Category Archives: ADD

ADHD at Work: Hunter or Farmer…What are You?

Adventure. Risk. Creativity. Novelty. Intensity.

I am a hunter – at least, I am according to Thom Hartmann. In his 1994 book, How to Succeed as a Hunter in a Farmer’s World, Hartmann created the perfect metaphor for those with ADHD. Those of us with ADHD come from the tribe of hunters; the rest of the world is dominated by farmers.

Farmers are in full control of their executive faculties. They are comfortable with systems, routines and organization. They make sure schedules are maintained; they’re experts in logistics; they crave surety and security – they don’t like unnecessary deviation. When they take a risk, it is calculated, with every pro and con weighed, analyzed and thoroughly vetted. Farmers run the world – the world doesn’t run without them. Roughly 90% of the people roaming the earth are Farmers.

The hunter is driven to explore, with highly evolved instincts – especially as he or she moves stealthily through a jungle filled with traps, snares and challenge. That’s an environment  in which the hunter thrives and feels most alive.

Those with ADHD possess these traits. With a need to experience frequent hits of dopamine, hunters have a constant need to experience novelty. They do this by taking risks that are fueled by intense curiosity, the desire to create, the need to tread into the unknown. Uncertainty isn’t something to be feared, but to be savored.

Unfortunately, as mankind evolves in this technology and data driven world, there is less and less need of the hunter. This is a farmer’s world.

Think about it – there are very few professions in which the hunter’s skills are needed. Take a look at any job board – business values stability, predictability, management. A guy sitting at a desk fidgeting with algorithms will pull down six-figures while a woman out cold calling prospects will be phased out in favor of automated sales funnels. The job fields are awash in the need for data shepherds, spreadsheet wranglers, system architects.  Farmers.

However…

Hartmann’s book, along with research that has been done since its publishing in 1994, has identified an area of business life that tends to be dominated by hunters: the world of entrepreneurship. A preponderance of entrepreneurs possess ADHD. In fact, one such entrepreneur – Jeff Neeleman, CEO for JetBlue – says that ADHD is an indispensible factor in his success.

This backs up what Syracuse University researcher, Johan Wiklund, has discovered as he delves into the connection between ADHD and entrepreneurship.

“Those with ADHD tend to spur themselves into action regardless of uncertainty,” Wiklund told Jonah Sachs in a story he wrote for Fast Company (June 29, 2017). “An impulsive inability to wait comes with a willingness to take risk. The ADHD entrepreneurs I studied struggle. But if they had a chance to be like everyone else, none of them would take it.”

He makes the point that quite often the attributes that make people comfortable with being an entrepreneur, are the exact reasons why they are edged out of traditional positions or roles within an existing organization. These attributes make them far more competent in striking out on their own.

I can relate.  In the last job I had my supervisor often labeled me a “cowboy”. I liked to go against the mold, break out of the routine. She wanted a more systematic, predictable mode of operating. I don’t blame her. That’s what managers want most – predictability.

So, wanting very much to keep my job, I reigned in experimentation and risk-taking. What happened is we traded big wins for smaller, more consistent wins. I would argue that those smaller, more consistent wins were opened up because we had some big wins first. Either way, while the smaller, more consistent wins were more palatable, the systems bored me. Systems are for farmers.

I am a hunter.

Perhaps the saddest thing I see in business today are the number of people who have a proclivity for traipsing through the forest with a spear in their hand, trying to fit in by trading the sword for a plowshare, the spear for a hoe. Hunters have the blood of thoroughbreds, built to race, to feel the wind in their faces. Now, because they live in a farmer’s world, they’ve hitched themselves to plows, tilling a field methodically.

As a manager – someone charged with producing results, utilizing all your assets to meet or exceed goals and expectations – why would you ever strap a harness and plow to a thoroughbred?

The problem is that most managers today are farmers who either don’t know what do with, or how to value what a hunter brings to the team. How will you use a hunter’s innate need to roam free when you expect a certain amount of discipline from your other team members?

First, understand what your people bring to the table. Is there an entrepreneurial role within your universe? Do you need someone who is willing to take risks, possibly fail? Will you give them the freedom to risk and fail?

Second, one way to get the most out of a team member with ADHD is to pair them with a farmer who is tolerant of the hunter’s idiosyncratic ways.  To a certain extent your farmer will manage the hunter’s results, track progress, complete the paperwork and make stuff is filed properly.  This can work.

