Lead With Your Strengths

You build a life on your talents and strengths – what is good and right about you – not on your weaknesses, however skillfully they might be corrected. Dr. Edward Hallowell, Delivered From Distraction

Can you name your personal strengths? When asked that question, most people stumble for an answer. A 2001 study in the U.K found that only about 1/3 of the people can identify their own strengths. We can safely assume that the numbers are greatly reduced for people with ADHD.

It’s frustrating to have one’s ADHD weaknesses and challenges come to mind much more easily than one’s strengths and gifts. It’s no wonder, really, as ADHD challenges seem to be ever present, somehow overshadowing the strengths that we bring to the world.

Advantages of Using Strengths

Despite people’s perhaps natural tendency to orient toward weaknesses, we know through research that people who use their strengths are happier, more confident, have higher levels of self-esteem, have more energy and vitality, experience less stress, are more resilient, are more likely to achieve their goals, perform better – and are more engaged – at work, as well as being more effective at developing themselves and growing as individuals. (A. Linley, J. Willars and R. Biswas-Diener, The Strengths Book)

It Starts With Awareness

To a certain extent, focusing on the negative is a survival technique ~ we need to be aware of the lion that is about to pounce. However, after a lifetime of frequent frustration and challenges, focusing on the negative can become a habit. Fortunately, we can change habits that don’t serve us – and it starts with awareness.

Identify Your Strengths

So how do you move forward? The first step is to identify your strengths; you can do so by taking the free 15-minute VIA Survey. Taking the survey will move you toward recognizing, appreciating and remembering your strengths so you can build on them for more and more success.

If we can be of assistance as you identify and use your strengths in new and different ways, contact us at info@FocusForEffectiveness.com.

Scheduling Yourself for Success in College

Here’s sneak peek at a tip that Roxanne Fouche contributed to the upcoming book, Inspirational Ways to Succeed with ADHD:

Ratemyprofessors.com and similar websites are popular because they help college students get a sense of prospective classes and professors.  In addition to choosing professors whose teaching style seems to match your particular learning style, you might also pay attention to when the classes take place.  Consider the following:

  • Do you do your best thinking in the morning, afternoon or evening?
  • Do you need time between classes to relax, study or perhaps finish up last-minute assignments?
  • Do you need to exercise before class to prime your brain for learning?
  • Do you need time to eat something nutritious between classes?

Schedule your classes according to what you know will help you succeed.  Recognizing what you need to thrive in college is the first step – the next step, of course, is doing what you can to make sure that your needs are met.

If we can be of assistance in helping you succeed in college, contact us at info@focusforeffectiveness.com. We’d be delighted to talk with you about how ADHD coaching might help you thrive!

What Are Your “Magic Wand” Wishes?

If you had a magic wand, and you could – with one touch of this magic wand – give yourself the strategies, the skills, the insight or the appreciation that would serve you, what would your magic wand wishes be?

As individuals with ADHD have very unique combinations of strengths and challenges, the answers vary from person to person, but typical responses include:

  • focus without constant distraction
  • stop procrastinating and start on things that need to be done
  • actually finish what I start
  • prioritize
  • get organized
  • keep track of things that I have to do
  • keep track of my belongings (phone, keys, glasses, etc.)
  • get to places or get stuff done on time
  • understand and accept my ADHD
  • keep going when things get tough
  • use my gifts rather than being stopped by my ADHD challenges
  • not be ruled by my impulses
  • have more confidence in myself

The magic wand question is a good one to ask yourself.  What do I really want?  What ADHD traits would I like to get a handle on?  What would make me happier and more efficient?  What would allow me to flourish with ADHD?

And then, with a coach, a friend, or your own wise counsel, take a breath and begin planning how to realize those desires.

Don’t try to change everything at once, and recognize that it’s probably best to start small so you can sustain the changes.  Those small successes create a self-reinforcing positive spiral that allow you the momentum to keep adding habits that work for you.

So what are your magic wand wishes?  Feel free to comment below.  And if we can be of assistance in helping you plan how to realize your magic wand wishes, contact us at info@focusforeffectiveness.com.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Right now I am at the Attention Deficit Disorder Association’s annual conference, THE conference for adults with ADHD. And I am exhausted. And it’s only the second day. I wonder how many other conference attendees are feeling the same way. So many people. So many decisions. So much to think about. Don’t get me wrong – it’s all great, but sometimes situations can be too much of a good thing.

So how do you survive in a too-much environment, even a wonderful too-much environment, with humor and sanity intact?

Below are my notes to myself that I want to post on my conference brochure, my iPhone, and my hotel room mirror ~ to help me remember what my intentions are for these days.

