Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Maintaining and sustaining an intimate relationship is difficult for anyone. It can be more challenging if one or both partners have ADHD. When a spouse is constantly distracted or can’t slow down enough to pay attention to his or her partner’s needs, it often leads to relationship meltdowns.

The majority of my clients have marital problems. Clients wind up at my coaching door because their significant other has given them an ultimatum: “Get help for your ADHD or else!” At this stage, uncontrolled ADHD symptoms are not only jeopardizing their relationship but also their job and sometimes their health.

As I’ve said many times before, a client must want to be coached in order to be helped by the process. He or she can’t be forced to change. Frankly, though, I’ve never had a client with relationship problems who doesn’t want to make changes to improve his or her marriage.

When one spouse has ADHD and the other doesn’t, I often invite the non-ADHD partner, with the permission of my client, to give me feedback about how ADHD plays out in their life. When both have ADHD, problems can be compounded. Impulsivity and distractibility can cause fights and tear couples apart. Each person feels angry, humiliated, frustrated, and misunderstood. Partners can end up not trusting one another and, as a result, they feel disconnected and resentful.

No matter who has the ADHD, here are a few simple principles that couples can use to promote understanding and healthy relationships.

Nurturing the Marriage

Each person must take responsibility for his or her own actions—or lack thereof. In other words, the person with ADHD can’t use the condition as an excuse, and the non-ADHD partner must learn as much as he or she can about ADHD to understand how it affects his or her spouse. A relationship can’t survive—never mind thrive—if one partner blames another for things that are out of his control. The better option is to look for ways to nurture the relationship. Like choosing your fights. Each partner should ask, Does X, Y, or Z contribute to the growth of our relationship, or does it tear it down? If it doesn’t nurture it, agree to let it go.

Cathy felt like she was married to a ghost. When she tried to talk with her husband, Roger, about her needs, he would walk away, interrupt, or check his iPhone. Cathy, feeling alone and isolated, would stomp out of the room in frustration. When she confronted her husband about tuning her out when she wanted to talk, he would yell back, “Why does it always have to be about you?”

Through coaching, they came to understand that it wasn’t about Cathy or Roger, but about their relationship. By viewing their marriage as a third entity—as something that needs love and care to grow—they were able to slow down and listen to one another. They also realized that blaming one another and fighting over small stuff was only tearing down themselves and their 15-year marriage.

Reinforce with Praise

I remember getting a call from Sally, the wife of one of my clients, Bob. She was at her wit’s end and told me she was going to leave Bob. The trigger for such an extreme move? The Sunday newspaper. After reading it, her husband continually left the sections scattered all over the living room floor.

Bob and I developed strategies to help him to remember to pick up the paper and throw it away, instead of leaving it strewn in the living room and kitchen. Wanting to please Sally, he also decided, for the first time in their 20-year marriage, to pick up his clothes off the bedroom floor. He did this for a month without a syllable of praise from her. Yet the minute he blew it and left the newspaper on the floor again, she started yelling at him. He felt defeated, as if all his efforts were for nothing.

I found it hard to bite my tongue when Sally didn’t acknowledge Bob’s efforts. Looking at the relationship from her perspective, she was waiting for “the other shoe to drop.” She was so used to Bob reverting to old behaviors that she could focus only on his mistakes. Meanwhile, Bob became more discouraged.

ADHD is not an excuse, but if your partner is trying to change his behaviors, acknowledge it and encourage him or her. Praise is a tonic for persons with ADHD, who often have had a lifetime of shame and blame. Look for instances when your spouse is doing something right versus something wrong. Non-ADHD spouses should try to remember that change and progress might take a lot longer due to the wiring of the ADHD brain.

Plan Time Together

Schedule date nights and don’t skip them—no matter what. Make that commitment and stick to it. Time away will help you not only distance yourself from the day-to-day madness, but will also allow you to remember what you loved about each other when you first met. Always keep the door open for intimacy.

