Jonathan Chesner, a writer, actor and inventor in Santa Monica, Calif., sometimes longs to jump into 10 new projects a week. But he disciplines himself to focus on only one or two. That self-awareness is what allows Chesner, 28, to harness his adult ADHD.
“As a kid, I had an inability to focus or sit still,” says the author of ADHD in HD: Brains Gone Wild, who was diagnosed with attention deficit activity disorder at age 9. “And it would take me forever to learn stuff.” Although he takes medication to help control symptoms like hyperactivity, he also relies on lessons he’s learned about how to channel his energy, a challenge for many with adult ADHD. Here are his top tips.
Think healthy thoughts. If Chesner’s mind is racing, he tries to race it towards thoughts and projects that are healthy, not self-destructive. “The medicine gives me a little break, but I also know I need to control and steer my mind. If I’m having a tough time, I say to myself, ‘Calm down. Don’t steamroll this.”
Link completion with livelihood. Because his mind is always jumping, it’s tough for Chesner to finish tasks, a common experience for people with adult ADHD. “But now I know I can generate money on my ideas. They’re my income. So I have to see ideas through: I can’t sustain myself in a living room full of half-finished ones.”
Don’t return candy’s affections. “I love sweets, and they love me, but I remind myself that a super-sweet breakfast makes me feel like death. So after I eat cereal, I may eat bananas, or green apples—or even steam some broccoli: I may not enjoy it but I feel better.”
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Exercise and rest. Chesner works off energy by exercising throughout the day, walking, biking, surfing and doing pull-ups. “If I don’t exercise, I get edgy, or really lazy—like a blob on the couch.” He also knows that to have clear head, he needs eight to nine hours sleep. And he guards his morning hours: “That’s my most productive time.”
Equate organization with creativity. Chesner’s discipline doesn’t come naturally; it’s a trait he has to stoke. “I remember reading that no clean ideas come from dirty places. It’s way easier to create when my space isn’t messy.” He also ignores the voice that says deadlines don’t matter, that everything will work out. “I remind myself that leaving things to the last minute . . . how fun has that been?”