  • Go slow and focus. There are so many sessions I want to go to, so many people I want to talk with, so much information that is rattling around in my brain. I need to remember to sip, not gulp. I will meet lots of cool people, see friends and colleagues, have fascinating conversations, and listen to engaging presentations. But I can only do one thing at a time. So I really need to pay attention to what I am doing now, focusing on who or what is in front of me.
  • Take time for self-care. Find a way to get enough sleep, eat healthily, and exercise. It’s worth the time to plan for these things because I will get so much more out of the conference if I do. And if I need to miss a speaker to take some time for myself, go for a walk, take a nap, or whatever it is that will help me be at my best, it’s more than okay. (I can always buy the recordings to the sessions.)
  • Give myself permission to be human. Yes, I went down the wrong hallway, lost my key, forgot someone’s name whom I just met. Again. But it’s okay. It really is. Especially at a conference for those with ADHD. If I can’t be myself here, where can I be?
  • Stretch myself. I get overwhelmed with big crowds. So it’s fine to engage in meaningful one-on-one conversations with people because that’s who I am – but I will do myself a favor by getting out of my comfort zone, even a little bit. Seeking out maybe just one person I don’t know and introducing myself. Approaching a group of people and joining in the conversation. Gracefully exiting a conversation to meet/greet other people. The point is to do what feels natural – and then stretch myself, even 5%.
  • Review what I learned to let it sink in. The overwhelm of a conference can get in the way of remembering all the new information. So I need to take the time at the end of the day to write down the names of the people I met, go over my notes of the sessions I attended, and digest it all. Otherwise, it’s all just a blur of names and faces and words.
  • Appreciate. I am so fortunate to be in this situation – listening to and talking with ADHD luminaries, meeting new people who truly “get” ADHD, staying at a lovely venue, learning and laughing and sharing. I need to pause every now and then and drink it in, appreciating the opportunity and savoring it all.

Days filled with good things are wonderful, but they can be overwhelming. It’s helpful to step back a bit and think about your intentions. How can you make the most of the day and the many opportunities for interactions and learning? Setting an intention for what you do – and how you want to do those things – is helpful, especially for those times when the situation has the promise of too much of a good thing.

Succeed with ADHD Telesummit

Roxanne Fouché is happy to be joining other ADHD coaches and experts who will be speaking at the Succeed with ADHD Telesummit (July 14-18). Roxanne will be speaking on “Strategies for a Flourishing Life with ADHD” on July 14th. The telesummit has an all-star lineup including Rick Green of TotallyADD, Alan Brown of ADD Crusher, Linda Roggli of ADDiva Network, and Laurie Dupar of Coaching for ADHD – and nearly 20 more ADHD experts! Find out more here.

This telesummit event is free. You can sign up and listen to some – or all – of the calls at their scheduled times. You will also have access to the replays for 24 hours after the live call. Sound intriguing? Register here.

Here’s to your success!

Work With Your Strengths, Values and Passions

In this Venn diagram there are three intersecting circles where your strengths, values and passions might be written.

intersecting circles and flowIn the circle on the bottom are the things you do well – the many strengths that you have, the things that people compliment you on, and the things about yourself that you might feel most proud.

In the circle on the top left are the things that are important to you – your values, the meaning or purpose in your life. It could be love, service, supporting a cause that you feel strongly about – there is no right or wrong here. It’s what drives you.

In the circle on the top right are the things that you love to do – your interests, your passions, and for those with ADHD, sometimes the things that you find yourself doing instead of what you set out to do. These are the things that you would do for free, but hopefully get someone to pay you for.

The place where the circles intersect is where people are most happy, at their best and most successful – and this is where our ADHD challenges don’t show up as readily, if at all.

Think about it: You are doing what you love to do, you are really good at it and it’s important to you. You are happy. You lose track of time. You are rocking it, whatever “it” is. And it feels good.

Have you ever been on the field and just zoned in on the ball, perhaps surprising yourself or others about how focused and determined (and successful) you are? Have you ever been visited by your muse when you are doing something creative, and the words or images flow seemingly without effort?

Positive psychologists would call this the state of “flow but you might call it “being in the zone,” “totally immersed,” or “in the moment.” It’s this place where you are obviously at your best – it’s no coincidence that this is also the place where your “ADHD shadow” is the smallest. You might call this high noon for the ADHD shadow, where the shadow exists, but it isn’t very apparent to yourself – or to others.

So recognizing that we all have our moments of flow, the question is: How can arrange our lives so that we are more engaged, more successful, and happier more of the time?

Ask yourself:

  • What is important to me?  What do I value most highly?
  • What are my strengths?  What do I do particularly well?
  • What really interests me?  What do I feel passionate about?

The answers to those questions will help you find ways to have more “in the zone” moments where you are at your best – and able to do your best.