So, is there a need for hunters in a farmers’ world?

Absolutely. In fact, while our culture honors and rewards farming activity on a day-to-day basis, it is the hunter who moves the culture forward. There are effective hunters in every industry, every walk of life, who contribute mightily. The key is to allow hunters to be hunters. Invest in them. Tolerate a degree of uncertainty, value novelty and exploration. You don’t have to give up your systems. To the contrary, simply because of demographics, if you have a workforce of 100 people, only 4-6 will be true hunters.

Some researchers have called ADHD the “entrepreneurial gene”, a sort of missing link. So, what happens when you have someone with ADHD as a manager? The key is support. That manager must have people around her who can manage the details. This allows her to employ her best skills – maybe as a dreamer, an inventor, a visionary, someone who inspires others to greatness. Just make sure someone is there to keep her calendar and remind her of appointments.

If you have ADHD and you have battled fitting into a farmers world without much success…break free and claim your place among the hunters!

That’s easier said than done, I know. But, it’s worth exploring. You’ll be happier. You’ll contribute more in every way. And, you’ll be more in alignment with your true path.

You are a hunter. Pick up your spear!

How to Lead Employees with ADHD to Success

ADHD in the workplace is a big deal. According to a report done by the World Health Organization in 2006, approximately 8 million adults have ADHD (4-6% of the adult population). These 8 million individuals are 18-times more likely to be disciplined for a behavioral issue, on average have 22 days of lost productivity each year (to the tune of up to a cost of $266 billion to the U.S. economy) , and are 60% more likely to lose their job. What’s more, of this population, 85-90% don’t know they have ADHD!

Yikes! What is a manager to do? Unless someone self-identifies, how do you know if someone is wrangling with ADHD? What can you do to help those people succeed?

A pile of papers and unfinished tasks

So, what does ADHD look like in the workplace? Frankly, it can manifest differently for everyone – they’re not all going to look like Dennis the Menace. And it may present differently in women than in men (girls are far less likely to be diagnosed in childhood because more often than not females have inattentive ADHD). If you’ve looked into ADHD at all, you know there is a laundry list of symptoms. To make things simple, here are the five most common manifestations that sap productivity.

Disorganization/Details. Have an employee with stacks of papers and files on their desk? Maybe they’re apt to lose or misplace things? Paperwork is sloppy and incomplete? Those with ADHD are notoriously disorganized, especially those who haven’t been diagnosed.

Distraction/Inattention/Boredom. Do you catch your employee daydreaming? Giving half-hearted effort on certain tasks? These will be common outcomes if someone with ADHD is assigned work duties that tend to be monotonous and highly systematized. ADHD is fed by novelty and deep interest.

Procrastination/Time Management. Is your employee constantly showing up late for work? Missing deadlines or scrambling to get things done consistently? An ADHD coach once said that it takes someone with ADHD twice as long to get things done versus a “normie”. Strange as it might sound, this rule is true almost 100% of the time. Time management is definitely an issue.

Managing Complex/Long-Term Projects. There are a lot of details to manage and keep straight within a long-term project. There is plenty of opportunity to combine disorganization, procrastination, and forgetfulness. Not a good recipe.

Impulsivity/Emotionalism. Impulsivity is a key characteristic of ADHD that is fueled by emotion. Generally, people with ADHD are prone to unedited outbursts, become frustrated easily, and otherwise speaking bluntly in a way that can create division and hurt feelings.

Certainly an employee can display one of these behaviors and not have ADHD – but, most ADHDers will display a combination of these (and others). While it is not your job to diagnose, being aware of how ADHD presents and connecting the dots can help you turn a person who is an unproductive liability into a star performer.

What can you do? Be aware and strategic!

So, here’s the truth – an employee with ADHD will challenge you. If you want your employee to succeed you’ll need to get out of your comfort zone. If you make that decision, you’ll be glad you did. While a person with ADHD presents many difficulties, they also are capable of amazing accomplishment.

Studies have shown that people with ADHD tend to be highly intelligent and highly creative (White and Shah, University of Memphis). With business titans  like Sir Richard Branson, Ingvar Kamprad (Ikea founder), and David Neeleman (Jet Blue founder) all having ADHD or Dyslexia (related to ADHD), researchers are studying the linkages between ADHD and entrepreneurship. For good measure, throw in journalist Lisa Ling, and entertainers like Justin Timberlake and Adam Levine, you can see that ADHD doesn’t have to be a detriment – but can be an essential ingredient to success.

