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How You Are Self-Medicating Your ADHD

I’m not just talking about self-medicating ADHD with booze and drugs…

I’m talking about self-medicating our ADHD with any of a number of things we’re eating, drinking, smoking, watching — and even thinking — that are giving us a sense of “relief” from our pain and frustration.

We ADHDers tend to have low levels of neuro-chemicals that are key in regulating our focus, emotions and moods. And just as prescription ADHD meds can boost our levels of these key brain chemicals, other substances (and activities) can do the same.

Which is why we are prone to gravitate toward various forms of “self-medication.”

As my friend, Rick Green (of TotallyADD fame) says, “We ingest or inhale or sign up for something that wakes up the brain. We treat ourselves. With substances or behaviors. Or misbehaviors.”  Let’s take a look at the range of these…

First, the Worst Kinds of Self-Medication

Self-Medicating ADHD TEDxIn my TED Talk, I shared the sad statistics around undiagnosed ADHD adults and teens, and their significantly greater use of drugs and alcohol. But even if we’re diagnosed — and properly treated — we are at risk for medicating ourselves in the unhealthiest of ways. For instance…

Cocaine & Speed: According to WebMD, “Children with ADHD are twice as likely to abuse or become dependent on cocaine as those without the condition.” I, for instance, unwittingly self-medicated with cocaine throughout college — and ended up a stone cold junkie.

Alcohol: Up to one half ADHD adults abuse alcohol or are outright dependent on it. We think booze helps “settle down our mind,” but in reality it’s a depressant, impairs our ability to focus and think — and over time, “can damage your heart, brain, and liver, and makes you more likely to get cancer,” per WebMD.

Tobacco: While nicotine, a stimulant, can boost short-term focus, research shows that it can backfire and make us more hyper and your ADHD symptoms harder to manage.

Cannabis: Smoking weed, you might argue, is relatively mild stuff, and many ADHDers say it helps them quiet their mind and reduce anxiety. But while many believe it can ease ADHD symptoms, according to WebMD, “…research has found almost no proof of this. In fact, cannabis can actually worsen your attention, impulse control, focus, and organization.”

Keep reading to the end to find not-really-healthy and truly healthy ways we can “self-medicate” our ADHD symptoms…

Self-Medicating ADHD with “Healthier” Stimulants

Yes, the following are probably better than cocaine or even cigarettes, but they all represent a slippery slope that we ADHD adults are at risk of sliding to the bottom of.

Caffeine: Sure, coffee, tea and caffeine-packed soda pop and energy drinks are relatively harmless. Relatively. Caffeine is generally a mild stimulant, but when over-consumed can affect sleep and even mood. Oh, and it’s addictive, resulting in painful withdrawal headaches when discontinued.

Sugar: Countless ADHDers are walking around much of the day with a sugary beverage in hand. Every sip sends a tiny burst of glucose (our brain’s primary fuel) to the brain, providing a brief bit of mental energy. But a minute later they crash. And then must sip again. And again. And…  Sugar — whether in drinks, snacks or breakfast cereal — is a lousy source of mental fuel.

Adrenaline: Extreme sports and other risky behaviors can give us a charge and elevate us out of our ADD restlessness. I, for instance, race motorcycles, which I insist “flushes my brain toilet.” However, as I write this I’m in my third month of recovering from no fewer that 14 bone fractures, a collapsed lung and other internal and external injuries, thanks to my cherished hobby. A price I’m willing to pay — I’ll be racing again in two months — but it could cost me much more one day, and so could your risky driving, clowning around or other on-the-edge behaviors.

A few more activities that self-medicate us with adrenaline and other yummy neurochemicals are: Shopping, Gambling and Games. All of which are addictive and not only can cost us lots of money, but also burn tons of precious time and energy. And speaking of wasting time and energy…

Self-Medicating ADHD with Social Media

As I noted in Crusher™TV Episode 15: Get More Done with Less @#$!, according to GlobalWebIndex, the average user logs 1.72 hours per day on social platforms. And it’s increasing every year. Why? Because it gives us dopamine hits, which our ADHD brains can never get enough of.

That’s why it’s so easy to be working on some important thing and then, “Juuusssst for a minute I’m gonna check my Instagram feed” or flitter off into some other social time-burner. We think this is resting our brain. It is not. It’s burning out our dopamine receptors and it’s burning mental energy.  Ditto for YouTube.

And as Tristan Harris, former Google designer and now Silicon Valley ethicist says: As you scroll your social media or click on one YouTube video after another, know that behind your screen are a thousand skillful engineers whose only job it is to make you scroll or click one more time. And then again. And again.

Yes, they KNOW it’s addictive and they’re perfecting that addictiveness every day.

CrusherTip: Calendar your social media or web-surfing sessions. Use them as rewards for completing work, NOT as a “rest” that interrupts that work.

Self-Medicating ADHD with Pseudoproductivity

Just as with social media, we get mini-dopamine hits from doing low-impact and even meaningless, totally unimportant tasks. A few examples:

Checking email more frequently than needed. Deleting emails. Looking at and re-writing our to-do list. Excessive office chat. Working on certain tasks because they are easier than the tough, important task we’re avoiding.

CrusherTip: Make a note of how many things you’re doing RIGHT NOW. Do you have more than a few browser windows/tabs open? Is your email open? Is your phone in your hand or right in front of you? Have you texted or emailed or checked social media in the last 15 minutes? Are you “escaping” into easy work knowing a big project needs your focus? If you’ve answered yes to all or most of these, consider if any of theme are actually making you more productive. Most likely, they’re just giving you teeny bits of ‘medication.’

Another form of pseudoproductivity is rumination. Yes, our thinking can be self-medication. When we ruminate on past mistakes, anxieties about the future, generally feeling bad about this or that, we are altering our brain chemistry. And that “altered state” can be addictive.

Now for the REAL Healthy Ways of Self-Medicating ADHD

Exercise: Dr. John Ratey famously said, “Exercise produces a brain chemical that acts like Miracle-Gro® for your brain.” It also produces all the ADD-crushing neurochemicals we so desperately need. Which can make any consistent exercise regimen a wonderful addiction.

Meditation: I won’t dive into all the research around the benefits of even modest meditation, but there’s a reason so many people who’ve adopted a daily practice of it tend to find it indispensable for their ADHD management: it feels goooooood!

Passion: Hopefully, you’ve got a hobby or side-hustle and/or a loved one you’re passionate about. Go be with that more often. And be more present when you’re are. You’ll get more of the feel-goods that make less-noble feel-goods less appealing in contrast!

Connection: One of the world’s most famous long-term studies has been examining what factors lead to a longer, happier life since the 1930’s. The #1 factor is social connection. And I’m not talking clicking Like on your friend’s travel photo. Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to recently!

Coaching: Want the most impactful “treatment” for ADHD that doesn’t come in a bottle? Try an ADHD coach or a coaching group. The right coach/group will have you addicted to progress toward living to your potential!

A Closing  Thought

If you’d like to learn more about my own dark journey into self-medication (i.e., drug addiction and alcohol abuse) and how I climbed out of that hole, download the article I wrote for Attention magazine.

And remember, whatever’s in your way…is yours to crush!

P.S.: Want to know more ways to beat back your ADHD symptoms? Tricks to beat procrastination? How to get prioritized and manage your time? Have you heard about my award-winning video/audio program ADD Crusher™? Learn more HERE.

ADD Crusher Program



Alan P Brown CrusherTVAlan P. Brown, an internationally recognized Productivity Coach, TEDx Speaker and #1 Best Selling Author of Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier is the host of Crusher™TV, where he and his Guest Experts share simple ways to get more done in less time with less stress. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.


