How To Reduce And Manage Distractions For ADHD Adults

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Topic: How adults with ADHD can reduce and manage distractions more effectively. See the other Adult ADHD Issues.

Facilitator: Pete Quily

Thanks for Vivienne for taking the notes.

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

I tried to be good but I got distracted

Photo by Mike Mozart

Distractibility 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 post on BC govt killing off the BC Adult ADHD Clinic after a year long wait list

Why are ADHD Adults More Likely To Get Distracted?

Adrenalin/addict lifestyle instead of prioritizing (causing burnout or brown out

Boredom or excitement

Difficulty foreseeing the future or planning for the future

Don’t take breaks as needed

Get overwhelmed/ can’t say no


Lack of focus

New things are stimulating or under stimulating

Not prioritizing or procrastinating

Obsessions or negative hyper focus, ruminations

Poor memory

Racing mind

Short attention span

Trouble knowing what is relevant and what is not relevant

Trouble prioritizing

Trouble with delayed gratification

Trouble with transitions (starting or stopping things)

Trouble with working memory or with multiple items

Uncomfortable with calm silence

How To Think About 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.

Don’t try to change 15 things at once. Pick 1 or 2 things and work on those first.

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. Sadly Wikipedia edited it out and added a different section but here it was.

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. 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.

Accepting the Present Moment; not the Life Situation! Eckhart Tolle

What are my expectations around my current ability to manage distractions?

When do I get most distracted and what can I do to manage these distractions?

General Ways to Reduce Distractibility:

A customized routine

A good night sleep

Active meditation (focusing on something specific)

Allow buffer zones around appointments (bring reading material)

Avoid sugars, eat healthy foods, include protein

Be more present, aware or less stressed out

Consider shopping or doing business in a less stressful place or time

Effective audio tapes


Have FUN (schedule fun times)

Hot baths (try Epsom salts)

Make lists (notebook or i-phone, etc)

Organize well enough (plan to organize)

Regular de-cluttering

Regular non-electronic breaks

Reward yourself

Schedule your tasks (planning reduces stress)

Stick to realistic list

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

Ask for ‘time-out’ if possible

Chew gum

Focus on your feet planted on the floor

Have a clear idea of the expected outcome- Be sure of the plan

Healthy snack

If on the phone, ask for a minute & use mute

In meetings, stop individual and ask for clarity

Jot down notes for later if things pop into your head at inappropriate times

Make to do list

Play some appropriate music for you and situation

Prayer beads or rosary (tactile)

Scheduled timers

Slow deep breathing

Stay hydrated, drink water

Stay hydrated¸ drink water

Stress balls, fidgets

Use Swiss Exercise balls

Practical Next Steps to Better Manage Distractions

Ask yourself why I am getting distracted from this specific task or project on a regular basis?

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.

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

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?

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.

What are some distractions that happen to me on a regular basis?

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