Imagine, the same trait that would make someone a really lousy administrative assistant, is also the same trait that could make them a billionaire creator of businesses. Isn’t that something you, as a manager, would want to harness? You’d be negligent if you didn’t!

So, if you can identify (through your observations or the employee self-identification) an employee with ADHD, here are some ways you can help them be all they can be (and produce great results for you).

Align their duties with their strengths and interests.  What you don’t want is an employee with ADHD super-powers to become bored. ADHDers thrive on novelty – and will be relentless in pursuing to the nth degree the details of subjects for which they have passion.

 

Working together, set realistic, attainable goals with clear expectations. The more specific the goal, the better. Tangibility is important – and concrete goals your employee can “see” will create a better results. Set a few boundaries – expectations that you both can agree upon. This gives you leverage if you need to modify their behavior

Keep their To-Do list short. The best strategy to undertake to help an ADHDer stay on target is to break their goal-path into smaller objectives. Not doing so could become overwhelming. Keep the To-Do list to no more than 3-4 items. Also, ADHDers will get distracted by shiny objects. Keeping the list short reduces the chances of being distracted and running down rabbit trails to nowhere.

Pair them with a non-ADHDer who is highly organized. Free the ADHDer from as much administrative detail as possible. Quite often teaming them with someone who is a linear thinker and doer will yield great results. You’ll receive the benefit of more creative, innovative output – and have someone who’ll keep your speeding bullet moving straight ahead (and have the paperwork done correctly)!

Do not micro-manage! If the employee feels your leash, they’ll lay down. ADHDers value freedom and, to a certain degree, autonomy (keep in mind that many ADHDers are resistant to authority – so, be their partner not the “boss”). If you get too much into their details you’ll stifle productivity. If you’ve paired them with the right person you won’t need to go micro.

Check in weekly. So, you are the boss. Have weekly team meetings to monitor progress, discuss challenges, give insights, etc. This creates accountability and provides necessary direction.

Celebrate success. Think about this: throughout their lives, a person with ADHD typically did not get great grades, may have faced disciplinary issues growing up, was labeled as being lazy and/or stupid. Typically their self-esteem will be lower than others (even those who are far less talented than themselves). Celebrating their success in small and large ways is like providing sunshine to a flower – they’ll bloom brighter the more they receive.

Yep, it’s a little more work. And worth it. Think about this – if you have a team of 10 people, 1 or 2 of them will have ADHD. If you don’t invest in them, chances are they may disrupt the rest of your team. But, if you take the time to set them up for success, you’ll make the entire team successful.

That’s a big deal.

Five Reasons to Invest in a Team Member with ADHD

The speed of business today is remarkable. Think about it – just 20 years ago we were still figuring out email and dial-up internet connections; and just 10 years before that we were using typewriters and carbon paper. Back then we were joyriding on Kitty Hawk; today, we’re straddling rockets.  Many who navigate the fast lane have said they’ve had to develop ADHD just to keep up, much less thrive.

Hmm. Because of this Indy 500 business environment, hiring and/or investing in an individual with ADHD can be an incredibly smart strategic decision…so long as they are put into a position to succeed.

 

 

So, what does an ADDer bring to the conference table? Here are five attributes that give them an edge:

Passion & Energy. Individuals with ADHD bring an intense passion for subjects in which they have an interest.  This passion creates a flow of super-charged energy that will breathe life into projects, initiatives and campaigns.

Novelty Seeking. Look, someone with ADHD gets bored quickly. However, if they have interest in the subject, they will turn things upside down and sideways to find nuance and novelty. They’ll reverse engineer, forward predict, and tear apart stuff until they are experts.

Hyper-Focus. A hallmark of someone with ADHD is their ability to hyper-focus. This means they will pin-point their attention to the subject at-hand to the exclusion of everything else.  This is a state of mind that is very similar to “being in the zone” – a business version of Steph Curry raining 3-point shots from anywhere on the court.

Diverse Connections and Solutions in Solving Problems. When diving into their subject, the ADHD mind will make connections that may not be readily apparent – stuff others can’t see. At the time it may not make much sense, but will typically lead to unique, often ground-breaking solutions.

