on September 5, 2008
I bought this book because I was hoping that it would provide me with the necessary tools to calm my otherwise disorganized ADD mind. The book description on Amazon seemed to fit my situation perfectly, and I impulsively bought the book here on eBay. I thought that in a worst case scenario, I may pick up a tool or 2 that would help me somehow. My best case scenario of actually being able to USE the information was what I was shooting for.
Imagine my pleasant surprise when I received this book and found that it would help me in numerous situations that I struggle with every day. If you have ADD/ADHD, then you would be familiar with the impulsivity, distraction, hyperfocusing, finanacial distasters, clutter in your home, and on and on. I deal with one or more of these situations every single day that rolls over my head. For me, it is very frustrating.
Nancy Ratey has ADD and dyslexia, and she has grown up with it all of her life. She has managed to carve out ways to deal with ADD through being a life coach for adults with ADD. This book is a testament to her abilities as a coach, along with client histories to show how she helped those clients conquer the very ADD symptoms that we all struggle with on a good day.
She developed the A.N.S.W.E.R. strategy that gives the reader a way to analyze what is working for them and what is not. My favorite part of the book is how she consistently teaches her clients and her readers to not look at ADD as a problem child, but rather look at it as a neurological condition that has to be managed. ADD patients are NOT a disease. We are all people, creative people, and we all deal with the same or similar situations in our every day world.
Some of us may have more impulsivity and distraction, while others may hyperfocus on things that can cause discord in both our personal and professional lives. The author shows us how bring balance into our otherwise chaotic worlds with down-to-earth strategies and concepts that are easy to understand.
This book gave me hope that I CAN do what I set out to do. I just have to structure my life and my goals in such a way that the ADD works with me and not against me. I can do that! So can others who have the distinction of having been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.
It does NOT have to be a thorn in your behind, unless you make a conscious choice for it to be there. The author has appendices in the back that list ADD support groups and ADD resources to help all of us change that which drives us nuts without coaching.
I found that I work best with someone to coach me and/or be an accountability partner. Hiring a coach is an expensive venture, and this book shows me how to become my own coach when money is tight, as it is right now.
This is definitely a book that I will refer back to over and over again. I think that if you purchase it, you will use it until the pages are worn out from use.
I do hope that the author will come out with a workbook that will coincide with the content of this book to offer the reader full-size workbook pages to keep up with the information and questions that we need to ask ourselves when we are trying to come up with solutions based on this book.
Controlling my ADD is going to be easier with the help of this book. I think it just might reach out to help quite a few other people too! I think this was one of my better impulsive buys, and it is definitely one that I do not regret making. Get a copy today!
on August 4, 2008
I found JackofMostTrades' review reasonable. Perhaps if he gave it one star, one might consider bias - but three stars for this book is very reasonable. I did have trouble finishing it - I guess I'm one of those that got bored half-way through. (Although for the sake of this review I have skimmed the rest) Personally I think everyone with ADD/ADHD should read the book, "A Perfect Mess." Guess what, being somewhat messy can actually be MORE efficient and productive than being a neat-nik. This understanding allows one to focus on those messy habits that truly lead to inefficiency rather than those that just make one's home ineligible to be displayed in Better Homes and Gardens. Reading that book first will help one ignore any inadvisable recommendations and proscriptions in Ms. Ratey's book (and there certainly are some.)
If one has ever set about to clean/organize a room/closet by emptying all the stuff out only to become overwhelmed and left with a greater mess than one began with, this book promotes a psychological equivalent. Yes in theory inventorying all aspects of one's life can help with priority setting - but in practice it's about as successful as organizing a room by dumping everything on the floor first.
It's not surprising that coaches would of course advocate for this book. (Note the vast majority of 5 star ratings are by coaches.) However, Jack is correct, there never has been a study showing the effectiveness of coaching in ADHD. Of course, coaches will like a book that promotes coaching. That doesn't mean there is any science behind it. For a non coach like me - I didn't find the book that useful.