Eliminate Toxic Interactions

When one partner has ADHD, taking care of the details of daily living can often be the source of tension between a couple. It typically goes like this: The non-ADHD spouse asks the ADHD person to do something—pick up a few things at the grocery or change a light bulb. But because of ADHD symptoms, the request is never fulfilled. This type of dynamic almost led Craig and Beth to get divorced. Craig would tell Beth that he was going to fix something around the house, but he didn’t do it. After weeks of frustration, Beth’s anger would start to build and inevitably she would blow up.

I worked with them to create new strategies of communication, because it was clear to me that they couldn’t talk without hidden resentments emerging. I suggested that they use a notebook to list and check off tasks that needed to be done. Other suggestions included hanging up a white board or using Google Calendar, which allowed them to communicate without bitterness or anger.

Have a Sense of Humor!

I’ve had many clients say to me, “I feel that my partner just tolerates me these days. I wish he would embrace me for who I am—all of me—like he used to. He used to think my quirks were cute! Now I feel ashamed and demeaned.”

While it’s important not to use ADHD as an excuse, it’s equally important to see the humor in some of the behaviors it causes. For instance, I would avoid doing work by moving furniture. Thank goodness my husband never cared. He said it felt like he was coming home to a new house each day! It might have driven someone else nuts, but we still laugh about it.

Happy holidays and have a wonderful New Year!

Talk to you all soon!



P.S. I’ve invited my dear friend and colleague, Ose Schwab, to be a guest blogger next month. She will blog about how to start out the New Year right. I know for one, I will be excited to read her post!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Coaching Story: Meet Connie

No matter how long you’ve been coaching, how expert you are, or how much training you’ve had, you sometimes talk with a prospective client and a little voice in your head says, “Who are you kidding? You can’t help this person!” For me, that client was Connie, who called to see if I could help her turn around her life.

Connie was animated on the phone. We chatted for a while and laughed about some of the struggles we share, thanks to our AD/HD: For instance, thinking we could drop off dry cleaning and mail packages as we rushed out the door in the morning, when we were already late. We connected immediately.

Connie was an executive in an advertising firm before getting married. Now she was a stay-at-home mom with five children ranging in age from 5 to 16. I couldn’t imagine how hard her life must be. My own struggles—trying to stay organized every day while caring for two dogs—seemed smaller in comparison.

Connie was upbeat initially, but as the conversation wore on, she confessed that she felt beaten down by life. She was depressed and anxious. Fighting back tears, she said she had recently read entries in her journal about things she wanted to change—to be on time and more organized, to exercise regularly, and to spend more time with friends and family. She wrote the entries several years ago. Nothing had changed.

“How could I have been so successful in my corporate job and fall apart at home?” she asked me. Even though she had been happily married for 20 years, her relationship, lately, had become rocky because of her AD/HD. Connie’s husband didn’t understand why she was unable to finish a task when she had all day to do it. He couldn’t understand why she was disorganized—being late when picking up the kids and misplacing her keys several times a week.

I started to feel Connie’s pain. I kept thinking to myself, “How can I help her if I haven’t walked in her large shoes? I have two dogs; she has five children.” One thing I could relate to was Connie’s feeling of being overwhelmed. I understood how AD/HD impacted her life, and I believed I could help her. We decided we were a good match, set up an appointment, and started the coaching process.

In the initial intake meeting, we had a one-hour in-depth conversation where we started to identify Connie’s struggles and challenges: the inability to prioritize her activities, keep track of time, and structure her day. Connie learned that these challenges were caused by her AD/HD, not by her lack of discipline or effort. At one point, she blurted out, “You mean some of this is my AD/HD? I thought I was just lazy!”

Understanding that her AD/HD was the source of her problems stopped her from judging and blaming herself. It was as if a light switch had been turned on. Only then were we able to develop strategies that would allow her to, finally, make changes in her life. For the first time, I could hear a glimmer of hope in her voice. “There is a good reason why I keep repeating mistakes. Coaching can really help me make the changes I’ve tried so hard to make on my own.”