Creativity. Studies have shown that those with ADHD are highly creative – often more creative than “normies”. They become an unstoppable force when creativity is combined with the other attributes listed here.

Academicians and business gurus are beginning to identify ADHD as the “entrepreneur gene”. Those with ADHD are great creators, visionaries and risk-takers. They give birth to pioneering ideas that can literally change the business and cultural landscape. Sir Richard Branson, Einstein, and David Neeleman are great examples.

You can’t ask, so, how do you know if someone has ADHD? True ADHD is a neuro-medical condition in which brain chemistry affects a person’s executive functions – so, you can’t ask if someone has the condition. Check out these symptoms – ways ADHD shows up. Do you have employees that fit this profile? You may have folk that will self-identify (again, you can’t ask!). So, experiment.

A note of caution – while there may be exceptions (there always are), don’t expect an ADHDer to actually manage or administer a program or initiative once the project is complete. Pair them with someone whose mind is focused on detail and organization. Administrative stuff may just bring about boredom once the novelty has worn away. Be aware of this – hand off administration to someone else, and encourage your ADHDer to simply be themselves. And then get out of the way.

After all, you’ve just  equipped someone to ride a rocket!

Is Neurofeedback an Effective Intervention for ADHD?

Is neurofeedback an effective non-pharmacological treatment for ADHD? According to Dr. Russell Barkley it doesn’t measure-up.

“Neurofeedback does not have convincing evidence of effectiveness for treating ADHD when appropriate and rigorous scientific methods are used.” He wrote this as a means of reflecting a comprehensive review and meta-analysis of research that had been published in The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Research.

The results reported on 13 trials. The evidence from well-controlled trials with “probably blinded outcomes currently fails to support neurofeedback as an effective treatment for ADHD.”

Huh…well, that’s interesting.

While I am a proponent of rigorous scientific inquiry, I’m also a firm believer in personal experience. And my experience is different from the results presented in this article.

Six years ago I was desperate. Two years earlier I had been diagnosed with ADHD.  I started out taking meds, but I didn’t like the side-effects. All things being equal I kind of wanted to go natural. I did supplements, inconsistent exercise and a lot of hoping. Of course that didn’t work.

And then, two years later, at the behest of my wide, I tried neurofeedback. At first I didn’t have much hope. I stuck with it and, after about six months of treatment, there was actually a difference that I could see, feel and experience.

My Doc, Erik Olesen, explained that neurofeedback was an effective treatment for repairing the flow of neurotransmitters, especially for people that had experienced brain trauma of some type. I came to understand that brain trauma could either cause ADHD-like symptoms, or could exacerbate existing symptoms of ADHD.

I had suffered a traumatic brain injury during my freshman year in college while playing baseball. While pitching in one of the final games of the year I took a line drive going 120 mph off my temple. I took the full force, broke the zygomatic arch, and spent a week in the hospital. They had to wait four days for the swelling to go down before they could repair my broken bone.

Prior to that I had experienced a number of “mini traumas” while playing high school football and from taking the back-swing from a baseball bat to the side of my head when I was in elementary school.

With each blow my brain would take a mild shock and careen into the side of my skull. The line drive to my temple was more like a sledgehammer that forced my gray matter to curl into a Mavericks sized wave that came crashing.

According to Erik the neurofeedback treatment could likely repair the damage these events had had on my brain.

Connecting nodes to my forehead and temples, he would lead me through a series of exercises. I could actually watch my brain waves working on the screen of a specialized PC – and after a few months I could see the improvement.

More to the point, I experienced subtle differences in my behavior. My concentration and focus improved. My emotions were more in check. I was feeling less depressed. I was happier.

Now, was the neurofeedback reducing the effects of the brain trauma, which in turn was lessening the negative impact of ADHD? Was it repairing my ADHD directly? Frankly, I didn’t care.

If brain trauma had exacerbated the effects of ADHD and neurofeedback was reducing this effect, then, in my book, the process was an effective treatment of ADHD.

Had I never had a brain trauma, would the treatment be as effective? I’ll never know. I just know that for my situation it was effective – at least I could experience an improvement overall.

Isn’t that what really matters? My belief is that I was born with different wiring in my head, and only God can actually “cure” ADHD. All any treatment can do is help to minimize the effects of ADHD.

Can neurofeedack help you or a loved one that has ADHD? Maybe it will. I think it depends on the context of your situation. Is it worth a try? I think so – but I’m not a doctor. I can only go on my experience.