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How to Delegate Work (So YOU Can Work LESS)

How to Delegate Work? Start by Knowing The Barriers to Delegating

If you’re overwhelmed at work, at home, or both, there’s a really good chance you’re not delegating enough. You need to know some of the secrets of how to delegate work.

Delegating is a critical survival skill in the corporate world – but also in our own small businesses and even in running our households. It allows us to focus on the tasks and projects that really power us forward and upward. Yet delegation is a tricky skill nobody ever really teaches you. Not in school, or even on the job.

No wonder so many of us fail to delegate — or delegate enough. For most folks, it’s a combination of…

  1. Not knowing what to delegate.
  2. Not knowing whom to delegate to.
  3. Not knowing how to delegate smoothly.
  4. Not having calculated the massive benefits of delegation.

But for us ADHD adults, it’s even more difficult.

Delegation is an executive function, so, along with prioritization, time management and planning, our weak executive functioning chops make these kinds of tasks doubly difficult. In my award-winning ADD Crusher™ instructional videos, I talk more specifically about why delegation is so hard for us ADHDers, and I share a couple solutions. Here’s a short clip…

The High Costs of Not Delegating

How to Delegate Work - Unhappy EmployeesOne of the reasons I floundered in my first six years as a corporate executive, despite hard work and long hours, was that I didn’t know how to delegate work. Every year I’d get a positive review — but not the promotion. Because, as my bosses would say, “Alan, we can’t put more people under you, because the ones that are, don’t have anything to do! You’re doing it ALL!” Needless to say, my team was miserable. And my career trajectory was bleak.

The costs of not delegating are indeed steep: Beyond the handicapping of our careers, we continue to do more work that we need to be doing, keeping track of tasks we shouldn’t be worrying about. Plus, for entrepreneurs and managers at any level, we’re holding our businesses and our employees back by not letting go of work. And then there’s the stress: We’re working hard, but instead of enjoying our achievements, we’re stressed and overwhelmed with too many responsibilities.

And the upsides of delegating are many and massive — in a nutshell, you get to work less and focus more on the things you do best!

How to Delegate Work So You Can Work LESS

But back to why we aren’t delegating — or delegating more. It’s mostly psychological. The verb delegate means to entrust or to assign responsibility or authority. And being able to trust, give up responsibility and hand over authority are not things we humans do easily. It goes against our basic psychological set-up!

The Psychological Barriers to Delegation

Digging a little deeper, here are the Top 10 Reasons We’re Not Delegating (a.k.a., the Psychological Barriers). Think about each one and whether you may be handcuffed by it…

ONE.  “No one can do it as well as me…” Which may be true at the moment, but you had to learn it at some point, so others can indeed master the task just as you did.

TWO. “My approach is the only one.” That’s crazy just on the face of it, but it’s a belief we often hold under the surface.

THREE. “I don’t want to be dependent on others.” Dependency can make us feel weak and vulnerable. But only if — we’re weak and vulnerable.

FOUR. “I’m afraid my team (or subordinate or virtual assistant) won’t be able to handle the increased responsibility.” You won’t know ’til you try!

FIVE. “I don’t want to increase my team’s (or sub subordinate’s or virtual assistant’s) already burdensome workload.” Have the conversation with them, then decide.

SIX. “I’m afraid they’ll say no.” Nobody likes rejection, but research suggests a) you have more influence than you think, and b) you’ll actually gain their respect for asking.

SEVEN. “I don’t want to let go of tasks I enjoy doing.” Great. You wanna to keep doing tasks you enjoy, while more important tasks that ONLY YOU can do aren’t getting done?

EIGHT. “I’m a people pleaser. It’s hard for me to say ‘no’ to people who ask for something – and even harder …to ask for help.” (See Six, above.)

NINE. “I’m just too busy to delegate — it’s quicker and more efficient for me to just do it myself.” You’re too busy because you’re NOT delegating, and it’s NOT more efficient. Period. And…

TEN. And this is the big kahuna — “I don’t know how to delegate work, especially complex tasks or projects.” More about this at the end of the post.

Hopefully you see a little of yourself in one or more of these barriers to delegation. This is a great starting point for developing your delegation muscle.

But there’s more to successful (and effortless) delegation of work, all of which I eventually mastered, helping me dramatically alter the trajectory of my corporate career — and then launch multiple successful start-ups. If you’re interested in a peek at the next level, read on!

Want More Simple-Yet-Powerful Secrets of How to Delegate Work?

In addition to the above Psychological Barriers-to-Delegation, there are still the matters of how to identify WHAT to delegate, and knowing WHOM to delegate to. I delve into both of these in Crusher™TV Episode 111 — where I also serve up 5 Secrets to HOW to Delegate Work(To watch full episodes you can become a member of Crusher™TV for a buck and cancel any time you like, but either way, you can preview that Episode by clicking the image below.)

Crusher™TV Episode 111

What’s Crusher™TV? It’s not just an online TV show that teaches ways to have more control in your life. It’s a LIBRARY of over 100 20-minute videos teaching ways to beat procrastination, get prioritized, get organized, manage your time, and more. You might get a lot out of watching the entire Episode 111: 5 Secrets to Delegating Work, where I dig a lot deeper into this topic. Click the image to watch the Preview.





Alan P Brown CrusherTVAlan P. Brown, an internationally recognized ADHD/Productivity Coach, TEDx Speaker and #1 Best Selling Author of Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier is the host of Crusher™TV, where he and his Guest Experts share simple ways to get more done in less time with less stress. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Why It’s So Hard to Get Started on a Big Project or Idea

Know the Barriers to Get Started on a Big Project, and You Can Start to Break them Down

So, you’ve had this Big Idea for a while and you still find it brilliant every time you think about it. Or you’ve been assigned a major project and you’re stoked about it cuz it could yield some good results for your career. But it hasn’t gone beyond that. You haven’t started it. Why IS it so hard to get started on a big project or idea?!

Why won’t our engines fire up on that major project, even as the deadline nears?

In a recent Episode of CrusherTV™, I introduced what I call the Roadmap for Any Big Thing – whether an idea or a major project.

It consists of 4 Phases…


Roadmap for Any Big Project

The Roadmap for Any “Big Thing”: Each Phase has unique barriers to action.

And I talked about the importance of understanding which of the 4 Phases of a Big Thing you’re stuck in. Because each Phase has its own unique barriers and solutions – and once you identify that Phase, you can choose the right mental tools for breaking through to the next level – and onward to completion.

In this post, I’ll illuminate the main barriers to getting started (Phase II), and ways to mitigate those barriers, so you’ll be more likely to finally…start!

(By the way, perhaps you’ve noticed in your struggles with procrastination on big projects/ideas…)

“The bigger the idea, the bigger and hairier the project, the more likely we are to either procrastinate on starting it, or never start it. Even if we know it would be a great thing!” – Alan P. Brown TWEET THIS

 Why It’s So Hard to Get Started on a Big Project

How to Start Your Big ProjectPhase II – The Start, is where so many of us get stuck. It’s that place between “OK, this is a clearly defined thing that I can and will do,” …and actually taking that first concrete action of starting it. There are three key barriers here that get in our way:

An obvious barrier is plain old procrastination in the form of Temporal Discounting: “No worries, dude – there’s plenty of time on this!”

Or as is often the case with Big Ideas like our first book or our idea for our side-hustle, there is no firm deadline for completing them. So there’s never any fire lit under your butt!

This is of course classic ADHD behavior, right? We conveniently remain blind to the encroaching deadline — or wait until next year to think about our book/app/start-up again — until either it becomes a massive inconvenience requiring our action, or we just give up on it.

How to Mitigate This Barrier and Get Started on a Big Project: One way to fight back is to have a talk with our Future Self. What do I mean? This quote sets it up nicely:

“Future selves are considered to be strangers, to whom one can pass the buck and impose a heavy and uncompensated burden.” – Christine Tappolet, PhD  TWEET THIS

See, procrastination is our Present Self screwing our Future Self, because our Present Self lacks the energy, willpower or incentive, or procrastinates in exchange for some unimportant pleasure or relief or avoidance.