We compared her success in the workplace with her challenges at home. Why did she excel at the office and fall apart at home? After some probing, we discovered that Connie thrived at her job because her responsibilities were clear-cut and her day was structured. She didn’t have structure at home. Her children attended school, and her husband worked. She was often alone all day.

We decided to add the missing ingredient—structure—to her day. We started with something pressing in her life. Guests were visiting next weekend, and she had to get the house in order. We agreed that her goal for the upcoming week would be to neaten up the house in preparation for those guests. How would she accomplish it?

“In my eyes, everything seems important,” said Connie. “There’s paperwork I’ve been wanting to get to for three years that all of a sudden seems urgent to complete! But yet guests are coming. I’m so confused! Where do I start?”

I had her make two lists: a priority list for all the things she needed to do to prep the house for the guests and another labeled “Do Next Week,” for tasks she could tackle after they left. She put the latter list in a file folder on her desk. By listing tasks on her priority list—and breaking those tasks down into achievable actions—she built confidence that she could keep moving forward.

To help her accomplish the tasks on her priority list, we devised ways for her to organize her day and to better track time. We went over her weekly schedule and identified “open zones”—periods where she had time to accomplish tasks. Her goal was to slot a task from her priority list into an open zone. For example, make up the bed in the guest room, vacuum upstairs, clean the kitchen sink. She set her cell phone to beep every hour, so she could “hear” the passage of time and check in with herself to see if she was on track. Connie also e-mailed me during the day to let me know what she had accomplished. This motivated her to do more.

There were slip-ups. When Connie checked in with me by phone every week, she admitted her miscues. “This sure isn’t easy! I found myself off track many times. I began to see how I would negotiate with myself. I’d say, ‘It’s OK, Connie, if you play solitaire on the computer for a few minutes.’ I wound up playing for hours. My cell phone would beep every hour, and it helped get me back on track. But, I admit, there were a few times when I ignored it! I’m learning, though.”

We found that the weekly check-ins by phone worked well for Connie. We would identify daily priorities, and divide them into doable pieces. We also came up with ways for her to be accountable. Connie slowly began to make progress. She became more confident and self-reliant, and her family was able to depend on her.

As the weeks went by, we addressed Connie’s other goals—exercising, socializing more with friends, and spending time with her family. “For the first time in my life, I actually do what I say I am going to do,” Connie told me. “I see where my AD/HD gets in my way, and I have strategies to work around it. I have hope I can live a happy, more satisfying life. I see light at the end of the tunnel!”

Connie’s success underscores the foundation of coaching: It is a dynamic, evolving process that takes time to work. The client must be prepared to work hard and to establish a productive partnership with the coach. I’m still working with Connie; she—as we all are—is a work in progress. She is making positive strides, and she is improving with each session. I am so glad I didn’t give into that little voice of mine.

Until next time,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Daily Living Challenges for Adults: How a Coach Can Help

“Never confuse motion for action.”
—Thomas Jefferson

For people with AD/HD, the concept of time is fluid, even immeasurable. If you want to accomplish the tasks necessary to live a normal fulfilling life, you have to develop the ability to manage activities within time constraints. This has obvious repercussions in arenas like school and work, but what about in daily life? What deadlines await you there? Well, you have to pay the bills on time, keep your living space clean and neat, wash dishes, do laundry and buy groceries. These are the activities of daily life that often trip up people with AD/HD. A coach can help you manage these tasks through something called "structured flexibility."

Developing and keeping to daily structures is often one of the hardest things for people with AD/HD to do. Every day you must be ready to start the routine all over again. People with AD/HD know they need organization in their lives, yet tend to avoid it. However, it is possible to introduce too many structures into your life. Often the hunt for the right system can be a distraction itself. Some people fear they will get bored doing the same thing each day and therefore avoid any kind of regular arrangement of tasks.

