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Debra Moore’s Articles

ADD Time Zones

As an educator with ADHD who has worked one-on-one with ADD/HD teenagers and adults for nearly twenty years, I have shared the struggles and the successes of my clients as they’ve improved a variety of skills. These people are distinctive individuals, with different goals, abilities, and backgrounds, and each of their improvement plans reflected each person’s unique life situation.

However, as difficult as it may be to make broad, generalized statements about ADD individuals. there does seem to be one universal area of discontent: Time Management. The symptoms range from the visibly obvious (walking into class/work late on a regular basis) to the subtly damaging (paying numerous late charge penalties on bills and losing credit rating points). Some of the adults with whom I’ve worked may not have even LOOKED like they have time management problems, but as one executive confessed to me, “No one has any idea how many nights a week I go without sleeping because I’m trying to get caught up on what I didn’t get done during office hours.”

In addition to physical exhaustion, ADD people deal with the emotional drain of living life “under the gun” and of being “out of sync” with the clocks and time zones. Over time, repeated efforts and subsequent failures will erode a person’s confidence to the point of depression. This brand of frustration is familiar to me, both professionally and personally, but my experience has been that these patterns can be remediated, and when we begin to control time more effectively, we often re-define ourselves from being victims of time to being masters of time.

During the last two decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a great deal about what kinds of strategies help AD/HD individuals manage time more successfully—as well as what kinds generally don’t help. One key factor we address is understanding and responding to certain ideas that I like to call “Brutal Truths.” These ideas are often concepts that ADD persons comprehend on an intellectual level, but they have problems when it comes to shaping their behaviors to reflect that comprehension.

For example, one important Brutal Truth is: “You cannot live your life on a completely spontaneous basis every day.” Now, most ADD/HD adults may “know” this statement is true, but each day they may behave as if it was an exception to the idea. Truly “getting” the reality behind a Brutal Truth involves changing specific, targeted behaviors, a complex process that includes analysis, development of anticipation skills (foresight), and monitoring. In other words, there’s more to making adjustments in behavior than telling an AD/HD teen or adult to “Knock it off” or “Just do it this way.” The methods that result in success for AD/HD individuals are methods that reflect the operation of their nervous systems and their mental proclivities, and much time and energy can be wasted in trying to make them operate as if they weren’t what they are. Frequently, I encourage my clients to conserve the energy they expend on non-productive guilt, for they will need that steam to work in other directions! (There IS such a thing as “productive guilt,” but that’s another article entirely.)

One of the most crucial Brutal Truths my clients and I review regularly deals with a very practical issue: getting stuff done. Accomplishing tasks, whether they are about regular maintenance (monthly expenses, grocery lists, etc.) or about special situations (projects, family gatherings, etc.), constitutes a life-long challenge to my AD/HD clients. They bought a book, written by a very organized author, and they tried filling out all the planning forms that came with it—well, at least one time,,,but it took up ‘way too much time and actually became just another chore to bungle. They’d also been told to “pace themselves,” and they’d made all kinds of decisions and declarations of self-determination…but that didn’t work so well, either.

SO, here’s the Brutal Truth: AD/HD individuals have two time frames in which they usually get stuff done—and those two time frames are Immediately…and At the Last Minute. In between those two time zones is the vast “middle ground” of steady, consistent pacing, a place that will likely never be very familiar nor comfortable territory for those with AD/HD.

The good news is that, within the scope of Immediately or The Last Minute, there’s a lot of opportunity to get stuff done; the bad news is that, left to their own devices, AD/HD people don’t manage these time frames effectively. The first step in doing so is to separate the two zones, for treating Immediate tasks as if they were Last-Minute tasks (and vice-versa) will often lead to failure. For instance, returning a business call is an Immediate task, but if a sales representative treats it as a Last Minute task, the customer may find another source in the interim. On the other hand, treating a Last-Minute task, such as cleaning the house before relatives arrive, as an Immediate chore may mean that the work will be executed too early and will have to be repeated before the arrival of the family members.

As my clients categorize various chores according to these two time frames, they also review and practice how they will get these goals accomplished. Immediate tasks are typically quick-action items that are typically postponed. In fact, the classic AD/HD response to an Immediate task is: “That won’t take long to do. (Pause) I’ll do it later!” The problem is that “later” is never defined as a specific time slot, and so the task “disappears” until the next time it’s noticed, but again, it will be done “later.” One of my favorite tactics for managing this pattern is to catch myself saying “later” about a chore and then follow it up with, “Okay, get out your calendar and make a note when ‘later’ will occur.” With Immediate tasks, I find that most of the time, it’s more effort to get my calendar out than it is to just do the actual task—so I do it!

Last-minute tasks are more time-demanding than Immediate ones and exist within a bigger time span. They usually have concrete deadlines and require multiple steps/phases to complete. Such tasks give my clients the chance to build many tangental skills that are essential to time management, such as sequencing information and estimating time. In particular, the ability to accurately estimate time for tasks is fundamental to success with Last-Minute tasks; if someone wants to wait until the last minute to do something, that person better know how long it takes to perform the task—otherwise, she/he won’t know when to get started! My clients may always tend to procrastinate, but they also learn they can’t procrastinate about everything, all the time. Thus, they become “efficient procrastinators” who meet, instead of miss, deadlines with greater consistency and who become more self-assured and less harried as a result.

