Don’t Let ADHD Keep You from Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Man in dress shirt writes in plannerWith a new year under way, you may be thinking about developing (easy) or keeping (not so easy) resolutions. Indeed, the beginning of a calendar year is a good time to evaluate things that are going well and things that could be improved. For the purposes of improving things related to attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), such as time management, organization, and task completion, it may be helpful to pick one or two key areas of difficulty and focus first on those. Even for people who don’t experience ADHD, making resolutions for too many things may make it more challenging to follow through on any of them.

Here is a step-by-step method for developing a resolution plan and succeeding in implementing and sustaining it:

  1. Identify an area you are struggling with (paying bills, getting places on time, completing tasks at work, etc.).
  2. Make a list of five things impeding your ability to do these things successfully.
  3. Identify one thing you could do differently to improve each specific difficulty related to the area you are struggling with.
  4. Write down three basic tools/systems you could implement to make it easier to be successful in this domain.

Let’s say you’ve identified paying bills as an issue. Here’s how you might go about following the plan above.

1. Area of difficulty: Paying bills

2. List of five things that impede ability to pay bills

  1. Don’t always remember what bills I have
  2. Trouble remembering when each bill is due
  3. Procrastinating and missing due dates
  4. Confusion regarding what is actually due versus total balance
  5. Difficulty remembering to transfer money into the right checking account(s)

3. Identify one thing that could be done differently to improve each item listed above (with No. 1 referring to No. 1 above, etc.)

  1. Make a list on an Excel spreadsheet, Word document, notes app, etc., of every bill.
  2. Add the due date of each bill to the list.
  3. Set aside time once per week when usually home to pay all bills due in the next week (or, if possible, pay any bills due in the next month), and enter this time on your calendar. If using an electronic calendar, set reminder alerts.
  4. Sit down with a partner, friend, etc., or call the company you pay the bill to and walk through a sample bill to make sure you understand what everything means. Write a few notes on the bill so you will remember what each item refers to. Keep these in a binder or scan them into the computer and keep them in a prominent folder and/or a “cloud” system you can access from your mobile device.
  5. Before you write any checks or pay any bills, transfer the money that is to be paid into the right account. If needed, put reminders in your phone to do this.

4. Three Basic Tools/Systems to Improve Area of Difficulty

  1. Use alerts from bank companies to notify you when you have a balance below a certain level, and use auto-pay options through the bank when feasible.
  2. Set up automatic bank transfers to move funds into the proper checking accounts before bills are due.
  3. Put due dates for each bill on your calendar and set reminder alerts on your mobile device for these days as well as a few days before as a backup.

For many individuals with ADHD, tasks that may seem simple to most people are often very difficult, in part because of the steps involved and having to remember to complete them. I hope you can use the system suggested here to identify an area of difficulty in your own life, make a resolution to improve on it, and be successful in bringing about sustained improvement.

© Copyright 2016 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey Heller, PsyD, ADHD: Inattention, Impulsivity, and Hyperactivity Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • addie

    January 8th, 2016 at 8:14 AM

    To stay on task with pretty much anything I have to make a list. I know that these seems pretty simplistic, but I like having in front of me in black and white everything that has to be done, and I also like the feeling of completion that I get when I can mark things off. That’s very reassuring to me, and shows me visually that I am actually getting things accomplished.

  • Peyton

    January 9th, 2016 at 9:34 AM

    It might be a slight hindrance for me but I would never want to allow it to become a crutch

  • Lindall

    January 9th, 2016 at 4:43 PM

    I’ve sort of learned to embrace it over the years. When I was younger it always felt like this was the thing that would hold me back, keep me from being what I wanted to be. But no more. I have learned my own coping skills, the things that work for me and the things that don’t, and now I just roll with the punches. And I don’t think that I am any worse for wear because of it!

  • harrison

    January 11th, 2016 at 7:05 AM

    I swear this will be the death of me. Not literally of course but figuratively for sure. I try to do the lists, I try to do one thing at a time and I just never quite succeed. I see something else that needs to be attenuated to and then I’m off track. There is no way to live without these distractions but I have never been able to figure out how to isolate my to do lists down to just one thing at t a time.

  • Lucia

    January 11th, 2016 at 2:40 PM

    My daughter automatically thinks that there is something wrong with her because she can’t so things like other kids can.
    Not that she can’t do them, she is super smart, but you know, it takes a little more discipline than maybe the other kids have to utilize.
    I think that this is a bummer for her, to see things that come so naturally to others and for her it can be a real struggle.

  • Chester

    January 12th, 2016 at 8:49 AM

    All these new names, back in my day this would have just been avoiding responsibilities? I guess that it is better now that we know it is bigger than that, and that for many people it can’t be helped.

  • moira

    January 13th, 2016 at 11:00 AM

    There are just too many options for treatment available now to have to let this overwhelm your every day

  • Anonymous

    January 13th, 2016 at 3:02 PM

    I have everything set on automatic, or as much as possible. Rent, utilities, phone… everything is automatically paid every month. You can set it up that way online through your bank or credit union.
    I could never balance a checkbook, so I have only one credit card, and it all goes on that. My account is set up so my credit card is automatically paid in full every month; no rolling debt, no interest payments, and lots of points.
    I do as much as possible through email, which is searchable.
    I do automatic deduction to a retirement account, too. No wasted RAM on anything no immedite. If I didn’t have smrtphone for my electronic calendar, reminders, to-do list, mobile banking, and email, I’d be totally sunk!

  • Carey Heller, Psy.D.

    January 18th, 2016 at 8:15 AM

    Thank you for reading this article and sharing your insights!

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