Barriers to Starting Temporal DiscountingSo we must listen to our Future Self when he/she says, “Please don’t burden me by leaving this until the last minute!” — and create an unpleasant deadline for our Present Self to at least get started. One that’s way sooner than the actual deadline (or desired finish, if there’s no formal deadline).

Then populate your calendar with reminders galore that will pop up daily at the very least. The constant reminders will also help mitigate that temporal discounting.

Another barrier, particularly on big, important things, is Fear of Failure: As productivity guru Peter Bregman says, “We procrastinate on that big project precisely because it’s important. So important, in fact, that we’re too scared to work on it. ‘I’m afraid. Afraid that I’ll fail. That I’ll spend a lot of time on it — while other more immediate things don’t get done — and it’ll be terrible, anyway.’”

Got Fear? Call It Out!

How to Mitigate This Barrier: The key first step in de-fanging any fear is to name your fear.

That’s right, all you need do is describe what it is you fear whenever that fear has you stuck. Doing so is scientifically proven to begin shrinking that fear.

Kristy Dalrymple, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, says, “The more you try to suppress fear, either by ignoring it or doing something else to displace it, [like escaping into some other, easier activity] the more you will actually experience that fear.”

Naming your fear allows you to accept that you are feeling fearful which lets you examine the causes of your fear – and in doing so, you are shifting your processing away from your lizard brain and into your frontal lobe – where reason and problem-solving begin to shrink it!

The Biggest Reason We Procrastinate on Big Projects

Barrier to Starting is Not Knowing Where to StartAnd the third classic (and biggest) barrier is Not Knowing Where to Start. “When I just THINK about starting it, I get frustrated because I can’t figure out where or how to start it.” And this should be no surprise, because a common characteristic of all “Big Things” is that their structure is big, complex and therefore, often unclear before we start.

How to Mitigate This Barrier: I elaborated on this in CrusherTV™ Episode 108 (see more on that, below) and in a CrusherTV™  blog, but in a nutshell the mental trick is to not worry about how or where to start. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”

Huh? Yes, just start. Start before you know where to start, by starting anywhere. Because once you take that first step, you can now see more of the staircase! Then take one more step. Then another.

That’s how you get out of this trap!

Now that you understand these three barriers to get started on a big project or your big idea, you’re in a much better position to fight back and beat them down.

Want 3 Powerful Solutions to Get Started on a Big Project?

In addition to the three above “mitigators” to start breaking down those barriers-to-action, there are also three powerful solutions to totally crush those barriers. One’s a brain hack, one’s a powerful tool you’ve probably heard of, and the other is a no-brainer physical hack.

I’ve served up the powerful brain hack in this CrusherTV™ Blog, but if you want to dine on all three evidence-based strategies that can help you get energized, and aggressively, intentionally, FINALLY start your big thing, watch the Preview of Episode 108 and consider joining as a Member so you can watch the entire Episode, which also features veteran ADHD coach Lynne Edris.

What’s Crusher™TV? It’s not just an online TV show that teaches ways to have more control in your life. It’s a LIBRARY of over 100 20-minute videos teaching ways to beat procrastination, get prioritized, get organized, manage your time, and more. You might get a lot out of watching the entire Episode 108, How to Finally Start Your Big Idea/Project, where I dig deeper into this topic. (To watch full episodes you can become a member for a buck and cancel any time you like, but either way, you can preview that Episode by clicking the image below.)



Episode Description: We all have at least one big idea or project we want or need to start. But too often, they languish, un-started. I’ll show why you’re stuck and evidence-based ways to get going on your biggest, scariest idea/project. Plus, coach Lynne Edris shares keys to your Unique Operating System.






Alan P Brown CrusherTVAlan P. Brown, an internationally recognized Productivity Coach, TEDx Speaker and #1 Best Selling Author of Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier is the host of Crusher™TV, where he and his Guest Experts share simple ways to get more done in less time with less stress. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.

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How to Meditate Without Meditating

What if you could get all the benefits of meditation…without learning how to meditate?

You’ve heard about the benefits of learning how to meditate – less stress, more clarity and focus. It’s a proven, powerful alternative ADHD solution.

But there’s no way you could meditate regularly, right?

Well, what if you didn’t have to learn how to meditate? I’ll share three evidence-based ways to meditate – that can de-stress and sharpen your mind – without having to “meditate!

We, More than Others, Need to Know How to Meditate!

Now, if everybody in the world could do with a little more Zen, then we ADHDers could use a triple scoop, no? Just think about frustrations that drive us bonkers daily:


“I’m in a constant state of overwhelm!”

“I never have enough time…always feel it’s running out!”

“I can’t get motivated to start, let alone finish, projects!”

“My to-do list is a monster…and I can’t prioritize!”

Add to that our emotional impulsiveness, impatience, overreacting, quick temper, etc. Yes, we need more Zen!

And yet all these challenges share one thing in common: they’re driven in part by our mind’s – or inner voice’s – interpretation of things around us. And therefore, can be reduced by managing that voice. (This, by the way, is what mindfulness and meditation are, at their core.)

Mindfulness strategies are among the most powerful ADHD alternative solutions in successfully managing my own brain. And I regularly use a toolbox of what I call “Practical Zen Brain Hacks” — simple, super ADD-friendly mental tricks that can be put to work immediately for more peace of mind – and productivity.

For instance, you can flip from a negative mental stance to a positive one by simply mindfully throwing the correct switch in your brain — and change your inner voice, along with your physiology. (Negative thoughts and emotions create a destructive “physiological cascade” of harmful neurotransmitters. Switching to alternative positive thoughts negates that negativity!)

Hence, instead of buying a book to learn how to meditate, do some Practical Zen Brain Hacks. Here are three of my favorites…

How to Meditate without Meditating

You can “meditate” without having to learn how to meditate!

Witness Your Thoughts

Our inner voice is blabbing all the time: “I have no time right now”; “My to-do’s are ALL so important! Oh my goodness!” — and even, “Yeesh, look at those tacky shoes!”

How to Meditate by Listening to Your ThoughtsIt’s rare, however, that we actually observe it. Which is too bad. Because when we do, we have the chance to step “outside ourselves” to witness that cacophony for what it is: typically, a lot of ego-based chatter, pointless worry about past and future, negative self-talk, petty judgments, etc.

The very act of witnessing our internal dialogue is a form of higher consciousness. And the more you witness it, the more conscious you are, the more present you are, and the more powerfully you can employ these and other life-improving strategies. Indeed, witnessing your mind’s voice is just Step One in shutting it up


You really don’t need to know how to meditate to get your mind quiet.

Here’s a simple way to quiet your mind…and power it up. It takes as little as 10 seconds and results in a refreshed mindset with which to push forward into a demanding task.

Quieting Your Mind is How to Meditate

I use this trick whenever my mind’s fatigued or just before sitting down in front of a tough engagement – a complicated memo, speech writing or business call.

I just relax my mind for a couple minutes. Which means, I just stop listening to the chatter flying around in my head and listen instead to my breathing…or visualize a lake…or just stare out the window.

Seriously, a minute or two of that and it’s almost like I’ve taken a power nap. I’m not talking about transcendental meditation here. Anyone can do this, though you do get better at it with practice. Try it next time you sit down at work, before you begin a tough task.

The third Practical Zen Brain Hack is what I call…

Meditate in Motion

You don’t have to be sitting in the lotus position to quiet your mind and reap the benefits. Many daily routines and activities are opportunities for mental peace and/or creative problem-solving.