Of course, life is full of many Brutal Truths for just about everyone, whether that person has an attention/impulse disorder or not. For ADHD people, learning how to respond to harsh realities can be a daunting effort, one that requires energy, support, and a savvy approach to the distinctive patterns of AD/HD behaviors. In my career, it has been gratifying to see the hard work my clients have put into improving themselves and the victories they have accomplished. I fight the same battles they do in terms of dealing with my own AD/HD problem areas, and while I will never claim total success, I can say with confidence that life is better when “stuff gets done” more successfully.

And, in case you were wondering, this article was very interesting to brainstorm, which I did Immediately. The writing part—well, frankly, that’s a lot less entertaining and a lot more effort…definitely finished at the Last Minute!



Phone: 972-741-3674



Beyond Wishful Thinking

Last New Year’s Eve, a local commentator observed that fewer Texans seemed to be observing the tradition of setting New Year’s Resolutions, while many more them seemed to be adhering to the superstition of eating black-eyed peas—a trend which suggests people might have more faith in luck than they have in effort.

Having spent many years working with teenagers and adul

Essential Factors for Achieving Goals

By Debra Moore, M.A.

ts who were trying to change their lives, I was not surprised by this fatalistic point of view. It’s a  perspective that stems from the experiences of people who wanted to turn their “dreams into realities” but who never went beyond wishful thinking in terms of accomplishing their goals.


Resolutions & Results

Indeed, just about everyone has tried taking the “Resolution Road” at some point, and, for some folks, the trip ranks as a positive experience. Certainly, they may hit a few potholes along the way, but with a little “realignment,” they meet their goals. Assured by success, they approach future journeys with confidence.

However, other people have very different experiences with Resolution Road; they hit only a series of dead ends. Their paths seem (and, in fact, may be) rougher, with potholes deep enough to trap a wheel and break an axle, or perhaps their vehicle is unreliable. For whatever reasons, these trips are marked by a trail of broken promises and disasters.

Repeated attempts to pursue goals, followed by repeated failures, will lead first to discouragement, then to passive apathy and, eventually, to bitter despair. With a lifetime of painful evidence proving they cannot achieve goals, some people simply surrender to their circumstances. They can’t even manage the basic details of daily life, much less control their own destinies!


Good News / Bad News

When facing chronic failure, a person may feel helpless, but the real danger comes when he or she starts to feel hopeless. Fortunately, the situation is not hopeless at all—though it may resemble a “good news / bad news” joke. The good news: people can learn to set and accomplish the goals they desire. The bad news: they won’t do so by way of luck or an overnight miracle.

Making progress entails making changes in the mental, physical, and emotional components of an individual’s life, as well as adjusting lifelong habits. The process behind permanent change may seem complex, but the approach must fit the issues addressed. Complicated problems don’t have simple answers; however, progress is possible.

In reviewing the success stories of my clients, I have identified three essential factors for achieving their goals: (1) a range of skill building exercises, (2) the application of these skills in “real-life” contexts, and (3) positive support by guiding, monitoring, and documenting the client’s progress.


Skills: Tools for Change

The first focus is on improving thinking and performance skills. These skills constitute the tools the client will use to work toward the goals targeted for that individual. Attempting to meet goals without the proper skills will produce the same results as trying to build a house without the proper tools. (Yes, duct tape is very sticky, but you really need a hammer and nails for support walls….)

Although my clients’ plans vary depending on the person’s background and goals, typical skill building activities may include exercises in sequential thinking (a fundamental skill for time management planning) or classification (the ability to organize items or information). If the client is an adult trying to change careers by getting into law school, her program might include practice in problem-solving and logical thinking. Another adult, already in college, may be trying to improve his grade point average by improving study skills, such as note taking or memory. Teenage clients might focus on communication skills to ensure they are receiving and sending accurate messages, whether in conversations or written contexts.


Principles + Practice

The next key element in a client’s program is an in-depth review of the principles involved in achieving goals—and direct practice in putting these principles into action.

Clients learn how to establish goals, followed by practice with setting goals; they also identify the factors that have hindered their goals in the past. Using a structured approach, they practice breaking long-term goals into short-term daily / weekly tasks. Eventually, they receive “hands-on” practice using a calendar planner to track and make better use of the time available to them.

In addition, they focus on managing the obstacles which have disrupted their past efforts to reach goals, including common hindrances such as impulsive decisions or inaccurate time estimates. By the end of their training, they are able to handle time flexibly, self-monitor progress, and “roll with the punches” of shifting circumstances without losing control of their direction.

As clients make progress toward goals, they usually undergo a clear transformation in their emotional and physical conditions. By experiencing less chaos, they feel less overwhelmed; by exercising greater control, they become more confident.


The Role of Support

The final factor of goal achievement involves having appropriate support. Support plays a role throughout the improvement process by combining faith with expectations and encouragement with action.

For some people, the aid available from family members, friends, teachers, or other familiar sources, while well-intentioned, may not be adequate. Indeed, a “helping hand” from within the emotional dynamic of family ties or friendship often has difficulty providing the objective analysis needed for problem-solving.

In such cases, a professional who serves as a so-called “academic coach” can have a tremendous influence. Most people never examine their problems because it’s simply too painful to do so alone. With a coach as a guide and a cheerleader, it’s much easier to face mistakes—and to learn from them.


Reaching Rewards

As long as there is a shred of hope in a person’s heart, that person may still go beyond wishful thinking to a successful reality. Reaching the reward requires focused effort over a period of time, and relying on sheer luck alone won’t work.

Which is not to say those black-eyed peas don’t have a purpose—just pass the cornbread, and I’ll give a hands-on demonstration!






Phone: 972-741-3674