How often do you have this experience?

Another person clearly expects you to have followed through on a commitment and confronts you because you dropped the ball. Your colleague (or it could be a friend or family member) tells you the details of the exact conversation in which you made the personal commitment, even reminding you of the time and place the conversation occurred.

You strongly dispute that you could have made any such commitment, because you have no memory of the conversation. You are certain you would remember actually making such a commitment. You believe that you take your commitments seriously and would not have knowingly dropped the ball.

Sound familiar? This kind of incident happens to folks with ADHD quite often.

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If you are the person in the above scenario, you might at first think your colleague confused you with someone else who actually did commit to perform the task. Or you begin to wonder if the whole incident was just a figment of your colleague’s imagination!

But gradually your colleague’s certainty convinces you that the situation actually did occur more or less as your disappointed colleague described it, even though you remember nothing about it.

Now what do you do? These are a few of your options:

  1. You might see this as an isolated incident, forgetting or disregarding other similar incidents in the past, and vow to do better next time. Since this is an isolated incident, you assume, it is not likely to happen again. That means nothing needs to change.
  2. You might respond as you have to similar situations in the past by chastising yourself, beating yourself up, and doing further damage to your already low self-esteem. But you don’t consider taking any steps to deal with similar situations in the future, because it feels hopeless.
  3. You recognize that this kind of thing is happening too often. You decide you need to take some steps to make sure that your ADHD treatment plan is serving you well – or, if you don’t have a treatment plan, you decide it’s time to find one.
  4. You know your ADHD is being well treated. Your plan includes some of these elements: medication, counseling, coaching, regular exercise, plenty of sleep, education about your particular ADHD, and healthy doses of self-compassion and self-care. “What could need tweaking?” you wonder.

Let’s say option 4 above describes you. You are actively engaged in working with your ADHD so that you are maximizing your strengths and talents while managing your areas of challenge. You recognize that this incident is a sign that you can use some more support in being more present in conversations and in creating habits that result in written records of anything you agree to do.

So here are some things you might try:

  • You begin a practice of mindfulness, because you know that practice focusing on the present moment for just a few minutes several times a day can increase your overall ability to pay attention in the moment.
  • You decide you need to have a solid plan for dealing with commitments you make. You set a firm intention for taking commitments more seriously to help you be more aware when you make one, and you decide to carry a small “commitment notebook” with you to write down any commitments you make.
  • You ask your partner or a close friend for support and together you come up with a plan. Every evening you will report any commitments made that day to your “commitment buddy.” Knowing you will be expected to give that report will help bring the issue to the front of your mind throughout the day.
  • You get a couple of large white board calendars, each with blanks for one month. On them you record your up-to-date schedule and you post them in a place where they cannot be missed. When the calendars starts to look like wall paper to you, you change the location or change the colors you use to make them more noticeable
  • etc.​​​​​​​

You are creative and resourceful! When a challenge like missed commitments arises, you can do something to make a difference for yourself! You are not a victim and you are not alone.

The ideas I’ve suggested are just to get your creative juices flowing. I’m sure you’ll come up with strategies that work much better for you than the ones I’ve suggested here.

My main message is that you are not helpless! There is always a new way of looking at your challenges, often through the lens of your strengths and successes. Do you know your strengths? Do you have a log of your successes? If not, why not start now by thinking back to events when you shone? Write them down, keep adding to the list, and review your entries often.

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Some of your ideas will help others. If you’d like to tell me about new tools or strategies you’ve discovered, I’ll be thrilled to pass them on so others can try them! ​​​​​​​
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