Transitional Modes

Sherlock YourSELF, John

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Thanks to artist/educator Phillip Martin for capturing so MANY of my concepts in his images – and for their use.

We start small

We begin with the tedium of to-dos – because the lessons learned will generalize to the bigger changes and transitions that we all must face.

Meanwhile, we must all learn the ways in which we, uniquely, “chop wood, carry water.” ~mgh

There ain’t no IS about ADD

All human beings, even “identical” twins, have differences — all the way down to the celular level.

Those differences are magnified and multiplied when you throw attentional spectrum disorders into the mix.

While your challenges and talents may be impacted by (or even a product of) ADD, don’t make the mistake of assuming that your experience is reflective of ADD in general.

Throughout the Transitions Series, for instance, I offer my examples to help you compile and categorize your troublesome transitions.

But don’t assume that you work the same way
I do simply because we both have ADD. 

EVEN when we share what seems to be an
identical list of transitional challenges,
when we dig deeper we will find that they
are challenging for completely different reasons.

For example:

Transition: Waking Up (sleeping to waking)

Even though I struggle to awaken from sleep each and every morning (which you might be tempted to consider a coming out of challenge),
I have more trouble with what I refer to as a “a slow brain-boot.”

My mental computer takes an unusually long time to come on line, even once I’m up and out of bed.  I’m fuzzy. My usually quick mind is mired in molasses for the first hour or more of every single day.

While my brain may be struggling to cast off the sleep state as it comes to alertness, for me. “sleeping to waking ” is primarily a Going Into transitional challenge.  I have a lot of cognitive puzzle pieces to put into place before I can begin my day – at least, that is, if I expect my activities to be successful.

But not for YOU

Maybe you are a “snooze alarm junkie” – able to jump out of bed and into your day once your eyes are fully open, but YOU seem almost trapped in the sleep state.

Morning after morning your day begins with your mind begging your
alarm clock for ten more minutes, groveling mentally, sometimes
for an hour or more, without really waking up when you hit that snooze.

In that case “sleeping to waking” would go on the “transitioning out of” side
of your list.

Waking to Sleeping

For me, the other end of the day is a completely different matter!  My mind battles sleep like a kid in the summer.  It seems I have tried everything suggested by the sleep gurus, and it still can take me seemingly forever to fall asleep — except for those times when I wait until I am completely exhausted before I attempt it.  My mind simply won’t stop chattering at me long enough for me to get to dreamland.

I generally “read myself to sleep” because if I didn’t allow myself to read in bed I’d probably never go to sleep at all!  Yet, more than occasionally I notice myself reading with one eye closed, because I am so sleepy that I can’t focus on the page with both of them open!

To convince myself to stop reading and turn off the light I have to consciously remind myself that I probably will live through the night to read another day – and if I don’t, the fact that I didn’t finish what I was reading about is certainly not going to change the success or failure of my life one jot!

Now wouldn’t you think I’d fall asleep immediately after that scenario? 

Nope!  The minute I switch off the light and close my eyes, that same brain that is too sleepy to focus is too alert to fall asleep for another 15-30 minutes (and I promise you, the material I choose for the end of my day is not the kind to keep anyone awake!)

So my challenge might seem to be entering the sleep state, but with further sherlocking it becomes obvious that it is actually leaving the waking state behind. So I would record “waking to sleeping” as  on the “transitioning out of” side of my transition challenges chart.

That may also be true for you – or not!

I offer examples to help you sherlock your own functioning, not as a model of how you should function.

Take a careful look, because what you will need to DO to navigate the transition successfully depends upon the mode of transition with which you need the most help.

Really think about your experience of an activity before deciding that it belongs on one side or another of the transitional mode decision tree.  

Never attempt to squeeze your own cognitive style into anyone else’s mold!

Keep in Mind

In the next article, we will begin to divide your list of transitional challenges into two categories, depending on whether Transitioning OUT of or Transitioning Into is the bigger problem for you.

  • You will probably notice that MY two sleep transition challenges appear on opposite sides of the Transitional Modes example list.

Don’t assume that means that they will show up that way for everyone else
(or anyone else!)

You may place both of your sleep transition struggles on the same side of your chart,
rather than opposing each other, as they are on mine.

  • Maybe you have NO trouble falling asleep, or no more trouble than most people report.

In that case, “waking to sleeping” won’t be on your list at all.

Sherlock your experience and reflect it as accurately as you can.

Making YOUR Lists

A fundamental rule for living: You can’t do a darned thing about changing your life until you capture and clarify what it is that you want to be different.