A coach can help you chunk down your daily business into do-able, manageable pieces, encouraging you along the way, so that you maintain attention and follow through no matter how boring it might seem. A coach helps you establish routines to ritualize such tasks and reduce the burden. Some of the core daily living patterns stressed in coaching include:
Better sleeping patterns
Exercise programs
Healthy eating
Personal appearance
Planning time to de-stress and relax
General establishment of daily routines and rituals to accomplish daily tasks.

Let’s look at an example from the story of one of my clients.

Sonya zooms from one household chore to another but doesn't finish any of them. While cleaning her kitchen she sees the piled-up laundry. So she puts a load into the washer and then starts folding the clean load that's been sitting in the dryer, but she never gets back to the kitchen. Sonya is always tired and run down because she is a slave to her environment. She's not in control of her tasks. They control her.

Sonya's coach sees that she needs to systematize and prioritize her jobs so that she isn't trying to do everything all at once. The coach helps her do this by setting up certain days when she does laundry, pays bills, cleans the kitchen, etc. She posts notes around the house as a strategy to remind herself when to do what job. This works because Sonya responds so readily to her environment.

However, when her fiancé visits for the weekend, Sonya panics when she sees that her pile of dirty clothes (which she had been used to laundering regularly) is missing on Sunday morning. As she frantically begins to search for them, her fiancé walks in with the laundry basket. Baffled, Sonya asks, "What are you doing?" He responds, "What do you mean? I was simply following your instructions! You wrote notes, 'DO DISHES ON SATURDAY!' 'DO LAUNDRY ON SUNDAY!'" In this circumstance one might say that Sonya's strategy well exceeded her expectations!

Daily success for the adult with AD/HD means not confusing motion with action. It means ordering your life so that each part of it is clearly delineated and broken down into steps. The effect of AD/HD on the multitude of personal tasks that each of us must complete every day can be insidious. When we can’t get up and get to work on time, when we’re feeling stressed and rushed due to poor time management, when we forget to take care of our bodies and souls because we over-focus on work or school, our quality of life erodes. The inability to establish patterns of daily living can eat away at our confidence, self-esteem and performance.

Some of the most common issues addressed in coaching adults concerns establishing habits and daily rituals to make each day more livable. You may be able to develop systems to organize yourself at the office, but if you neglect to pay your bills on time, or forget to go to the grocery store, or if you’re always losing your keys, then all of your hard work in other areas may not be enough to help you establish and maintain balance. A coach experienced with training the AD/HD brain can help you meet daily challenges head-on. By checking in with her on a daily or weekly basis you will learn to perform to the best of your ability without moving aimlessly, wasting precious energy.

The very nature of AD/HD predicts that the brain's executive function is not working well enough; therefore, planning ahead, prioritizing and following through is hard. Things that other people take for granted are often a real struggle for people with ADD/LD. Paying bills, getting enough sleep, taking your medication consistently, and keeping your home clean are simply matters of course for most, but for people with ADD/LD, they can present as much of a difficulty as a long-term project at work.

If you have AD/HD, daily time management and organization are obstacles to living effectively. To move beyond these obstacles you must establish routines for recurring activities like getting up, going to bed, grocery shopping, doing the laundry, etc. The mundane tasks in life seem so simple on the surface, but have you ever stopped to think how many steps are involved with something as seemingly straightforward as doing them? For example, stop and think how many steps are involved in paying your bills.

These issues are often skeletons in the closets of people with LD and ADD. The career woman who appears to be at the top of her game at work may feel she’s leading a double life. She may shine in the boardroom, but have piles of papers to the ceiling of her dining room. The feelings of shame and the amount of energy that is drained trying to fix or feeling guilty about not being able to fix daily life details is immense. A coach can help you gradually establish patterns and routines that can give you a sense of control and well being in your daily life. You will develop your brain's executive function and become the boss of your own life. By learning to organize, plan, and prioritize, using strategies that you and your coach create, you can clear the hurdles of daily living with success and confidence.

