How can I do everything I want to this Summer?
May 14, 2011 12:59 PM   Subscribe

There are so many things I'd like to do and learn this Summer before college starts back this Fall. To make things tougher to accomplish, I have ADHD. Are all the things I would like to do really possible? Any tips/hacks/etc.?

So yes, I have ADHD (inattentive type) and have a hard time completing things that I start, and with some things, I even have a tough time actually starting them.

Here are things I will be doing without a doubt, don't need help with these:
  • Taking a single class at the local community college (Chemistry 2). Shouldn't take up too much of my time.
  • Work at the fast food place I worked during high school. Hopefully I'll be working 15 to 25 hours per week (hours not set in stone).
  • Watching Doctor Who on Netflix. Currently at the beginning of Series 3.
  • I have a girlfriend, so hanging out with her. (We live near each other, so we see each other pretty much daily).
There are some goals I'd like to complete this Summer as well though, and this is where I'm really having some trouble (in order of how much I'd like to do them):
  • Learn Esperanto. Wanted to do this for years, but ADHD has prevented me from starting or progressing far at all. My gf would like to as well, because we think it'd be both easier to learn with each other, and it'd be kinda cool to have a language that of the people we know, only the two of us speak.
  • Read my large collection of books. I buy books and either do not start them at all, or just do not complete them. I haven't completed an entire book from cover-to-cover in a very long time. :(
  • Redo my currently boring wardrobe to make it more fashionable and nice-looking (Primarily consists of khaki shorts, blue jeans and tee shirts).
  • Perhaps learn the harmonica. This is not too important, but if I have the time I'd like to try it out. I bought a harmonica maybe 6 months ago and haven't touched it more than a few times.
  • Get in better shape. I'm not out-of-shape, so this isn't that important. But if I can find the time...
So, how much of this is really practical and doable? I would absolutely LOVE to have a productive Summer, but I feel like I will just end up wasting my free time surfing the web and watching TV the entire time. My Summer actually started a week ago, and I've spent the last week... sitting on my ass watching TV and surfing the web.

Also, any tips for learning Esperanto (or 2nd languages in general), completing books, etc. are greatly appreciated. Feel free to message me. Thanks!
posted by BenS to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Are you medicated or going to therapy for the ADHD? I know it doesn't work for everyone, but going on medication, for me, was like night and day in terms of how much easier it made everything.
posted by saveyoursanity at 1:09 PM on May 14, 2011

Response by poster: Yes, I currently take 100 mg of Strattera daily. I have found that it has really helped with things such as starting doing homework and staying focused. But in terms of more "long-term" type things such as finishing a book and learning a language, it's not very effective. My psychiatrist also has given me a prescription of Vyvance to take in the mornings where I really need that extra boost, such as during exam week. Vyvance helps a lot, but I found after taking it for a week straight during exam week a couple weeks ago, it's not as effective when taken daily on me.

So, yes I have been, but I am not where I want to be at all.

I also realized that my question is kind of broad with really no easy answers. But any help you guys can give is terrific.
posted by BenS at 1:27 PM on May 14, 2011

For harmonica, try the links herein.

In general, paying attention is not unlike running, biking or lifting weights. There are no get-rich-quick, work-while-you sleep short cuts. The more time and effort you apply, the better shape in which you will find yourself. In due time.
posted by y2karl at 1:29 PM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, you can do many of these activities with your girlfriend (learning Esperanto, exercising) so spending time with her isn't in competition for your time. That said, I don't have ADHD and this sounds like too much to me. Technically you could spend a few hours a week on every activity, but language learning, learning an instrument, and getting in shape are all activities where the outcome depends heavily on how much time you put into it. What are your actual goals for these various areas by the end of the summer? Think about quantity versus quality.
posted by unannihilated at 1:36 PM on May 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

2nding unannihilated. Learning a new language from scratch is a huge undertaking. Reading a book, or purchasing a new article of clothing is a much easier task. Figure out your major goals and then create short term goals from there: I would like to get a pair of classic dress shoes, I would like to read this one particular book, etc... You can also break it down further into steps required to accomplish each task. 5 minutes of scribbling stuff down on paper can help you figure out what you want to do first.
posted by abirae at 1:59 PM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That said, I don't have ADHD and this sounds like too much to me.

Thanks for the answers. And yeah, I realize that if I was to be hyper-focused from this moment forward, I would not complete everything I want to.

Realistically, I would be quite happy if I completed the Summer with an A or B in the class I'm taking, worked an average of 20 hours per week, catch up to the current episodes of Doctor Who, had a working knowledge of Esperanto (2 to 3 months of learning this language get you quite far compared to most other languages), and read maybe 2 to 3 sci-fi/fantasy novels along with 2 to 3 non-fiction books that interest me.

I probably should have emphasized more that I realize I can't accomplish al of this, and I don't expect to.
posted by BenS at 2:06 PM on May 14, 2011

Best answer: I also have ADD-PI, and like you I have a big list of things I want to do this summer. And because I have ADD, I haven't looked super closely at the things on your list. So let me just tell you generally some things I'm learning.