The book doesn't really acknowledge/discuss that ADHD is not about having a disorganized mind but rather a differently organized mind. Thus it fails to capitalize on the strengths that come with having a differently organized mind. When she talks about focusing on accomplishments, she considers these accomplishments as having occurred despite ADHD not because of ADHD. I think understanding the way ADHD is a strength is important to helping one overcome the ways it is also a weakness.
It accepts certain concepts as normative - like the idea that mess creates stress. Actually it is attitudes towards mess that create stress. That's why I recommend A Perfect Mess. Getting rid of the idea that mess/seeming disorganization is inherently bad will do much more to reduce your stress than stressing about organizing. (She doesn't discuss how much of shame is culturally induced - but conforming to the dominant culture isn't always the best solution.) Sometimes mess is a sign of efficiency and sometimes it interferes with efficiency. The key is figuring out which is which. Promoting the concept that laundry isn't done until it's put away (as this book does) obscures the fact that for some people it is more efficient to not put one's laundry away. It's also possible to have a functionally organized kitchen where almost nothing has a "home." It looks messy and cluttered but it's highly functional and there's nothing wrong (and much right) with prioritizing function over a neat appearance.
The client examples are both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand it is useful to see the ANSWER technique applied. On the other hand the client reasons for a problem may not have anything to do with the reader's reasons for a problem and her discussions are not always complete enough to assist the reader in problem solving their own barriers. Furthermore the ANSWER technique by assigning the difficulty to the ADHD brain - may fail to help the struggling reader identify non ADHD contributions. People are more than their ADHD.
For example, this is particularly salient in the discussion of procrastination. Labeling procrastination as an "ADHD cause" of a "symptom" such as difficulty prioritizing ignores that procrastination itself has a number of causes which often need to be addressed in order to stop procrastinating. For example, anxiety/fear can be a major contributor to procrastination and adults with ADHD commonly have higher levels of anxiety than non adults without as well as a high rate of comorbid anxiety disorders (up to a 50% in some studies.) Yet anxiety isn't even mentioned as a potential issue in the chapter on procrastination. And anxiety's contribution to ADHD problems isn't just true of procrastination - a study of adults with ADHD found an anxious state was more predictive of learning/memory deficits than poor organizational strategies or lack of sustained attention. It may be that this is a limitation in the coaching approach itself rather than specifically this book. Either way I felt that the section on procrastination was incomplete and of limited usefulness.
I liked the problem solving approach and discussion of the need to find individualized solutions. I liked the emphasis on not blaming or shaming and avoiding judgment. I think its discussion of ways to instruct one's executive assistant to be more helpful is something that is not commonly discussed and probably useful if applicable. (Does not apply to me, unfortunately.) I think that, particularly for someone who has not read many other books on ADHD, organizing, etc, a number of the suggestions could be useful.
However, if you are a person with ADD who has a large collection of half read books on ADHD - there is a reasonably large probability that this book will join your half-read collection. The best antidote for this problem that I've found is checking books out of the library rather than buying them. I bought this book based on all the exuberant reviews of those coaches who apparently had received a prelease copy, but in retrospect I should have reigned in my impulsivity and impatience and waited until this book arrived at my local library. Half read library books don't add to clutter once they are returned. :)
on June 17, 2008
I am familiar with nearly every popular book written on the subject of ADD/ADHD, and I have to state I did not particularly like this one. I make the proviso that if you are newly diagnosed with ADD (and I'll assume it's an accurate diagnosis), and you don't know anything about the syndrome from a factual perspective or are not clear about the nature of or the way to address your own behaviors, perceptions, and thoughts, I suppose this book is OK. However, if you read it from cover to cover, it is, to me, quite paradoxical. Here's briefly why. The author provides so many behavioral suggestions--both technological (external) and cognitively-based (internal)--that to set up an environment to accommodate them all would be impossible. Notes on your computer, timers, signs, noises, reminders, calendars, diaries: the list goes on. Although the author begins by stating you have to find your own means to organize your life, this recommendation is soon swallowed up by a cacaphony of suggestions that no working person, at least, could follow. Another problem I found is that the book is very proscriptive regarding what is 'normal.' For example, if you have ADD and have a penchant for going into narratives instead of getting to the point, well, there's a mental reminder to change your communication style. But maybe the narrative IS an essential part of the point.
