabbit holes without spending so much time analyzing the situation that your brain gives up and convinces you to ignore the project entirely? Naturally, I get it. Personally, I’m most interested in specifically how to prep my already disorganized life for a baby.” Another baby question, Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
A baby question.

Pete Wright:
“Without ending up in endless Pinterest boards of nursery designs and know actually important things taken care of.” Now, we answered some of that question, but I have more. If you want to-

Nikki Kinzer:
You have more.

Pete Wright:
I noticed this-

Nikki Kinzer:
Just add.

Pete Wright:
This is what Nikki’s note says, “Baby prep …”

Nikki Kinzer:
All I have to say is I’m glad there wasn’t Pinterest when I was having my kids.

Pete Wright:
Hallelujah. Please, new parents, close Pinterest. It’s not going to help you. It will not help you. It is the equivalent in our language of buying orders and organizing supplies before you’ve sorted your stuff, right? It’s not useful. There are experts out there who will tell you literally what to do next, right? Attend any and all prebaby courses that are offered at your hospital. For our first, our nurse manager in the maternity ward was indispensable because whenever she was walking by us in the hospital anywhere, she would tell us, “Here’s the next thing you need to do. Don’t think about anything else, do this next thing.” We would do that thing and you know what? I have a high school graduate now.

Pete Wright:
It’s amazing how just doing the next thing and listening to the experts will help you with this. The other thing I think is strip away any of the trappings of your vision of what new parenthood is. I think you’ll be stunned at how little you actually need to bring a new baby into the home, right? Master the simplest things, right? Master those things in plain white rooms because you know who doesn’t care about your nursery design? Your baby. They could not care less about what your nursery looks like at all.

Pete Wright:
I feel like triage your actions according to two steps, if you can remember these two steps. What is your baby need to thrive? That’s food, sleep and stimulation. Two, what do you need to thrive? Hint, food, sleep stimulation, right? If you could do those things, Pinterest will be of no use to you at all. They’re just trappings. Everything else will come in time. Now that I’ve said all that about baby prep, can you extend that triage to your ADHD brain for any of your other projects that you have to do? I think you probably can. Let baby prep be a metaphor.

Nikki Kinzer:
A standard?

Pete Wright:
Right, for how you live your life.

Nikki Kinzer:
The three things you need.

Pete Wright:
It is.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s true though.

Pete Wright:
Well, it truly has and I think … The next question, if I can just steamroll into the next question because it’s the same thing. Here’s the question, "What are some strategies to use when we chronically feel like we have to put in extra time at work because we’ve gotten distracted on the job, emotional rabbit holes, getting lost in unnecessary details, daydreaming, etcetera? My employer has recently amped up and he’s internally publishing productivity monitoring, processing numbers, logging nonquantifiable minutes, phones that record rings, time on call interaction, even what you say while the caller is holding. Thanks to this show, Nikki’s question and to other fellow ADHDers.

Pete Wright:
I’m successfully using some great time monitoring and awareness strategies and apps, time tracking sheets, toggle, stopwatch. I know the quality of the work I do is excellent, but quantity and speed is lacking or not quantifiable. How can I get past feeling that I’m not doing enough? I find myself sneaking in up to an hour a day. It was much more in past salaried positions." I’m heartbroken at this question and I feel like … I’m prone to make some overly zealous judgment calls at the employer. This is pretty old-fashioned motivational monitoring techniques.

Nikki Kinzer:
I thought so too. It’s pretty extreme.

Pete Wright:
It is extreme.

Nikki Kinzer:
One thing that I do want to really emphasize is not so much what the employer is expecting, if what she’s saying is so true with so many of my clients is that, “I don’t feel like I’m doing what I need to do during the day, so I need to bring home work. I need to do it in the evening. I need to do it on the weekends just to make up for what I didn’t get done.” There’s two things here that I want to address, but I’m curious, Pete. I actually left my notes empty because this is really tough. I know that a lot of people struggle with it. I was curious to get your viewpoint on it.

Pete Wright:
Well, apart from it being frustrating, I also have obviously felt that way. I’m always doing this catch up when I’m in heavy duty project mode, but daily, just like the daily work activity, I zeroed in on, “Are you overdoing it with your expectation of quality?” If you know you’re doing great work, your work may be excellent, but if that’s coming at the expense of what your employer actually wants, which is, let’s say, speed, then you’re the one that’s out of balance here, right? The muscle to build is one that allows you to simplify what you do to get the job done and open the door to doing more work.

Pete Wright:
I abhor thinking in terms of any guidance that asked if you’re doing too good of a job, right? It’s like you’re putting too much time and attention, but that’s a reality for us and that attention to quality can lead to more and deeper rabbit holes and more often than not, not really any better work. I always go back to Henry David Thoreau, right? “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” Go read Walden. You hear that trope on TV where you’re in an interview situation, you say, “What is your greatest fault?” The interviewee thinks or usually goes and talks to their wacky roommates and then comes back and says, “My greatest fault is I care too much.”