The Daily Choice

It took a long time for me to admit that I actually had ADHD. This is pretty common for most whom have been diagnosed as an adult. It’s a thing kids have, right?

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On one hand, when I learned and understood what the symptoms were a feeling of peace actually came over me. This explained everything! I’m not a nut-job!

I came to understand, but I didn’t really accept. There is a difference, and it is profound.

For a while I used it as an excuse to explain my abnormal behaviors.

“Jim, you forgot to pick up your daughter from school!”

Hand slapping forehead: “Damn that ADD!”

You can probably guess how far that route took me. Every other day some event would happen and I would spiral. It’s no fun for anyone involved.

After a particularly brutal spiral I made a decision to learn everything I could about ADHD. I read books, blogs and dissertations. I talked  to people who had dealt with it for many years, some who’d known about it for a short time, and several who said, “Oh yeah! I have ADD, too!” But weren’t doing anything about it.

I re-read a classic book on the condition and a couple of truths hit me between the eyes, like a horse kicking some sense into me.

First, ADHD is a disorder. It is a bonafide medical condition, neurobiopsychosocial disorder. And it wasn’t going away just because I wished it would do so.

Second, short of divine intervention, my disorder wasn’t going to be cured. Unlike a broken leg, which would mend with proper treatment, my disorder was permanent. Maybe it could improve over time, but it wouldn’t be cured. I was born this way.

Third, because I was born different, there were two very different actions I needed to take that I had not yet done: I needed to mourn the fact that I wasn’t born with normal brain function. There were certain executive functions that I would always find hard to do. I would struggle with organization, focus, distractability, and other behaviors.

In grieving, I would also do the other necessary step: I would accept and embrace my condition. I was born this way. Because this was so, I chose to believe that I was born this way for a reason.

While I would most definitely struggle with certain things, I would also excel in different areas, too. Being very creative, I think quickly about problems and solutions, often seeing downstream much farther than my “normie” friends and colleagues. I am visionary in certain ways. I can easily grasp the big picture. As a creative type, I routinely put hyper-focus to good use, especially when I write.

The other concept I came to accept was more difficult, because it requires discipline and constant awareness.

As one born with a disorder, I must make a daily choice to accept and manage its effects to the best of my ability. Does this mean I’ll be perfect in managing the nuances of this disorder? Hardly. It just means that I will do whatever is necessary to keep it in check as best as I can.

The fact is, as much as I might attempt to be perfect, it’ll never happen. No one – not even the most organized normies, are perfect. At best I can minimize my weaknesses and accentuate my strengths.  That’s all anyone can do – it’s all you can do.

So…accept. Make a choice today to do all you can. When you have moments where things don’t work out, have grace with yourself.

Relationships are Hard Enough

Relationships are hard. When you or your partner has ADHD, it gets even more difficult. Just as a check-in, does this sound familiar:

“So, did you go to the store and get what I asked you to pick up?”

“Of course. Here.” I hand her the OTC medicine she had told me to pick up. She examines it. Then, with a granite-hard face, looks up at me.

“This isn’t what I asked you to get.”

“Yes it is.”

“No. I wanted ointment, not cream. You got cream. I texted you specifically what I wanted.”

“Really? There’s a difference?”

“If I had wanted cream, I would have asked for cream. How can I be more explicit? What do I have to do to make this more clear to you? And, did you get the rice, broccoli and chicken?”

“Uh oh,” I say in a small voice.

“Which one did you forget?”

“The rice.”

She looks down, shaking her head. “I texted the list to you. It’s right there in your phone. What more do I need to do? When you agree to get what I ask for, then don’t, it makes me feel like you’re not listening to me, that you don’t care.”

“That’s not it. Of course I care!”

“Well, what happened? It was only four items. You messed up two of them?”

“Do you think I did this on purpose? I’m sorry! I messed up. I’m really sorry.”

Shaking her head. “Sorry doesn’t matter if this keeps happening. You had a specific list!”

“I’m sorry. I was in a rush. Traffic was terrible. I forgot my phone in the car. I didn’t take it in with me. Regarding your medicine, I saw ointment and cream…I picked the wrong one.”

“So…if you’re not going to take your phone into the store, why should I bother texting you the list? What’s the point? Maybe I should just go to the store myself from now on. Even though it’s less convenient, at least I know we’ll get everything we need.”

