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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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4 Ways Journaling Is an ADHD Natural Remedy

“The #1 productivity tool you aren’t using,” is what Forbes called the practice of journaling. 

Research from Harvard Business School says it can boost your performance and impact your career success. Sir Richard Branson calls it, “my secret life hack.” And I call it an ADHD natural remedy. Yep. Just…writing stuff down!

But before we get to how it can be an ADHD natural remedy, check out some of these eye-openers:

Research: How Journaling Supports Your Health

  • A study among breast cancer patients found journaling improved several health metrics, as well as stress levels and overall quality of life.
  • 25 years of research among prison inmates indicates that, “Writing about what distresses and dismays us decreases the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improves our sleep patterns,” according to author and writing facilitator Ann Reynolds.
  • It’s been shown to decrease the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis!
  • One study showed effectiveness in reducing severity of irritable bowel syndrome!

A key in much of this mind-blowing research is that the benefits accrued from writing just 20 minutes a day; in some cases, for just a few days.

But you can get huge benefits from just a few minutes of journaling each day (more on that in a moment). Journaling is NOT about keeping a detailed diary. As I define it, journaling is just a brief daily practice of recording by hand reflections on your experiences, thoughts, feelings and/or priorities.

[Note that I emphasize writing by hand, vs typing. Studies support this: A study at Princeton and UCLA found that students who take longhand notes rather than with a laptop, gain a better grasp of a subject. This is because of what’s called the “encoding hypothesis,” which says that the processing required of writing notes improves learning and retention — processing that doesn’t happen when typing.]

So there’s some science on why writing by hand is where it’s at. And here’s why journaling is where it’s at for ADHD adults and teens…

4 Ways Journaling Can Be a Natural ADHD Remedy

  1. Writing about stressful events helps us come to terms with them, and stop ruminating on them; reducing their impact on our physical health and mental stamina. (And we ADHers are champion ruminators, no?)
  2. Journaling clarifies our thoughts, feelings and priorities. By “getting them out”, we process and synthesize them much better. Who out there would like some clarified thought today? Anyone?
  3. Similarly, journaling helps us problem-solve, by pulling our thought process out of our short-term memory, where it’s difficult for us to organize and project sequential steps toward a solution — and putting them in an external workspace where we can more effectively sort, filter and analyze them.
  4. It boosts self-confidence. “When people have the opportunity to reflect, they experience a boost in self-efficacy, and they feel more confident that they can achieve things,” says Harvard Business School’s Francesca Gino.

How Journaling is a Natural ADHD Remedy

Journaling is a powerful natural ADHD remedy? Yep.

So, a daily journaling practice has tons of evidence-based benefits for your ADHD, your productivity and even your health.

But I know, you’re worried that to get these benefits you have to go out and buy a leather-bound diary with the little key, and then somehow sit down for an hour a day documenting your entire day and every thought that crossed your mind. What a pain in the butt! But no…

You don’t need to do much writing to get many of those benefits…..

Intrigued About the Potential for Journaling as an ADHD Natural Remedy?

Think about this: You’re already writing or word processing every single day! And all I’m talking about here is devoting a fraction of your daily writing energy to a journaling session of as little as two minutes a day.

I dedicated an episode of Crusher™TV to The Power of Journaling, in which I’ve assembled 3 Ways to Journal That Are Not a Pain in the Butt…The first takes just two minutes. Another one takes just five minutes. Plus, I share 6 Foolproof Tips for Building an Effective Journaling Ritual. You can preview it 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 78 , and you can preview that episode at either link.

3 Ways to Journal


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2 Mental Performance Secrets I Wish I Knew as a Struggling Executive

“If I only knew then what I know now (about mental performance hacks!).”

As a “mess-to-success entrepreneur,” I’ve seen both the deep end of drug addiction and the pinnacle of corporate success, as well as entrepreneurial glory with multiple start-ups. But in between were several years where I really struggled as an executive.

Worked my butt of…but couldn’t make my mark.

Nose to the grindstone every day…but constantly overwhelmed.

It took me a while, but eventually I learned some mental performance secrets that helped me go, in the space of just two years, from struggling, underachieving, lowly account executive, to vice president and employee of the year at the largest ad agency in the U.S.; while in my spare time co-founding a start-up that was later sold for 8 figures. Not bad for a classic ADHDer with a sordid history of booze/drugs/crime.

