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The ADHD brain is supremely tuned to respond well to novelty and excitement, but is an exceedingly poor performer when things get routine, predictable, and yes, boring. Our lives are like the movie, Ground Hog Day, and many of us have similarities to the character played by Bill Murray. When the same stimuli come at us day after day, we actually can persist in extraordinary ways, but only when we have something extraordinary, like Andy McDowell in the movie, to motivate us. I have had two books published and let me tell you, ADHD and finishing anything, let alone a full-length book, do not go well together. The only way I finish things is, first of all, to complain to lots of my friends about how horrible it is that I cannot finish anything. They yell at me and this helps temporarily keep me on track. Then I get embarrassed and ashamed the next time I fall into a funk, and often choose to suffer in silence, rather than get yelled at again. The cycle repeats. But I also have a big bag of tricks that, while they do not always work, sometimes have the power to pull me out of the apathetic funk I struggle with each and every day.

Trick #1: Back Away from the Computer.
This one is simple; even though I am in funkland, there is a voice inside of me that says, “You can get out of this.” The first step is to listen to that voice and leave the computer. The cyber world to an addiction-prone ADHDer like me is a sweet candy that when I overindulge puts me in a cyber-coma. When I am sitting in front of the screen, I can cyber-meld; my anxiety and frustration temporarily vanish. But I get nothing done, and end up feeling like crap later on. GET AWAY FROM THE SCREEN. NOW!

Trick #2: Move!
When I hear that voice, it’s time to move. I have to get up immediately and just interrupt the pattern. Here are a few activities I might do at that time: drive to Tim Horton’s and get a coffee; take a 20-minute, fast-paced walk, the whole time brainstorming ideas and taking notes on my phone (My brain seems to work better in motion); go to the food court at the local mall with a notebook and write down whatever comes to mind; drive to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Diego Rivera is an old reliable source of funk busting for me). JUST BREAK THE PATTERN AND MOVE.

Trick #3: Phone a Friend.
I am often at my worst when I am isolated and alone, yet for some reason, I resist reaching out. I am going to take this opportunity to admit that the old AT&T jingle, “Reach out, reach out and touch someone,” used to make me cry. I think I had such a strong emotional reaction because I have a hard time reaching out. I still struggle with this, but when I get over whatever it is that happens to be holding me back, calling a friend works because I often get my greatest creative developments when I am sharing my ideas with someone else (don’t share your ideas with people who bring you down, which is what I used to do). If you want to succeed with ADHD, you need support, and plenty of it. SUPPORT. SUPPORT. SUPPORT.

Trick #4: Use Your Anger.
People ask me how I, a highly distractible adult with serious problems of persistence, managed to complete two books and get them published. The answer is simple: anger. ADHD people, we have anger and frustration in overabundance. Those emotional experiences, however, represent energy. We have to learn to use that energy to our advantage. While I am willing to admit my shortcomings, I have become a master of channeling negative emotional states. My good friend, Doug, who I grew up with, said, “When you do dishes, clean your house, or any mundane job, it is as if the task is an enemy, someone you hate and who you can vanquish if you just put all of your energy into it.” Negative emotional states are opportunities. CHANNEL YOUR EMOTIONS TO GET THINGS DONE!

Trick #5: Stay on Target.
As I sit here now, trying to finish this blog post, here are some of the voices in my head:
• You’re almost done, why don’t you just play a video game and then you can come back to it.
• Five tricks might be too many for one blog post, maybe you should cut it to four.
• This is a great start, and you never finish anything the first run through. TAKE A BREAK.
• I wish I was in London right now.
• I hate cold coffee.

This is what happens to me. I call it “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” I have that saying posted on the wall and am looking at it right now. I have it there to remind me that this is what I have done time and again in my life. When I look at that saying, I am reminded of all the great ideas that I did not bring to fruition, which then irritates me. Right now, I am channeling that irritation back into this writing. STAY ON TARGET!

In the coming weeks, I will be elaborating on each of these points. My intention is that I will support you in your own productivity by honestly sharing the pitfalls in my own life. I am not a guru; I am a fellow traveler who likes to compare notes with others!

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Flood 2014: The Death of an Xbox

Ancient Egyptian civilization required regular flooding. The harnessing of water through irrigation and the nutrients that went into the soil caused the desert to bloom. The miracle of the Nile allowed a parched landscape to thrive. The recent deluge in the Detroit area makes me mindful of one potential benefit that might help a parched landscape of a different sort. In my personal and professional opinion, video games are causing a desertification in the social skills of our children. Yesterday’s flood waters may have lent parents a helping hand.

One city in this area, Huntington Woods, experienced a massive torrent of water that caused the storm drains to back up and almost every basement in the city to fill with sewer water; basements, the place where most families keep their video game systems. I realized the potential opportunity when I was helping a friend clean out her basement yesterday and came upon her son’s water-logged Xbox. “When he saw the flooded basement last night,” she told me, “his first question was, ‘Where’s my Xbox?’” Children often struggle with priorities and perhaps even empathy, but this boy’s reaction disturbed his mother to such an extent that she declared right then and there, “No more Xbox in this house!”

We know a problem exists when an individual starts to prefer video games, the Internet or the computer, to people. When activities once enjoyed and pursued take a permanent back seat to the video game console, it is time to take notice. Behavior modification plans can be enacted, and measures can be taken to limit game and Internet time. It is remarkably difficult, however, for parents to play constant cyber cop, patrolling the house to make sure children are not circumventing the rules and imposing punishment when transgressions are uncovered. Over half of families that try this approach end up failing, because children are so adept at attaining access, and constant vigilance gets to be grueling. These children have grown up totally in the cyber age and easily outsmart parents when it comes to technology.

So, maybe these floods have given some of us an opportunity: Do Not Replace Your Xbox! The floods may have destroyed your basement and parts of your home, but video games could well be destroying your child’s life. Does he or she play with friends face to face? Is your child getting regular exercise? Does your child spend more time in front of a screen than on homework? Do you have to fight to get your child off a game? If video games prevent your child from leading a balanced life, maybe it’s time to get rid of them, or at least not replace them.

When we spend time in certain activities, the brain responds by allowing the neural circuits needed for those activities to thrive, while it “prunes” back those that are not being used. I am afraid that the neural networks needed for face-to-face human interaction are becoming parched. I worry that our young people are becoming screen-oriented to the detriment of balance in their lives. As the people of Egypt needed the life-giving waters of the Nile to sustain their civilization, I believe we need renewal in our own culture. Consider that recent floods have brought us a small opportunity to move in that direction.

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