Creative Solutions to Common Problems

Creative Solutions to Common Problems

ADHD coach Jeff Copper spends a lot of his time coming up with unique ways to help his clients. In this conversation with Ned he shares some of the interesting ways he’s helped people get things done and manage their time better. As you’ll hear, Jeff believes it’s all about using what works for you, even if it’s unusual!

Jeff’s coaching website: DIG Coaching Practice

Jeff’s podcast: Attention Talk Radio

Ned’s NEW BOOK is out now! Get a copy of ADHD 2.0 at DrHallowell.com or by clicking HERE. You can also find it wherever books are sold!

Reach out to us with your comments, questions and show ideas! Send us an email, or record a voice memo on your phone and send it to [email protected]

Learn more about our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Distraction listeners can SAVE 20% on their first order with the code: Podcast2020. Shop online at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode is made possible by our sponsor, Omega Brite Wellness. I’ve taken their Omega-3 supplements for many years and so as my wife and that’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. I’m proud to have them. You can find all of their products online at OmegaBriteWellness.com and Brite is intentionally misspelled, B-R-I-T-E. OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello, this is Dr. Ned Hallowell and welcome to Distraction. I have a wonderful guest today, a true a veteran and hero in the world of ADHD by the name of Jeff Copper. He is the founder of DIG Coaching. He’s a coach for excellence and the host of Attention Talk Radio, which performs a tremendous service to the ADHD community. The podcast is designed to help adults and children with ADHD in life or business who are stuck, overwhelmed or frustrated. And that includes most of the people in the world who have this fascinating condition. So, welcome to the podcast Jeff.

Jeff Copper:
Thank you so much for having me on and thank you so much for the work that you do for the ADHD community.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You asked me what I’d like to talk about and I said whatever you want, but I think most people are always, always intrigued to hear a personal story. So how did you get into this world of ADHD and the Attention Talk Radio and the coaching business that you have? Can you tell us about that?

Jeff Copper:
Sure. It’s actually a really, really long story with a lot of steps, but in a nutshell, I was a athlete that struggled as a kid with dyslexia and ADD. I didn’t know about ADD at the time and I struggled in school, but what got me through is I was a competitive swimmer. I swam internationally for a period of time, was able to get to college on a scholarship. And when I got there, I had to figure everything out on my own. And I did with some pretty unorthodox means, if you will. Fast-forward I got into the working world and had some success, went and got my MBA, but later. And then started to kind of experiment around with some things and some people said you should be a coach like a life coach. So, I explored it a little bit and ADD coaching really seemed to be a place to go because I was a particularly organized person and people was like, “Hey. You could really help some people in this realm.” So I got into it and immediately started having some difficulty.

Jeff Copper:
So, I struggle with writing. I believe you’re dyslexic if I’m not mistaken and you do a really good job with the written word and done well with it. I struggle with it. So, when I first got ADD coach and I had to kind of figure out how I was going to do it on my own and coach myself and so interviewing people was a lot easier for me to create content. So, I started Attention Talk Radio back in 2009. And since that time I’ve done a show every week for over 10 years.

Jeff Copper:
And you and I have had some great shows. One of my honors was in 2014, when you came on the show because I realized that the first written reference to ADHD coaching was in Driven to Distraction in 1994. And that was the 20th anniversary. And so it was a real privilege for me to interview you on that and all the other experts that I’ve had. And since that time, I really like ADHD coaching because of the creativity that’s required to really talk about people and try to help them understand what works for them. And so I’ve been doing it ever since. Real joy, more of a calling.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And yes, thank you. Thank you for recognizing that it was in Driven to Distraction that I basically invented coaching and then left it to other people to take it and run with it. And thank goodness. The academic community laughed at me and they said, “Hallowell thinks coaching is important for ADHD.” And Biederman said, “Oh, I thought that was for baseball players not for patients.” And now it’s a mainstay. There’s seminars on coaching, continuing education on coaching, institutes on coaching. And it’s really works. Why don’t you tell listeners what’s so good about… What is it, first of all? And what’s so good about it for people with ADHD.

Jeff Copper:
So, when it comes to coaching, there’s kind of two forms as I describe. One is a behavioral approach where if you’re struggling with time management, somebody will walk in with a Franklin planner and a bunch of colored pencils metaphorically and tell you what to do every day and you kind of coach your behavior. Then there’s the other side, which is more of a life coaching side, where you really look at people and you begin to say, “Hey. Listen, you’ve got some systems.” So, what that looks like is a woman called me up one time with some time management problems. And I said, “Tell me about time. What does it look like?” She said, “It’s like a river that flows.” And I won’t go into the detail, what’s fascinating is how there’s droughts and the rainy season and the river goes fast and there’s rapids and it goes slow.

