5 Ways I’ve Adapted My ADHD to My Entrepreneurial Life
When I was in school I always thought that people with ADHD were best embodied by the SNL character, Hyper-Active Boy. They couldn’t sit still, they couldn’t focus, more or less they jittery Energizer Bunnies.
It took a few decades to learn that there are many forms of ADHD and I am lucky enough to have a flavor of it. For my, ADHD comes across as detachment. I can be “here” with you and “present,” however I’m neither. I can smile and nod, showing that I’m picking up the words rolling out of your mouth. Yet, I’m not listening. My mind is off cycling through some combination of:
- Thinking what to say next.
- Working out a problem from earlier that day.
- Wondering what I’m going to do later.
- Noticing what’s going on behind you.
Regardless, it is who I am and I’ve fully embraced my flavor of ADHD as a strength. Its’ part of what makes me unique.
That said, I’ve had to learn to adapt to our modern World. Truthfully, I’m still learning how to adapt but here are 5 things I’ve learned about adapting my ADHD to life as an Entrepreneur.
1. It’s easy to forget things I need to do.
What to do?
I’ve developed “mental crutches” to support my mind. When it comes to car keys, phones and such; I have designated places for these things and I rarely deviate from putting them in these locations. When it comes to tasks, I have endless lists. On a daily basis I’ve developed the habit to review my list at the beginning and end of each day. If something is truly urgent or important, I’ll set reminder notifications or drop those task in the calendar so I can assure they get done. I wouldn’t want the woodpecker outside my door to distract me from remembering what needed to get done.
2. I start things but rarely follow through to completion.
What to do?
I’ve learned that starting is half of doing something well (even if you never finish). When someone gives me a project or task they’re usually looking for something done well, typically that includes fully completing it. The same is true of my own projects. On the Kolbe test I’m what they call a “quick start,” that’s a nice way of saying the I quickly initiate and then drift off onto something else. To compensate for this one, when I loose energy or focus, I’ll stop. This is where I’ll set a reminder to re-start later, either that day or several days out. I’ll move onto a task that excites me more, making more incremental progress. Afterwards I might go for a walk, read an article or mediate before returning to what I was working previously.
I love this about myself because during the liminal space between the tasks, I gain new insights and perspectives that make for a better end results.
Interesting fact, did you know DaVinci took 16 years to paint the Mona Lisa? Yeah, I’m in good company here.
3. I’m losing interest fast
What to do?
I’ve learned to recognize this as a thought pattern and to push through it. I don’t indulge it by trying other things at the moment, instead I lean into it. When an idea pops in my head, I’ll try and do a quick assessment of its value along with any macro/micro benefits associated with the idea. In other words how much will this idea further or hinder me from meeting my goals? Better yet, is there a deep curiosity around the topic?
I’m not sure if this is ADHD related or just being human but these pointless tasks can sap my mental energy which slows down momentum for everything else. To compensate for this I have several small to-do’s that support achieving my larger goal(s). For example: If one of the larger goals is to make a major life change, I’ll list all the smaller tasks that align with that such as: (1) write a blog about my life change; (2) reach out to colleagues and ask for their support; (3) research how others have successfully made similar changes. These tasks will take me between 10 minutes and 2 hours to achieve, giving me immediate and small wins along the way. Then when it comes time to make the big move or shift in behavior, momentum is less likely to be an issue.
4. My brain tends to wander off on tangents
What to do?
This one has been tough for me but I know it’s something that can be improved upon by practicing mindfulness. I don’t have to be mindful all the time but once in a while when I notice my brain is drifting off, I’ll say to myself “Look at that, you are wandering off. Hmmm.”
For example if I’m reading an article on my phone, before closing it out and moving onto something else, I’ll just take four deep breaths. This is very effective because after getting some air into my lungs, the focus returns with less effort. If this doesn’t shut down a wandering thought pattern then I might consider taking a walk or meditating for 10 minutes.
I’ve read several books around mindfulness/meditation with most recently reading The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod . It’s loaded with awesome and I found it life changing. After the first couple exercises, I felt like my head was just clearing out and I had more clarity in everything that followed.
5. Distraction/interruption is a killer for me with ADHD
What to do?
This one is rather easy to adjust to, I simply had to turn of notifications, disable apps and cut out the “noise,” of life. Electronics can be toggled, but I’ve also eliminated physical distractions. Keeping a clean desk and clean house has really helped my ability to stay focused. Prior I would see a pile of papers and my mind would shift to thinking about the papers;
- “Is there a bill I have to pay?”
- “Did I forget to register my car?
- “Is there something in there that I need to put in a safe space?”
My mind can concoct an endless list of questions and anxieties about a damn stack of papers, so the best thing for me was to get rid of those papers along with anything else that zaps my attention.
If you’re interested in checking out Hal Elrod’s book, click here .
I hope these ideas are helpful! Just wanted to share some things that have worked for me even though by no means have I mastered all of these, but everyday I’m getting a little better.
Remember ADHD makes an “effective” leader different, not one of less value . If you have people with ADHD on your team, learn how to best communicate with them and work together! The world needs all flavors of leaders so let’s celebrate our differences instead of trying to fit everyone into the same mold . Cheers!