THE BLOG

How I've Hacked My Life to Use My ADHD to My Advantage (Part 1)

04/09/2015 01:49 pm ET | Updated Jun 09, 2015
Larry Washburn via Getty Images

Welcome to the first in a multi-part blog series on my relationship with ADHD, how I handle it, my tricks, and hacks, and what does and doesn't work for me when dealing with this often confusing, usually misunderstood disease.

First off, let's understand a few things.

  • 1. Not everyone has ADHD. You don't "have ADHD" because you can't find your car keys, or because the spreadsheet you have to finish for work isn't exciting.
  • "2. ADHD moments don't freaking exist. You don't have an "ADHD moment," like it's a sneeze. ADHD is a lifetime condition. You don't get get it for five seconds then laugh about it as it goes away for three months.
  • 3. There are thousands of people who claim to have ADHD, and who base their self-diagnosis on a myriad of so-called "educational websites." Please don't do this. If you were bleeding out of your eyeballs, I don't think you'd go online to take a quiz to ask "am I bleeding out of my eyes?" No, you'd go to a health professional, one who's spent years studying and learning, and you'd get professionally diagnosed. I've been diagnosed twice, by two different psychiatrists, both of whom came to the same conclusion. So think you have it? Seek professional help. I'm not a professional in the world of ADD or ADHD, I simply know who I am, have been diagnosed, and have come up with ways to help myself live better. I'm sharing those ways with you here.
  • 4. The tips below can be useful to anyone with ADHD or not. A lot of them involve organizational skills, time management hacks, and doing things in advance to prevent negative things from happening later on. (When did Noah build the ark? Before the rain.)
  • 5. Finally, these tips won't work for everybody. Hell, if they did, I'd bottle them and sell them under the guise of miracle curea. They simply work for me. I encourage you to find what works for you, and apply that which does, and dismiss that which does not.
  • 6. I'm not a doctor, scientist or anything else in the medical field, and I don't claim to be. These are simply things I choose to do that help me, and I share them with the hope they can help you. Believe me, I'm not trying to become a Food Babe type blogger. Those people are full of shit, anyway.
  • The First Rule: If you have a plan, you're much more likely to find ways that ADHD is beneficial to you. When you don't have a plan, it's usually seven hours later and you haven't done shit with your day.

    The Basics -- Starting Out: (4 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.)

    I wake up super-early. This is for many reasons, least of which being that first thing in the AM is my time to be on my own without interruption. I can get many things done without anyone calling/emailing/shouting/bothering me. It's my time. This could include working out, cleaning out my inbox, or simply reading through the news of the day with a cup of good coffee and an overweight cat.

    I've met a ton of people who stop me right there - "I could never be a morning person," they  Problem is this: More people are awake at night than are in the morning. And as such, you'll be pinged, bothered, and distracted a lot more if you're a night owl than if you are a morning person. Try AM. You're left alone. Want to manage your ADHD? It starts by getting into a zone, and you can't get into a zone if you're being bothered all the time.

    To get to this level of "me-time," I have to do several things, all of which help me depending on the circumstance.

    If I'm working out in the morning, I'll sleep in my gym clothes. I know this sounds ridiculous, but think about it - if all I have to do when I first wake up is lace my sneakers and walk out the door, I don't have to think about it. Alarm goes off, and I'm out. If I'm biking or running, I'll leave my iPod, phone, and keys (and bike,) by the door. It's a straight shot for me to exit my bedroom and walk out of my apartment. For an ADHD person, the first twenty minutes of the plan to exercise can easily be spent finding your keys, or figuring out where you put your water. Where are my gloves? Is my iPod charged? Where's my phone? I do this all before I go to bed. When I wake up, all I have to do is follow a plan from my bed to the door, like James Woods from Family Guy when he sees a piece of candy.

    Now, Why the workout? Some might say it's to stay in shape, which of course is quite true. But that's far from the only reason. Again, This is where I say I'm not a scientist, I'm not a doctor, hell, I wouldn't have passed level one earth sciences at Boston University without help. But I know this: I believe in what I'm about to say because it works for me. If it works for you, too, great. I'm also pretty sure there's data to back this up on the Internet, in respected medical papers, and it can be found with a simple search.

    When I work out, I get that "runner's high," that comes with any kind of workout, whether it be running, swimming, biking, lifting, etc. It's the exact same high I get when I skydive. We'll talk about that in another post.

    But long story short, I'm pretty sure that high is made of up endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, all the things that those with ADHD never have enough of floating through their veins. When I finish that run, land that skydive, cross that finish line, or bow and step off that stage, it puts all those wonderful chemicals right at the forefront of my brain, right where I need them. I can't stop smiling, I'm usually in the best mood I'll be in all day, and If I can sit down at a laptop within thirty minutes of finishing, I can write for hours and hours without being distracted by anything. 

    So that's why I workout first thing in the morning.

    How can you find those brain chemicals first thing in the morning, and make them work for you? (other than with drugs, both legal and illegal, which we'll talk about in in upcoming post,) 

    For me, routine is important. With my traveling all over the world, all the time, you wouldn't think I have routines, but the fact is, I have more than you might imagine. For instance - When I get back from the gym, I simply have to take an immediate shower and get dressed, even if I'll be sitting on my alone on my couch for an hour drinking coffee as I work. If I'm not dressed, I don't feel complete. If I don't feel complete, I'm looking for something to give me that completeness. That's a problem. When you don't feel complete, you can't 100% focus. It's like a pebble in your shoe, or the tag on your t-shirt that won't stop scratching you.

    Something as simple as the habit of putting on your shoes every morning can mean the difference between focus and non-focus.

    Breakfast: The most important meal of the day, the start of your morning, the blah, blah, blah... I've never truly bought that. Cavemen didn't eat by the clock, they ate when they caught something and killed it. Sometimes that was at 1am, and yet there weren't that many fat cavemen around. Eat when you want to eat. But eat the right things.

    For me, that's either oatmeal, or freshly-made juice. Why? Because those are the two foods I can always have in my house. Oatmeal you can buy as big as you need to, so if you're using Google Shop or doing a Costco run, just buy a 50 pound bag of oatmeal and keep it somewhere. Face it - We don't eat healthy in the morning because we either don't have time, or don't have the necessities to do so. Oatmeal removes that problem.

    As does Farmivore - I discovered this company when I was a guest on Fox Business the other week - Essentially, if you own a juicer, they send you enough fresh vegetables and fruits to make eight juices a week, for about $40 a week. It's totally worth it. The ingredients are sitting there, and you can go to town with them each morning.

    That's breakfast. Just eat something healthy, that gives you sustained energy. You're going to need it as you move through your day.

    Next post: Hacks that get me to my first meeting, to the office, and through to lunch, including several apps that I rely on daily.

    I want to hear your thoughts below - Whether you loved or hated this post, and whether I should do more. As always, thank you for reading.