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How to be an ADHD Master of None

Hey guys, so in case you missed it, I suffer from a focus problem. I either focus too much, or I don’t focus enough. I haven’t formally been diagnosed, so if self diagnosing offends you, then I guess be offended. I am a female raised in the late 80’s, early 90’s. I was a Tom boy. I was weird. I was quirky. And I worked ten times harder than my peers to keep my shit together. As an adult, I have realized why that is, but getting diagnosed as an adult without an unlimited supply of money is near impossible (Heck, I can’t get my CHILD evaluated without $250 up front. No insurance taken.) SO here I am. Suffering through my adulthood just like my childhood. If you are like me, and you suffer from ADHD and making is your favorite dopamine injection, let me show you how I make it work. Let me share with you how I manage my life.

Judgmental chicken helps. I know he is there. Judging me.

First of all, you NEED a planner. Whatever works for you. BUT don’t fall into the neurotypical trap of fancy planners being better. Don’t do it. The fancy will wear off, and the dopamine hit will no longer be there, and then the fancy planner will be WORK. I have a cheap planner I grabbed at Aldi’s. It is a Pembrook, hard cover planner. It has a monthly goals spread, a monthly spread, and a weekly spread, and that’s it. I have tried happy planners, bullet planners, printed planners, and binder planners. They all have their pros and cons. You just need to be honest with yourself. For me, bullet journals as planners is/was a SUPER exciting idea at first, but every month and day I felt discouraged because I couldn’t be bothered to make beautiful spreads, and migrating stuff ahead when I didn’t get it done was wearing on my self confidence. SO MUCH that I didn’t get done, and it bothered me.

Picture of daily planner page with to do list

My secret weapon was advice given to me by a dear friend. Write down your daily to-do list on post it notes, and stick the post it notes in your planner. Once that thing is finished, mark it off, and write it on the actual planner page. If you didn’t get to it, no worries, just migrate that post it note down to the next day, and there is no permanent reminder of your inability to complete tasks. Anxiety averted. I don’t do this every day, but if I am feeling particularly sensitive or overwhelmed, I do. I always have it in my back pocket.

You will also note that my to-do list, other than daily stuff is pretty damn random. And that’s because IT IS. I have a grown up mother fucking chore jar. For real, I have a weekly task chore jar, and a monthly task chore jar. I draw a few out from the weekly one and work at least 45 minutes a day. And if I have extra time, I grab one from the monthly jar. If I get carried away and do tasks that I didn’t draw out, I just write them down and move on. When I draw them later in the week, I just set them aside.

Second up, you NEED to be flexible. If you are like me, you have a running list of a bajillionty things in your head that you MUST MAKE NOW. But come on. We only have so many hours in the day. So, I keep a master list of things I want to make and then I allow myself to choose a few to have going at one time. Then, I jump around from project to project. For example, I currently have a sweater being knitted, one more that I have the yarn for waiting in the wings, and another that I just ordered the yarn and pattern for that will be here shortly. The order in which I knit them may change. BUT I will finish this one before moving on to either of the other two. I allowed myself to plan ahead, dream, and be excited about upcoming projects, BUT I am realistic about my attention span. I also have projects going in the spinning realm, and the sewing realm, and the random craft realm. That way, when my ability to focus on the sweater is gone, I can take a break and move on to something else, instead of starting another sweater, which for me would mean that this one would never be finished.

My incomplete works in progress list that I keep on my dry erase board in my office. It is incomplete. I have added more and have ideas that are not technically in progress yet. Just an open tab in my brain.

Now that I am no longer working, you would think that I have more time, but I don’t, really. Me working was to the detriment of everything else in my life. My kids’ education, our house, and our pets suffered. So now that they are all getting the attention they deserve, I have about the same free time as I did when I was working. I have large projects planned for when I have the time, and I break them into smaller bites. If I want to make a few bags, for example, day 1 will be cutting out the material. The next day is sewing and so forth. I have projects that can travel with me in the case of car rides or waiting around. (Not so much needed during covid times, though)

And third, you need to make yourself a priority. If making things is how you get your dopamine, then it isn’t an extra. It is priority. Do I feel guilty that my craft supplies basically rule the house? Yeah, I do. Really. But It is my form of self care. My husband plays video games for his escape, and I immerse myself in the world of making. The act of making and watching something come to life gives me life.

But how do you deal with the clutter from making? Well, if you’re like me, and you are lucky enough to have an extra room in your home that you can set up to be a craft room, you do that.

…and then watch in astonishment as all of your crafting stuff migrates out of it’s own accord and STILL sets up shop in every room of the house. Making needs STUFF and a collection of STUFF is a recipe for disaster for ADHD people. The more stuff there is, the more stuff there is to be overwhelmed by. But, stuff gives us dopamine, and our brains need dopamine, so we collect stuff.

What I do is I keep certain types of projects in certain places. For example, knitting and cross stitch stay in a bin next to my bed. Yes, I will work on them elsewhere, but they don’t live there. They live in the bin next to my bed. So at night, when we are watching tv in bed, I can work on them and forget to sleep. When I take them elsewhere, I try very hard to remind myself to bring them back to their home. Sewing and big projects take place in my craft room. and that room can get super messy super fast. Like for real. Thread clippings are like glitter.

I started treating my craft room like it is a store front or an office that I am employed at. I come in in the morning or afternoon to start work, and I open up shop. I start the music or television, I spray some smelly good stuff. I water the plants and make it a pleasant place to be, and then I get down to work. At the end of the day, I clean it up and leave what I don’t get to for the morning crew. But the morning crew has to make it a fun place to be before work begins. It isn’t fail proof. If I am on a schedule for finishing things, I will often let the room go all to hell and work around the mess. But it ruins my joy. I haven’t really crafted since before Christmas, because the room was so out of order that going in there stressed me out. After 3 days of work, I just have some things to put away, and it will be usable again, but I could’ve kept my schedule up and not had this month long hiatus.

And that brings me to my final piece of advice. BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Look, I know you have that internal voice that was given to you by someone in authority over you. Telling you that you are dumb or lazy. (Mine is that I am stupid, fat, and lazy… yay parents) But you are NONE of those things, and neither am I. You have my permission to tell that voice to shut up whenever it talks. Your brain functions differently than other people’s, and that’s okay. Sure it makes some things really hard for you, but it makes other things easy. I am not sure normal people can go from baking complex cakes, to knitting lace, to building furniture in one day. We each have our own gifts to offer this world. You, as a human being, are allowed to have weaknesses. Acknowledge them, and work on them, but give yourself time and patience while learning to do things that are hard for you, even when they seem simple to others. You will fail. Your mess will explode. You will have unfinished projects, and you will forget to eat. Take those lessons and move forward, no guilt needed.

So, as always, thanks for reading my ramblings. I hope you found it helpful, even if you just read the bold parts. 🙂 ADHD creatives are magical. I love you all so much, and you constantly inspire me to try more things and push myself further. I look forward to seeing what you accomplish! You can show me your crafting spaces or your projects on Instagram. (I’m wakeupnmakestuff) You can just tag your pics with #wakeupandmakestuff, and I’ll see it.

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