But what does that have to do with you?

There’s a good chance you’re not taking advantage of these mental performance secrets – so I’ll share the before-and-after impact of a couple of these principles and maybe they’ll help your mess-to-success story. (Um, I’m not saying you’re a mess…I should’ve said, “Your good-to-great story.”)

Mental Performance Secrets

Can some simple mental performance hacks help your ADHD? Yep.

Lots of Input. Not Much Output.

I worked HARD throughout my career as an executive. Long hours, weekends were the norm. My input was stellar. But early on, my output was in the gutter.

And there’s a good chance you’re operating at a high level of input, but not getting your full potential of output and accomplishment. And you may not be savvy to some of the performance secrets that I’m about to share. Principles I wish I’d known when I was a struggling executive.

Mental Performance Secret #1

I wish I knew… that My Brain is My Engine. Might sound obvious. But few of us truly understand that our brain has its own life – and its own needs that are distinct from those of our body.

Think about your car’s engine: You treat it differently than you do the fenders and leather seats…which you care for from the outside with buffing and polishing. You care for your engine from the inside…the right amounts of high quality fluids, lubricants and of course, high-octane fuel.

Before I learned this principle, I was “buffing the outside” with nice suits, a few push-ups and sit-ups here and there, and fueling my body with whatever quenched my thirst and quelled my hunger – lots of sugar, carbs and coffee. But your body can get energy from any crap – your brain needs to be fed right.

After I understood this – I began tending to my body in one way, and to my brain in another…in two simple ways:

  1. I adhered to my brain-feeding mantra – sugar sucks, carbs kill, protein is power and omegas are mega. For instance, a 30-gram protein breakfast every day would fuel strong output all morning long – and guess what…fewer late nights at the office!
  2. As Dr. John Ratey says, “Exercise creates a brain chemical that acts like Miracle-Gro® for the brain.” That chemical is brain derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. But occasional sit-ups and push-ups don’t make enough BDNF to make a difference in your performance.

The research tells us that “aerobic exercise for 40 min offers the greatest probability of significant BDNF elevation.” So line up some protein snacks (sugar sucks!! carbs kill!!) and push yourself a little harder on whatever your workout routine is. You WILL feel the results.

Mental Performance Secret #2

I wish I knew…when I was a struggling executive, that  My Energy is Not Linear. We don’t operate like machines – just flip on our brain and it  goes until we decide we’re done. We all kinda know that much. But neither is our energy linear in a FOOT steady declining fashion, where we just gradually lose mental clarity and stamina over the course of the workday. Our energy is FOOT cyclical.

Before I knew this, here’s what would happen: I’d set about working on a tough, important task and as soon as I’d begin to flag, I’d think, “Welp, that’s it for me!” …and I’d switch over to easier work – more often than not, into pseudo-productivity (meaningless tasks that make you feel productive). So the tough, important task’s completion gets delayed.

Plus, I’d get frustrated, and further reinforce the belief that “I just can’t work on tough stuff for very long” …or that I’m lazy.

After I understood that our energy is cyclical – I began using a timer for single-tasking sessions…then doing a simple recovery ritual when the timer goes off or when I feel the energy dip. To ride the energy cycle back into another powerful singletasking session: Re-fuel with protein — nuts and dried fruit is my magical mix. Or do a “powerpose” (stand for two minutes with hands-on-hips, just like Wonder Woman/Superman) or a quick 5-minute meditation. Mandatory is to get up and walk around. Or bang out 10 push-ups.

Then you’re ready to settle back into crushing it. Set that timer again…Work, recover, work, get a raise, work, recover, work, get promoted, work recover…

Easier said than done, I know. But productivity hacks and other mental performance tips like these made a massive difference for me — and they definitely can for you.

Intrigued About the Potential for Mental Performance Hacks Like These?

I dedicated an episode of Crusher™TV to 5 Mental Performance Secrets I Wish I Knew as a Struggling Executive, and below is the preview of that episode. My Guest Expert, Dr. Evan Hirsch, also shares insights on how toxins may be affecting your mental performance! Click the image below to check out the preview.