Resigned sigh. “Maybe you should…”

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Been there? Done that? Has this happened to you? This is the part of ADHD that really sucks. No matter how diligent we are, there will be times when we’re off our game. The result is a two-fold negative. First, your loved one is disappointed, hurt, frustrated, angry, inconvenienced. It’s hard to be on the receiving end of an ADHD moment. For the one with ADHD, you might feel stupid, ashamed, guilty, hopeless. The more often it happens, the more depressed you might feel.

Really, it sucks.

And this type of scenario can happen at any time when we get off our program. Or when we’re in a rush, feeling overwhelmed. Or when we’re experiencing a lot of stress. There are pressure points and triggers.

One of the things you might often hear is: “Why don’t you manage this? This is completely avoidable if only you managed it better, right?”

On the surface, of course. But, much of ADHD isn’t on the surface. It’s nuanced and subtle at times. We might be managing the big stuff – remembering to take our meds, keeping a good calendar, eating right. But, there are times when we’re feeling the stress from being overwhelmed, or we’re just struggling to manage everything we need to manage.

To a “normie”, it seems incredibly inconsistent when one moment we’re highly focused, creating a masterpiece – and the next we can’t remember to pick up coffee on the way home from work. A “normal” person manages these little things (and quite often doesn’t have the skill or hyper-focus to create a masterpiece). So, while on one hand we’re doing miracles, on the other we can’t get simple tasks done – routine chores and requests that need to be done in order to maintain harmony.

ADHD is a neurological/biological medical disorder. We, and those whom we are with, often forget this. Unlike other disabilities, it isn’t readily apparent. I bring this up not to make an excuse, but to remind that a person with ADHD isn’t normal.

And it can create havoc in a relationship. Any kind of relationship. Whether with a spouse, family member, friend, employer, teacher or anyone else, ADHD “moments” have an effect. These moments build over time. While family members tend to have more tolerance (what choice do they have?) and learn to do work-arounds, friends, employers and others often do not have such high levels of tolerance.

A loved one will typically work hard to help and to create workable solutions. But even the most patient and loving spouse has a ceiling. The person with ADHD needs to have empathy, an understanding that living with their disorder isn’t easy for a “normie”. Communication is important, as is a sense of humor. The person with ADHD must also be open to hearing how their behavior affects others – and demonstrate humility rather than defensiveness. That’s hard.

In an employment situation there likely won’t be as much tolerance. Business values the types of behaviors that people with ADHD often find challenging. Organization, multi-tasking, meeting deadlines, being on-time, curtailing mistakes – these executive functions are valued in a business setting.

Do you have a job with a lot of moving parts which challenges you organizationally, leading to overwhelm, stress and brain fog? An employer may decide that you are not a good fit. They may be right.

Even if you are in a situation that seems to be a perfect fit, there will still be routines. If you don’t have a system for handling the dull stuff, you may just undermine your perfect situation.

Stress word

I know. It can be really frustrating. There will be times when, literally, you just want to sell everything and become a gypsy – leaving everything and everyone behind. You don’t want to hurt people anymore, and you don’t want to feel like a failure yet again.

While there will always be a logical, systemic way to manage your challenge areas, I’ve found that something else is needed, too.

A spiritual connection is also important. When stuff happens, especially when you’re going through a series of ADHD moments and you’re feeling hopeless, having an active prayer life or a connection to the divine is absolutely necessary to manage the emotional side of the disorder.

For me, and for many others I know, having daily conversations with God is especially helpful. Combined with the other good things we do to manage the disorder (meditation, nutrition, etc.), having a talk with God can be extremely liberating.

I’ve said the following more than once: “God, I’m having a tough time right now. It seems like my disorder is getting the best of me right now. I recognize that my behavior is affecting others negatively, and I’m not feeling very good about myself right now. God, I’ve made amends to the people I’ve affected, but I need your help to feel better about myself.

“God, I know it is not my fault that I was born with this disorder. But I am grateful that you have given us ways to manage it and make it better. I realize that I won’t be perfect in this, so I forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made and for letting down my guard during times of stress. I am thankful that there is a prescription I can follow to bring more sanity into my life and into the lives of those with whom I am around.