Change is hard. Altering or eliminating old habits and patterns is never fun or easy. Worse, the job of trying to replace old destructive behaviors or habits with new healthy ones takes a lot of time, effort and persistence. If you have AD/HD no one has to tell you that making things stick is hard. Chances are you have struggled many times to develop new habits but simply gave up after repeated attempts. Negative tapes and the constant voices of criticism prevail over your efforts.

Why can’t you just keep a to-do list? Why are you so disorganized? Just hang your keys on a hook and you won’t lose them anymore! Can’t you just pick up your room and clean your desk for once? For the person with AD/HD it is more a matter of losing hope than lack of effort to change. Because of how the AD/HD brain functions, there is often an inability to maintain a steady, consistent course of action long enough to establish it as habit. All too often, what started out as a new commitment, a new challenge, slips off into the distant crevices of your brain, gets clouded over and disappears.

A coach understands this on again, off again tendency and will talk with you to discover where and how you slip off the road. In conjunction with a coach you can isolate the warning signs to alert you that you are straying from the road, and you can discover strategies to sustain attention long enough to follow through on a course of action. Keeping the entire goal in mind and sustaining motivation to completion are the keys to success. Regular contact with your coach will help you accomplish what you set out to do. You can slowly build a history of successfully meeting your goals, thereby learning self-reliance.

Due to the neurobiology peculiar to AD/HD individuals, change can be harder than normal. Sticking to one course of action can be a particular challenge as well. If a coach does not know better, they may see the symptoms of AD/HD masquerading as resistance, denial, passive aggressive behavior and so on. A coach needs to understand AD/HD to effectively coach client make necessary changes. This means not judging their slips and slides, but rather, helping them to better understand how their neurobiology gets in the way and what they can do about it.

The level of self-observation necessary to work with a coach in the process of filling the potholes in personal behavior helps the client to be engaged in creating strategies, thereby forcing them to use their brain to develop critical thinking skills. This is the power of coaching! The strategies stick because you came up with them! You understand where they emanate from, so you know how to bridge them. You can stop the self-blame and demystify how you get off track. Knowledge is power! You are the driver who knows where the potholes are and which way to swerve to avoid them.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The AD/HD Coaching Model: An Interactive Approach for Positive Change

In previous blogs I’ve mentioned that the primary goal of AD/HD coaching is to help individuals with AD/HD self-initiate change in their daily lives. To that end, I’ve developed a model for AD/HD coaching. It’s built on three core principles – Partnership, Structure, and Process. In combination these three elements enable the coaching process to take form and shape. No one element stands alone—it is the synergy of the three working together that create the coaching dynamic.

Let’s take a closer look at each component:

Partnership: By co-engineering a partnership with the coach, the client takes charge of the process, customizes the service to meet their needs, and develops a user-friendly partnership to motivate and move them forward. The client thus plays a central role in molding and shaping the dynamics of the coaching process.

Structure: Coaching establishes both internal and external strength-based structures to improve a client’s ability to focus and channel their abilities toward achieving set goals. Structuring takes the client repeatedly through steps such as attending to details, planning, organizing, and prioritizing, allowing the client to essentially “fake it 'til they make it.”

Process: Through a process of inquiry, the coach guides the client through self-exploration and learning. The coach poses non-judgmental questions to assist the client in analyzing the situation at hand and work toward an achievable resolution. The focus is on problem solving and being in action. The client thus becomes empowered and more willing to take ownership of his or her actions or lack of actions, as a result of discovering their own solutions.


June represents a typical client who comes to me for coaching services. She is married with two kids. She has recently been diagnosed with AD/HD and learned about coaching through a local AD/HD support group. In our initial intake she said she has been disorganized and distracted as long as she can remember. She said she is always late to pick up her kids from school and to other appointments, forgets to pay the bills, looses her keys regularity, and finds herself rearranging the dishes in cupboards or doing “anything else but” her priority tasks. Her husband has threatened to leave her if she doesn’t become more responsible, and her kids have learned to not depend on her when she makes promises to them. She is desperate and feels that she has tried everything. She told me she has read countless self-help books on time management and organization, but is not able to consistently apply the concepts.