And, of course, if we can be of assistance to you as you strive for more of those positive moments, contact us at info@FocusForEffectiveness.com.

The “ADHD Shadow” at High Noon

I call it the “ADHD shadow.”

Our ADHD shadow represents just how visible our ADHD challenges are to ourselves and others. Although it would be nice, our ADHD challenges aren’t just going to magically disappear. They stick to us like a shadow, ever present (even at night – you just have to look harder).

When we need to do something that is complex and has many moving parts, and especially something that we are very reluctant to do (taxes, in my case), our ADHD shadow is apt to be very long and very visible. Why? Because our struggles with particular executive functions (e.g., time management, sustained focus, organization, prioritization, etc.), are that much more apparent in that circumstance. We have a long shadow like one seen in the early morning or late afternoon.

However, when we are doing what we love, what we are good at and what we value, we are “in the zone,” and nothing can stop us. It could be playing on the soccer field, painting a picture, or doing a school/work project that is particularly intriguing. We are totally present, positively hyperfocused, and the things that we typically struggle with just aren’t getting in the way. In those circumstances, we have a short shadow like one you might see at noon.

As Thom Hartmann has proposed, ADHD is more of a context disorder.  ADHD shows up in some contexts much more than others; in those circumstances when we are being asked to demonstrate the very skills that we struggle with, our challenges are more apparent to ourselves and to others.

The trick, then, is to discover (or rediscover) in what contexts or circumstances we are at our best, when our ADHD shadow is at “high noon,” barely noticeable to ourselves or to the outside world.

To help figure that out, you might think about – or write about – a time when you were at your best.  In all likelihood, whatever that circumstance was, you were doing something that you valued, something that you brought energy to and that gave you energy, something that you did well – and you hummed along, showing yourself and the world what you were capable of.

Questions to ponder:

  • What were the circumstances of your being at your best?
  • What were you doing?
  • What was present and what was absent?
  • In what way were your strengths demonstrated?
  • How might you take these lessons and apply them to current situations?

The more you know about yourself and the contexts in which you are at your best, the more easily you can engineer your life to have more of those successful “high noon” moments.

And if we can be of assistance as you work to discover how you can be at your best while working around any ADHD challenges, contact us at info@FocusForEffectiveness.com. We would be delighted to help you shorten that proverbial ADHD shadow and help you flourish with ADHD.

Cutting Down on Chronic Lateness for Adults with ADHD

I was honored to be interviewed recently by Margarita Tartakovsky, Associate Editor of Psych Central.

Cutting Down on Chronic Lateness for Adults with ADHD


People with ADHD have a distorted sense of time. Sometimes, the passage of time is excruciatingly slow. Waiting in line feels like hours, said Roxanne Fouché, an ADHD coach and consultant.

Other times, time flies. What feels like 15 minutes of engaging in a fun activity is really 45 minutes, she said.

According to professor and ADHD researcher Russell Barkley, Ph.D, many people with ADHD are “time blind.” They forget the purpose of their task and feel uninspired to finish it.

Psychiatrist and ADHD expert Edward Hallowell, M.D., talks about how people with ADHD have two times: “now and not now.” If a work project is due next week, you figure you have plenty of time- until it’s Monday, and you realize that it’s due the next day, and you have to conduct several interviews, on top of other tasks.

Chronic lateness can affect all areas of a person’s life, Fouché said. For instance, if you’re late to work or miss deadlines, you might not get a promotion, or worse, you might get fired.

You might be seen as someone who’s less engaged or can’t be counted on, she said. This might stop a supervisor from assigning projects that truly interest you.

Friends and family might think you’re disrespectful or you don’t care about them, she said. Young kids may get scared when you’re late picking them up from school.

Chronic lateness may even affect your sense of self. You start thinking of yourself as the one who’s always late, Fouché said. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You think, “Why even try? I’m always late!”

This also can trigger embarrassment and self-blame, she said.

The good news is that you can employ strategies to cut down on your chronic lateness in all areas of your life. Below, Fouché, co-founder of Focus For Effectiveness, shared seven helpful suggestions.

Figure out how long things take you.

People with ADHD often overestimate how much they can accomplish in a given time. You might think it takes you 20 minutes to get ready in the morning, but in actuality, it takes an hour.

Fouché suggested not just setting a timer for your morning routine, but also figuring out frequently traveled routes such as the grocery store.

You also can time how long it takes you to complete professional and other personal tasks.

Have something compelling to do.

For people with ADHD, arriving early spells boredom – something they try to avoid, Fouché said. Instead, plan on arriving early and having something compelling to do while you’re waiting.

Doing so gives you a cushion or buffer zone for the unexpected, such as traffic, she said.

For instance, if you’re picking up your child from school, arrive early, and bring a book, magazine article or catalogue you never have a chance to read. This means scoring a good spot and, more important, not making your child wait.