Pete Wright:
Well, that’s so dumb. It’s so dumb, but it could also be true for us, right? It could also be a sign that this job is not a good fit for you, that if you’re getting stuck in too many unnecessary details and rabbit holes, that could legit be a sign that you’re doing the job you want to be doing and not the job you are hired to do and that I think is a gap that you have to address because I know a lot of people living with ADHD who don’t look at what exactly this question is as a constraint because they love what they do, right? They love the job that they are paired with doing. That’s the gap to close. I think it could be all but impossible to do it in a situation where you’re just not tuned for the work.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s a good point. The other thing that I would say or add, something that I talk to my clients about with this is that I have to ask me, are you on some kind of performance plan? Have you been talked to about your work? What’s making you think that you have to do this over time? I would say probably eight out of 10 times, Pete, they have not been talked to. No one is even addressing any of it. It’s all what they think isn’t working or their expectations aren’t being met. I think it’s important to step back and see, is that what’s happening? Are you okay with closing shop at 5:00? Is anybody going to say something to you that you didn’t get that extra hour or two in? Are they even going to notice? Is it worth the stress and the guilt and the shame and everything that comes with it?

Nikki Kinzer:
I think it’s also just really taking a step back and looking at it from the outside and what’s really going on. You will burn out if you continue to work 10, 12 hours a day, weekends, whatever it is you’re going to do. Unfortunately, I’ve seen clients who burn out and then they shut down and they’re not able to do anything. That’s much worse for your health. There’s a lot of components to this, I think, to look at.

Pete Wright:
Well, I also think that if you find something because you can burn out anywhere. We’ve had a whole show on burning out and that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you could burn out at it. I could maybe burn out from eating nachos. I’ve never gotten there, but I could. I can see a time when I could. I do think that it is easier to take breaks to close up at the end of the day when you’re doing a job you love because you’re excited to come back to it the next day. It’s easier to set better smarter boundaries around the work that you love because you’re probably more efficient at it, you’re probably coming at it more creatively. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to be recharged. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to take care of yourself and get good sleep and eat.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, let me ask you this, if you know that you’re going to take longer than maybe what the supervisor expects you to, what are your thoughts about letting them know, “Yes, this takes longer for me, but you’re also going to get a great product or you’re going to get the results that you want”?

Pete Wright:
I think that that conversation would be very hard to have with a supervisor who has set up a metric for a certain pace.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, especially with this …

Pete Wright:
This question.

Nikki Kinzer:
… with this situation, but let’s not take that because that’s definitely to the extreme. What if you haven’t … I know this is like a what if, but I know too many people that-

Pete Wright:
Right. We’re fixing the world, #fixtheworldherewithnikki.

Nikki Kinzer:
There’s just too many people that are in this situation that they’re not under the metrics like this is. Maybe they’re not even under the metrics like a lawyer where they have to …

Pete Wright:
Every billable, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
… account for every minute that they do, but I’m just curious, your thoughts of opening that up. You personally think that maybe you’re not doing as fast of work as other people in the office and so you’re feeling behind. Would it be a smart thing to say to the supervisor, “Hey, I know that I’m not as fast as so and so or so and so, but I am still producing this good work. I still care very much about what I do,” or maybe you don’t even need to have that conversation. It’s been brought up.

Pete Wright:
If you’re having that conversation, then you also have to be open to them saying, “You know what? You are doing great work, and in any other role, that might be a thing to really celebrate, but the challenge we have here is we have certain assumptions that we start with and you’re not meeting those assumptions.” You have to be open to hearing that because that’s a condition of successful employment, of getting talked to.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s almost you don’t even, I’m thinking out loud as we’re talking about this, but not even bringing it up unless it’s brought up of, “You are working to slow,” or, “You’re not meeting the expectations.”

Pete Wright:
You do the job to the best of your ability, to the best of your understanding, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
If you have questions, you talk to your supervisor about that. If they have questions, they will talk to you.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. Good point. See, it’s so nice that we can talk and think through.

Pete Wright:

fixtheworldwithnikkiandpete.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right.

Pete Wright:
This is the-

Nikki Kinzer:
Deep conversations.

Pete Wright:
Right, exactly. This has been a thorough set of questions. That was the last big question. That was the dooziest of the doozies. I hope that was helpful to somebody out there. We certainly appreciate you all hanging out with us. Do we have any notes for folks about what comes next?

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, let’s see.

Pete Wright:
Do you know what comes next?

Nikki Kinzer:
Let’s do a little pause. I think I do. I think that we are going to be working on maybe some money podcasts, right?

Pete Wright:
Okay.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, you’re part of this decision.

Pete Wright:
I was and then I’m looking at the schedule, and all of a sudden, there are three blanks on there, but you’re right.

Nikki Kinzer:
I know, right?

Pete Wright:
We did. We’d set up. We are doing a whole series of ADHD and money. There still is some vagary around what that’s going to look like, but again, what’s life if it isn’t a giant wall of fog in our future?

Nikki Kinzer:
Exactly.

Pete Wright:
Just know that there’s going to be some money. We’re talking about money.

Nikki Kinzer:
We’re talking about money. Good stuff.

Pete Wright:
Well, thank you, everybody, for downloading and listening to this very show, this extra long, double feature of Q&A with Nikki and Pete. We sure appreciate you hanging out with us. We deeply appreciate your time and your attention. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll catch you next time right here on Taking Control, The ADHD Podcast.