How to Meditate by Walking Your DogFor instance, be conscious when walking the dog, commuting to work, working out, hanging out with the kids – even doing the dishes or the laundry — which are all times when you don’t need to be stressing over past or future.

You can just be enjoying these things for what they are. And THAT is a quieting of the mind just as formal meditative silence is!

So, if, while walking the dog, you were being the witness to your thoughts, choosing to listen to your breathing or just the sound of the outdoors — you are meditating in motion! Without having to learn how to meditate sitting on a bed of nails!

I hope this all brings home the powerful message that you don’t have to “meditate” to get the ADD-crushing benefits of meditation. Try one or more of these, won’t you? And leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Are You Making Your ADHD Worse?

Stop Making Your Adult ADHD Worse

We ADDers can be at a disadvantage from the get-go, so we have no business adding more troubles to our plate. But we do. There are many things we do TO ourselves – or don’t do FOR ourselves – that make our ADHD worse, or just seem worse. This eBook details five things we must stop doing, and show how to correct course. Stop making your ADHD worse! Get my free eBook, 5 Things You’re Doing Every Day that Make Your ADHD Worse at




Alan P Brown CrusherTVAlan P. Brown, an internationally recognized Productivity Coach, TEDx Speaker and #1 Best Selling Author of Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier is the host of Crusher™TV, where he and his Guest Experts share simple ways to get more done in less time with less stress. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.

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ADHD and Happiness: They CAN Go Together More Often

Having ADHD Can Make It Harder to Be Happier. But…

ADHD and happiness are not always best buds. When we live a life of nearly constant overwhelm, daily frustrations, self-doubt, frequent inability to accomplish things we’re “supposed to be able to” accomplish…Well, that’s a tough place from which to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every day.

It’s no wonder we ADHD adults and teens are statistically more likely to suffer from…

  • Pessimism
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression

ADHD and Happiness SadnessEven those of us considered to have an “up” personality are subject to all of the above — and don’t get me started on some of the even uglier statistics about ADHD and quality-of-life.

But here’s the “but.” We have a surprising amount of control over how happy we are, both in the moment (i.e., there are “happiness hacks” you can use to alter your mood on-demand), and for the longer haul (i.e., there are habits and rituals you can cultivate to have what I call a “happier emotional home”).

It all begins with kicking aside a few myths about ADHD and happiness, and accepting some actual truths about happiness…

Adult ADHD can be rough, but you can be a happier camper. 

ADHD and Happiness: The Top 3 Myths

Clichés and “inspirational” quotes about happiness, frankly, just make me sad. And there’s too much BS about happiness out there. For example, unhelpful myths like…

  1. People are hardwired to be either generally happy or unhappy, regardless of what happens in their lives. This has been demolished by research. Yes, as noted above, we ADHD adults and teens are more prone to emotional regulation issues — maybe you saw my recent cover story in ADDitude magazine about ADHD emotions — but we are not genetically destined to be happier or sadder than anyone else — provided we vigilantly know ourselves.
  2. Being happy means you never feel sad. Dr. David Spiegel, director of Stanford’s Center for Integrative Medicine says, “Happiness is not the absence of sadness.” In fact, suppressing sadness suppresses other, more positive emotions as well. Feeling down about a mess-up? It’s better to grieve a bit than to pretend everything’s OK. Just be sure you follow that up with some self-compassion.
  3. “If I just get that raise/win that lottery/etc. — THEN, I promise, I’ll be happy!” Money doesn’t affect happiness — for ADHD teens or adults, or anyone else. The research is stunning: Lottery winners are no happier than paraplegics! Big lottery winners are super happy after winning, but fall to baseline levels in about two months. People who become paralyzed from the waist down also return to baseline levels of happiness within a few months after their accident.

And anecdotally, as someone who’s experienced both being unemployed with $100,000 in credit card debt, and a few years later having over $1m in his checking account, I can tell you that everyday happiness has little to do with money.

Nor does it have much of anything to do with any, external factors. Fact is, it’s little things we can do every day – and try to make into habits and rituals – that can make us happier NOW, and for the long haul.

3 Science-Based Truths About Happiness and ADHD

ADHD Emotions NeutralAs you hopefully have noticed by now in this blog and all my writing, speaking and videos, I like science. Whether it’s about ADHD emotions or ADHD alternative solutions or ADHD and quality of life. So herewith: three science-based truths about ADHD and happiness:

One. Happiness is not a condition, but (mostly) a choice. Gratitude, self-compassion and self-forgiveness are just three examples simple choices you can make any time you’re feeling the negative ADHD emotions that come with your frustrations and foibles.

Two. Happiness is not about things you have, but about things you DO. We ADHDers are more prone to impulse purchases than neurotypicals — and it’s in part because we’re trying to feed a happiness need. We’d be better off hanging out with friends or family — or just hanging out with ourselves — than buying something we think will make us happy.

And Three. How you feel about your future… is determined by how you feel NOW. Underline this one, cuz this one is KEY!! If you feel so-so right now, your outlook for next week will be so-so. If you’re down or frustrated right now, your brain is forecasting more frustration for the coming month. And from this mental stance, you’re not gonna be motivated to do much, let alone be at your best.

“Happiness is not about things you have, but about things you DO.”  – Alan P. Brown TWEET THIS

ADHD and HappinessSo, what might you choose to DO today — maybe even right now, to switch from a so-so mood or even an ugly funk?  Remember: based on all the above, you can choose to flip a switch to be happier right NOW (e.g., a gratitude prayer, acknowledge a small victory you had today — and explore more examples at the links below), so that you can begin your work with a stronger feeling about the future: “Hey, this is gonna work out pretty well!”

I always say, “We ADHDers don’t have to accept chronic procrastination, disorganization and overwhelm as a ‘lifestyle.'” And neither do we have to resign ourselves to disappointment, regret and pessimism as a ‘lifestyle.’

Want to Learn Some Simple, Evidence-Based Happiness Hacks?

I dedicated an episode of Crusher™TV to Scientifically-Proven Ways to Be Happier NOW and below is the preview of that episode, where I provide a ton of simple ways to flip the happiness switch.

What’s Crusher™TV? It’s a LIBRARY of over 100 20-minute videos teaching ways to beat procrastination, get prioritized, get organized, manage your time, and more. You might get a lot out of watching the entire Episode 106: 5 Scientifically-Proven Ways to Be Happier NOW. (To watch full episodes you can become a member for a buck and cancel any time you like, but either way, you can preview that episode by clicking the image below.

Episode Description: Feeling happy right now? Or, if as is more likely, are you working hard, waiting until some happiness arrives? We’re mostly doing the latter. That’s what we humans do. But I’ll share 5 simple ways to be (genuinely) happy right here & now and any time. (Not including the four happiness mini-hacks I share just in the Episode Preview.) And I’m joined by guest expert Dan Fowler, The Imagination Engineer, who has a cool 6-step process for manifesting what you want.




Alan P Brown CrusherTVAlan P. Brown, an internationally recognized Productivity Coach, TEDx Speaker and #1 Best Selling Author of Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier is the host of Crusher™TV, where he and his Guest Experts share simple ways to accomplish more in less time with less drama. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Self-Compassion as an ADHD Alternative Solution?

The Power of Self-Compassion and How to Use It

Think self-compassion is a lot of new-age hooey? Think again. I’ve seen the research, and it is powerful stuff. Self-compassion can mean a world of difference for your well-being and productivity. In this post I’ll show you a few quick ways to leverage it.

Indeed, an effective practice of self-compassion is not just feel-good pop-psychology; it’s a recipe to unleash productivity and happiness. A few quick facts:

  • The simplest of self-compassion interventions have been shown to decrease the odds of depression and increase general happiness.
  • Self-compassion training has been shown to help smokers quit, and to triple the success rate of obese dieters.
  • It’s proven to do your productivity good, too. (More about that in a moment.)

