Top Smart ADHD Traits Part 2

By Ian Anderson Gray

Smart ADHD Podcast

Episode 8

Duration: 18 minutes 18 seconds

Episode Theme: Content

Full Transcript

May 23, 2024

Top ADHD Traits Part 2-1-Blog

Have you ever wondered how to manage ADHD traits effectively in your daily life?

Are you struggling with chronic procrastination or impulsivity?

Do you want to uncover strategies to deal with sensory sensitivities?

This episode of the Smart ADHD Podcast is part 2 of the Top Smart ADHD traits. I dive deep into more common ADHD traits, sharing some personal experiences and insights to help you better understand and manage them.

In this episode:

  • [0:00] Welcome to the Smart ADHD Podcast
  • [1:05] Exploring Top Smart ADHD Traits: Part Two
  • [1:47] Behavioural Traits of ADHD
  • [1:47] Poor Memory & Forgetfulness
  • [3:23] Chronic Procrastination: A Deep Dive
  • [5:48] The Challenge of Getting Started and Stopping
  • [8:33] Impulsivity and Its Impacts
  • [10:01] Navigating Addictive Behaviours and Substance Abuse
  • [12:08] Understanding Restlessness in ADHD
  • [13:31] Sensory and Perceptual Traits in ADHD
  • [17:48] Wrapping Up and What’s Next

So, we continue the exploration of common ADHD traits where I left off in the previous episode. Having been diagnosed with ADHD at age 46, I share my journey and the valuable insights I’ve gained from speaking with various experts. Together, we delve into the nuances of poor memory, chronic procrastination, impulsivity, and sensory sensitivities. My goal is to help you understand these traits better and feel less isolated in your experiences.

Forgetfulness and Poor Memory

Forgetfulness and poor working memory are common traits of ADHD that affect daily life. As discussed in a recent episode with Tamara, our working memory can feel like an Etch-a-Sketch. It has limited space to hold information and loses it easily. This is similar to the RAM in a computer. Even if a computer has a lot of RAM, it can still feel like an old computer, like a ZX Spectrum with just 48k memory. This limited working memory makes it hard to keep and recall information.

This issue affects executive functions, which are essential for organising, planning, and remembering information. People with ADHD often struggle to retain details in the short term, making it hard to remember past events or important facts. To cope, many of us write things down to avoid forgetting them. It’s interesting how we can remember fun or random things, like poems or songs, but forget important information. This shows the unpredictable nature of ADHD-related memory issues.

Overall, this inconsistency in memory is a common struggle for those with ADHD. While fun memories may stick easily, remembering vital information requires more effort. By recognising these memory challenges, we can develop better strategies to manage daily tasks, improving productivity and reducing frustration.

Understanding Chronic Procrastination

Chronic procrastination is a big issue for many of us with ADHD. It’s not just ordinary procrastination that everyone experiences. With chronic procrastination, we struggle even with tasks we know are important. For example, this week, I had to prepare slides and practise a talk for an event. I kept putting it off, and it took a lot of effort to get it done finally.

This problem often stems from difficulties with executive functions like planning, prioritising, and managing time. People with ADHD might delay starting tasks because they feel overwhelmed, unsure of how to begin, or lack immediate motivation. It’s common only to start these tasks when the pressure of a deadline kicks in. This delay happens especially with “yellow zone” tasks, which are low stimulation and not fun. These tasks eventually turn into “red zone” tasks, which are high-stimulation and not fun, triggering a sense of urgency and stress.

Chronic procrastination can fuel guilt and self-loathing. We might compare ourselves to others and think we’re just lazy. However, in reality, chronic procrastination is a major issue for those with ADHD. Recognising this can help us develop strategies to manage tasks better and reduce the guilt associated with delays.

Difficulty Getting Started

Difficulty getting started on tasks is another common challenge for those of us with ADHD. This struggle, known as activation, is linked to problems with executive function. It can be especially hard to start tasks that seem boring or complex. ADHD often comes with a need for more stimulating, rewarding activities, which makes it easier to procrastinate on the less appealing tasks.

We might do smaller, more enjoyable tasks instead of tackling a big, effort-intensive task. I often find myself toggling between a boring task and something more interesting. I might work on the big task for a few minutes, then switch to something fun, and go back and forth. This difficulty in getting started might be partly due to a lack of dopamine, which makes it hard to feel motivated. Time blindness also plays a role; we might overestimate how long a task will take and feel overwhelmed, so we avoid starting it altogether.

Once we do get started, stopping can become a new problem. Many of us experience hyperfocus, where we become so absorbed in an activity that we struggle to stop. This is particularly true for tasks that are enjoyable or stimulating. While hyperfocus can be productive, it can also make it hard to switch to other tasks, creating a new set of challenges.

Difficulty Switching Tasks

Switching or transitioning between tasks is another major challenge for those of us with ADHD. This difficulty stems from problems with executive function, making task switching particularly tough. When I’m focused on something and someone interrupts, like my dad asking for help, I find it really painful to shift my attention. The disruption feels jarring, and I worry that if I stop, I’ll struggle to get back into the original task.

I’ve had to work hard to improve my ability to switch tasks. The fear of losing focus makes it hard to transition between activities. This difficulty isn’t just frustrating and can lead to delays and inefficiency. It’s a common struggle for many with ADHD, and finding strategies to manage these transitions is essential for improving productivity and reducing stress.