“I also recognize, God, that you have created me for a purpose. That, despite this disorder, you have blessed me with gifts that can be used to help others. And in helping others, in utilizing my gifts, I find my purpose in your perfect will. You have made me for a reason – and it is good. I am grateful for the purpose you have given to me, I will be gentle with myself, and I will open my heart to your love and experience your peace. Thank you, God.”

This prayer, or something like it, always centers me. It creates a perspective that actually takes me out of my self-centeredness and gets me focused on the things I do well, and what I can do to help others.

For me, it works. Perhaps having a connection like this will work for you, too. Just keep in mind that if you’re breathing, you have a purpose.

The Calendar is Your Best Friend

 

Josh W. is a fairly successful nonprofit executive with nearly 25 years experience in the industry. His resume includes a number of fairly public accomplishments along with successes that no one but his colleagues would know about.

For most of his career he operated without the knowledge that he had ADHD. So, while he experienced a number of accomplishments, he admits that it was a constant struggle. “Every day seemed like an exercise in survival. I was accomplishing things but still would come up short. It was hard to enjoy a success because I was always running behind on other projects.”

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Every Monday, Josh made a habit of creating a list of things he needed to get done for that week. The list was comprised of many new items, tasks with a deadline, and catch-up actions carried over from the previous week. Sometimes his list would have 15-20 items. “It would get way too long…and it didn’t even include stuff that would come up during the week!”

Recently Josh was confronted by his boss who told him that a key fundraising partner had grown so frustrated with him that he no longer wanted to work with Josh. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Josh, or recognized Josh’s talent, it was that Josh’s responses and follow-through were so inconsistent that he felt his own effectiveness was being compromised.

“I thought that this relationship was just fine,” Josh says. “In fact, I thought it was the best it had ever been, so I was shocked when I heard what was said about me.” At first he didn’t believe the feedback (denial…sound familiar?), but he went back and looked at his email record over the past year and discovered on several occasions where he missed small deadlines, or simply didn’t follow through on some tasks he said he would get done.

“Immediately I felt ashamed,” he said. People with ADHD, even high achievers, have lived a lifetime of suffering from low self-esteem. It is especially poignant when the behavior in question puts a job or relationship in jeopardy. “Obviously my failure to follow-through wasn’t intentional.  It was a result of not managing my ADHD. Because my to-do list, my system for getting things done, was so inefficient, it led to a loss in trust with an important person, and also fed the deep-seated belief that I am, at the core, incompetent.”

Unfortunately, forgetfulness, distraction and inefficiency are all hallmarks of unmanaged ADHD. Heck, even when it is managed these traits are present! So, what is the answer? How can people with ADHD become more efficient, preserve trust, and not feel like they are in a constant state of survival?

A part of the answer is in making the calendar your best friend.

There are a couple of things ADHDers avoid like the plague: planning (too confining) and completing (we get distracted).  It’s not that we don’t like to get things done – we do. And, it’s not that we aren’t amenable to a good strategy. But, without a solid structure we will go sideways.

A calendar – especially an electronic one – provides incredible structure. It becomes even more effective when the calendar is shared with others. This creates a level of accountability that will help strengthen focus. So, here are some rules to consider when creating a rock-solid, ADHD-proof calendar.

Rule #1  Begin with hard deadlines. Whether it is turning in a report, completing a project, or making an important appointment, the hard deadline (something with a specific date and time) gets put on the calendar first.

Rule #2  Insert standing meetings and appointments. Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment or a staff meeting, get your standing meetings on the docket so you don’t double-book.

Rule #3  Increase the time needed to complete a task. Here’s something really important to remember if you have ADHD: it will take you longer to get something done versus the time it takes a normie to get things done – especially tasks that are dull and routine in nature. So, if you think it will take an hour to get a report done, factor in two hours on your calendar. First, this gives you enough time to get things done. Second, if you finish earlier, well, then you have time to chase more shiny objects!

Rule #4  Schedule details. Let’s say you have a project to complete that will require you to make phone calls, write some things, have a conference call, etc. Pencil out every single detail and put them in chronological order, and then put each of those details into your calendar. If you have a phone call to make, even if it needs to take place a week from now, put it in your calendar. Do this and you won’t forget any detail.

Rule # 5  Schedule “down time”, hobby time, and other times you’ll need for re-charging. Don’t short-change yourself on this. Neuroscience has taught us that after times of intense focus (and for us, every moment of focus is work!), we need some down-time to refresh and re-charge. If we’ve been in a period of hyper-focus, the re-charge is essential.