5 Mental Performance Secrets

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 73 , and you can preview that episode above.



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 Decision-Making: Why We Make Bad Decisions

“Your life is a product of your own choices. So if you don’t like your life, it’s time to make better choices.”   

OK, sure. But better decision-making is easier said than done.

If we always made the best decisions, we’d all be Richard Branson, right?

So many of the most consequential decisions in our lives are indeed tough to make, let alone make with 100% confidence. Which house to buy. Whether to change careers. Should I quit my job and start my own company? These, and even “easier,” everyday decisions, fall prey to a set of…

Common Decision-Making Mistakes

Such as…

Narrow Framing: We debate whether to do or buy something, and end up building an argument for it, rather than taking the time to consider arguments against it or coming up with alternatives.

Confirmation Bias: As Chip and Dan Heath write in their bestseller Decisive, “Our normal habit in life is to develop a quick belief about a situation and then seek out information that bolsters our belief.” NOT a good recipe for good decisions.

Overconfidence: We tend to think we know everything we need to know before making decisions. Rarely if ever the case.

On top of those, for us ADHDers in particular, the work required to formulate decisions is fatiguing…Postponing decisions (we’re the champions of this, are we not?) wastes precious time and creates stress...Making the wrong decisions can cost us time and, of course, money (we’re pretty good at that, too, it seems).

But wait!! There’s more!!!

Here’s Where We ADHDers Really Get Slammed in Decision-Making

Impulsivity: Our brains just want to Go! Act! Do! Who needs forethought? We don’t need no stinkin’ forethought!!

Non-Linear Thinking: On a more serious note, we’re not wired to “look ahead five moves”, as a good chess player or project manager is. We may try, but our weak working memory means we can’t “hold the picture” of multiple forward moves or contingencies in our mind’s eye. This makes for short-sighted decisions…and the regrets that go with them.

Emotionality: We are emotional Tilt-a-Whirls. So when we’re giddy, we get extra impulsive. When we’re moody, we might make equally impulsive choices that harm ourselves or others.

Good Ol’ ADHD Brain Fog: We just don’t have certain neurochemicals in sufficient supply to provide clarity of thought when we most need it.

Sorry if all these reminders of your lousy decision-making skills reminds you of a recent blunderous choice.

Don’t feel too bad:  According to the Harvard Business Review, business managers make about three billion decisions each year, and research says that most of them do so poorly. Even non-ADHDers fall prey to those classic  decision-making pitfalls, all of which unfortunately add to our own ADHD issues.

But there’s hope…

Why do ADHDers get slammed in decision-making? Let me count the ways!

First of all, continue to sharpen your awareness of your weaknesses. That’ll help you slow down next time a meaningful decision is before you.

And here’s a simple trick I use regularly: When you’re confronted with a tough medium-size decision — for instance, how to deal with a minor crisis at work; where to go for a weekend getaway; or what anniversary gift to get your spouse this year — don’t just make the decision “on-the-fly.” Set a timer for ten minutes and write down a few alternatives. Stare at them and write additional thoughts until the buzzer sounds.

I guarantee this will result in a clearer picture and smarter decisions every single time.

Do You Have a Smart Process for Decision-Making?

If you really want to get serious about making smarter decisions, there are proven, evidence-based ways to improve your everyday decision-making — which is key in both your job and in your life. I devoted an episode of Crusher™TV to sharing some tools to cut through the brain clutter: 6 Ways to Make Smarter Decisions, every day. My Guest Expert, global strategy consultant Michelle Doss, also shares a couple of deceivingly simple, yet powerful tricks for making better decisions, big and small. The preview of the episode is 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 72 , and you can preview that episode here:

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Forget Time Management. It’s About Energy Management

“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”   

– Tony Schwartz, CEO The Energy Project

There’s plenty written about time management. But what about energy management?

After all, you can’t increase the number of hours in your day, but you can manage, expand and better focus your energy.

“If you could wake up tomorrow with significantly more positive, focused energy to invest at work and with your family, how significantly would that change your life for the better?”  That’s the question posed by Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project.

And the answer of course is a big, loud… VERY significantly!