Likewise, you can’t begin to figure out how to work with your troubles with transitions until you make yourself aware of how and where you struggle.

Get out your notebook (or at least a sheet of paper). Your first step is to make a list of transitions that are particularly difficult for you.

•  Think about tasks or activities you tend to procrastinate.  Write ’em down!  

•  Now list the “quicksand” tasks – the ones that tend to make you run late because you lose track of the time, or because you simply hate to stop “in the middle.”

If you are like most of my clients, those items will remind you of tasks that always take more time than they “should.”  Write those down as you think of them, along with any other potential transition struggle that pops into your mind.

Name your brainchildren

It’s important to NAME your lists, so that your mind thinks of it as a single problem, rather than a huge collection of problems (which will overwhelm you every time you look at the list.)

I often choose to hyperbolize the way I refer to struggles and challenges, because it adds a humorous reframe that lightens my load.

So I call my list of difficult transitions, “My List of Dreadfuls.” 

The example list that follows includes a few Dreadfuls that used to be a problem for me, Dreadfuls that are almost always a problem for me still, and Dreadfuls that have shown up on client lists. Use this list to jumpstart your thinking, but do your best to come up with your own personal “Dreadfuls.”

Write down as many examples as you think of – about 25 to 30 would be great!  Make sure you have at least 12. (Remember, if you’re stuck, ask your loved ones, best friends and roomies.)

Troubling Transitions: Rounding up the Usual Suspects

Example List of Dreadfuls

  1.  Waking to sleeping
  2.  Sleeping to waking
  3.  Changing clothes
  4.  Packing!
  5.  Getting out of the house
  6.  Returning a phone call
  7.  Getting off the phone (concluding the conversation)
  8.  Re-grouping after a phone interruption
  9. Coloring my hair
 10. Putting away Christmas
— etc. —
— etc. —

In the next installment in the Transitions series, we are going to take a closer look at which part of the troubling transition needs the most help, but for right now you simply want to document the activities that are challenging for you.  Pay attention this week, and add anything you notice to your list.

Watch for TTTT Announcement: Keep an eye out for news of the upcoming beta vesion of a TeleClass where we’ll work through troublesome transitions in a group format: The Transition Tamer TeleClass,  Coaching Groups aren’t free, but they ARE a cost-effective way to get more coaching than you might be able to afford one-on-one – and the first time out fee is ALWAYS a good deal.

As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Transitions Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

Related articles right here on

The Transition Series
(links turn red on mouseover, ONLY when they’re ready to go)

Related articles on

Related Articles around the web
Take ’em as suggestions, not shoulds!

BY THE WAY: I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

2 Responses to Transitional Modes

  1. Susan Lasky says:

    Madelyn, as always you spotlight nuances that most people miss. It is a reminder for coaches to not make assumptions, even while helping clients to normalize the ADD experience.

    For me, falling asleep isn’t the problem; it is not wanting to GO to sleep – the ‘transitioning out of’ being awake (although, at the risk of sounding like I’m generalizing, I do think a high percentage of people with ADD feel that way, but then the question is why – there are many different reasons behind the drive to postpone sleep). Even if I’m tired, I’d rather lie in bed and watch TV or read than close my eyes and sleep. Seeing this as transitioning out of whatever activities claim my interest in the evening is a great perspective! Left to my own ‘druthers I’d continually stay up way past a ‘healthy’ (get sufficient sleep, follow a healthy schedule, get a reasonable start in the morning) bedtime. This is different than the person who wants to fall asleep but cannot. Those times when I do have difficulty actually falling asleep – the ‘transitioning into’ – a bit of playing Bubbles on my cell phone manages to solve that transition nicely!


    • Thanks for taking the time to post, Susan – and for the acknowledgment. **READERS – Susan is a cofounder of NY Metro CH.A.D.D. and an ADD coach herself – so this is HIGH praise coming from her!**

      My take on not *wanting* to go to bed (which I share with you, btw) is several-fold – a few listed below:
      1- Late-night distraction load is lower – so it is my time to think and relax without attentional demands
      2- Like Hallowell says, it takes us “twice as long for half as much” — so nite-time is my catch-up time – THEN I want some relax time
      3- Tons of theories on why, but ADDers do tend to have hours skewed to the dark-time (as do teens, btw), and many of us are more effective later vs. earlier in the day — who doesn’t prefer having things easier, and who wants to shut down THOSE hours?

      Thanks again for ringing in on this series.


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