Since her diagnosis she has been taking medication for her AD/HD. She said it helps “if only I can remember to take it!” She also has been seeing a therapist regularly to deal with her feelings of being a failure as a wife and a mother. She said it’s helped her with her emotions, but she still struggles with trying to change her daily habits and behavior.

It was clear that June was experiencing difficulties in a variety of different areas due to her AD/HD. Together, through the coaching process, we identified a couple areas she wanted to work on immediately: Her ability to measure time and prioritizing tasks – namely her ability to assign and direct her attention to the most important tasks for that day and to complete them in a timely manner and, her ability to self-monitor.

Below are a few examples of how we worked together. Remember, coaching is very individualized and tailored to each client’s needs, so what worked for June might or might not work for everyone!

  • Measuring time and prioritizing tasks: By talking out actions and plans with me on a bi-weekly basis over the phone June was able to identify what her top priorities were for each day. We designated start and stop times for working on her priorities and created accountability around completion of them through e-mail check-ins. Independent of me, June also used a timer and created a "time card" for her-self on her computer so she would "clock-in" to work, so to speak, and "clock-out" for each task.
  • Self-monitoring: June would log in a journal what she did each day. In our phone check-ins she would report to me events that had happened during the week. We would review instances where she felt she had made bad choices, for example, attempting to run several errands on the way to pick up her kids when she was already over 45 minutes late!

By analyzing these occurrences, June was able to self-reflect and talk-through possible alternative courses of actions. She then "programmed" me to keep reminding her of her tendency to get distracted by non-important tasks. I would do reality checks with her by saying: "Remember, June, you tend to fool yourself into thinking that in the moment it’s important to rearrange the cupboards or stop run five errands on your way to pick up your kids– how can you keep yourself focused?"

Also, by tracking her medication intake more closely she was able to become more aware of how she behaved on and off medication and to be more aware of the warning signs of when it was wearing off. We designated specific times to take her medication as directed by her doctor and set her wristwatch as well as her cell phone to beep when she needed to take her next dose.

June’s direct involvement in the creation of strategies, including designing the coaching partnership itself, maintained her interest and motivated her to change her behavior. By providing structure and support and prompting her with questions, the coach was able to help June learn the skills to stay on track.

Until next time! And remember, if you have any questions please submit them!

Warmly, Nancy

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Coaching Process: How It Works

In an earlier entry I touched briefly upon what coaching is and how it helps individuals with AD/HD.

This week I want to talk about how coaching is done. Of course every coach has his or her own unique style of coaching and/or model; so, once again, I’ll be speaking in general terms.

Most coaches start out by having a brief initial conversation with the potential client. In this initial exchange it’s to remember coaching is a partnership—it’s a two-way street—meaning each party is “interviewing” the other for what I call “a good match.” The coach accesses if the client is ready to be coached and is a good match, and the client accesses if the coach is the right one for him or her.

The criteria a coach uses in deciding who is a good client for coaching are several. The main one is, is the client ready, willing and able to be coached?

People of all ages and from all walks of life can benefit from coaching. The individuals who benefit most have a strong desire for personal growth and improvement. They are ready and committed to take action and participate fully in the coaching process. They also must have the willingness and desire to be accountable to their coach.

Coaching is based on a wellness model; if overriding problems with depression or other medical issues are inhibiting daily functioning of the client and are left untreated, then the coaching will not be successful. Very often the coach will work in tandem with the individual’s various healthcare providers to overcome these obstacles.