Think about it: More energy = more willpower. More energy = getting to the gym more often. More energy = more quality time with your kids. Getting that promotion. Making more money…being happier…living an extraordinary life.  TWEET THIS

 OK, no argument there. But how does one increase one’s energy? (And I won’t lecture you about proper diet, exercise and sleep, cuz I know you already know about all that.)

Time Management vs Energy Management

Time management and energy management are, of course, closely related. I maintain that the most overlooked aspect of time management is Self Awareness: your ability to know yourself, including your own energy patterns. If you’re not in touch with your energy you can’t manage it, and the best time management practices will be for naught!

And no one has looked more closely at human energy management than consultant Tony Schwartz, who notes that, while a refrigerator or an automobile each have one source of energy, we humans have four sources.

“You can’t make more minutes in the day, but you can increase your energy!”  K. Kruse, Forbes

Four Types of Energy Management

The first is Physical Energy, which is influenced by caloric intake, exercise, your general health, sleep, etc. (Again, I know you know all this, but it bears repeating, because it’s so fundamental and too often ignored.)

Then there is  Emotional Energy – or the quality of your energy. You can burn energy very quickly when you’re in a negative emotional state. And the more upbeat and hopeful you are, the more energy you will preserve and have at the ready. This is why it is so critically important that we ADHDers don’t beat ourselves up about foul-ups and setbacks — and why we must celebrate our victories, big and small (what I call “score your successes“).

Next there’s  Spiritual Energy – which is energy harnessed from something larger than ourselves. Examples of this are our values, our faith or our belief in a given cause or purpose. To tap into this energy source, at the very least, make sure you have your personal values or mission posted in front of you where you work most often. They are powerful fuel — but only if kept front-of-mind (and therefore, in-your-face).

Long-term goals that we’re stoked about also act as emotional/spiritual fuel.

Last, there is  Mental Energy – or focused energy. This is of course the one we ADHDers have the most trouble with. But if we can be more aware of the preceding three and keep those sources firing in the positive zone, we will be better able at any given time to sit down and give some clear mental focus to the task at hand. And you’ll help sustain your energy if you don’t multitask or hop between work and social media!! (But you already knew that, too.)

Besides making sure I attend to all these energy sources, there are a range of “power hacks” I use every day to extend my energy and output. I shared those in a recent episode of Crusher™TV and I’ll probably do a blog on them in the future, but do give some thought and action to these important (and impactful) energy types!

Learn More at

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 65, The 2X Energy Blueprint, 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: There’s plenty written about time management. But what about energy management? Fact is, you can’t increase the number of hours in your day, but you can manage, expand and better focus your energy. I’ll show you how with a powerful checklist. We’re joined by Denise Allan, CPO®.


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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Tame the Chaos with Productivity Rituals

“Most of the actions that result in an extraordinary life are small and easy.”

That’s a quote from my friend, personal development guru Jonathan Butcher. And those small, easy things he’s referring to are just habits, routines and productivity rituals practiced over and over again.

Yes, habits, routines and rituals are the secrets to getting more things done more easily, more automatically. Hence the many books and blogs with titles like, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” “Morning Routines of Movers and Shakers,” or “The Daily Rituals of Billionaires.”

But habits are one thing. Routines are another. And rituals are in a league all their own.

I’ll make a few distinctions between habits, routines and rituals, and provide an example of one of my own power rituals that you can use to get more clarity, get more done, and reduce the overwhelm.

What’s the Big Deal About Productivity Rituals?

While habits, routines and rituals do have two things in common — they are all things you do repeatedly for some benefit, and with repetition they use less energy and willpower to undertake and complete — that’s where the similarities end.

Ritual is defined as, “a solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.”

So, whereas habits and routines tend to involve singular actions, a ritual is a set of actions. Think of your quick morning shampoo vs the ritualistic series of treatments you’d get at an exclusive $500-a-pop hair salon. (Which would make you more irresistible than you already are? The ritual, of course!)

Habits and routines are focused on the completion of a task. Rituals focus on the performance. Example: Tony Robbins performs a ritual series of actions before going on stage (breathing exercises, jumping on a mini-trampoline and other pscyh-ups). He intrinsically knows what workplace psychology expert Michelle McQuaid says: that rituals “shape the way our brains are feeling, thinking and acting.”