I understand that the book is meant for the educated, affluent (the author states that these make up the bulk of her clientele) and therefore must conform to a corporate style of managerial behavior, but there's too much and/or thinking in the suggestions. A book can be written that way, but a life is rarely lived that way. Anyone who works with others knows the best time managers are at the mercy of the unexpected. Things break down, people break down, society changes, politics change constantly. The idea of 'future shock' that has been around for maybe 40 years (?) suggested that things occur so rapidly in our culture, you cannot keep up with them. If you agree that everyone is in that situation, then certainly a series of behavioral/cognitive cues is not going to do much to alleviate the relentless march of information and the drive for improvement. A newer phenomenon--which is the growing isolation of the individual (think of the book 'Bowling Alone' that showed that statistically most people in bowling alleys are bowling by themselves)--belies the idea of finding a friend/relative to serve as an informal 'coach.' I can just imagine calling up any number of acquaintances and saying, "By the way, would you mind having a 10-minute phone discussion every night about 8 so I can get a reality check on my ADD?" I don't know about the authors' social network or yours, but the people I know sure wouldn't be too keen on the idea. It's hard enough for family members to even see one another considering our overloaded schedules. I'll stop here; I could probably write a book in response to this one, but I'm not getting paid--unlike the author.
One more thing, though, has there ever been an objective study to test empirically whether coaching (either by an ADD coach or self-coaching) for someone with ADD works? You know, double blind research between a control group and a treatment group? Or as people in the field like to say, evidence-based success in treatment? I said I'd stop. OK. There's some great books available that address the issues in this book although they're not necessarily for people with ADD.
NOTE: A number of people have asked about recommended books/materials. I'll give a few here, since an entire list would take a bit of time, but perhaps I can get to it soon. I am not connected in any business way to any of them:
I highly recommend 'The Creative Habit' by Twyla Tharp, a renowned choreographer. Read the book and I think you will find out why I think it's great. I also recommend 'The War of Art' by Steve Pressfield, which is a book about writing and creativity, but again, it really can be applied to focusing, distraction, life style, etc. Pressfield is a novelist; his most famous book is probably 'The Legend of Bagger Vance.' Then you could try 'Stop Whining...' by L. Winget (not the whole title but it's here on Amazon). This book is a bit harsh but I think has some good points. Here is a management consultant who says that time management is an illusion, and explains why. I would also recommend 'Man's Search for Meaning' by Victor Frankl, or any of his other books. He is a man who survived Auschwitz, and knows something about coping in a harsh environment. He re-popularized the expression-attributed to Nietzche, "He who has a 'why' to live can live with any 'how.' In terms of a 'technology', you can find a free planner if you search the net and type in 'emergent time management.' You can print out as many copies as you want and create your own planner. The concept behind this simple planner is that what one does and what happens to someone during the course of the day will decide how you spend the rest of the day. It's a heuristic concept, and you just start with 3 things you need to accomplish and try to complete them. As you go through the day, you add things based on new developments. There's even a section of each page for 'doodling.' That's it for now. Sorry for any typos.
P.S. Another book specifically about ADHD that I would recommend is by a physician who has it, as do his children. The title is Scattered by Gabor Mate and is available right here on Amazon. The author has a humanistic approach to ADHD, and believes the 'cure' isn't simply various time-reminder technologies, but an awareness of the self with its many components such as the physical, biological, perceptual AND spiritual. I don't understand why his book is not more well-known.
