Setting Goals for ADHD Brains
Setting realistic goals while managing challenges like ADHD requires an approach that considers your unique needs. You need a balance between what is practical and ambitious that will contribute to both attaining your goals and mental well-being. Here are some tips to help you set and achieve goals effectively:
- Understand Your ADHD: Recognize how ADHD impacts your daily life and mental well-being. ADHD affects everyone differently, so remember that your strengths and challenges and how it affects you is different from others. Acknowledge any specific triggers, tendencies, or patterns that might affect your goal setting and completion. For example, how important is exercise (to get the dopamine up), using a body double (to help you focus on the task), or writing down a task in smaller chunks (to help with getting started and staying on task)? What do you need to do differently?
- Keep Goals Clear and Manageable: Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks. Try setting specific, bite-sized points that are easier to focus on and accomplish. This can help stop the feeling of being overwhelmed or scattered. Or you can try turning this around and write down each task that you complete to create your Ta-Da list. Long lists don’t often work for ADHD brains and can also lead to feeling overwhelmed. Try to keep your expectations realistic, and don’t compare yourself to others.
- Prioritize and Organize: Yes, using a system that works for you helps and can positively impact your self-esteem! Many ADHD brains find strategies like to-do or ta-da lists, planners, or digital apps can help to organize tasks and priorities. Structure is often a bugbear with ADHD brains, but know that building routines and creating daily or weekly plans can help manage ADHD symptoms and help you achieve your goals. Try changing things up and build a flow chart of tasks, or let your creativity help you determine what will work well for you.
- Time Management Techniques: It’s common knowledge that ADHD can make time management challenging. Techniques like the Pomodoro Technique (working in short bursts with breaks) can work well. Try gamifying it by setting a timer for 15 minutes and see how much you can accomplish. Or set an alarm or reminders to help you to stay on track with tasks. Try listening to music, a podcast, or an audiobook to keep your brain from slipping into “I’m bored.”
- Be Realistic and Flexible: Set goals that challenge you but are also realistic. Understand that flexibility is key. Some days might be more challenging than others, and it’s okay to adjust your goals or expectations accordingly. If you got one thing done, celebrate that. We’re human, and some days just aren’t as productive as others.
- Utilize Support Systems: Seek support from friends, family, counselling, or an ADHD coach. Having someone to check in with or provide encouragement can be invaluable in staying motivated and accountable. I mentioned using a body double before, so if you have friends or family who can fill that position, take advantage of it. Using an ADHD coach can help you look beyond the challenges and learn to harness the superpower in your ADHD brain.
- Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself if you face setbacks. ADHD can make consistency difficult at times. Instead of dwelling on perceived failures, focus on progress and what you’ve accomplished. Perfectionism can be a side effect of an ADHD brain, and that often comes from feelings of shame or low self-confidence. Don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, look at your accomplishments and use sticky notes to remind yourself of your strengths and those moments when you were proud of what you accomplished.
- Celebrate Achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement can motivate you to keep moving forward. I often get ADHD brains to do an exercise I learned about in my training as a coach called ‘Magical Moments on the Mountain.’ It’s about looking for those moments and achievements when you could throw your hands in the air and shout, ‘I did it!’ What are your moments on the mountain?
Remember, managing ADHD and setting goals is a journey. It’s crucial to embrace patience and perseverance. It’s about steady progress rather than perfection. Experiment with different strategies and find what works best for you. If you need help, don’t hesitate to seek out counselling, an ADHD Coach or support groups specifically tailored for ADHD management—they can provide valuable insights and strategies.
January 27 – Family Literacy Day
Family Literacy Day (FLD) is a national initiative by ABC Life Literacy Canada. It was created in 1999 to inspire a love for learning and literacy in families. Each year, on January 27, literacy organizations, libraries, and schools host events and activities to celebrate this initiative. In 2024, Family Literacy Day will mark its 25th anniversary.
The theme this year is “Let’s Have a Family Party”. ABC Life Literacy Canada encourages families to celebrate by making food, singing songs, and playing games. They will present a virtual event on January 27th with FLD Honorary Chair Barbara Reid as part of the celebrations. You can register here.
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” says children’s book author Emilie Buchwald. This simple advice can be challenging for families to follow. Too often, reading and learning together as a family takes a backseat to hectic family lives. Electronic devices are increasingly pulling both children and adults away from reading books. Too much emphasis is often placed on developing reading skills rather than reading for pleasure. Left to our devices (pun intended), children and adults are bound to drift toward screens. Our emails, texts, and social media still deliver words, and we know that with the help of apps, websites, and other digital resources, children can learn about anything they are interested in, from animals and plants to history and outer space. While digital resources are valuable for acquiring knowledge, they cannot replicate the joy derived from reading a physical book.
CanLearn will celebrate Family Literacy Day throughout January by sharing book recommendations with our families, learners, and clients.
The Witch’s Cat and The Cooking Catastrophe: A Fantastical Tale of Magic, Mischief, and Mishap is an excellent book for young readers. This funny and heart-warming story is fun to read aloud, with many opportunities for children to join in and guess what happens next.