Last, whereas habits and routines require minimal engagement – sometimes none — ritual requires full engagement. You barely need to be conscious to shave or vacuum. A ritual asks that you be fully “in the Now”, which is where productivity magic happens.

Positive habits and routines are great. But rituals are chaos-crushers.

An Example of a Power Ritual

Imagine if you could power through your day, thinking more clearly, getting more top priority tasks banged out, and actually having reserves of energy at quitting time. This is the power of power rituals. What’s a power ritual?

There are rituals like having your morning coffee just so, sitting down at a certain time with a certain kind of music on, in a certain place where you tend to be particularly productive. That is awesome – keep doing that ritual.

But a power ritual is a bundle of evidence-based power-hacks that, practiced daily, create near-term clarity and long term compounding accomplishment. Here’s one of my four daily power rituals…

My Morning Power Ritual

One. I begin with spending just a couple of minutes listing things for which I’m grateful. What? Yep. Why? Because, research from Harvard’s Shawn Achor shows that when you identify three things for which you are grateful every day for 21 days, you carve neural pathways that give your brain a higher baseline of optimism and happiness.

Two. I set my “Three Biggies,” as I call them. Those are the three things I want to get done for the day. But no more than three. Why? Identifying more than three priorities statistically reduces your odds of finishing ANY of them.

Three. I calendar those priorities – giving them each a time slot. More science: A task that has been assigned a time and place is 50% more likely to be completed.

Four. I write down an affirmation. Some expression of intent that attaches to a medium- or long-term goal. For instance, “I, [state your name], will create a profitable new X.” Or, “I, [state your name], will compete in a half-marathon this year.” Say it, write it or sing it. But do it every morning.

That, my friends, is a powerful morning ritual – giving you clarity for today’s work, and reinforcing a longer-term goal. I guarantee you that the most successful people you’ll ever meet have some form of consistent morning ritual. And as I mentioned, as you repeat these actions, they become easier and easier to do, drawing less and less of your energy and willpower.

Rituals make crushing it easier!



P.S. If you think building some rituals into your life could help you be more productive and less overwhelmed, I’ve devoted an entire episode of Crusher™TV to this topic, in which I share each of my evidence-based, “4 Power Rituals that Will Change Your Life.” I also interview certified professional organizer Eliza Cantlay, who has a powerful ritual for organizing and powering up your workspace. Check out some free episode previews HERE. –ab


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Classic Energy Vampires

“Each morning I am aware that there is a finite amount of time and energy in this day.”   – Oprah Winfrey

Oprah knows about Energy Vampires.

Imagine if you had more energy every day…What would you do with it? Start on that project you’ve been putting off? Finish that thing that you just haven’t had the energy to finish? Focus a little extra time on just getting organized so you’re more ready to attack tomorrow with all cylinders firing?

Ideally, we begin each day with a full tank of brain fuel, but throughout the day we’re burning it off. As Oprah Winfrey reminds herself in her every-morning mantra, above. (Everyone should have a morning mantra — a powerful tool, but more about that in another post.)

They are sneakily vampiring your energy. Know them and you can slay them.

For folks like you and me who actually are up to something and trying to create something and aspiring to get ahead and be more and have more….our energy is indeed precious.

And yet…We waste energy all day long – knowingly and…unknowingly.

When you “take a break” to watch 15 minutes of YouTube hilarity, it costs you 15 minutes of energy. A 10-minute water-cooler chat with some co-workers debits your energy account. Your 30-minute commute listening to scream radio (that’s what we used to call talk radio), costs you big time. Obsessing about something that didn’t go your way, and so on.

Over the course of a day, this adds up; come 3pm, you hit a major wall. By 7pm, your energy account is way overdrafted. And often….you don’t really know where all your energy went. This is…

The High Cost of Energy Vampires

But here’s the good news: When you focus your attention on your energy, you can put energy back into your account and even get compounding interest.

To start saving up right away, we can call out some of the most common vampires…

Crappy Food: If you’re using sugar or simple carbs to get mental energy, you’re using fast-burning fuel. Protein is where the sustained energy is.

Crappy Sleep: Too little sleep saps your mental energy.