The client in turn must know what he or she wants from the coaching process before contacting a potential coach. This is easier than it might seem. Simply make a list of the issues you are struggling with and ask the coach how he or she would coach you on that particular issue! This way you’ll immediately get a sense of the style of coaching as well as competence level. What you’ll want to ask is: Does this person have an understanding of AD/HD? Do I get a sense she/he “gets” my challenges? Do I like his or her style?”

Of course, other basic considerations should be taken into account, such as: Has this person been trained as an AD/HD coach? How long has the coach been coaching? Does he or she have coaching credentials, or is she/he working toward any? How many clients has the coach worked with? What are some examples of successes the coach has had with clients?

Once you both decide it’s a good match, you then move forward to what is called the “initial interview or intake.”


The coaching process begins with an initial interview in which the client shares goals, history, and current challenges with the coach. The coach and client together develop a strategy and a roadmap specifically designed to meet the client’s individual needs. The coach guides the process, provides the structure, asks questions, and offers feedback, but the client drives the process forward. Regular meetings and check-ins are an essential part of the coaching process. These contacts can be in person or by telephone, texting or email. Periodic reviews can also be established to monitor overall progress. The lengths of these sessions differ between individual coaches. Some offer 30-minute sessions three times a month, while others offer one-hour sessions four times a month.

In this initial session other issues are covered such as a coaching agreement that reviews the parameters of coaching—what it covers and does not cover—and other general procedures such as payment and cancelation policies.


Since the coaching process is unique for every individual, the time frame for individual coaching relationships varies. Some clients need to hire a coach for a short-term project, while others hire a coach for long-term goal achievement.

The goal of coaching is to provide the external support and guidance necessary to jump-start the process until the client learns the skills necessary to keep him or her on track over time.

Ultimately, ADHD coaching helps the client learn about his or her own brain and its deficits in order to demystify them. When individuals have an understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, they are then able to develop concrete, sustainable strategies to maximize their unique abilities. Coaching helps transform an “I can’t” attitude into an “I CAN” attitude. The brain can learn! This is the energy that helps clients make positive, lasting changes in their lives.

I hope this helps everyone to gain greater insight into how coaching is done!

Until next time, warmly,


Monday, July 13, 2009

Deciding What to Keep and What to Throw Away

Many people with AD/HD have problems with clutter. There may be many reasons for this, among some is the false hope that one day you’ll actually bake that exotic cake you saw the recipe for in a pile of cooking magazines you’ve had for 10 years.

Another reason is the inability to prioritize and to decide what to keep and what to toss, causing the person to get overwhelmed, keep everything, and simply give up on ever sifting through the piles.

It doesn’t matter the cause--the end result is usually always the same- a sense of guilt, shame and frustration is felt by the person.

The general rule I use is this: be brutally honest with yourself and ask, “Am I really going to need this? Will I ever REALLY get around to making that cake? Will I actually ever make that scrapbook of mementoes for my kids? If your answer is NO! Throw the stuff out! 99.9% chance is, that if you’ve not read or acted on whatever it is by now, you never will!

Next, ask yourself, “Will this (magazine, paper, etc.) Impede my progress forward or will it propel it? If it will impede it, throw it out!

I have dozens of other strategies on how to get through the clutter and paperwork and can make that an entire section of the blog! But some quickie ones are:

-Always go through clutter while standing up- never sitting down

-Divide things into 3 piles “keep” “throw away” and “I don’t know yet”

-Use the 3-second rule—don’t keep anything in your hand for than 3 seconds- hurry put it in one of the 3 piles- quick! ;-)

-Designate a time to start and stop

Monday, June 29, 2009

Response From Coach Nancy

Thank you all for your posts! Here are some general thoughts of mine regarding some of the questions asked so far:


Coaches are not qualified to advise clients on medication. They can help the client to set up schedules to remember to take their medication and to take them on time.

If other medication issues come up, or if a client is self-medicating by drinking excessive amounts of cola or coffee, I might, as a coach, suggest they see a Dr. who specializes in treating people with AD/HD.

