Last week, I took my daughter to San Francisco on her first business trip with Daddy. She’s three years old, and I couldn’t wait for all the fun she was going to have – going on an airplane, exploring new places, finding the best ice cream… And by and large, she had a blast, from the Oakland Zoo to feeling like a princess at the Ritz Carlton, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience for her.
But… It was daddy who wound up having a problem, and it directly impacted how I manage my life and my ADHD.
See, as I’ve said countless times, an airplane is my happy place. When I’m safely ensconced in my seat, nothing can get to me. I’m happy, I’ve got my headphones on, I can shut out the outside world and just work. Heck, I’ve written best-selling books on flights. It’s just what I do.
For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that my plane time wouldn’t be my own on this trip. Instead, I’d be keeping an eye on my wonderful daughter, and her definition of “plane time” greatly differed from mine. So instead of “headphones on, laptop out, takeoff to landing,” it was more like, “seatbelt on, her seatbelt on, no honey, keep your seatbelt on, no, we can’t put the seat down until we’re in the air, yes, you can hold your iPad, hang on, I’ll pick it up from the floor where you dropped it… again…” repeat, repeat, repeat. I landed six hours later a nervous wreck, and with no work done at all.
I felt it. The “this isn’t ok” feeling, the “I know I have stuff to do and now it’s growing, and there’s more stuff, and it’s out of control, and I don’t know how I’ll do any of it,” feeling that has permeated my brain so many times in the past. It’s a horrible feeling, especially because you wind up focusing on the feeling, as opposed to actually doing something to fix the problem.
So what happens when things don’t go according to plan? Not having a plan is a worst nightmare for those with ADHD. We rely on having plans, on having things defined, so we don’t lose ourselves and don’t let the stuff we haven’t gotten to back us up into a corner. When that goes awry, it could be deadly.
So when I landed in San Francisco, and got myself and my daughter to the hotel, I was able to put her down to sleep, and go through the stuff I’d planned on, but not been able, to do while in flight. I was able to break it into two categories – stuff I could do tonight, and stuff I could do tomorrow night – both after my daughter went to bed. From there, I was able to break it down even more – stuff I could finish and file, or stuff I could finish and send, and wait for an answer.
The second I’d gotten back to having a plan, I was able to feel like I wasn’t completely lost at sea. That feeling we get when things are spiraling out of control, and there’s nothing we can do to save it. As soon as I was able to make a plan, things started slowing down, and I stopped worrying so much. The child was sleeping, I could start to work.
The key also at this point was to have a stopping point, as well. It’s one thing to go to work and get in the zone – But if you’re doing it at night and your body isn’t used to being up that late, you could easily overshoot, and the next thing you know, it’s 5am and you’re screwed. So I made sure to set my alarm for two hours, allowing me to work, but still letting me get the sleep I’d need to rock the next day.
Lastly, taking what I learned while I was on the flight out, I was able to plan for the flight home, and clear my calendar for the night I arrived, letting me work all evening to make up for the lack of work on the plane.
- Plans occasionally go bad
- Don’t freak out
- Have a backup plan that can be implemented immediately
- Know that once the plan is implemented, that feeling of “out of control,” will fade
- Keep going.
Other thoughts? I’d love to hear them below!