So, behold the power of self-compassion. Hmmm…Why do we not know more about this simple concept — especially as a potential ADHD alternative solution? Two reasons…


Self-Compassion ADHD Alternative Solution

Show yourself some love. Self-compassion has proven benefits for you and your ADHD brain!

First, few of us know what “self compassion” really means. Dr. Kristin Neff defines it as “extending compassion to the self for one’s failings, inadequacies and experiences of suffering.” And let’s be clear on what self-compassion is not…

It is NOT: Self-indulgence or letting yourself off the hook.

It is NOT: Self-pity. It is definitely not narcissism. Nor is it defending your point of view.

Second, we tend to be wary of self-compassion because we fear we’ll lose our edge; we equate self-compassion with weakness. Particularly in Western cultures, we’re raised to be a toughie, not a fluffy.

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal, one of the top authorities in this area, reminds us that being compassionate toward others is part of human nature — you see a friend or child mess up, and you give an encouraging word. And yet, she says, most of us find it difficult to turn this compassion toward ourselves!

“Compassion toward others is part of human nature — see a friend mess up…you give an encouraging word. Yet we find it difficult to turn this compassion toward ourselves.”  – Kelly McGonigal TWEET THIS

So you should be more fluffy — at least toward yourself.

To build on some of the benefits noted above, according to McGonigal, those with more self-compassion are less likely to experience anxiety, self-criticism and unhealthy perfectionism. Those with more of it are more optimistic, more socially connected. They’re more open-minded and less prone to anger.

Not practical enough for you? Don’t get huffy, Fluffy: on the productivity front, self-compassion correlates with:

  • Less procrastination
  • The ability to re-engage after setbacks
  • More proactivity and personal accountability.
  • Reduced cortisol and increased release of oxytocin and opiates — putting us “in an optimal mind-state to do our best.”

…as McGonigal sums it up: “[These are] all things that help you achieve your goals.” How’s THAT for an ADHD alternative solution?!

Self-Compassion: How Can I Use It?

So how does one practice self-compassion to garner its veritable cornucopia of benefits? Here are three adjustments you can make to your thinking that’ll help set you on the path to more self-lovin’…

  1. Score your successes. As I wrote in a previous blog, we ADHDers tend to remember every single mess-up, and none of our successes. Take a minute right now and tally a few successes you had this past week. (Here’s mine: I buckled down and wrote this blog after putting it off for over a week; I went online and hired a freelance marketing consultant for a project — i.e., I DELEGATED! Woohoo!; I did my cardio yesterday even though I didn’t feel like it.)
  2. When you do screw up, be kind to yourself. It’s like the golden rule with a twist: treat yourself as you would treat others. Talk to yourself as if you were consoling a good friend — “Hey buddy, don’t sweat it. Let’s try again tomorrow.”
  3. Mindfulness. Bring awareness to the bad feelings and emotions arising from whatever you’re judging yourself about. Let yourself experience those feelings — don’t ignore them.

The more you can make these into habitual mindsets, the less you’ll burn time, energy and spirit on self-defeating BS. And the more you’ll be proactive and powerfully ready to crush whatever’s in your way.

So…Self-compassion has some impressive benefits, and there you have three great ways to start showing yourself some love.

Want to Learn 3 Simple Self-Compassion Interventions?

I dedicated an episode of Crusher™TV to The Power of Self-Compassion, and below is the preview of that episode, where I take those three mindset tweaks and build them out into “intervention exercises” that make them more powerful and help with habit-formation. Plus, I share how you can access a self-assessment to see just how self-compassionate you are (or aren’t).

What’s Crusher™TV? It’s not just a weekly online TV show that teaches ways to have more control in your life. It’s a LIBRARY of over 95 20-minute videos teaching ways to beat procrastination, get prioritized, get organized, manage your time, and more. You might get a lot out of watching the entire Episode 57, The Power of Self-Compassion, where I dig deeper into this topic. (To watch full episodes you can become a member for a buck and cancel any time you like, but either way, you can preview that episode by clicking the image below.

Power of Self-Compassion Play


Episode Description: You think self-compassion is a bunch of “woo-woo” silliness? I’ve seen the research. It’s more like, “Holy cannoli, that’s POWERFUL STUFF!” It is – in terms of your well-being and your productivity. I’ll show you 3 Simple Self-Compassion “Interventions” you can leverage to improve your mood, energy and productivity. Also, my Guest Expert, ADHD coach DeShawn Wert, shares some great self-compassion hacks of her own.





Alan P Brown CrusherTVAlan P. Brown, an internationally recognized Productivity Coach, TEDx Speaker and #1 Best Selling Author of Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier is the host of Crusher™TV, where he and his Guest Experts share simple ways to get more done in less time with less stress. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Self-Talk Lets You Be Your Own ADHD Coach

Self-talk is a powerful tool for changing habits, destroying negative beliefs and just plain being happier.

So…Yes! Mumbling to yourself as you stumble down the street is a sign of intelligence and can make you more productive!

What If You Had a Great Coach with You All the Time?

Imagine if you had a great coach with you all the time, reminding you to, “Stay focused over here, this is your bread-and-butter!” Or providing a reality check, “Yeah, this whole thing you’re worried about? It’s total BS.” Or helping you recover from a setback: “OK, you screwed up. Now, what’s the next play?” Or providing a timely bit of encouragement, “Wait, you’re not sure you can? Why not you?” and “Here’s why you!” or “No ice cream for you!”

Well, you’ve got that coach.

It’s YOU.

You just need to let that coach step outside of yourself so he or she can start coaching you.

Be Your Own ADHD Coach with Self Talk

Can you coach your own ADHD? Yep. (But keep your real coach!)

Now, you might think you’re already coaching yourself: “All right, I gotta start this damn project soon or there’s gonna be hell to pay.” Or “Hmmmm, what if I did it this way instead of that way?”

That’ll help you get things done. But that’s not coaching. That’s just inner dialogue.

To coach yourself, so as to dramatically improve your outcomes, you really do have to step outside and you really do have to have a talk with yourself.

Specific types of self-talk have the power to self-persuade and self-motivate — to crystallize what you should be focused on, help you refocus when ruminations yank you off-course, help you see things more strategically, and make better decisions.

How Self-Talk Works

Think about it: How do you persuade or motivate another person? Ideally, you get face to face with them and you talk to them with a reasoned point of view and reiterate that point of view until they finally get it.

Talking to yourself face-to-face can indeed be a powerful tool for getting more done, changing habits and beliefs and just plain being happier.

Stuart Smalley Self-Talk

BUT! We’re not talking here about “rah-rah” positive thinking or Stuart Smalley-esque self-reassurances. Powerful self-talk is rational, fact-based self-coaching: providing yourself objective opinions and evaluations on what you’re doing and thinking as you’re doing and thinking it.

And when done right, it’s a proven power-tool: A recent paper in The British Medical Journal reports that cognitive behavioral therapy — a form of talk therapy that can be performed on oneself — is as effective as Prozac or Zoloft in treating major depression.

Research among athletes and students has shown that positive self-talk results in improved performance across a number of measures. For instance, a study of national champion figure skaters identified more than 150 mental strategies they used to become champions. The most common, used by over three quarters of them, was what’s called “rational thinking and self-talk,” which is objectively talking oneself through problems and stressors.

Just uttering the three words “I am excited” in a high-pressure situation is proven to relieve stress, improve self-confidence and lead to better performance, per research from Harvard Business School.

These are just a few examples. But you may be asking why you need self-talk. Why isn’t your normal internal dialogue good enough to get the job done?