Jeff Copper:
But anyway, I started saying, “How would we manage time in the context of a river?” And we experimented around with timelines and for whatever reason, timelines work for her. And you can’t buy timelines in the self-help section of the bookstore, but we really tried to understand her individual brain wiring and understand how she saw time and we were able to come up with something that worked for her.

Jeff Copper:
Now, again, there’s different kinds of coaches, but I can pair and contrast those two because both of them have a real good place. I enjoy the more, I don’t know what’s going to work for you. Let’s try to figure that out. As an aside, I actually had a woman one time had credible sense of smell. Off the charts. And so we started experimenting around with it. And so we discovered a smell based to-do list and to my surprise-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Oh wow.

Jeff Copper:
Crayons have odor and that’s how she did it. And so as you can see, that’s not something you’ve probably heard of, but for some people with ADHD, because their brain wiring is a little different, with a little bit of creativity, you can come up on some solutions like that, that seem really, really odd that really, really work for people like her. Makes sense?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s a great example. So how does the smell based to-do list work?

Jeff Copper:
I don’t recall why, but when she would smell a crayon, by the way they have color, I think you can get the 164 pack. She would associated things with it. And literally all she would do is take the color and she would draw a line on the sheet of paper and she would just take her nose and she’d smell it and she’d go through her list and for whatever reason it’s almost like the smell kind of hung in her mind. I know I do exercises what I call attention exercises with other people on some of the topics and I’ll talk to them and I’ll say, “Well, how’d you remember that?” Said, “I could hear your voice echoing in my mind.”

Jeff Copper:
So for whatever reason with her, she would smell it and would hold her attention and she would be able to remember to go execute whatever task that is. And so, you’re more of an expert on the brain and the particular wiring and I’m just a coach. I just help people find out what works and we do it. But that was just a fascinating instance.

Jeff Copper:
Another story, I was working with a woman one time and she wanted to talk about a to-do list. And I said, “What would it be like if you drew pictures of what your to-do was?” So she gave it a shot and she came back the next week she says, “Oh my God, that was really, really helpful.” And I said, “Great.” Normally I would end there, but she said, “You know something, I never realized that a letter is a symbol. And when I add the letters of a word into a word, that’s a symbol And then when I read a sentence, I actually have to build a picture in my mind.”

Jeff Copper:
So, she noticed how she would read the to-do. Then she would go and get distracted and she would have to go back and reassemble the picture in her mind. And she said, “I just get to where I wouldn’t do anymore.” She said, “When I draw the picture, I can look at the picture. I would make that association. I wouldn’t have to build the picture in my mind.” She said, “Because I didn’t have to go through the work. I would follow up on a little bit easier.” Again, just a fun little story to share what this looks like.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah, no, absolutely. The visuals always matter in the world of ADHD. And you added in smell. That’s brilliant. That is brilliant.

Jeff Copper:
That’s one of the things that I spend a lot of time on because working memory is visual imagery or self-talk. And a lot of people with ADHD that struggle, a lot of times they’re struggling because they can’t visualize something or they can’t think in their mind. I do a lot of helping them realize that focus problem that you have is a focus problem but when you are working memory is over taxed and you can’t see it, let’s focus on relieving that, and then they can actually pay attention to for a little bit longer. So, you just brought that up and I just wanted to reiterate that a lot of times in coaching, we’re looking at working memory to try to address that, to make it easier for people to think.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. That’s make it easier to think. So you get what’s standing in the way out of the way.

Jeff Copper:
Exactly. It’s a little bit of digging down a little bit deeper to some things as opposed to just more superficial type ways of addressing stuff. I know one of the things that I do a lot of is back when I went to school, you would highlight a book and your notes and you put it right next to you and your eyes would dart back and forth to read and compare notes. In an academic world a lot of students are trying to work on a laptop. And if you read something and then you click on a tab and you scroll down trying to remember what you read from one tab or one browser to another often, you forget what you read while you’re scrolling.

Jeff Copper:
Well, that’s a working memory issue. And a lot of students will want tips, tricks, and strategies to deal with that when they really just need a second computer screen so they can put both of them up and their eyes dart back and forth. Not a commonality in the college environment, commonality in a corporate environment because they realize that’s there but a lot of students don’t realize it’s not the tip trick or strategy. It’s just, you need a second screen. So your eyes don’t have to hold that while they’re scrolling around.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. That’s another great idea, Jeff. Yeah.

Jeff Copper:
Did an interview years ago with Dr. Russell Barkley and we talked about working memory and how paper, sometimes high-tech for people with ADHD because you can spread it out and see it all as opposed to trying to look through everything on a really small computer screen.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Right, right, right. What are the ideal age for coaching? What’s the youngest you can successfully coach.

