93: Less is More, with Kate Barrett

Less is More, with Kate Barrett | ADHD reWired

93: Less is More, with Kate Barrett

ADHD coach, CHADD Parent to Parent Trainer, and mother of three Kate Barrett joins the show to discuss her coaching goal of “peeling back the layers of crap” that people tend to tell themselves. Covering issues ranging from slimming down her schedule, the importance of self-care and play, handling boring tasks, and calendar management, Kate leaves a message of how one can write their own life stories.

About Kate Barrett:

  • A soon-to-be-certified coach and CHADD Parent to Parent trainer, Kate herself has ADHD.

  • At the 2015 CHADD Conference, Kate won an award for having one of the most innovative programs of the year.

  • Kate was a past member of an ADHD reWired Coaching and Accountability Group.

  • Peeling back “the layers of crap” is one of Kate’s goals with her ADHD work. Negative experiences, emotions, and stories those with ADHD tend to maintain can build up and end up impacting their daily lives. Shining some light on their existence and impact often clears the way for personal change.

  • Part of a family of five, Kate has three sons, all teenagers, two of which are diagnosed with ADHD. Her youngest son, the only one not diagnosed, is called ‘the smart one’ by his older siblings; her oldest is very emotionally aware and has a penchant for structure; the middle child is very much variable on a day-to-day basis and stimulated through movement.

  • For her middle child, Kate would provide a “manual” of sorts to his teachers ahead of time to make sure they knew what to expect and some suggestions on how to handle different situations.

Stories and Questions:

  • Many people with ADHD will tell themselves de-motivating stories, such as they not being smart or fast enough. Others will focus on what they think they “should” be capable of – scoring high grades, paying attention, etc.

  • Kate enjoys working with teenagers. She finds their energy and flexibility interesting – they’re already dealing with a lot challenges with hormones and school and are usually more open to hearing ideas outside of the norm.

  • Questions Kate will ask teenagers include whether they feel the negative qualities they’ve been repeating about themselves are really true, or just what others have said. She will also sometimes ask them to imagine themselves as if they were older looking back on their younger selves and to give their younger selves advice.

  • Looking back to her own youth, she would tell herself that she “need[s] to breathe”. She feels she was too heavily focused on working and acting to the point of stress and burnout.

  • Realizing how many people tell themselves stories that are “all crap” was one of Kate’s main reasons for coaching.

  • You can’t change the story if you’re not listening to it. Once you understand the storyline, you can author a new one or even throw the whole book out.

  • Everyone has their own story and it doesn’t have to conform to what others think it should look like. Making that story true to you is where the fun and understanding comes in.

Less is More:

  • One of the largest challenges with ADHD is that those with it tend to know what they need to do, but don’t take those actions. For Eric, this year has been very focused on the idea that “less is more”.

  • What Eric found is that the best strategies for boosting his and his clients’ productivity have had little to do with directly being productive.

  • In taking part in the ADHD reWired Coaching and Accountability Group this past summer, Kate realized that a number of tasks on her schedule were only there because she thought she thought they should be done in principle, but didn’t really like doing them. Upon stepping back, she realized there was no way she could reasonably complete all that work.

  • Forcing herself to slim down her to-do list, actually allowed Kate to be more productive than usual.

Self-Care and Play:

  • Accomplishing tasks that are personally fulfilling is important for maintaining oneself and caring for oneself.

  • Eric mentions how he has recently made more time for his music hobbies; he doesn’t want to regret not accomplishing these goals when he is older.

  • Kate started dancing classes at age 35 on a whim. Now, she’s on her third public performance. She used to tell herself she wasn’t really a dancer, but later found a tremendously diverse and accepting group that now makes her feel like a great one.

  • In the book Big Magic, Eric mentions how the author talks of starting ice-skating lessons at age forty and how she eventually overcame the thought that the lessons had to be done for a reason – she just wanted to do it.

  • The idea of play just for the sake of play is important.


  • Eric needs activities that are fun.

  • Because it seems as if most others outside of the ADHD realm are able to handle tasks considered boring, many with ADHD “carry around a big pile of ‘should'”.

  • Conducting the Adult Study Hall sessions in the ADHD reWired Coaching and Accountability Group has been great for Eric’s productivity toward boring tasks like filing.

  • During the lead-up to Thanksgiving and the holiday season, Kate set a timer, turned on some music, and set a job to clean off one place in her office. She broke it down into multiple sections to try to manage the workload.

  • Noting the variability in ADHD presentation, Eric says he has little trouble sitting in his chair at work for many hours on end, while others would have major trouble doing so and would need to walk around or run periodically.

  • Kate uses a chair with a built-in exercise ball. Eric remembers seeing a chair or stool at a past CHADD conference from Varier that had a curved bottom to encourage movement while seated.


  • Calling it a “marriage-saving strategy”, Kate makes use of a combined calendar set-up within her family.

  • Before, disagreements over scheduling and tasks had begun to lead to arguments, so Kate had her family combine their calendars into one single color-coded reference calendar.

  • Over time, because of her children’s schedules filling up, she adapted the system to include multiple calendars – one for each child.

  • Specifically, Kate uses Google Calendar. Once each family member had their email addresses attached to their own calendar, they are able to share their schedules between accounts and decide which items and what information is shared or editable.

ADHD reWired Coaching and Accountability Group:

  • With all of her children involved in travel sports teams, Kate knew this past summer would be hectic.

  • Kate calls herself a “time optimist”, saying that she frequently will delay and procrastinate on certain tasks with the idea that she would have plenty of time in the future.

  • Also identifying herself as a chronic volunteer, Kate says she will frequently say yes to lots of interesting tasks and jobs, but that frequently ends her up in trouble.

  • Through the ADHD reWired Coaching and Accountability Group, Kate learned how to say “no” – after analyzing her schedule, she found it almost therapeutic to delete items off her to-do list after deeming them unimportant.

  • Having to publically state her goals for the week both helped to hold her accountable and allowed her to streamline her schedule down to realistic limits.

Products, Services, and Other Links:

Find and Contact Kate Barrett:

Other information:

  • If you like Eric’s idea of live streaming shows on the service Blab, Tweet at @erictivers and use the hashtag #blabrewired. You can also contact him via or email [email protected].

  • If you are interested in reserving a spot in the ADHD reWired Coaching and Accountability Group group, visit

  • Eric is collecting videos describing people’s experiences with CHADD. If you are currently involved with CHADD, record a video however you wish (horizontally, please!) of you describing your relationship to ADHD and what CHADD does for you. Send it to Eric via Facebook, Twitter, or email here: [email protected].

  • Help CHADD, an ADHD organization dedicated to improving the lives of those with ADHD through useful research and support, by donating to their fundraising campaign here:

  • Visit for Carolyn D’Argenio’s list of her top audio-book picks, complete with preview links.

  • If you want you hear your question or comment on a future episode, go to and look for the comment form, or click on the yellow button for either “Be a Guest” or “Record your question”.

  • Are you looking for a coach? You can schedule a free 20-minute consultation with Eric. Go to and click the blue “Schedule an Appointment” button


  • Northern Illinois chapter of CHADD

    • Third Monday of every month at 6:45 PM

    • Grayslake, Illinois

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