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Topic: How Adults With ADHD Can Manage Distractions

April 3rd 2012 Meeting Notes for the Vancouver Adult ADD Support Group

Return to Vancouver Adult ADD Support Group Previous Notes Page


Facilitator: Pete Quily

Thanks for Vivienne for taking the notes.

Topic: Managing Distractions



Photo by Mike Mozart


Distractabilty is one of the biggest problems for adults with ADHD. This will cover:

  • Warm Up
  • Why are ADHD Adults More Likely To Get Distracted?
  • How To Think About Distractions
  • General Ways to Reduce Distractibility:
  • Situational Things to Help Reduce Distractibility
  • Practical Next Steps to Better Manage Your Distractions

Warm up:

List 2 or 3 examples of feeling the urge to act on a distraction, but you were able to stay present and resist. Discuss individually in small groups.

Check out Shannon Dooling website

Why are ADHD Adults More Likely To Get Distracted?

  • Boredom or excitement
  • New things are stimulating or under stimulating
  • Lack of focus
  • Impulsive
  • Poor memory
  • Trouble with delayed gratification
  • Difficulty foreseeing the future or planning for the future
  • Short attention span
  • Trouble with working memory or with multiple items
  • Uncomfortable with calm silence
  • Racing mind
  • Obsessions or negative hyper focus, ruminations
  • Trouble with transitions (starting or stopping things)
  • Trouble prioritizing
  • Trouble knowing what is relevant and what is not relevant
  • Not prioritizing or procrastinating
  • Adrenalin/addict lifestyle instead of prioritizing (causing burnout or brown out
  • Get overwhelmed/ can’t say no
  • Don’t take breaks as needed

How To Think About Distractions


  • When do I get most distracted and what can I do to manage these distractions?
  • Don’t try to change 15 things at once. Pick 1 or 2 things and work on those first.
  • What are my expectations around my current ability to manage distractions?
  • Are my perceptions of reality accurate or inaccurate? Am I delusionally optimistic?
  • Can I adjust my perceptions to help manage distractions? The more my perceptions align with reality, the less struggle and strife I will have.
  • Eckhart Tolle on accepting the present moment or accepting reality. Here's a section from a Wikipedia article on one of his books The Power of Now elaborating on what I was mentioning.

Acceptance – Rather than resisting life as it actually is in the present moment, one accepts it for what it is, without labelling or judgment. "Allowing it to be as it is … takes you beyond the mind with its resistance patterns …"

Tolle speaks not only of acceptance of what is, but also of surrender to it.[33] This "is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life … to surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation."

This may easily be misunderstood, and Tolle goes on to explain that he is not suggesting anyone should accept forevermore some unpleasant situation in life. That is mere resignation. Surrender is a purely inner phenomenon, changing our attitude so we accept how things are at this moment. Then we can act positively to change the ongoing situation, and such positive action is likely to be far more effective than if it arose out of the anger, frustration or despair of resistance.

General Ways to Reduce Distractibility:


  • Be more present, aware or less stressed out
  • Stick to realistic list
  • Reward yourself
  • Effective audio tapes
  • Exercise
  • Avoid sugars, eat healthy foods, include protein
  • Active meditation (focusing on something specific)
  • Make lists (notebook or i-phone, etc)
  • Schedule your tasks (planning reduces stress)
  • Regular non-electronic breaks
  • Regular de-cluttering
  • A customized routine
  • Allow buffer zones around appointments (bring reading material)
  • Hot baths (try Epsom salts)
  • A good night sleep
  • Consider shopping or doing business in a less stressful place or time
  • Organize well enough (plan to organize)
  • Have FUN (schedule fun times)

    Note: People with ADD forget to eat and forget to plan to eat. Google Hypoglycemia for more information how to eat a more balanced diet with reduced sugars, etc

Situational Things to Help Reduce Distractibility


  • Stress balls, fidgets
  • Use Swiss Exercise balls
  • Slow deep breathing
  • Scheduled timers
  • Focus on your feet planted on the floor
  • Prayer beads or rosary (tactile)
  • In meetings, stop individual and ask for clarity
  • Ask for ‘time-out’ if possible
  • If on the phone, ask for a minute & use mute
  • Stay hydrated¸ drink water
  • Chew gum
  • Play some appropriate music for you and situation
  • Stay hydrated, drink water
  • Healthy snack
  • Have a clear idea of the expected outcome- Be sure of the plan
  • Make to do list
  • Jot down notes for later if things pop into your head at inappropriate times

Practical Next Steps to Better Manage Distractions


  • What are some distractions that happen to me on a regular basis?
  • Chose one task or project where you often get distracted while doing it, and that you want to reduce the amount and frequency of being distracted on it
  • Ask yourself why I am getting distracted from this specific task or project on a regular basis?
  • Is there anything in the list above, or other idea that can help me reduce the frequency, intensity and length of time I get distracted while doing the task/project?
  • Chose one or two things to do that you're willing to put into action to reduce the frequency, intensity and length of time you get distracted while doing the task/project. Create a simple, non perfectionistic plan for it.
  • Schedule a day and time to put your plan into action
  • Set an alarm to remind you to do it then vs hoping to "magically remember' to do it. Then do it.

Do you have anything you want the BC Government to do about their ADHD strategies and policies in BC? If so, e-mail your thoughts to pete or comment on Pete’s blog at

Next CHADD meeting is on April 17 and the topic will be ADHD and Learning Disability, including the video “How Bad Can This Be”




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