on July 18, 2009
After reading the virtually unanimous praise for this book in the other reviews, I had high hopes for a helpful system for handling ADD related issues. In the end, in my opinion, too many layers obscure the important concepts in this book, and the concepts themselves seem to create more, rather than less, work for an already disorganized mind! Advice is buried in anecdotes. An acronym (ANSWER) is used to prompt the coaching steps, yet the suggested solutions create more steps than I can probably ever remember or apply. The design of the text is a serious obstacle. Lacking the visual cues - highlighted areas, and so on - that help identify the important points of Ms. Ratey's approach, I found it tedious and difficult to grasp her system. This flaw is compounded by, in my edition, tiny type that I found quite unpleasant to read. Even though Ms. Ratey says she herself has ADD, she has presented a text here that requires a level of concentration I consider very ADD-unfriendly. Does she know that lots of people with ADD have reading issues? That many respond to visual concepts more readily than text? I'm not saying there aren't valuable ideas in this book but don't get your hopes up. See if you can get it from your library first.
Ms. Ratey's book made me really appreciate the thoughtful design of ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life and Organizing Solutions for People With Attention Deficit Disorder: Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized. Both of these authors present their ideas in formats that are super easy to read, get immediately to the point, and are unambiguous in their advice - features that are very much appreciated by anyone who has trouble concentrating! If you need motivation and help, I'd heartily recommend Clutter's Last Stand: It's Time To De-junk Your Life!. Don Aslett may not have ADD, but he is truly moved by the emotional and psychological toll taken by coping with chronic disorganization. A follow-up workbook from Ms. Ratey would be a great way to help her ADD readers take charge of the coaching process and learn her approach hands-on!
on December 4, 2009
I slogged through this book. Succinct it is NOT. Painful it was.
There's SOME worthwhile content in this book, but there's far too much fluff.
Much takes the form of extraneous detail in 'case studies' (which I'd in fact characterize as anecdotes). Much of the book is an advertisement for the author's coaching. And much takes the form of unduly self-congratulatory autobiography.
I'd estimate that the beneficial hard data (itself unnecessarily repeated several times throughout the book) can be condensed into 20 pages -- probably less.
It would not surprise me to learn that Ms. Ratey is an effective coach, but I don't think she's an effective writer.
on January 17, 2013
I'm about 75% through The Disorganized Mind, and haven't started doing the exercises yet (typical ADHD behavior, right?) but I can safely say that this book does have some helpful suggestions for compensatory strategies. However, all of these are cast through the lens of the author's "clients;" all of which are upper-middle class/top earner types who can afford an ADHD coach.
Expect to hear long-winded tales of people who have live-in nannies, lament their friends don't want to accompany them on their frequent vacations due to ADHD related outbursts, or rely to much on their personal assistant. In fact, one of the author's suggest strategies is to actually HIRE a personal assistant! Who has the funds for that?
There isn't one lick of advice tailored to everyday working folks struggling to get their symptoms under control. To get anything out of this book, you'll have to work around the descriptions of her client's success and lifestyle to find the core strategies that are offered. The author even goes on at length about her Ivy League education and her world-traveling family. That's great that the author was born into a family that offered her the luxury to pursue a secondary education for years and years, and she'd seen a good chunk of the world before that, but I didn't purchase this book to listen to the author brag.
If you grew up poor or don't make a six-figure income, the stories in this book can become infuriating as your lack of sympathy grows stronger. If you can fight past those feelings though, there are some good ideas to find.
on October 3, 2009
I have not been diagnosed with ADHD but often feel that I have many traits of a person with ADHD. I saw this book on the New Books shelf of the library and the front flap and the table of contents both seemed promising. However, after 30 pages of the author telling us how great coaching is and how great self-coaching is I was getting frustrated. It seemed like these pages were the sales pitch the author wrote for the publisher. When are we going to get to the good stuff? I wondered. So I decided to look at the table of contents and skip to chapters like procrastination, time management, etc. Here too, though, were words and words and words that seemed to say nothing. If there is good stuff in this book, I don't have the patience or attention span to get to it.
I wouldn't write off this author. She should simply rearrange the material (assuming that there is good material in here) and put the tips and tricks first thing, and the sales pitch last.
on January 9, 2013
I was looking for ways to organize myself and my life in an ADHD friendly way.