Crappy Lifestyle: Regular exercise increases mental stamina, and doing the opposite ensures you will starve for mental energy when you need it.

Those are kind of obvious. A few, more subtle, energy eaters are…

Multitasking: Not only when you multitask are you doing nothing fast, you are wasting energy in constantly switching between, and re-engaging in, the multiple activities.

Clutter: Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter says, “Clutter makes our senses work overtime on stimuli that aren’t necessary or important.” Clutter also makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally. That pile you’re saving or not putting away or organizing – it’s stealing your precious energy.

Maintaining a to-do list with too much crap on it. I’ve talked several times about the Zeigarnik Effect – which is when the multitude of undone to-dos on your to-do list burn mental energy with reminders of all your un-done-ness.

With this list of a few sneaky energy-thieves that are debiting your energy bank account, give some of your ADHD attention to them and see of you can rein them in even a little. You will have LOADS more energy with which to crush your goals when you do.



P.S. You might like to watch the episode of Crusher™TV where I dig deeper into this topic, including the Top 3 Energy Vampires, which are all-too-common thought patterns of ADDers. (You can become a member for a buck and cancel any time ya like.) It’s Episode 64: How to Slay the Top 3 Energy Vampires. Here’s the preview of that episode:

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5 Time-Wasters of Biblical Proportions

“One thing we ADHDers never have enough of is time. So if there’s one thing we should never be wasting…it’s…yep…TIME!”   – Alan Brown 

I’m not one for brow-beating my fellow ADHD tribesters, but when it comes to time-wasting, I do get a little preachy. In fact, I was writing part of a Crusher™TV episode about the five biggest avoidable time-wasters and I was getting so wound-up about it that I decided to write it as a fire-and-brimstone sermon!

I call these epic smiters of our precious time…

(Not to be confused with the epic Motown group, The Temptations – of whom there were indeed five).

Here they are. Harken ye to these tales of woe!

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 2.47.06 PMI.  The Entertainments (aka, Media and Games)  These voices beckon us with the false promise of….”Oh just a coupla minutes of Candy Crush”….or “just the first five minutes of Hannity or Rachel Maddow or Big Bang Theory…Surely then I will be ready to return to my labors…” And return we do not.

Your salvation? Schedule specific times for this stuff – to include a cut-off time. They’re not sinful in and of themselves – if you limit them!

social-mediaitesII.  The Social Media-ites (aka Social Media)  These soldiers of the dark side dwell in our devices, our homes, our chariots and I dare say, in our very souls. Their song lulls us deep into their web…then rolls us up in the silk of superficial social interaction…and finally spits us out two hours later…our minds by then utterly vacated.

Your salvation? Toss your device into your drawer and resist that temptation!


the-busy-workIII.  The Busy-Work   Those deceitful activities cleverly disguised as productivities…Checking email…Re-checking email…the shuffling of papers…the not-really-necessary conference call. All perfectly tempting in contrast to that which truly needs doing.

Your salvation? Knoweth ye the difference! See this verse for more.


the-ruminationsIV.  The Ruminations (aka, Negative Self-Talk) An idle mind is indeed the playground of the devil. It begins when we lament the work we’ve been assigned…and that lamentation quickly turns to self-torment…then wasted time and energy.

Your salvation? A gratitude prayer can quickly smite negative thoughts about one’s travails.


the-carbohydraV.  The Carbohydra (aka, Carb- and Sugar-Based Snacks) This false idol promises the land of milk and honey, but delivers only the sadness of simple carbs and sucrose. It does not nourish the mind, but thrashes it utterly!

Your salvation? The teat of protein shall nourish mind and soul!


These five plagues on our productivity menace our constitution with false promises of blissful escape…and in so doing…drag us further up the River Styx. Also known as the East River. And you what’s up there, don’t you? Yes, Da Bronx!

I hope you enjoyed our sermon today (with apologies to anyone sensitive to the religious theme…and to the good people of Da Bronx).



P.S. You might like to watch the episode where this sketch was performed. (You can become a member for a buck and cancel any time ya like.) It was part of Episode 20: Best of Crusher™TV – The Pontiffs of Procrastination, which featured clips from interviews with Ari Tuckman, Jeff Copper and other wise men and women! Here’s the preview of that episode:

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