I got diagnosed with adult ADD-PI last summer at age 34. If you click on my name, you can find an older askmefi where I asked about finding an ADD coach. I got one, and it's been great.

One of the things that I recently learned was that I actually cannot physically do the things that I want to do because of the time constraints. I also have financial struggles with spending, budgeting, and so on. But I think nothing compares to the struggles with time management. So one day with my coach, early on, as we were trying to figure this whole coaching thing out practically, I gave him a list of things I had to do the next day. I made the list, sent it to him, and even "estimated" the time it would take to do each thing. I have a PhD, so I'm not an idiot - it would've been easy just to add up the hours. But I didn't, and never do actually, and he wrote me back and said "did you know that there is 14 hours of stuff you said you have to do tomorrow?"

And it was funny - I realized suddenly I have no idea how to estimate how long it takes to do stuff. Which of course makes it very hard to budget. And I've read regularly that with ADD always tend to over-estimate how much time they have and/or under-estimate how much time something will take, meaning they are almost always dealing with an impossibly congested schedule.

1. So the one thing I think you should look into is getting an ADD coach. I'm on Adderral, and it's been really helpful, but really all it does is just give me a productivity enhancement. But it can't help me with these other things - planning, making goals, remembering, and so on. That stuff involves a complex structure that I can't seem to pick up and adopt for the longrun. The ADD coach (who should not be your significant other, fyi) is a huge, huge help. I cannot stress enough how much I consider that you look into getting one. A coach can help you solve the problem of adopting an external structure that is absolutely critical to achieving your potential, which means moving in the direction that you need to move in.

2. You may not be able to get a coach. There is now ADD coaching where I live (small town in Texas). So I basically found someone who fit the profile of an ADD coach from that askmefi link earlier, and taught him how to be a coach based on my own compulsive readings on the subject, and it's been great. But that may be impractical for the shortrun (though I'm more than happy to talk to you off list about this and give you my guy's name, fwiw, as he's really good and can do this all remotely). So, the next thing I would do is be simple about it.

BENEFITS: You need to estimate plan out the summer in terms of goals, which you did above. Next thing I would then do is rank those things in terms of importance. I'm an economist, so I think in terms of benefits and costs. And you need to know which of those items are more preferred, so rank them in order of most preferred to least preferred. Economic theory predicts that everything that you has "diminishing returns" in terms of marginal benefits, so I think you want to think about everything both in terms of total benefits that you would get if you did all of it this summer, and also more incrementally - like what if you spent another hour with your GF, or another hour on that Esperanto, and so on. Probably not worth ranking that, as then it gets needlessly complex, but just remember - you will experience diminishing returns to these activities, and that is usually where for me anyway the ADD tendencies to become distracted and move to something else too soon completely take over and screw me up. So just keep that in mind.

COSTS: You need to plan the entire summer in terms of hours per day. And you need to figure out your own best production practices. So for instance, for me, I have to get four articles resubmitted to journals this summer. Big pain in the ass. Not looking forward to it because for each of these, I am so far over even wanting to touch them that it's really hard to get motivated on them. So for me, I know myself well enough to know I really need large blocks of uninterrupted time to really get into the hyperfocus place that I need to finish this stuff. You may be the same, because several of the things on your list are learning activities - chemistry is going to require large blocks of time potentially, and so is learning that language Esperanto.

So, what you need to do is get the daytimer, and see just what you are working with. How much time do you have every day to work with? You should probably do something to help you correct for your tendencies to under-estimate the time costs like multiply all activities' time costs by 1.4 or something just to adjust. So if you think something will take an hour, then you right down 84 minutes. Inevitably, again if you are like me, you are going to be floored by how even that is probably wrong and multiplying by 2 is more realistic.

But you need to do this. Because one of the things I think you can use if you have ADD is you can use concrete information and systematic theories better. You just need to wrap your head around what is actually needed. So figure out what your daily schedule is, and then start experimenting with fitting stuff into it. I'd encourage you to use software calendars with different colors for the activities and fitting them in. Ask your GF to help with that. Get a white board. This is a major part of it. And see if you can't take some of that stuff off your plate. As much as it kills you to do so, you should drop some of it. It's better if you get one thing done this summer then half do 5 things. Because you probably have 5 half done things already anyway that you really need to finish, so adding 5 more isn't going to help.

HABIT JUDO: You may also want to experiment with that Habit Judo that was on mefi or askmefi a few weeks ago. I am doing it now with my 9 year old, and it's working well. You need to give yourself regular rewards for kicking ass, and it needs to be completely guilt-free rewards. That Habit Judo concept is great for that I think because it really is fun, and based on some science.

SLEEP and EXERCISE: You should exercise this summer. One because it's a part of every treatment plan for ADD. It'll help also with the other stuff - I think it may help you get the day going. It's a good barometer for how you are doing overall, too, I think. If you're struggling to keep your exercise plan going, you are probably struggling with the other stuff too. I'd recommend doing your exercise as early in the morning as you can. And that means going to bed at a decent hour. You should totally go to bed and get enough sleep - it will wreck you if you can't. And sleep and exercise go hand in hand.

Anyway, good luck!
posted by scunning at 2:24 PM on May 14, 2011 [11 favorites]

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