Becoming Better Grownups is a beautifully illustrated adult book. It shares the messages we can all discover merely by listening and reveals that – in a world in its current state – the secret to well-being is to become more childlike.
DID YOU KNOW?
The first family literacy program at CanLearn was developed and implemented in 1996. Since then, more than 12,000 families have benefited from our family literacy programs!
WHAT BOOK DO YOU RECOMMEND?
Whether it’s a children’s book, fiction, fantasy, crime, history, chick lit, a current bestseller, or any other genre, please share with us what you’re currently reading. You can share on social media with the hashtag #CanLearnSociety or comment below.
Manager, Literacy Programs
December Webinars on ADHD – And They’re FREE!
When It’s Tough to Make Friends: Self-Regulation Strategies that Work
December 12 from 6:00 – 7:30 PM
Presented by Neva Capin and Dr. Heather Baker
We are excited to offer a webinar focused on supporting your child as they navigate friendships. This workshop is perfect for parents, guardians and other adults involved in children’s support groups. Come and learn about some foundational social-emotional strategies and how kids can use these strategies while they are making friends and working through all the ups and downs of peer relationships. We will also discuss ways parents/guardians/support adults can help their kids use these strategies in their daily lives.
ADHD Throughout the Lifespan – Navigating Adulthood with ADHD
December 18 from 6:00 – 7:30 PM
Presented by Neva Capin and Dr. Heather Baker
Although there has been a concerted shift to understand better the challenges and opportunities encountered by adults with ADHD, there is much left to uncover. Significant life milestones and transitions happen throughout adulthood, which can be impacted by ADHD symptoms. This presentation provides an insight into ADHD throughout the lifespan, specifically focusing on adulthood. Emerging research highlighting the unique ways ADHD can impact an individual’s life is presented. Examples from clinical cases are presented to bring life and context to these challenges and strengths. Attendees will leave with an appreciation of how ADHD presents differently in adulthood. In addition, attendees will have a better understanding of how common co-morbid conditions, such as anxiety, mood and learning challenges, can significantly impact or affect an individual’s ability to cope with ADHD.
Both workshops will be held on Zoom. Contact [email protected] for more information.
CanLearn Society and University of Calgary Neurocognitive Disorders Lab: Adult ADHD Program Evaluation
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Historically, research about the disorder has focused on children and teens struggling with ADHD symptoms and the impairments these can cause in school. Unfortunately, many don’t realize that neurodevelopment is a lifelong process. Since most of our lives are spent in adulthood, the impacts of ADHD on school must be only part of our focus on treating the disorder. Given that the majority of people with ADHD have symptoms that continue past adolescence, we have been working with the CanLearn Society over the past 18 months to evaluate their programming for adults with ADHD, to get a sense of their experiences and perceptions of the programs, and to determine whether the programs are equally effective across young, middle, and late adulthood.
Adults living with ADHD often struggle with executive skills like planning and organization, which may impact everyday functioning and cause problems with motivation, memory, or reliability. Adults with ADHD also commonly struggle with emotional regulation; for example, they can be susceptible to rejection or have difficulty managing their anger. Helping people improve their everyday executive skills and emotional regulation is the objective of CanLearn’s services for adults.
CanLearn’s current programs include a support group called “Let’s Talk ADHD” and a one-on-one ADHD coaching service. “Let’s Talk ADHD” is offered every few months for 90 minutes a week over seven weeks. It employs a group cognitive behaviour therapy framework and includes mindfulness, psychoeducation, skills development, and social support components. The coaching program usually consists of eight one-hour sessions over 16 weeks, focusing on self-care- diet, exercise, and sleep. Coaching sessions introduce methods of mindfulness and self-regulation and educate clients on executive function and neuroscience basics. Both programs aim to help clients develop skills and strategies for managing challenges associated with ADHD in adulthood and incorporate modes of effective treatment that have been proven effective in large, well-designed research studies.
In our collaboration with the CanLearn Society, we have measured the impact and effectiveness of the “Let’s Talk ADHD” and ADHD coaching services. Clients who decide to participate complete confidential surveys before beginning their program, immediately post-completion, and three months after completing their program. These questionnaires ask about ADHD symptoms, executive skills, functioning in everyday life, and quality of life. We also ask participants to complete measures of program satisfaction. We have been gathering data since last October, and 31 CanLearn clients have opted to participate in this program evaluation. We are pleased to see that our collected responses generally show that clients perceive an improvement in their ADHD symptoms after completing the CanLearn programs. They also report improvements in executive skills, everyday functioning, and quality of life. We will continue to gather results until March 2023 and explore more detailed questions, such as whether men and women benefit from these programs to the same extent and whether younger and older adults report similar improvements after participating in the programs.
The availability of effective treatments for adults with ADHD is very important because research studies show that appropriately managing the symptoms of ADHD – whether through medication, behavioural support, or both – can significantly improve future employment prospects, social functioning, and health outcomes. We are excited to collaborate with the CanLearn Society to ensure their programs meet the needs of all individuals across their diverse clientele.
Susan Flynn Lowry (BA Honours, Psychology, 2022) is supervised by Dr. Brandy Callahan and is part of the University of Calgary’s Neuro-Cognitive Disorders Lab in the Department of Psychology.