Adult ADD

A Guide to the Diagnosis and Treatment of Adult ADD

The Essential Adult ADD Tool Kit

Everyone with ADD may need at least some of the following aids:

Protection from Internet Time-Wasters

A visitor to the AdultADD.Info site writes:  I have been researching different coping methods in order to set up lifestyle habits that will help me work and study more efficiently.  One of my big problems was browsing the internet, often spending too much time accomplishing nothing. I needed a way to limit my internet time and access.  The link below is a Google Chrome attachment that is customizable to limit access to certain sites at certain times (or altogether). I hope other readers of AdultADD.Info will find it as helpful as I did.

There are similar attachments available for Firefox and Explorer.


Keeping on Task

Each day or each time you sit down to do tasks, make a priority list of the order in which you will do them,  Then commit to doing them in that order without introducing new items (or upgrading the priority of existing items )without rewriting the priority list. Then set a timer to go bing every five minutes to remind you to check that your focus has not wandered.  You may learn after a while how long you are able to maintain focus and schedule breaks from time to time when you think they will be needed. But don’t use spur of the moment unscheduled breaks to give your your mind permission to wander off.

Reminder Systems

  • If you smart phone has a calendar, you may be able to set appointment times in it with automated reminders to beep a day before and an hour (or 15 minutes before the appointment. But to make it work, you   MUST enter the information at the TIME YOU MAKE THE APPOINTMENT. In my experience with many patients with ADD, every ten seconds that goes by without the appointment going in your smart phone (or your appointment book) reduces the likelihood that you will keep the appointment by 15%.
  • Keep an annual event list (birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, etc) on your smartphone with an alert set for a week beforehand
  • an electronic reminder system for taking medication
  • Keep a list of important things  you want to do.  Every evening before bedtime, look it over and make sure everything you need to do or want to take with you  the next day is out and ready before you go to bed. Think about your plans for the day. Figure out what tasks you will do and when during the day. In your mind prioritize the tasks.  If day after day, you don’t do a high priority task, see if you can break it down into smaller pieces.

EMail Aids

  • Boomerang (for GMail) s an app that reminds you if you haven’t gotten a response you expected to an mail within a specified number of days. Boomerang will also hold an email you’ve written then send it out a specified number of days later, for example to remind yourself or others about an appointment.  This app is for GMail, but there may be similar apps for other smartphones.
  • There are many electronic reminder systems (or Personal Digital Assistants or PDAs) on the market that vary in price and features.  But they work only if you ALWAYS enter the time for the of the appointment at the time you make the appointment.  Then set an audible alert  or the time you wnat to be reminded of it (either 5 minutes before or longer if it will take you time to get to the appointment) and a day before the appointment if you smartphone allows 2 alerts/appointment.
  • A number of phone apps will sends you reminders to take you meds by text message or email
  • Have a way of keeping track of emails you don’t have time to answer now but want to remember to answer later. With GMail, you can tag emails with stars or “priority” labels and later click to see only those emails.
  • Weed out unnecessary emails by either 1) setting a filter that sends them to trash or archives them or 2) click on the option to select all mail. Then uncheck the few emails you want to keep. If there is a series of emails you want to uncheck, just uncheck the first one, hold down the shift key, then uncheck the last one. Those you checked an all the others will be unchecked.

Productivity Rules

Help with Paper Work

  • too many papers, invoices, receipts, etc, to file and find.? There is a $30 software program that lets you scan documents, tag them with your own set of category names, file them electronically, then retrieve them with a simple search.

Keeping From Getting Distracted On-Line

Taking Notes

  • for students: a pen that records what a teacher is saying while you are taking notes.  If your notes are not clear when you are studying them later, you just tap the pen on the sentence you wrote that you’re unclear about, and the pen will play the recording of that part of the lecture. LiveScribe

Reading Aids

  • A patient of mine who has had trouble reading for any more than a short period of time told me that he has been able to finish and enjoy books using the large font on the Kindle. Somehow the fewer words per line makes it easier for him.  It suggested to me the possibility that large print books (designed for people with poor vision) might be a less expensive though less convenient way to accomplish the same thing.  If you try it,let me know (
  • another person found the Kindle allowed her to read without the distrtacting glare of fluorescent lights or  computer screens.

The To Do List

  • It is best to keep this on a piece of paper or in a book.   Computers systems don’t work for most people.
  • Put the date you started the page on the top of the page.
  • One item per line on the list.  The item should say exactly what you want to do.  For example, not “call Martha” but “call Martha about agenda for meeting on Thursday”,  not “work out more” but “call Jack on Tuesday to set up date to run together on Mondays”.
  • Each item is something that can be and will be done then checked off.  They cannot be general, like have birthday party.  The birthday party do do has to be broken down into specific items, each of which can be done within a relatively brief period of time.
  • Make a check to the left of the item once it is done.
  • At the end of each day, copy all to-do items you have have written on little scraps of paper during the day on to the to-do list and throw away the papers (unless you tend to make mistakes copying phone numbers, etc, in which case you can store the scraps out of view for a week or so then throw them away).
  • Once the to-do list page gets filled, start a new page with the date on the top,  and copy all the undone items to it.