Regardless, whether my client is on or off meds I suggest that they enlist good health practices and EXERCISE! EXERCISE! EXERCISE!


Many of my clients lead very busy lives and/or have a hard time saying no and end up with a lot on their plate.

As a coach, I help clients to simplify their lives by practicing saying no. I have them rehearse dialogues ahead of time, for example “I would love to help you out, but my schedule these days is really packed. Let me get back to you when things ease up.”

I also work with my clients to set out a schedule with clear boundaries as to how they will spend their time so all their activities are "contained" and don't "bleed" into one another.


On the CHADD site www.chadd.org under the National Resource Center for AD/HD there are some great articles that have wonderful tips for adults with AD/HD and finances. The URL is:



The benefit of coaching is that it is done mostly by phone and can be done from anywhere in the world, so the coach doesn’t have to be from the client’s immediate geographic area. However, coaching is very individualized, and some clients do want an “in person” coach. So, it’s up to each person to seek out a coach that can meet their own needs.

There are many directories for coaches listed on my site under “finding a coach.” The most important thing is to interview a few of them and get a sense of their style. Learn as much as you can about coaching and what it can offer you. Prepare questions ahead of time. Then see who is a good match for you. To me, that is very important!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Finding My Life's Work


I am pleased and honored to be the contributing writer for the new CHADD AD/HD Coaching Blog. I will post a new blog entry every second Tuesday of the month. My hope is to cover a variety of topics that I think will be of interest and helpful to practicing coaches, to people looking for a coach, and to the public.

As many of you know, I’ve been coaching for over 15 years. What some of you might not know is how I came to be a coach. I got into coaching due to my own struggles with AD/HD. I was fortunate to have grown up in a very structured home and learned early on the importance it made in my life. However, all the structure at home didn’t prevent me from having all the same struggles and challenges that everyone with AD/HD faces when they become independent and go on to face the “real world.”

College was a huge hurdle for me, and graduate school was impossible. I had to drop out of Harvard after my first semester. It wasn’t a matter my knowing WHAT to do, it was knowing HOW to apply the skills I learned growing up. Once I was diagnosed with AD/HD and went on a trial of medication, everything fell into place. I finally was able to APPLY the skills I had learned from my father.

As the saying goes “people attract people like themselves.” Before I knew it I was helping others by passing on the lessons I learned growing up. I saw how these strategies and methods my father used to keep me on track made a difference in other people’s lives. Essentially I was doing a form of coaching to help my fellow classmates with AD/HD as well as setting the groundwork for what would become my life’s work—coaching!

So, what is AD/HD coaching and how can a coach help a person with AD/HD?

AD/HD coaching is a dynamic methodology that aims to nurture the client’s ability to self-initiate change in his or her daily life. It is a supportive, practical, concrete process in which the client and coach work together to identify and pursue goals. Coaching helps individuals with AD/HD develop the structures necessary to function effectively and to learn practical approaches to the challenges of daily life.

This goal is ultimately accomplished by using strength-based strategies and the client’s own innate creativity to solve problems. The coach provides structure, feedback, and encouragement to keep the learning process a dynamic one. This is done until the client increases self-awareness, builds an arsenal of strategies to draw upon, and develops the confidence in his or her own ability to self-manage.

AD/HD coaching focuses on the specific needs of the individual being coached. Like all coaching, it is a supportive, goal-oriented process in which the coach and the client work to develop the tools, strategies and confidence necessary to help the client reach his or her potential. The AD/HD coach is trained and experienced in working with people with AD/HD and is capable of helping them develop strategies that maximize the talents of the AD/HD brain and compensate for the individual difficulties the client experiences.

Typically, AD/HD coaching helps individuals with AD/HD develop the structures, processes, and practical approaches necessary to meet the challenges of everyday life and excel in their special areas of talent.

I am excited to share my thoughts and experiences with all of you. If you have any questions you would like me to address please feel free to submit them.

Thank you very much for participating in this exciting venture!



Tuesday, June 2, 2009