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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

Archive for February, 2014

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Coping in a Distracted, Disconnected World: ADHD, Multitasking & A New Technique for Promoting Focus

by Edward Hallowell, M.D.

Technological innovation has changed our world more profoundly than anything since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press.  This change has brought both spectacular progress and devilishly complex problems.  New patterns of behavior are now epidemic; a person checks their email and texts at least once every 90 seconds and wonders why people complain they can never get your full attention. As a result, we are increasingly wrestling with the issue of what to do about what’s happening and how to cope in a distracted, disconnected world.

Based on his book CrazyBusy, Dr. Hallowell offers these practical strategies for helping you  take back control of your time, use electronic devices responsibly, and reestablish the human connection that is all too often missing.

1.   Education. First, take an honest assessment of how the use of electronics and technology has taken control of your life. Are you texting friends or colleagues while sitting next to them instead of having a face-to-face conversation? Are you spending too much time interacting on Facebook instead of hanging out with friends? Involve your family in the discussion, point out how you grapple with the over use of technology and ask them to assess their use of electronics as well. To get the best outcome, it is essential that all family members be involved in managing screen time.

2.  Set a goal of how much total time should be spent each day on electronics.  Then break the total goal into time categories: how much time where, doing what, with whom.

3. Plan daily periods of abstinence.  These “brain breaks” provide intervals of time in which no electronic device may be turned on.  Yes, this will be difficult for you at first.  So try beginning with 10 minutes twice a day.  Then increase that time by 10 minutes a week until you reach 1 hour a day or whatever goal you all want to achieve.  To go one step further, plan a “de-tox” day over the weekend.  Reserve a Saturday or Sunday, during which you and/or your family has absolutely no electronic usage whatsoever, except lights and appliances.  No TV, no phone, no Internet, no video games, no iPad.  Get the family or your friends involved in planning the “de-tox” day, i.e., play a board game, go for a hike, visit a relative or family friend, volunteer at a community event or any other ideas the family comes up with as long as they don’t involve any electronics.  Then have fun reconnecting.

4.  Make it a goal to restore the healthy habits that over use of electronics often disrupts: Get more physical exercise, especially outdoors.  Eat family dinner together. Get enough sleep.  Have some uninterrupted face-to-face conversations; Pray or meditate.

5.  Replenish daily your dose of the other Vitamin C, Vitamin Connect.  Overuse of electronics depletes one’s store of the human connection. Spend time having a face-to-face conversation with people, uninterrupted by anything. Try banning electronics when you’re out with friends or during dinner.  Having face-to-face conversations with others is an important step

6.  Monitor progress together.  Set time aside each day or weekly to see how everyone is doing.  What difficulties are they having? What difficulties are you having?  How does everyone feel about this?


Setting goals to limit use of electronics and helping each other achieve those goals can be a family and/or friend project. It won’t be easy, but don’t give up. Your success in addressing the overuse of electronics one strategy at a time will lead to your success, and a lot more joy for the entire family.

Adapted from CrazyBusy Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap!   Ballentine, NY, 2006.


Monday, February 24th, 2014

“My/our marriage would be much better if only my ADHD partner would change.” Sound familiar?


By Sue George Hallowell

It is easier to look at your partner’s behavior than to evaluate your own and consider how you might be contributing to the issues in the relationship. It is also simpler to define a problem and look for your partner to change or “fix it” than to consider the shifts you might make in order to address your needs in a way that does not ask your partner to be someone they are not.

Couples are in my office hoping for their partner to change. First I begin by helping each couple understand a few key points about people, relationships, and the flaw in their initial stance.

Read More

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Is Executive Function Training or Tutoring More Valuable for Your Child?

Executive Function Training (EFT) vs. Tutoring

Quick lesson for parents: how to decide where to invest in your child’s school success!

After years of hiring tutors, tutors very knowledgeable in their fields of expertise, many parents aren’t seeing their child’s grades improve much. There are still issues with their students of all ages being able to independently get homework started and completed, adapting effective study skills and managing their attention and frustration when learning new material.

Tutors are tops for helping students understand the material or the course content. A good executive function coach is usually a clinician or learning therapist with a strong background in neuroscience, educational psychology, ADHD and special education. To get the most out of a parent’s tutoring dollars, a student FIRST needs strong executive functioning skills to be able to attend to, retain and follow through with schoolwork, independent of a parent or tutor. Once a student is primed to study, learn and follow through, a tutor may not be needed after all, or the student will be able to derive greater benefit from tutoring. These skills are called “executive” skills because they are similar to the abilities a CEO or a head of a company would have to demonstrate for a company to be successful and competitive.  A company with a very bright, book-smart but scattered executive would have to depend on his/her managers to plan, prioritize and execute the vision.  Executive function training EFT not only gives the student tools to succeed in academics, but teaches them basic leadership skills. Executive function training helps students:
•    improve attention and concentration
•    be organized
•    be able to self regulate stress and frustration
•    plan work
•    study in more effective and creative ways
•    manage time
•    remember what he/she was told or read,
•    take notes and how to use the notes for study
•    get ideas down on paper
•    advocate for themselves and communicate what they need to succeed.
Not all students need work in all of these areas. To save time and money, it’s essential to identify where the weak links are that affect learning. However, if several of these skills are weak, then interestingly, by targeting just a couple skills, improvements can transfer easily to other aspects of executive functioning.

How do you know whether to start your student with a tutor or an executive training coach? Ask your student and his/her teacher where they see the gaps in potential and performance. If your student appears to have a good handle on the bulleted abilities above, puts long hours and effort into the work but still strikes out on quizzes and tests, a tutor may be your best choice. But if there are gaps in the skills above, it makes more sense to start with Executive Function Training.

To arrange for a free 15 minute inquiry call with Rebecca Shafir M.A.CCC, speech/language pathologist and executive functioning coach at the Boston Hallowell Center, call 978 287 0810.  

Monday, February 10th, 2014

In Praise of Making More Mistakes

by Jen Zobel Bieber, Personal Coach

The trick to doing most anything well is doing it first badly.

My favorite illustration of this comes from the pages of a wonderful (short) book called Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland:

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

If the strategy for doing most anything well is DOING the thing in the first place, then the hurdle lies in moving from contemplation into action.  That’s where most of us find ourselves frozen, thinking about something, but challenged to take action on it.

The best method over the hurdle is practice.  Far too often, we don’t give ourselves permission to practice — to dive in headfirst, to make a mess of things, to make mistakes…in essence, to create a bunch of ugly pots.

But what if we did?  What if, when frozen to take action, we focused on doing rather than on doing well?  What if, instead of setting our sites on the quality of our efforts, instead we focused on their quantity?

Consider it…What would change for you if you gave yourself more permission to practice?


Jen Zobel Bieber is a certified personal coach who has built a reputation helping individuals to achieve professional success and personal fulfillment.  She specializes in working with adults with ADHD, providing practical tools to help her clients capitalize on their strengths, manage their challenges, and exceed their own expectations.   Learn more at www.hallowellcenter.org

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