Inattentive ADHD, please help

I am recently diagnosed with inattentive-type ADHD and could use a little help from other women (and men!) with ADHD. I'm 37, a wife and mother of 2 boys (7 & 13, oldest had ADHD also). Up until this point, I feel like my life has been mostly successful, however,  much of that has been thanks to a fabulous husband and a relatively high IQ, which usually allows me to compensate for the rest of my shortcomings. There were the usual issues with school (high test scores, low interest) and a checkered job history (several, the longest being 7 years... I tend to get a 7-yr itch with employment). Currently I'm back at school, trying to complete my bachelors degree (another issue because I will have to declare a major in August and I still can't pin one down... my interests are varied- depends on the day). I haven't started meds yet, I'm hoping they will help with my focus and lack of attention. Until my diagnosis, I always assumed my husband was type-A and he just happened to marry a flighty, flitty, fun type-B (we have been married for 15 years and together for 21, so he knew how I was, it was not a shock to him). The things he does in one day (he's a middle school principle, on the board of the district, is the head of the "union" for principles and admin, cubmaster for son's cub scout pack and treasurer for our oldest son's scout troop... among other things), I could never complete in a week of Sundays. I am constantly in awe of him and all the other people I know who seem so "together". At the moment (because I KNEW I couldn't complete school while working full time) I am only going to school. During these "college" years, I told my husband I would buckle down and get done all the things we've been wanting to do around the house. The problem is, I feel like the more unstructured time I have, the LESS I manage to get done, which makes me feel like a complete loser. My husband also cooks (I lived with a single father and never managed to learn... but I'm great with a grill!) and takes on much of the child-rearing... willingly. I want so much to be able to contribute in a meaningful way, I just can't seem to do it. While my husband would never outwardly criticize me, I definitely have begun to recognize "WTF have you been doing all day" look when he gets home. Someone please tell me what has worked as far as prioritizing and managing your time?

Hi.  First, I admire your

Hi.  First, I admire your commitment to change.  That's so important!  I don't have ADD or ADHD but do often struggle with getting things done.  Here are some thing that might help:  1) make lists (but not too ambitious; only things you can realistically accomplish in a day or two); schedule when you're going to do certain things (i.e., "wash dishes at 10 a.m.," not "wash dishes when I feel like it"); figure out if you work better by getting easy things done first or unpleasant things done first, and then schedule yourself accordingly. 


The list making thing is definitely huge for me. My most successful days are when I write a very thorough list. My sister used to make fun of me for writing "take shower" on the top of my lists but I realized along time ago that A) if it wasn't written down, I may forget and B) I feel a great sense of a accomplishment if I can automatically cross a couple things off the list.

Before I get up in the

Before I get up in the morning, I make a mental list of things I need to do right away.  For some reason, this helps get me going.  "Get up; brush teeth; take dog out; put on work clothes."  It's the same every day, but it helps!

Some ideas

Here are some things that work for my (untreated) ADD husband:  

Routine, routine, routine.  The jobs that must get done, get done at the same time, the same way, every single time.  (makes me crazy, but it's working for him).  If dinner dishes are your responsibility, get up from the table and do nothing else and immediately do the dishes.  Rather than, for example, sometimes doing them immediately, sometimes doing them in a half an hour, sometimes doing them tomorrow....  Just like if you put off your morning shower until later, because you don't have to leave the house right away.... some days you might not "remember" the shower until 5:05 p.m.  

Work/reward.  If my guy would rather do X, but he knows he ought to do Y, he'll say if he does Y first, he can do X for 1 hour with no guilt.  Then back to the list for another Y task, with a "treat" for completing it.  Fortunately he doesn't use food as a reward or he'd weigh a ton!  In order to really "get to work" he needs music and TV on... which would drive me nuts!  If you "have to" get some housework done, turn up the music.  If you "have to" study for two hours do it in a space that makes YOU comfortable, not what someone else thinks ought to work.  If the lists are working for you, keep at it... next step is to SCHEDULE the items on the list.  Then part way through the day you might say OMG it's 10:30... what am I supposed to be doing at 10:30?  Rather than just losing track of time altogether, which might feel more natural to you.  Some ADDers tend to underestimate how long something will take... so you'll be feeling behind all the time if your schedule is unrealistically ambitious.    Some ADDers aren't aware of how much time has passed working on the current feels like 20 minutes but it's really been two hours.   Would a timer help?

You wrote:  I feel like the more unstructured time I have, the LESS I manage to get done.  The best part is, you are the "boss" at your new "job" -- give yourself a schedule!  set alarms to remind you to move on to the next part of your "work day".  Do half days for school or housework, or Monday is housework, Tuesday is school, or even two hour chunks.  Whatever appeals to you.  Evaluate yourself (and seek input) to honestly assess how you're doing.  You might be doing better than you think or not as good, unless you conduct your own "performance" review.  End of the week:  dishes done 6 out of 7 days.  YAY.  Groceries purchased 3 days late.  Bummer.  Better next time.  

Something just struck me... my ADD guy gave up wearing a watch years ago (long before he had a cell phone to tell him the time) and he still talks about how great that was to "go off the clock" but I just realized that his ADD "symptoms" were better under control when he DID wear a watch?  Coincidence?  hmm.  Sorry.  Back to you.

