Both children and adults with ADHD can have trouble making decisions. One study, completed in 2010, concluded, “ADHD is associated with impaired decision making…” Another study, published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2014 found both hyperactivity and impulsivity played a role in poor decision making in children with ADHD. The researchers noted that children with ADHD did not have problems learning new information, however, their decisions were made quickly rather than allowing themselves time to process the information and create conclusions.
When you make decisions without thinking through the problem or procrastinate and make decisions at the last possible moment, you can end up feeling like your life is filled with putting out fires. You might doubt your ability to make a decision and relegate this task to others in your life, giving them control over your actions.
The following are tips to help make decision making easier for you and your children.
Set aside time each day to make decisions. When you think of a decision you must make (do you want a new job, where should your children go to summer camp, should you sell your house, what should you make for dinner), write it down. Allot time in your daily schedule for decision making. During this time, go over each decision. If you aren’t prepared to make a final decision or need additional information before doing so, set it aside for the following day and then set aside time to do further research. Creating a “daily decision time slot” can help you better think through minor and major decisions.
Break decisions into steps. Some decisions might require several steps, such as research, talking to others, brainstorming possible solutions, weighing pros and cons. If you have a decision that requires multiple steps, write down the list of steps and work through each one before coming up with a final decision.
Give each decision a deadline. Some decisions naturally have deadlines, others are more open-ended. If you tend to never make decisions with a flexible deadline, set your own. If you find you haven’t met your deadline, try to figure out why, for example, you might often procrastinate making a decision because you don’t have enough information to do so.
List the pros and cons. When making decisions it is often helpful to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of the decision, for example, if you are trying to decide whether it is a good time to sell your house, you should list all the reasons it would be beneficial as well as the reasons it might not be a good time to sell. This helps you look at the situation in a balanced way.
Ask yourself if your decision is in line with your goals and values. We are all happiest when we live life according to our own personal values and work toward our goals. Before committing to a decision, ask yourself if this decision will help you move forward in these areas; if not, there is a good chance you will end up being unhappy or resentful in your new situation.
Try to imagine how the decision will feel in the future. Consider how this decision is going to affect your life down the road. What will happen in a month? three months? six months? a year? Sometimes it helps to envision the long-term aspects of the decision.
Keep track of good decisions. You might think you are a terrible decision maker and put off decisions because of your fear of making a bad decision. Keep a log of the good decisions you make, big and little. Review your good decisions to remind yourself that you can make the right choice.
Delay decisions. Sometimes the choice to not make a decision is the best choice. When acting on impulse or making a decision based on emotion rather than facts, the best thing might be to delay making a decision for several days or weeks. You might realize that what you thought was the right choice turned out not to be right at all.
You might worry about your decisions or think that you can’t possibly make a good decision. Keep in mind that most decisions in life can be “auto corrected” as you go as you learn more information. You might make a decision and then decide to change course. This isn’t necessarily a bad decision, it was a way to test the waters and ultimately decide a different way is best. Have confidence in your ability to make decisions.
For more information on strategies for managing ADHD in daily life:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.