The Phone Call List

  • This is similar to the to-do list but for many people it’s best to keep it on a separate page since for people who make a lot of calls, the phone call past gets filled up much more rapidly than the to-do list does and requires rewriting of to-do items each time you start a new page of phone calls to return.
  • It’s a good idea to save the phone call list as sometimes you will want to call someone on the list and won’t have their number stored anywhere else.
  • Once a to-do list page is filled, start a new page with the date on the top,  and copy all the undone items to it.  Save the old page in a folder.  Some day you will want to know something on it.

Shopping lists

  • Make a shopping list for each store using one piece of paper for each, for example, one list for the food store (one for each store), one for the hardware store , one for department store,  one for gifts, etc.
  • Many people keep these lists attached to their refrigerators by small magnets.  If there are personal items,  like birthday presents, surprises, or private items, you may want to give them innocent aliases.


  • This is one of the most difficult parts of the tool kit.  Calendars nowadays can be written or maintained electronically.  My experience is that written calendars work better but, for people with ADD, must be used in conjunction with an electronic reminder system.
  • Appointments must be written down in your appointment book at the time they are made.  No matter how sure you are that you will remember it without writing it down, no matter how much you want to avoid inconveniencing someone by making them wait while you enter it, if you do not write it down immediately, there is a very good chance you will not be at the appointment at the time it is scheduled.
  • However, even writing it down requires that you look at your calendar to be reminded of appointments.  That often does not work.  Thus the need for…

Electronic Reminder Systems

A way to keep track of emails you don’t have time to answer now but want to remember to answer later

With GMail, you can

  • define a label, such as “follow up” and add it to the label list.  (Click on Labels, Add, then add “follow up”.)
  • Click on the box to the left of the email you want to follow up later
  • Later, enter into the search box, “label: follow up”
  • A list of  the emails you labeled “follow up” will appear on the screen
  • Once you’ve followed up, you can remove the label by clicking on the box to the left of the email, clicking on Labels, then unchecking the label.

Write letters, notes, ideas when you’re walking, working out, waiting for a plane, taking a bath

  • One of the great features of the iPhone and other smart phones that have both phone and dictating capabilities is that you can use it record a message, have the smart phone convert it to text and and email it to you..  With the iPhone, you can download the Dragon System voice recording app.  Use it to record a file, like the details of an appointment you just made or a message to a your spouse or fellow worker or yourself.  Once your message has been recorded, the system will convert it text that will appear on the screen.   Click an arrow on the screen to edit the text if needed then another arrow to send the file via text message (if it’s short) or via email.  If you choose email, you will be asked to select the person who is to get the email from your contacts list.  To speed up this last step when I’m sending myself the email, I have put a contact in my contact list whose name is “a” and assigned my own email address to “a”.  When prompted for the name to whom the email is to be sent, I enter the letter “a” into the “to” field.   “a” and my email address appears at the top of the list of possible contacts that match “a”.  I click on it and send the email to myself.  It’s all pretty quick.
    This is great system for reminding yourself of … 

    • appointments you have just made
    • wonderful ideas you had while walking down the street and don’t have paper and pencil or computer with you
    • You can also use it to write letters or documents and to get the text of lyrics of songs hear on the radio (this does not always work if the background music is too loud)

    It also works for sending quick messages to fellow workers or family members when you’re on the go.

Another way of dictating notes, ideas, reminders, et cetera when you are on the road is to use the smart phone app, Google Voice, which also allows you to make free telephone calls to landline phones from your cell phone. You can all your own office or home number leave a recorded message. After you have recorded it. Google Voice converts it into text and emails the text message (and a recording of your voice message) to your email address. Its advantage over the Dragon System smart phone speech-to-text app is that, unlike Dragon, it does not require that you to be connected to the internet while dictating but will work anywhere your cell phone works.

  • An AdultADD.Info reader reports:  I am not able to read articles or anything else from a computer screen.  The glare sends me into “outer space.”  Something about it affects both my ability to focus and organize and disrupts my already strained working memory. My brain acts like it’s semi-comatose. I can hear and see but I’m not really there.    I have the same type of response to bright light and especially fluorescent lighting.  It is awful.  In my work and studies, I had to read hundreds of research articles, usually on the screen of a computer.  To avoid this, I was printing them, but carrying dozens or more articles around was not feasible.

Then I started using the Kindle. With its E-ink technology, there is no back-light, no glare.  Text can be read in direct sunlight.  This is a GODSEND for me.  I can now read almost everything I need on my Kindle and not have the lighting set off my ADD problems.  I only wish I had a regular computer with the same “fix”!  I cannot recommend the Kindle strongly enough for those with similar attention problems ((not the Nook or the others…they have back lighting, glare, and color)! Ugh.

Help Getting It Done

  • StickK (the capital K is legal shorthand for contract) was born of a simple behavioral principle: people are more likely to achieve their goals if they stake their reputations — or their bank accounts — on success. To use the site, the resolute enter their goals, put money on the line (entering credit card information up front, though it’s charged only upon failure) and designate where the money will go if they don’t succeed. A user might select a favorite charity or — for perverse added incentive — a charity they would never support (e.g. the Bush Library or the Clinton Library). They then pick a person to be a referee (to verify that they actually shed those five pounds) and choose others as virtual cheerleaders.