Why We So Badly Need Self-Talk

Well, normal thought patterns tend to reinforce existing beliefs. And especially as ADHD adults, we are the products of huge amounts of negative programming. By the time we’re 18 years old, we’ve been told “no” about 148,000 times. One hundred forty-eight thousand times we were told: “No, you can’t do that. No, do not try that. No, that’s not for you.” And so on.

This contrasts with what is likely a fraction of that number of times we were told: “Yes, by all means, you can do that. Yes, go for it.”

As a result, according to behavioral researcher Shad Helmstetter, up to 77% of our thoughts are negative and counterproductive and work against us. And with about 70,000 thoughts a day on average, that’s a lot working against us.

So the biggest reason we need self-talk and not just more internal dialogue, is we have to deprogram that thinking — much like a coach or therapist does. Reversing some of the negative loops that are holding you back is just one — if not the most important — of the many ways you can use self-talk.


“Why does this crap always happen to me?” “I’ll never quit smoking.” “No matter what I do, I can’t lose weight.” “I’m never gonna be able to do this job really well.” If you can get in the habit of catching yourself in these loops, you can use self-talk to reverse them.

Self-talk can help break and form habits. My grandfather smoked two packs of unfiltered Lucky Strikes a day for 60 years. Then one day, when he was 82, he just flat out quit. I was still smoking then, and I asked him, “How the hell did you do it?” He told me, “I took the smoking card out of my brain and swapped it for the non-smoking card.”

In other words, he changed his identity as a smoker to that of a non-smoker. He no longer used the inner dialogue of the smoker — “I need a smoke. Boy, a smoke would sure be nice right about now.” With the changing of that circuit board, that language was replaced by the self-talk of a non-smoker — “Smoking is disgusting. Smoking will kill me.”

If self-talk can help end powerful addictions, work as well as medications in treating depression and help athletes perform at the championship level, think of how you can apply it to things like…

  • Breaking through the wall of procrastination, perhaps with self-talk about the irrational reasons you’re avoiding the task.
  • Keeping yourself focused on primary 2 tasks with self-talk that resists the call of distractions. See Chapter 3: Decimate Your To-Do List, where I teach a powerful brain hack built on actively reminding yourself of what you’re doing now.
  • Recovering from major setbacks.
  • Creatively problem-solving rather than feeling stuck and powerless.

Really, anywhere there’s a gap between your current performance and your potential, self-talk can make a big difference.

A Key to Effective Self-Talk

Here’s a little more science on self-talk, which not only further supports its efficacy but specifically supports the way of self-talking many highly successful and influential people — LeBron James and Malala Yousafzai being just two examples — have in common…

Researchers led by Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan asked volunteers to give a speech — with just five minutes of mental preparation. They asked half the subjects to prepare by talking to themselves and to address themselves in the first person as “I.” The other half were directed to call themselves “you” or to use their own names while preparing.
Both groups noted the content of their internal dialogue as they were preparing the speech.
The results were striking in two ways. First, those who used “I” had a mental monologue along the lines of: “Oh my god, how am I going to do this? I can’t prepare a speech in five minutes without notes.”
But those who used “you” or their own names were more likely to give themselves support and advice, saying things like: “You can do this. You’ve given a ton of speeches before.” They sounded more rational and less emotional.

This phenomenon is called psychological distancing. Kross says, “It’s almost like you are duping yourself into thinking about you as though you were another person.” Using second- and third-person pronouns as opposed to “I,” you create psychological distance — a technique used in several psychological therapies that help manage anxiety and emotional distress.

But most importantly, in addition to these powerful self-regulatory effects, the second- and third-person group members were calmer and more confident and performed better on the task than those who referred to themselves using “I” or “me.”

So, when you use self-talk, refer to yourself in the third person — ideally using your name. (“Hey Alan, this is a pretty good blog post!” “Oh, thank you Alan!” “You’re welcome, Alan.”)


In his bestselling book, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” Mark Reinecke, Ph.D., notes, “If we view a problem as intolerable and overwhelming, it will be. If we view the situation as a challenge but a manageable one, it will be. It’s all in the way we look at it.”

Which is to say, it’s all in the way we talk about it with ourselves.

Remember, whatever is in your way is yours to crush!

Want to Learn 3 Simple Ways to Use Self-Talk to Manage Your ADHD?

I dedicated an episode of Crusher™TV to The Power of Self-Talk, where I share several evidence-based ways to use self-talk to get more done and beat the overwhelm — and you can click the image below to watch the preview of the episode.

The Power of Self Talk




P.S. You might get a lot out of watching that entire episode of Crusher™TV where I dig deeper into this topic. (You can become a member for a buck and cancel any time ya like.) You can PREVIEW recent episodes here

P.P.S. Also, if these distinctions and solutions resonated with you, you might want to check out my #1 Best Selling book, Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier

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A Simple Conceptual Trick for ADHD Time Management

Imagine if there were a handy tool that helped you stay focused on a given task; improved your ADHD time management; and generally boosted your productivity.

There is such a tool, and its many benefits are the reason it is one of the hot buzzwords in personal productivity: “Theming” your time and tasks. I’ll show why it works to help with ADHD time management challenges, and provide a couple of easy applications…

Trick for ADHD Time Management

Theming offers real benefits for ADHD time management challenges.

How Theming Helps with ADHD Time Management

Tool Benefits ADHD Time ManagmentTheming – conceptual ways to organize your time and tasks — creates significant efficiencies, reduces your stress level and frees up more time.

Yes, all these benefits accrue to those who theme. Whether you theme your days of the week, your months – or just theme a chunk of your daily schedule, you can really boost your output and preserve your sanity with this indispensable tool.

Our Brains Need External Structures for ADHD Time Management

We ADHDers, more than anyone, need external structure to compensate for the absence of structure in our brains. We typically create external structures with tangible tools like to-do lists, calendars, notes and apps.

But we can also use conceptual tools that interface with these tangible tools.

And that’s what theming is. A structuring of your calendar and workflows around concepts – or themes – that help you better manage your time, tasks, priorities and goals – throughout your day, across your week, for the month or even the coming year.

Let’s see, for instance, how theming your days could help with a couple of…

Classic Productivity and ADHD Time Management Situations

For many of us, it’s hard to stay on task. You’re working on an important task and you remember – Oh! I really should renew my auto insurance before the end of the month. And if you’re the least bit self-aware, you’ll worry that if you don’t do that right now, now that you’ve remembered it, you’ll forget about it. So you might interrupt that important task to go do that. Not efficient!

ADHD Time Management Admin

But what if one of the days of your week, say, every Tuesday, were themed as your administrative day? For stuff like expenses, paying bills, renewing things. All those somewhat important things that rarely have to get done RIGHT NOW, but that can turn into real headaches if NOT done at some point soon.

You could just put that in your calendar for next Tuesday, and for now, just forget about it! And stay on the important task you were working on. You shouldn’t have to have a mental wrestling match every time you remember something or something new pops up! Theme the days of your week, and these things will now have a home – a storage bin — in your workweek.

Another classic productivity problem: As you begin your workweek on Monday, you have so many to-do’s, it’s hard to sort through them all to identify what your priorities should be for today. Then you have the same problem on Tuesday. And on Wednesday. And just trying to get prioritized becomes a very taxing thing!

But what if, in addition to your Tuesdays being themed for all your administrative stuff, your Mondays were themed for another kind of work, Wednesdays for another, and so on?

ADHD Time Management Days

This would simplify your prioritization on any given day. You’d spend less time analyzing tasks and stressing over which to work on today.

As productivity strategist Mike Vardy says, “Knowing what the day ‘means,’ allows me to get to the things I need and want to accomplish. And as a result, I have less decision fatigue and even more energy when I spend time with my kids.”

[Importantly, we’re not saying that you can ONLY do those things on THAT day of the week — you’re just making sure there’s that “storage bin” for those tasks in your week, and that you’re tackling some of them on that day.]