*It has great ideas
*NOT written for the ADHD mind. It requires reading end to end throughout the whole book. ADHD minds tend to want to skip to the important parts
on February 11, 2015
I am not an ADHD coach. I am a mother of two daughters with ADHD-PI. I believe I also have ADHD and plan on getting officially tested in the near future.
Most books I've read about ADHD take so much time explaining what ADHD was, only discussed ADHD in small children and had countless anecdotes from parents that I couldn't relate to. All the stories parents related were about a child that couldn't sit still, that got into trouble in school or took three hours to complete their homework. None of those things apply to my daughters, so those books were pretty much useless to me.
I already know to establish structure and routine. But I need more than that. I need concrete tips and strategies to deal with forgetfulness, procrastination, interrupting and rambling conversations that never get to the point.
I initially checked this book out from the library thinking it would provide advice to help me help my teenage daughter that has ADHD, but I wound up applying many of the tips to my own life. I was having trouble at my job, I would forget or be late to meetings, I take way more time to complete projects than they should, and so on.
I understand the complaints others have made about this book. Yes, the author adds in a lot of needless information. Yes, the beginning of the book is basically an info commercial for ADHD coaching. But that's why you have to scan, skip, and skim!
You don't have to read this book "cover to cover". Just read the parts that apply to you!
My recommendation for reading this book is as follows:
- Read pages 36-48 to evaluate yourself and areas of your life that need work.
- Read pages 53-54 to list specific symptoms and the effects that particular symptom has on your life.
The above two steps will help you narrow your focus and realize the areas of your life that you need to work on.
- Then skip to chapters 5-9 that discuss actual ADHD traits and how to manage them.
Really, people, she labels each chapter with a description, so it shouldn't be that hard to find the advice you're looking for. I haven't even bothered to read chapters 10-14, because I got what I needed from pages 36-48, 53-54, and chapters 5-7. There's no point in reading the entire book, you're not going to remember every single word anyway.
By skimming through the chapters, I found a lot of good tips. For example, many times at work, I would get engrossed in some project, only to look up and see my boss staring down at me. I was supposed to attend a meeting, but had gotten so hyperfocused on something else I had forgotten the meeting and she had to come get me. So I set up a pop up reminder on my Outlook calendar. But that still didn't work. I wouldn't even notice the little pop up in the bottom corner of my computer screen.
One of the tips the author gives is to use an alarm clock to remind you through out the day of things you have to do. So just yesterday I had a meeting at 10 o'clock I had to attend. I set the alarm on my cell phone to ring at 9:55 am. It worked great! Instead of getting anxious that I was going to miss the meeting, and wasting time checking my clock every five minutes to make sure I didn't miss the meeting, I was able to focus on my project, and then when the alarm rang, I collected my paperwork and got to the meeting on time.
Another tip that really helped me was this: end the workday by setting up for the next workday. Every morning I would come into work and putz around for a couple of hours and I wouldn't remember the project I had been working on the day before. Next thing you know, it was mid-afternoon, I hadn't gotten anything done, and the project that should have taken me a week to complete was taking me months to finish. So now at the end of the day, I take a screen shot of the project I'm working on. I print it out and set it on top of my keyboard. The next day when I come into work, it's a visual reminder of what I need to work on. It's been so helpful! I've finally completed a project that had been taking me months to finish.
There are other helpful tips like:
- write a list of tasks and then prioritize the list
- set up a project before doing the actual task, that way you don't get so overwhelmed that you never start (ex. for bill paying - stamp and address envelopes, but write the checks and mail them out at a later time)
- start the day by setting a list of goals for yourself
Another note - you don't have to use someone else to be an accountability partner. You can be your own partner! Create your own to do list, and at the end of the day, review what you have gotten done. Reward yourself when you finish your list. Even if that means working for two hours, then rewarding yourself with a 15 minute break.
on April 19, 2012
As a professional in the mental health field and a person diagnosed with ADHD, I have struggled time and time again with organizing my life. Nancy Ratey is amazing and this incredibly useful book is extremely user-friendly. It's an essential resource on my bookshelf!