Friday, November 11, 2022

How to Take Charge of Your ADHD Voicemail Hell

Ever find yourself missing important messages because your voicemail box is filled with half a decade of unlistened to calls? There might be a solution for that.

Pressing the delete key on your backlog

Adult ADHD is almost like the Baskin Robbins of the mental health community. There are so many flavors of ADHD, you can be forgiven for questioning if they’re all from the same diagnosis. Some adults with ADHD daydream. Others are chronically late. Some run their mouths off with their feet in the way. Others never stop talking. Some forget why they went to the store. Others forget who they just called because something distracted them after they dialed. There are plenty of attributes that we all have in common, but I am constantly surprised by how diverse the ADHD community is. One size truly does not fit all.

I find that I have difficulty getting organized, I have chronic procrastination issues, I have trouble following through, and all because I have an intolerance for boredom. Those are fairly basic ADHD attributes, but where I notice them intersecting with uncomfortable intensity is with tasks like email, paper piles, bills, and voice mail.

In short, I have an aversion to drudgery. Most people do. The ADHD mind, however, seems Teflon coated to protect itself from boredom. The second boredom occurs, the ADHD mind is off crossing the English Channel, launching into space, or thinking about anything but what it is supposed to be.

I’ve noticed that Adults with ADHD have a tendency to create these types of backlogs at a higher frequency than others. They can become stumbling blocks that worsen over time because the ADHD mind recoils at boredom. Today I want to touch upon how that creates our own version of voice mail hell.

For all the creative energy I put into my voicemail greeting, I sure don’t put as much energy into listening to the messages people leave for me. Somehow, it slips my mind. People reach out to me, the years pass, glaciers move across the continent, and suddenly I notice I have voicemails all the way back to 1995. Most are just doctor offices letting me know about an upcoming appointment, but some are important messages with information I had inquired about. Other times, I found messages from my lovely daughters that were never listened to. I might be only slightly exaggerating, but overall it can get bad.

There are primarily four methods to manage voicemail:

  1. Shut off voicemail. I don’t recommend this one, but there is no law that says you need voicemail. The best mess is the one that doesn’t exist, right⸮
  2. Keep on top of your messages daily by deleting most of them. Build a habit of triaging your messages. I will chuck the dull reminder messages first, as well as the followup messages from school or the doctor’s office. Don’t be afraid to delete a message halfway through your first listen. Work fast and get the drudgery over with. Family messages I save if they’re personal and heartwarming. That leaves me with the messages that are time sensitive. I return those calls, then delete the voicemail when I’m done.
  3. Prune your messages a little bit every day. Sometimes life will get in the way of your efficiency. At those times, it is easy to fall behind your voicemail. I get sick a lot, so there are many occasions where I begin to feel buried by the backlog. To get back on top, I’ll set the goal to process five voicemail a day using the criteria above. It doesn’t take long, and very quickly I’ll find myself caught up. I also make it a point to prioritize current voicemail first.
  4. Declare Voicemail Bankruptcy. Sadly, I find this is a necessary step every few years. For example, coming out of COVID and six months of respiratory viruses, I found my voicemail backlog almost too much to process. Pruning old voicemail everyday was exhausting me and leaving me with no energy for the important calls. A year later, and I still hadn’t caught up. Frankly, if you’re still holding onto a message from three years ago, it’s likely not relevant anymore. Do what I did. Select them all and flush them down the binary toilet. Now I am able to stay on top of my voicemail and respond to current issues in a timely manner again.

If you are the type of person to create a voicemail backlog, then dutifully slog through it for an eternity, you might need permission to free yourself from your self-imposed shackles. Old voicemail is no longer relevant; time is precious; and unfinished projects have an emotional weight that can bind you in the past. Choose the most prudent solution above for your circumstances and make your voicemail useful again.