If these examples have piqued your interest in the potential power of theming, here’s one more way to theme…

The Power of Monthly Theming

Monthly themes provide an overarching focus for a given month. This is great for major, mid- to long-term initiatives — those important tasks and projects that we ADHDers most often struggle to keep moving forward and finish.

Think about classic examples like, “Ya, I’m gonna finish writing that book/paper/presentation!” or, “I’m gonna finish painting the dining room/cleaning the garage/doing my taxes (on time)!”

Well, yours truly, a champion ADHDer, has been using monthly theming with great success. For example, this year January was my Finish Writing the Book month (Done!). February was Market the Book (Done! #1 Best Seller! Yay!). March was Revamp the Crusher™TV Website (Victory!). All big projects. All helped along with monthly theming.

And how exactly did monthly theming aid my ADHD time management along the path to these multiple victories? With these themes kept top-of-mind every day throughout each month (by way of sticky notes, automatic alerts popping up in my iPhone calendar, etc.), I gave myself a prioritization compass each time I sat down to plan my day. Add to that a strong, nagging desire to succeed and some other fundamental adult ADHD-crushing strategies I use and teach, and voilà! Very powerful.

I LOVE theming, and you will, too, if you give it a chance.

Which Way to Theme Is Best for You?

There are a bunch more ways to use theming to remedy your ADHD time management challenges. I devoted a full episode of Crusher™TV to this topic, and I shared details of how I use daily theming, and how the co-founder of Twitter uses it. I also share how to use Yearly Theming and a powerful tool called Horizontal Theming. You can preview Crusher™TV Episode 84 to 5 Ways to Theme Your Time and Tasks by clicking the image below.



P.S. You can watch that entire episode of Crusher™TV along with over 80 others on topics like procrastination, getting prioritized, quieting your mind, and more. Become a trial member for a buck and cancel any time you like. Again, it’s Episode 84 , and you can preview that episode here:

The Power of Theming



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How NOT to Boost Your Willpower

Know and Avoid Everyday Willpower-Killing Behaviors!

Willpower helps you tackle the tough stuff. The critical stuff. The stuff that makes a big difference in your career and home life. But there are things you’re doing across your day that undercut it. Seriously. I’ll share how you’re hampering your own willpower and what you can do to avoid these traps — and even boost willpower.

Let’s First Define Willpower

The dictionary definition is something like: self-control deliberately exerted to do something or to restrain one’s impulses.

As such, it’s not just willpower (“I will do the harder-but-more-noble thing”), it’s also “won’t-power” (“I won’t do this tempting thing that’s against my long-term interest”).

The more willpower — and won’t-power — you’re able to muster, the better you can keep your ADHD brain out of trouble, and your actions pointing in a positive direction.

But another thing about willpower is that it’s depletable, like gas in your car’s fuel tank. And there are things you’re doing throughout your day that are needlessly burning it. That’s right — you’re undermining your own willpower every day. We all are.

How Not to Boost Willpower

I can control my available willpower? Yep.

How NOT to Boost Willpower

Willpower allows you to resist temptations, make hard decisions, manage emotions and steer your behavior. But from the moment you wake up, your willpower fuel tank heads toward empty throughout the day. Ironically, a few things that accelerate that fuel burn are resisting temptations, making tough decisions, managing your emotions and regulating your behavior. All positive things! So doing the right thing burns willpower!

But there are other things you’re doing that further burn your willpower fuel. Not-so-right things. Let’s look at the range of these (bolded) in the context of a hypothetical work day.

Let’s say that your supply of willpower for the day fits in a gas tank. You start your day by giving 20 minutes of your attention to emails before you even leave for the office. Oops, that burned some willpower. OK, you’ve got plenty left, no worries.

Off to work! First thing at your desk, you tap into this tank of willpower to dive into that big project you’ve been putting off. Yep, that eats up some, too, but that’s what it’s there for — doing the tough stuff.

Oh geez, now you’re interrupted by a phone call — your boss insists that you attend an unscheduled meeting, right now. Your stress response fires up because you did not plan on this and do not want to be there, but you have to. You can smell the fuel burning off.

OK, so you get to the meeting. You’re still carrying those negative vibes, which make it even tougher to give your full attention to the meeting so you impatiently start multitasking — listening to the meeting, taking notes, checking and responding to emails and texting with a client.

OK, meeting’s over. Now back to work. But now it’s lunch time. You’re A) famished, B) a little stressed about getting back on that project and C) having a tough time deciding where to get lunch. The hunger, stress and decision-making each eat up some willpower.

Fast Food Willpower

Thinking that time is at a premium today, you dart out to Mickey D’s and after debating which menu item is the least evil, you opt for a Big Mac combo. You multitask through lunch but manage to squeeze in a half-decent single tasking session on your tough project until you hit the three o’clock wall, at which time you escape into 10 minutes of rampant rumination about this and that. Your fuel tank takes a triple hit from the crappy food, more work and then a round of worrying.

Then you partake in some pseudo-productivity — emails, texts, emails, paper shuffling, emails, Facebooking, emails — until it’s finally 5:30 p.m. and you’re happy to get out of the office before 6 p.m. because you’ll have time to stop at the gym.

But your tank is now so low on willpower fuel that you can’t muster the firm decision to just do it. So, you rationalize skipping the gym because you’re beat and today didn’t flow like you thought it would.

And I could go on about your evening TV habits, cracking open a bottle of beer or wine, staring at your smartphone before bed — all of which further weaken you for tonight and for tomorrow.

So let’s review…

  • Your very exertion of willpower leaves less of it available, for instance, every time you resist a temptation or buckle down on a tough task.
  • But there are also things you’ve done throughout your day that needlessly drained your tank — multitasking, stressing, ruminating, junk food, pseudo-productive busywork — to name just five.
  • And as a result, at the end of the day, the things that don’t get attended to as they should were things like working on tough, priority tasks, working out and getting to sleep earlier.

Good News: Manage a Few of These and You’ll CONSERVE Willpower

Let’s start with a few of the more obvious ones…

Boost Willpower

  • Cut your weekly beer/wine intake and you’ll sleep better and wake with a fuller willpower tank.
  • Ditto for your media intake — especially right before bed.
  • Low-quality foods are poor brain fuel and will leave you hungry and grumpy more quickly than quality, high-protein/high-nutrient foods.

I know, those solutions aren’t very sexy and you’ve heard them before in one context or another. But they make a big difference. And here are a few of the trickier — but even more immediately impactful — ways to stop burning up willpower…

  • Watch out for pseudo-productivity: those activities you slip into because you’re avoiding tougher tasks (like that big project), and which you justify by thinking, “Hey, I hafta do this stuff anyway.” Things like excessive email checking, robotic email deleting, administrative stuff that’s not really important right now, etc.
  • Try to catch yourself in bouts of worry and rumination. These stinkin’-thinkin’ sessions may feel “necessary” in the moment, but they’re eating up energy and willpower. If you’re able to catch yourself, the quickest way out is a simple gratitude prayer, e.g., “Today I am thankful for ______.”
  • Listen to your body for signals of stress. When, for instance, you feel your shoulders tense up as you struggle with a task, or a colleague or on a phone call, hear that siren and answer it with some deep breathing.

Even Better News: Ways to BOOST Willpower on Demand

There are things you can do to improve willpower fuel economy and even refill your tank throughout your day. A few of my favorites…

Ultradian Rhythm Willpower

1) Know and Obey Your Ultradian Clock: Not to be confused with your circadian clock, that inborn system that tells you when it’s time to sleep and time to wake, your ultradian clock controls your exertion and recovery cycles throughout the day. And we tend to operate in 90-minute cycles.

Of course, everybody’s different. The key thing is to know your optimal sprint/rest cycle and also your strong and weak times of the day. This way you’re attacking your toughest willpower-burning tasks during your strong times and not expecting too much of yourself in your weak times.