Dealing with Impulsivity

Impulsivity is a significant trait of ADHD, linked to an underactive prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain affects our ability to think ahead and evaluate the consequences of our actions, leading to hasty decisions and actions without thorough consideration. Often, this manifests as a desire for immediate gratification. We might see something we want to buy and act on impulse, seeking the thrill of instant reward. While impulsivity can sometimes be beneficial, such as when we trust our gut instincts and make quick, effective decisions, it can also lead to problems if not kept in check.

For example, I’ve experienced moments where I saw a phone or piece of tech I wanted and bought it impulsively, despite knowing it wasn’t the best decision financially. My high level of anxiety often helps keep my impulsivity in check, but not everyone has this natural barrier. Without it, impulsivity can lead to poor choices and potential regrets. While impulsivity can have advantages, managing it carefully to avoid negative outcomes is crucial. Moderation is key, and being mindful of our impulses can help us make more balanced decisions.

Addictive Behaviours & Substance Abuse

Addictive behaviour and substance abuse can be particularly challenging for individuals with ADHD, often stemming from underlying issues with impulsivity and dopamine regulation. This topic, admittedly a darker subject, ties back to our brain’s need for dopamine—a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in our feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. People with ADHD may have irregular dopamine levels, leading them to seek out behaviours or substances that temporarily increase dopamine in the brain. This quest for a dopamine boost can manifest in various ways, from alcohol and drugs to less obvious addictions like sex, pornography, or even excessive shopping.

Often, without a diagnosis or proper treatment for ADHD, individuals might unknowingly self-medicate through these addictive behaviours. The pursuit of activities that spike dopamine can be incredibly alluring, as they provide a temporary high or relief, making them harder to resist. However, this initial rush is fleeting, and the aftermath often brings feelings of guilt and despair, contributing to a destructive cycle of addiction. The importance of understanding and addressing these behaviours is critical, which is why expert discussions on this topic are essential for shedding light on the complexities of ADHD and addiction.


Restlessness is a common symptom of ADHD, often manifesting as a constant feeling of being “wired” or unable to relax. This restlessness can show up physically, such as moving your legs, fidgeting, or rubbing your hands. It’s a sign of internal hyperactivity, which is a core feature of ADHD. While some people with ADHD are outwardly hyperactive, others, like myself, experience this hyperactivity internally. When I first suspected I had ADHD, I thought I was the inattentive type since I wasn’t physically hyperactive as an adult, though I was as a child.

For many with ADHD, sitting still can be a real challenge. Some, like my wife, exhibit more physical restlessness, unable to stay still for long periods. This restlessness can make it difficult to sit through meetings or remain in one place without feeling uncomfortable. Although I don’t have much

trouble sitting still, I do feel the need to move and be active. For instance, I need to go for a walk or get some exercise to prevent feelings of anxiety and frustration. This need to move is a way to manage the internal hyperactivity that comes with ADHD.

Sensory Sensitivities

Sensitivity to noise and overstimulation is a fascinating and often overlooked trait of ADHD. Many people, including myself, didn’t realise these sensory issues were related to ADHD until recently. Children with ADHD often find it hard to filter out background noise, leading to easy overstimulation. This difficulty persists into adulthood for many of us. We crave stimulation but struggle to focus when too much is happening around us. For instance, at a recent event in London, I found it almost impossible to have conversations due to the loud DJ music. Despite my best efforts to listen, I had to repeatedly retreat to the bathroom for a few minutes of quiet before rejoining the crowd, eventually becoming too overwhelmed to stay.

This struggle is common among those with ADHD, who often have sensory processing sensitivities. These sensitivities can make us more susceptible to being overwhelmed by loud noises or visually cluttered environments. I find it hard to concentrate in noisy settings like a coffee shop. Tools like noise-cancelling headphones or apps that play soothing sounds can help manage these sensory inputs. Visual clutter also affects me; a messy environment, like my office, can increase stress levels, though keeping it tidy is another challenge.

Our nervous systems are less effective at regulating sensory inputs, leading to sensory overload. This can feel almost like a physical assault, making it necessary to retreat to a quiet, dark room to rest. This heightened sensitivity is linked to the sympathetic nervous system, which, if overstimulated for too long, can lead to anxiety, irritability, and even burnout. Filtering out background noise from conversations is particularly tough, especially in noisy environments like parties or professional settings. The challenge lies in prioritising auditory information, making it hard to focus on a single conversation amidst the surrounding chaos.

So, what’s next?

What’s your biggest challenge with managing ADHD traits? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast for more valuable insights!

Watch Episode 8


[0:00] Ian: Hello, I'm Ian Anderson Gray, and this is the smart ADHD podcast.

[0:00] Now, if you're a smart, creative entrepreneur or business owner navigating your life with ADHD, This is the podcast for you. Now, I'm no ADHD expert, but I'm eager to share my story on what I've learned by talking with experts and digging into the personal ADHD stories of successful creatives and entrepreneurs.

[0:00] I was diagnosed at age 46, and it answered so many questions in my life. But of course, that was, in many ways, only the start of my journey. So let's learn together—smart stories, smart strategies, smart ADHD.

Ian Anderson Gray

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