Tips for Managing Adult ADHD

Over the years, Dr. Hallowell has invented tips for managing his ADHD.  He’s also collected various tips from people of all ages on how they manage Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to live happy and successful lives.  You may not find all of his 12 practical tips for managing adult ADHD useful. However, just make note of the ones that ring true to you, and try and put them into use in your life. If you need help implementing them, ask someone else to help you do this.

 12 Practical Tips for Managing Adult ADHD*

*Adapted from Delivered from Distraction, Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., John J. Ratey, M.D., Ballantine, 2005

1. Educate yourself.

Perhaps the single most powerful treatment for managing ADHD is understanding it in the first place.  You need to learn what ADHD is, and what it is not. A diagnosis of the mind, like ADHD, must be fully understood if it is to be mastered and made good use of. At its best, ADHD can become an asset, rather than a liability, in a person’s life. But, for this to happen, the person has to develop a deep appreciation for how ADHD works within him or her. To understand ADHD, read books. talk with professionals and talk with other adults who have ADHD.  Soon you’ll be able to design your own tips to manage your ADHD.

2. Tomorrow Starts NOW.

Make deadlines – In the world of ADHD there is NOW and NOT NOW.  You need to prioritize and avoid procrastination. When things get busy, the adult ADHD person loses perspective: paying an unpaid parking ticket can feel as pressing as putting out the fire that just got started in the wastebasket. Prioritize. Take a deep breath. Put first things first. Then go on to the second and the third task.

3. Consider joining or starting a support group.

Much of the most useful information about ADHD has not yet found its way into books, but remains stored in the minds of the people who have ADHD. In groups this information can come out. Plus groups are really helpful in giving the kind of support that is so badly needed. If you live in NYC, Dr. Hallowell offers a support group in his office. Learn more here.

4. Try to get rid of the negativity

Get rid of the negativity that may have infested your system if you have lived without knowing that what you had was ADHD. A good psychotherapist may help in this regard.

5. Get well enough organized to achieve your goals.

The key here is “well enough.” That doesn’t mean you have to be very well organized at all — just well enough organized to achieve your goals. Here are 10 tips to start 2020 off right.

6. Do what you are good at.

Don’t waste time trying to get good at what you’re bad at. Instead spend time doing what you’re good at.

7. Choose “good” helpful addictions, such as exercise.

Many adults with ADHD have an addictive or compulsive personality such that they are always hooked on something. Try to make this something positive.

8.  Understand mood changes and ways to manage them.

Listen to Dr. Hallowell’s podcast on How ADHD Affects Emotion.

9. Sleep

Make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. 

10. Learn how to advocate for yourself.

Adults with ADD are so used to being criticized that they are often unnecessarily defensive in putting their own case forward.

11. Learn to joke with yourself and others about your various systems.

If you can learn to be relaxed enough about the whole syndrome to be able to joke about it, others will forgive you much more easily.

12. Coaching.

It is useful for you to have a coach, for some person near you to keep after you, but always with humor. Your coach can help you get organized, stay on task, give you encouragement or remind you to get back to work. Friend, colleague, or therapist (it is possible, but risky for your coach to be your spouse), a coach is someone to stay on you to get things done, exhort you as coaches do, keep tabs on you, and in general be in your corner. A coach can be tremendously helpful in treating ADHD.