Set multiple alarms.

Set several countdown timers on your phone, computer or anywhere else, Fouché said. For instance, if you need to leave your house at 1 p.m., set an alarm for 10 minutes before. When it rings, note where you left off in a task (e.g., jot it down on a sticky note).

The second alarm gives you a few minutes to run to the bathroom, put on your shoes and get out the door, she said. It also stops you from thinking, “I just have to do this one more thing!”

Have a launching pad.

People with ADHD also might run late because they’re busy searching for their keys or wallet or anything else they need to be able to leave. Instead, keep a table by the door. This is a specially designated spot for your wallet, keys and phone charger – and unusual items you’ll need on a specific day.

For instance, you might need certain paperwork for a doctor’s appointment, coupons for the grocery store, or your USB drive for a presentation.

Rethink requests.

Sometimes people with ADHD run late because they have too many things on their plates. “People with ADHD have a tendency to over-commit,” Fouché said. They get excited about many things and are overly optimistic about their to-do lists, she said.

The next time you get a request, instead of saying, “Sure, I’ll do it,” simply pause, and say, “Hmm, that sounds great. Let me look at my schedule and get back to you.”

Build a routine.

For people with ADHD, routines can sound boring. But “it really makes things more automatic,” Fouché said. And that makes life a whole lot easier and less stressful.

For instance, have weekly schedules for going to the gas station, doing laundry and grocery shopping, she said. This way you won’t run late to work because you desperately needed gas, or fail to get your kids to school on time because you ran out of peanut butter and jelly.

It also helps to build routines at work, Fouché said. For instance, if you need to turn in progress reports every month, instead of scrambling and stressing several days before your deadline, spend 10 minutes every day working on the report.

Explore what’s worked.

“It’s rare that someone is never on time,” Fouché said. Maybe there’s an appointment you always make or a work deadline you never miss.

Think about the strategies you used. What worked in these scenarios? Then consider how you can apply these strategies to other situations, she said. (They might need to be tweaked depending on the scenario.)

“Often we pay attention to what doesn’t work and blame ourselves instead of paying attention to what does work.”

Overall, Fouché also underscores the importance of finding strategies that work for you.

Living Well and Flourishing with ADHD

I received my Certificate in Positive Psychology (CiPP) last weekend, having studied with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar and Dr. Maria Sirois for 11 months. At the alumni weekend, I had the opportunity to make a presentation with my friend and colleague, Mindy Schwartz Katz, about Positive Psychology and ADHD.

Positive psychology is not all smiley faces and half-full glasses. Positive psychology is the scientific study of well-being – it’s basically the study of what makes life worth living and how people can live well and flourish. And, of course, there is great applicability to the ADHD world, which is what makes this study so exciting.

I am happy to have my Certificate in Positive Psychology in hand, and the CiPP community in my heart. I am feeling blessed to be able to serve the work forward. Thank you Tal Ben-Shahar, Maria Sirois and Megan McDonough for your inspiration!

For more information about how positive psychology strategies can help you live well and flourish with ADHD, contact us at info@FocusForEffectiveness.com.

Make A Plan For the New Year

January 1st is a natural time to look at our lives and contemplate change. The new year is a 365-page book with blank pages, ready to be written.

Unfortunately, it’s all too common to give up on our resolutions before we have given them a chance to become habits. So how can we do things differently this year? Make a plan. (No, really…)

Many people resist planning, but figuring out HOW we are going to reach our goals is important – it’s like using a GPS to get us from Point A to Point B. Below are some tips that can help:

As we make our plan, it’s helpful to think about the meaning the change has for us because focus on that motivation that will assist us as we move toward our goals. For example, we might decide to increase our exercise because we recognize that we have more focus and energy when we do so. 

It’s useful to be realistic about our plan. We can have big goals, but we need to take small steps, especially at first. In that way, we set ourselves up for success, making it that much more likely that we will actually achieve realize our goals.

It’s also helpful to share our intentions with others – whether it is a loved one, a colleague, a support group or our Facebook friends. In that way, we have others who may join us in our goals and/or cheer us on.

As we are making our plan, it is also useful to anticipate the obstacles that we might face so we can figure out ways around them. If we know that it’s hard to exercise when we get home from work, for example, we can plan to do so at a different time of day – maybe during lunch or first thing in the morning. 

It’s also helpful to recognize that lapses are often part of the change process. Studies have shown that backtracking is a common part of the change process. If something doesn’t go as planned, we can learn from our missteps, tweak our plans and try again.

Lastly, we need to plan some rewards along the way to keep us going. As we move toward our goals, we are strengthening neural pathways, making it that much easier to sustain our effort and reach our goals.

So what plans do you have to make 2014 your best year ever?