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Navigating ADHD
with Natalia van Rikxoort, MSW, ACC

Want Less Stress and Overwhelm in Your Life? Write it Down.

In this age of technological advances designed to make our lives easier, sometimes the simplest solutions allude us. I’m often surprised to discover how many of my clients feel that they shouldn’t have to write something down because they believe they should be able to mentally manage all that day-to-day life throws at them. The reality is, attempting to rely on your memory alone is sure to drain your mental energy and cause unnecessary stress. The simple act of writing can not only preserve your precious mental energy but also help you focus, problem-solve, and manage distractions.

Here are just a few of the benefits you can expect from taking the time to write it down…

Preserve precious mental energy (and your sanity)

Between work and home, the majority of us live pretty hectic lives that require we juggle various appointments, obligations, chores, and deadlines. It’s a lot to manage for sure. And when you have ADHD, you’re probably also having to contend with working memory difficulties and the fact that even seemingly simple tasks like paying bills or sorting mail requires a great deal of mental energy.

Despite all that we have to manage on a daily basis, many of my clients report that they don’t take the time to write down important appointments or make grocery lists, attempting instead to rely on their memory alone. As you’ve probably already discovered, this DOES NOT work. It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to remember the dental appointment you have three months from now or the 25 items you need from the store. It also depletes your precious mental energy and causes needless stress and anxiety.

Making a habit of writing down important dates in a planner or putting together shopping and to-do lists frees you from having to remember so you can focus your energy elsewhere. And just knowing you’ve got it written down lets you breathe easy and takes the pressure off.

Reduce overwhelm and enhance your problem-solving skills

When my clients feel overwhelmed over a particular task, I tell them to break it down into smaller, more manageable steps and write each one out.

Once they have it all written down, their feelings of overwhelm tend to disappear because they not only have a plan to follow but they often realize the task isn’t nearly as complicated as they thought when it was all swirling together in their head. Getting the problem or task laid out on paper in front of you allows you to tap into higher level problem-solving and planning skills.

Effectively manage distractions and impulsivity

The simple act of writing can also be an effective tool to help manage distractions and impulsivity.

Many ADHDers report that they have great difficulty regaining focus and getting back on track if they are interrupted in the middle of a task. If this is something you struggle with, taking the opportunity to quickly write down a few simple words or phrases that relate to what you were working on can help.

For example, if you’re in the middle of writing an email at work and a co-worker stops by your office with a question, ask them to kindly give you a moment and make a simple note about what you were doing like, “Email to supervisor regarding project due next Tuesday”. Just a couple of words or phrases to help jog your memory and get you back on track should be enough to do the trick.

If you struggle with impulsive tendencies like blurting out questions or Googling answers to random questions that pop into your head, making a note to yourself can help curb the desire to want to act on your thoughts immediately while simultaneously giving you a tangible way to revisit them later.

Improve focus and memory

If you find yourself drifting off during work meetings or in class, taking notes can help keep you present and also make it more likely that you’ll remember important points. Rather than passively listening, the act of writing keeps you engaged and focused. Studies also show that when we write something down, we are much more likely to be able to recall it later.

Making a habit of writing down important dates, information, reminders, and even random thoughts is a simple and effective way to ensure you don’t miss that next doctor’s appointment or your friend’s birthday. It’s also a great way to boost your ability to focus as well as your impulse-control and problem-solving skills.

Image: Pixabay/Free-Photos 

Want Less Stress and Overwhelm in Your Life? Write it Down.

Natalia van Rikxoort, MSW, ACC

Natalia van Rikxoort, MSW, ACC is a social worker, ADHD consultant, and certified life coach. Her practice, Lotus Life Coaching Services, provides coaching services for adults, youth, and families impacted by ADD/ADHD and executive function challenges.

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APA Reference
van Rikxoort, N. (2019). Want Less Stress and Overwhelm in Your Life? Write it Down.. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Nov 2019
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