Jeff Copper:
I’m more of a behavior modification I think is probably more appropriate for the younger ones, teens, et cetera. I spend more time with adults 20 and up because I do a lot of trying to help them understand what works based off of their successes, as opposed to trying to change the system. We always go back and say, well, what systems do you have in place? And for an older adult, it’s easier to have those conversations, which is… I actually have a philosophy about organizational systems and everybody has a system. And if you focus on your current system and understand why it’s there, it’s usually easier just to tweak that system than it is to build something completely new. Makes sense?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. Makes total sense. Yeah. Yeah. It’s always easier if you’re not starting from square zero. Over the past few months, I’ve spoken to my friend, the founder and creator of Omega Brite Wellness, Dr. Carol Locke, about the benefits of taking Omega Brite’s Omega-3’s CBD and other supplements. Here’s a clip from one of those conversations. Now there are many different products or brands of fish oil. Why is Omega Brite the best?

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Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Distraction listeners. You can save 20% on your first order at OmegaBriteWellness.com by using the promo code Podcast2020. All right, let’s get back to today’s topic.

Jeff Copper:
So, one of my favorite stories, I was coaching a real estate agent, residential. And it’s funny, she came to me because she described herself as a hot mess and she was disorganized. And one day she said, “I need to organize the way I track my prospects or my sales.” And what’s traditional is you go in, you log all your clients into a contact relationship manager which requires you go to the computer and a lot of tedious stuff. And I said, “No, no, no, no. Let’s just take a look at your current system.” And she argued with me that she didn’t have a system. And I said, “No. You do. You sell, you’ve got some clients.”

Jeff Copper:
So, after spending about 15 minutes of having a conversation with her about what she was doing, we realized every morning she’d wake up and she would scroll through her texts in her phone and she would scroll through her voicemails. What we realized is that everybody is reaching out to her or contacting her by those means. She would scroll and she would see the names, which would help her work a memory, identify what was there. And sometimes she would be really busy in a day and she wouldn’t get back to everybody. So, the next day she felt a little bit panicked trying to catch up, whether it’s her texts, her voicemails. And we began to realize it was a routine that she did every day was scrolling through her phone. We didn’t have to do anything about that. She would identify and react to it so that was working.

Jeff Copper:
But she was overwhelmed by it all because she couldn’t see all the clients and literally all we did is we got some Post-its two colors. One was for buyers and one was for listing agents. She went through, put their names on the Post-its, put them on a poster board and put on a chest of drawers and she put the prospects that were hot at the top, buyers on one side, listers on the other. And now she could see all of her activity. In that moment, number one, she was like, “Wow, I’m doing pretty good.” And number two, calm came over her because the issue is that she had a good system, but she felt overwhelmed because she couldn’t conceptualize it. And all we did was put it on the Post-its and she could see it. She didn’t interact with it and just brought a lot of peace to her.

Jeff Copper:
So in that situation, I’m demonstrating how we didn’t have to go to a whole new organizational system. All we had to do was solve this one little problem and what didn’t seem to work was actually working very, very well. Didn’t look like what maybe a system should look like, but I find a lot of people with ADHD sometimes if you just look at things as to what’s working, what’s the system, you can just tweak them a little bit and all of a sudden you get something that works. Feel different, huh?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes. Wonderful. You’re a wealth of creative interventions, Jeff. It’s terrific.

Jeff Copper:
And another story, one of my favorites is I was actually coaching a psychiatrist one time they had ADHD and they wanted to coach her one day because they were late all the time. And, “You want a time management system?” They said, “Yeah.” “So, Let me ask you, how late are you?” They said, “10, 15 minutes late.” I said, “Are you ever an hour late?” “Well, yeah. Daylight savings time.” “You ever an hour early?” “Yeah. Daylight savings.” “Ha. You’re funny.” So I said, “Let me get this straight. You’re 10 to 15 minutes late, like 98% of the time.” They said, “Yeah.” I said, “Well, what’s your system?” They said, “That’s what I want to cut you on.” I go, “Well, if you’re consistently that late, you got to have a system. If you didn’t have a system, you’d be like 45 minutes late, you’d miss appointment.” He goes, “I don’t know. I guess I don’t like to be bored.” And I go, “There you go.”

Jeff Copper:
He goes, “Where I go, well, there’s no time management system in the world that’s going to solve that problem.” Then we began to have a conversation about boredom. And sometimes when a patient would come into the room and the nurse was there, he would walk in waiting for that. He barely would get off on something that he shouldn’t have been doing and would get in trouble because he didn’t do well with boredom. So when we got done, we began to realize, number one, he did have a system. Number two, there was a legitimate reason why he had that system to keep him out of trouble.