Make your lists / schedules big, fun and creative.  Use colored markers!  put stickers on the accomplishments!   Get a white-board!   Sorry.  I don't mean to sound cute.  But my guy is much more interested in the "honey do" list if I include a cartoon and color and a little fun.  He's WAAAAY over 40 but still likes getting a gold star!  Give them to yourself!  

anyway, just the fact that you're wondering and aware and asking is HUGE.  Lots of folks aren't there yet... Best wishes!

Great suggestions for all of

Great suggestions for all of us, Gardener!  In particular, I think that you're on target with your comment about your husband "going off" his watch.  My husband would probably say "But I have a phone to tell me the time," but you know, a watch ONLY TELLS TIME, and so it signifies time and it also does not contain distractions.


I love this... "a watch ONLY TELLS TIME, and so it signifies time and it also does not contain distractions"

The smartphone, for many reasons, is the Key to Success AND the Key to Failure, all in the same device.

kharris4's picture

Love your avatar image!!

Love your avatar image!!  (Avatar??  Avitar?  sp?  ......)

PB is one of my top 5 movies. :)

PB is a classic...

It's funny to me, because I work in the IT world and most of my coworkers know the movie very well. I don't remember it being a huge box office hit from 1988?, but everyone loves it, even my DD's ;) 

That's so funny that you say

That's so funny that you say make the list creative as I was a preschool teacher for 8 years... I have lots of experience with this! Thanks for all the help, you sound really supportive. I hope your guy appreciates it! The more I learn a out myself, the more I'm surprised my husband has been able to deal w/ all my hare-brained habits for 21 years!

Clue him in too

The only other thing I would add to these great suggestions is this: as the non-ADHD spouse, it would make me C-R-A-Z-Y to see my husband decide to start working on something I perceived as a pretty low priority (keep in mind this was prior to diagnosis). Now, when he shares with me the "why" part of his task, it makes so much more sense to me and I'm so appreciative of the fact he's doing SOMETHING. So my advice is to simply let your husband know what you're working on and make him part of the process (particularly if he has the "WTF have you been doing all day" look -- trust me, if he has that look, the anxiety he's feeling internally is likely ten-fold what he's showing on his face). Just you making a point to bring it up and talk to him about it will alleviate some of the frustration he's likely feeling. And then you'll both feel better! 

kharris4's picture


I have to laugh at your last comment, "...  I definitely have begun to recognize "WTF have you been doing all day" look when he gets home. Someone please tell me what has worked as far as prioritizing and managing your time?"

Seriously that is the funniest thing I've read on this forum.  Only because I can totally relate.  (I feel like a broken record b/c I've responded to a few forums tonight, prefacing with "I'm undiagnosed, but really, I AM ADHD!!") but, undiagnosed, I get this look from my husband that screams, "I know you're claiming to have this ADHD thing, but do you think it's too much to ask, for you to still manage putting your own  laundry away and not dump it on the floor beside the bed, since I washed AND folded it for you already?"

Also, I was too tired to read all the other remarks, so I might be redundant, but KUDDOS to you for sticking a job out fo 7 years!!  My itch is about a year.  I've had 24 different jobs in my life since i started working at 16.  I'm turning 37 yrs this year, and also went back to school. I made the mistake of taking a math course this year, which almost de-railed my continuation completely b/c I hate math. But I found that I really LOVE psychology, so I'm taking all my electives first. I get the intellectual stimulation I want so bad, and each semester I only take one core class.  I might end up having two full semesters of science and math, but hey...I might not even get that far. Kind of like eating your desert before dinner.  What if halfway through that bite of brussle sprouts, your have a heart attack?

I did read that someone else said routine is helpful....that's such a double edge sword for me. I get so bored with routine, yet I NEED the routine to feel functional in society.  (like remembering where my keys are, and how not to forget to turn in the timesheet at work...)  but I think for staying home, the key might be to make some lists and cross them off.   Plan to just take each "thing" step by step, don't get bogged down in trying to be efficient with all the other tasks together. Be resolved to just do ONE at a time.  Have your husband help you create a "honey-do" list.  :)


First... Get your diagnosis because most ADDer's respond very well to the meds, about 70-80%. What the routine does is to make the everyday little tasks become something you don't really Think about. Auto-Pilot... Lists are great and really needed, but they can become burdensome as they grow. What helps me is on a day that I'm going to scratch a few things off the list, I ask my DW what are the top 3 things she would like to see me complete. There is nothing worse than working your a$$ off on things your spouse did not think was That important. Prioritizing is not an ADD strength ;)

Good luck! 

choosing a major

Oh, my!  When my ADD guy went back to college at age 40 he was a trip!  He started with the major "of his dreams".  Then after a required course... hmmm, maybe I want to be a geologist!  Next, maybe meteorologist!  Psychologist!  Poet!  Eyes on the prize honey, eyes on the prize.  Since college was a big family sacrifice to begin with, I just smiled and said look away from the pretty shiny thing and go do your homework!  :)  

What Major did I NOT choose at some point...

Computer Science, Jazz Studies (Bass Trombone), Business, Architecture, Geology, Teaching and finally after a couple of years floundering around with Stupid Jobs, Electrical Engineering Technologies. I ended up with an Associates Degree and over 170 hours of school. 

I failed my first class in college (Basic Programming) and dropped Accounting 101 (3 times over the years)

I ended up as a Programmer/Analyst supporting a Commercial Real Estate Accounting Software.

Irony IS Funny...