The acronym in question is MEMES.
Each letter stands for one of the foundational elements of my personal ADHD management. Let me put an extra emphasis on personal. I’m not a doctor or mental health professional; the following are simply some big things which have made a significant impact on my life as I live with ADHD.
Movement to me looks like walking around the neighborhood where I work (or up and down the stairs when the weather isn’t right for walking) on my lunch break after I scarf down my food. It looks like walking with my dog after work or playing Just Dance. It looks like being intentional about getting up and taking a break if I’ve been stationary for too long.
“If I don’t move frequently enough, my ability to focus quickly diminishes.”
If I’ve been at my desk at work for a while and feel myself starting to fade, I try to work on different tasks which require me to leave my desk (like making copies/scans or taking paperwork to another part of the building) or allow me to stand up while I do them (like tidying my desk or working on files). If I don’t have anything that fits in these categories, I’ll quickly go run up and down the flights of stairs or take a lap around the building.
When I’m at home, I’ll use timers to switch between 20 minutes of sitting down work (like writing this article) and then 5-7 minutes of a chore (like the dishes). Incorporating a sufficient amount of movement in my day is non-negotiable. If I don’t move frequently enough, my ability to focus quickly diminishes. If the amount of movement I get during the day is lacing, my sleep suffers. When my sleep suffers,, my ADHD symptoms are amplified.
Taking time to observe my energy patterns has made a huge difference in living my best life with ADHD as well.
I know that my energy peaks in the 7am-10am window daily, and on Monday through Mid-Wednesday weekly. I accept that my energy ebbs somewhat in the 2pm-4pm window, plus after 7pm daily. It’s also at its slumpiest Wednesday evening to Friday.
Identifying this has allowed me to make strategic adjustments to when I expect myself to get things done. I don’t plan to run an errand on Thursday when I’m dragging; instead, I plan to do it on Monday. I don’t try to make myself do the dishes when I get home from work. I do a little bit every morning before I leave the house.
It’s all about setting myself up for success.
Identifying what motivates (and de-motivates me) is a crucial part of getting things done when getting things done can be hard.
Using external rewards as motivation is a common suggestion for ADHDers and there are certain types of to-do’s I use them with, but to be perfectly honest: I don’t typically find a lot of success with external rewards.
For example, I might try setting up a plan where after I clean out the trash in my vehicle I can buy that item I’ve been eyeing or once I send the email I’ve been meaning to send, I get to eat a cookie (okay, five).
The problem is my brain can’t seem to get over the fact that technically nothing is stopping me from just taking the reward whenever I want. (One way to work around this could be to give my spouse the cookies to hide or load a giftcard with the money for the item and give that to a close friend to hold until I’ve proven I’ve done the thing.)
“Identifying what motivates (and de-motivates me) is a crucial part of getting things done when getting things done can be hard.
Then there’s knowing what I find de-motivating, which can be just as helpful.”
What does motivate me, however, is pausing to consider how I will feel once the to-do is done (Examples: I’ll start my day with more clarity and confidence when my truck is clean or if I don’t meal prep today it will feel hectic trying to decide what to eat later on in my busy week).
Then there’s knowing what I find de-motivating, which can be just as helpful. I get really de-motivated when I’m bored or I feel like my time is being wasted. Using this knowledge, I can find ways to make unexciting tasks less boring and more fun. The main way I do this is by listening to a podcast or audiobook while I do chores. Other times, I enlist a friend to join me as I work.
Keeping in mind I don’t like my time being wasted can also help me when I focus on how whatever annoying to-do I have on my list will actually help me save time (picking out all my outfits for the week ahead will save me time every morning, doing a little tidying every day will save me from having to clean for a long time before someone visits our house, etc.).
Learning from and/or working with ADHD experts and self-growth gurus helps me keep a healthy perspective, understand why my brain works the way it does, challenge my negative mind-sets, and inspires me to come up with solutions that actually work for me.
“Beware of people who give too much attention to the trials and tribulations of living with ADHD; that attitude is contagious and leads to a pretty miserable life.”
I see an ADHD coach via Skype roughly every 3-4 weeks, follow YouTube channels who offer empathy and tips, and have plugged myself into a positive ADHD community on Instagram (I sugguest the type of people who are honest about the struggles of ADHD and who take an active role in learning/problem-solving for a better life.
My advice is beware of people who give too much attention to the trials and tribulations of living with ADHD; that attitude is contagious and leads to a pretty miserable life…but that’s a lecture for another day.)
I think the best nugget of knowledge I ever got about living with ADHD was from my first ADHD coach. He told me that for so many of the executive functioning issues ADHD creates, there are external systems to make up for it. Alarms and other forms of reminders, routines, visual maps, post-it notes, putting stuff you don’t want to forget in front of the door so you see on your way out, outside accountability, apps, using open and simple organization, timers, online grocery shopping with lists you save, etc., etc., etc.
There are so many unique routes you can create to better study, adult, and overall function that can take the burden off your brain.
It’s all about identifying where your brain is getting hung up and creating (and tweaking until you get it right) a system that works for you. It might not look like the way “everyone” else does it, but the point is you’re able to do it.
Lastly, I will say this:
“Starting ADHD medication has completely changed my life.”
I know some people are against it or have had bad experiences with it, but medication has made a normal life for me possible–without so much of the behind-the-scenes meltdowns and exhaustion.
Would medication do the wonders it has for me without the hard work I continually put into MEMES? NO! That’s why I mention them as a side-note. You have to put in the time to find and implement solutions. And I suggest starting with MEMES.
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