Jeff Copper:
And so we walked away feeling good about it. Now people complained a little bit about it, but he’s like, “I know you’re complaining about it, but it’s better than if I’m doing something I shouldn’t do and I don’t have to regulate.” So again, these are some stories that some people probably didn’t expect, but by looking at yourself and trying to understand why you do it, sometimes you can find some pretty cool stuff in the coaching paradigm. Sometimes you might do something to put Post-its, but other time it’s wait a second. I actually do have a system. So from an emotional perspective, I can realize there’s nothing wrong. It’s legitimate reason I do that. And sometimes it comes to grip with it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. Absolutely.

Jeff Copper:
Just fun stories.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You have wonderful stories, wonderful stories. And tells us about Attention Talk Radio.

Jeff Copper:
Well, Attention Talk Radio as I described earlier was born for me because I couldn’t write. So, I started interviewing experts, topically. When I first started doing it, I was like, “Okay, I’ll probably do a year’s worth of topics because there’s 52 weeks in a year. How many topics could there be?” Well, it’s over 10 years later still been doing the same thing and still been coming in with more and more topics. And as I’ve done that, I’ve learned over the years, a lot from again, experts like yourself or Dr. Thomas Brown or Dr. Barkley, or like Anne Dolan, educator, or other coaches, et cetera. And so it’s always been amazing to me that fundamentally there’s a limited number of concepts, but we’ve come up with lots of ideas that we illustrate. Like one of my favorites was with Ari Tuckman one time when we talked about manners, teaching kids manners.

Jeff Copper:
Now we think of manners as something that kids should do. But when you think about it, self-regulation is the ability to pause and override your urge just to do something. And if you’re going to have manners like hold the door for somebody or wait for everybody to be seated, you actually have to practice self-regulating. So, we did the show and we kind of illustrated how, as a parent you can use manners as a self-regulation exercise. Don’t worry about the mayors come into place, but continue to do it on a regular basis because it actually can teach kids the skill of stop, pausing and overriding some of that stuff to help them develop that skills.

Jeff Copper:
We’ve had other shows that I’d like to do is like years ago I was interviewing Dr. Roberto Lombardi who’s a psychologist. And we talked about how when he did his Harvard dissertation, he wrote it in two weeks. Most people would write their dissertation in a room with quiet. He actually wrote his with punk rock videos playing on the same screen that he was writing. And he said, the beat of the words kept him focused so he could get through that stuff.

Jeff Copper:
And so it’s been a fun journey along the way with Attention Talk Radio. Learning from mental health professionals, learning for teachers, lived experiences, some quirky things that worked for some people and et cetera. So, it’s been a real journey. And for me. I started doing it as it means not to write, but to get something out there. Little did I know I would get an amazing education along the way. And I know you’ve got a bunch of stories of things in your life that really kind of helped you. And one of my favorite is I think it was your first grade or second grade teacher who helped you read. And I think I’ve heard you say before, “Who would have believed that I would make a living with words when it was such a struggle back in those days.” I think really the story about people it ain’t cheap.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I couldn’t agree with you more. Absolutely Jeff. It’s really terrific.

Jeff Copper:
I’ve heard you speak a lot. And one of the things that you say that I know everybody gets is that it’s in the moment that you accept yourself and you quit fighting your ADHD and you begin to step in who you are that that transformation really takes place. And I think that you’re a testament that as other people are. And again, you said that before, I just want to highlight, your own personal story is your own triumph and accepting who you are. And I know you dedicate your practice and what you do to helping people do the same thing. And so those that are out there, that are struggling, I encourage you to take that mindset, it will help you a lot.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You’re so right. And you’re very kind to say that. And you certainly done the same thing. Well, listen. I’m sorry. We are running out of time. You can find Jeff on the web at digcoaching.com and you can check out his podcast at attentiontalkradio.com. Jeff is a marvelous contributor to the world of ADHD and just a font of stories, experiences, tips as you’ve gotten a taste of today.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Okay. If you haven’t heard my new book, ADHD 2.0 is available now. You can find a copy wherever books are sold, or by going to my website, DrHallowell.com or by clicking the link in the show notes. And remember to follow Distraction on social media and please continue to reach out to us with your comments and questions. Our email address is [email protected] Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our audio engineer is the wonderful Scott Persson and our producer is the supremely talented Sarah Guertin. I’m Dr. Ned Hallowell. Thanks to Jeff Copper and thanks to you for listening.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode you just heard was made possible by my good friends at Omega Brite Wellness. I take their supplements every day and that’s why I invited them to sponsor my podcast. Shop online at Omega Brite. And that’s B-R-I-T-E. Wellness.com.

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