2) Pride & Shaming
Psychologist David Desteno says social emotions like pride and shame have a quicker and more direct influence over our actions than rational arguments about long-term costs and benefits. He calls it “hot self-control.”

Examples here are thinking about your 9-year-old child before lighting up a smoke or visualizing the pride you’ll feel by nailing that presentation a week early.

3) Goal Contagion
This is where we see others pursuing a goal and get swept up into pursuing that same goal. For instance, the more you read about successful business people’s pursuit of their goals, the more effortlessly focused you will be on yours. This is one reason why inspiring figures are powerful, as is spending more time with your goal-oriented friends.

A powerful way to fuel goal contagion? Get an accountability partner or sign up for some group coaching. When you share your goals — and your proclivities to procrastinate, prevaricate or escapinate — it effectively doubles your willpower.

4) Practice
In Crusher™TV Episode 45: The Power of No, I talked about how practicing the easy nos helps you build your “no” muscle. And like the willpower muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Practice self-control on the easy ones — not checking your email constantly, not having that sugary snack.

As uber-coach Beth Main says, “Any time you don’t feel like doing something, look at it as an opportunity to practice your self-discipline. Catch yourself in the act of blowing something off and say to yourself, ‘I really don’t feel like doing this. But because I’m working on self-discipline, I’m gonna to do it anyway.’ Then do it.”

Then either share your victory with someone or journal it, which will help motivate you next time your willpower is called upon.

Stanford’s Carol Dweck says that, “[Willpower is] not unlimited — but it’s a much larger resource than previously thought.” TWEET THIS  …and those who believe they have abundant willpower are able to push on.

Want to Learn More Ways to Boost Willpower?

There are a bunch more ways to boost willpower on demand. The 4-7-8 Technique, the Progress Principle (scoring successes), the 5 Whys, Tasks vs Systems, and more (yes, I LOVE this stuff!).

I dedicated Crusher™TV Episode 54 to 8 Ways to Boost Your Willpower, and you can click the image below to preview that episode.



P.S. You might also get a lot out of watching that entire episode of Crusher™TV where I dig deep into this topic. (You can become a member for a buck and cancel any time you like.) Again, it’s Episode 54 , and you can preview that episode here:

8 Ways to Boost Willpower


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How to Flip Anger Into Productivity

 Imagine if you could flip anger into fuel for a procrastination-busting work session!

There’s no question emotions have an impact on your productivity. They affect your energy, focus, willpower levels, etc. For instance, when you’re happy, you get more done, right? Better working relationships, more stamina, etc.

But what about negative emotions? Most of the time, they make us overreact, make bad decisions, have a tough time focusing.

But there’s a mechanism in every emotion — particularly negative emotions — that can be leveraged to fuel your productivity and quality-of-life.

So, in a society that tells us to guard our emotions, to not show them, to “stuff them back in,” we should actually welcome them. Because we can flip them to our advantage. And I’ll share the mechanism for doing that, and the simple secret to flipping the most common negative emotion — anger — into a natural ADHD remedy.

How Emotions Become Destructive — or Productive — Behaviors

Our strongest emotions are usually triggered when we sense that something important to our welfare is afoot: our safety, self-esteem, or sense of fairness. When our welfare is enhanced, we get positive emotions: happiness, joy. But when our welfare is threatened, negative emotions are triggered — along with behaviors in response to the threat.

The question that arises in the context of our ADHD and productivity is: Given our emotional response, What will be our behavioral response? Will it be destructive or productive? We do have a choice.

There are three ways to respond to an emotion:

  1. Suppressing: We think that by avoiding how we feel, we’ll…feel better;
  2. Fixating: Doing so gives us an identity as a victim, in which we can find some comfort); and…
  3. Acceptance and Problem-Solving: Needless to say, the most likely to be a productive strategy.

Let’s look at these in the context of one of your most powerful emotions, anger: when our primitive lizard brain is screaming, This is not right! Something needs to change! This cannot stand!

Maybe a difficult situation you’ve been put in, or an unmet expectation or betrayal of some sort. A somewhat extreme example, but perfect for our exercise here, would be road rage…

Let’s say you’re on the freeway driving your family to grandma’s birthday party when suddenly a young hothead zooms past you, cursing and flipping you the bird, then cuts in front of you so close you have to hit your brakes to avoid his rear quarter panel. You’re furious – not just because this guy put your family’s safety at risk, but because you’ve just been psychologically assaulted. Both of which cannot stand!

Now, you can suppress this anger — pretending everything’s just fine while your subconscious seethes. You can fixate on the emotion — let it have its way with you — with a retaliatory hand gesture, or by loudly venting in the car to your family members.

Either of which may make you feel different in the moment, but neither will actually make you feel better. (Research going back to 1959 shows that fixating on anger does little more than put the public at risk!)

That brings us to the third strategy to deal with this anger: Acceptance and problem-solving…

“OK, that guy’s a jerk. I’m understandably angry. Now, how do I solve my most pressing problem, that being the risk to my family’s safety?” And you don’t have to be Gandhi to know there are several smarter, more peaceful solutions than suppressing or fixating.

I know. It’s easier said than done.

But here’s the good news: All emotions have “adaptive value” — meaning they can be adapted to help us cope and respond to difficult situations.

And here’s even better news: Negative emotions in particular — anger, sadness, resentment, etc. — have massive adaptive value – because at the heart of every negative emotion is that underlying sense that somethingmust change! This cannot stand!

Flip Your Anger Into Action

Your anger is a potential natural ADHD remedy? Yep.

This is the mechanism that helps you flip your emotions into productivity gold. As Peter Diamandis said, “A problem is a terrible thing to waste. I think of problems as gold mines.” And you can think of negative emotions in the same way.   

How to Flip Anger Into Productivity

Since anger is – as with all negative emotions – grounded in a feeling that something needs to change, that feeling creates energy. Sometimes, massively destructive energy that we just blast out into the world. But author Soleira Green suggests, rather than blasting the energy out…

“Put the anger and its energy in front of you…What’s triggering me – what’s underneath it…What do I CARE about that’s making me angry?”

“Now, what could I do to use that energy to move forward on this thing that’s making me angry?”

With these simple questions, she’s describing the creation of what I call a Negative Nag. Dimensionalizing that which ticks you off in order to fuel motivation and problem-solving.

As Green puts it, “Anger is the tip of passion. You wouldn’t get upset if you didn’t care so much about something! Anger is your own body telling you, ‘Hey, here’s something that matters…and here’s some energy to deal with it!’”

So, next time you’re angry about something (even at yourself), observe that energy and ask that series of questions. This is a powerful natural ADHD remedy!

Oh — and you don’t have to get run off the road to benefit from negative emotions…

Want to Learn How to Flip Sadness and Anxiety Into Positive Action?

So much of what you do every day — whether answering a client email, negotiating with a supplier, or wrangling your teen — generates emotions: anger, joy, frustration, worry.

All of which have huge potential for our productivity because they can all be flipped. But the three most common negative emotions are the most readily flippable into a gold mine of performance or productivity: anger, sadness, and anxiety.

I dedicated an episode of Crusher™TV to these three. I show how flipping sadness (no stranger to us ADHDers) can result in powerful analysis and fresh perspectives/solutions. And flipping anxiety (another frequent visitor to our tribe) is as easy as saying three words. I kid you not. Research from Harvard Business School has demonstrated its efficacy!

Preview the episode below…



P.S. You might get a lot out of watching that entire episode of Crusher™TV where I dig deeper into this topic. (You can become a member for a buck and cancel any time ya like.) It’s Episode 81, and you can preview that episode at either link or by clicking the image below.

How to Flip Negative Emotions


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