Impulse Control

Hey friends,

The other day, my manager sent me a big list of changes for a project we'd been working on. Blindsided, my instinct was to respond with a less-than-pleasant retort.

Thanks to the magic of remote work, I ignored the message for an hour.

Without realizing it, I was practicing one of Dr. Russell Barkley's rules for adults with ADHD[1]. He calls it "Stop the Action!" which means buying time before responding to an impulse.

Impulses often get us into trouble.

We fail to leave time to check our situation with hindsight and foresight. This leaves our fight-or-flight response as the ruler to measure our situation. Not ideal.

Before responding, I read the message again more carefully. I realized several changes were things we'd already discussed. And most of the changes were minor.

What seemed unreasonable an hour ago now looked routine.

You may not have the luxury of waiting an hour to respond—but even small breaks in time can make a difference.

Barkley recommends doing one of these before responding:

  • take a deep breath
  • say something aloud like "hmm, let me see now"
  • place your hand over your mouth for a few seconds

With practice, these simple actions can be enough to stave off the urge to act.

Stay focused,

Jesse J. Anderson


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Quote of the week

Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it's unbelievable.

— Roald Dahl (author)


[1] Barkley, Russell A. and Benton, Christine M. Taking Charge of Adult ADHD. The Guilford Press, 2011.