Rule #6  Keep your calendar visible. Keep a sidebar open on your computer, on the desktop of your cell phone or tablet. Also program reminders into your calendar visual and audio reminders.

 

So, for anyone with ADHD the calendar can be your best friend, and the best defense against feeling like you’re incompetent.

 

Sometimes, Having ADHD Really Sucks

There are times when having ADHD really is a blessing. For whatever reason, when we were born our wiring was different. The advantages of this wiring is that we tend to exhibit a higher degree of creativity and dimensional thinking, among other traits.

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I like to think that mankind would never have progressed without people whose wiring was different. ADHDers are risk takers, adventurers, explorers, inventors, creators. We will walk into the unknown places and dive into the world of shadows.

While this insatiable hunger for novelty has led to incredible cultural progress, the dark secret is that we must walk into the line of fire because our brains need the stimuli.

Let’s face it, boredom feels like a kind of slow and torturous death. Routine, structure, linear systems and thinking…these are the bane of existence for an ADHDer. And yet, to make our way in this world, we need to manufacture a way to build structure.

This process is maddening. For most normies keeping a calendar or mowing through a list of priorities, balancing a checkbook, remembering to walk the dog, or keeping a closet orderly are fairly simple and easy tasks. Not for the ADHDer. Activities like these are as difficult as crossing the Pacific Ocean in a row boat.

Undiagnosed and unmanaged ADHD is really messy. And, it really sucks. The longer it goes unrecognized and not addressed, the worse it gets, the crazier we feel, the weirder people think we are.

We screw up relationships, lose jobs, isolate, get depressed, live a life of not so quiet desperation.  Statistically we know that these things are true. If we continue to be round pegs trying to fit into square holes the frustration and dissatisfaction will continue to grow.

So what can we do? How can we put this mad life to an end and begin living a life that we love? I think there are four important things we have to do to set the stage for living a satisfying, soul quenching life.

Don’t fear a diagnosis. Embrace it. The moment you accept that you have a neuro-biological medical disorder called ADHD, the better off you will be. There is a reason why you act impulsively, forget stuff, and have difficulty keeping your desk organized. Embracing the diagnosis brings relief and clarity, opening the door to a new possibility for a satisfying, authentic life.

Take care of your brain. That is, do what you can do to improve brain function. Take your meds, vitamins and supplements. Eat healthy foods and cut the junk.  Exercise. Meditate, Take breaks, especially after a period of intense mental activity. Reduce bad stress. Quit worrying. Seek forgiveness.

Practice spirituality. A spiritual connection is essential. This connection helps us to get out of our heads, focus on a purpose bigger than ourselves, see to the needs of others, fill the emptiness inside of us, provide  sustenance to our souls.  Whatever your spiritual connection might be, practice it daily. The spiritual connection can help bring sanity to what might seem a crazy life, can create grace and mercy where there was once admonishment and self-destructive negativity, cover us in love rather than blame.

Take directed action daily. Have a goal and work toward it. Do at least one thing each day that brings you closer to this goal. Something you may have to do is take a look at what you are doing. Are you in a job that takes best advantage of your skills and natural talents? Are you in a mutually supportive relationship? Take a look at the life you’re currently living – is it authentic? What doesn’t fit? Will you make the changes you need to have the life you love? Directed action every day will take you deeper into what strengths you need to nurture, and what things you need to let fall away.

None of these things are easy, but, you are an amazing creation of God. You have everything you need right now to succeed. Get real and get help. Having ADHD doesn’t have to suck.

Ground Control to Major Tom…Sympathy for the Space Cadet

Imagine you are sitting in a meeting, maybe it’s a conference call, and for the first 15 minutes you’re hearing every word being said by the other participants. But then you look out your window and see a man walking a dog. Your mind wanders.

Suddenly the voices coming through your phone simply become a part of the background, white noise. What matters is that you’re looking out the window, mind blank, the man and the dog are gone, and so is your focus.

Twenty minutes later you hear someone calling your name. It’s a disembodied voice piping through the phone. Your heart leaps a little when you realize you did it again – spaced out when you should have been tuned in.

People with inattentive ADD truly understand this scenario. It’s been a part of our lives for as long as we can remember.  In fact, the bungee bounce we do between daydreaming and hyper-focus defines the better part of our consciousness.

When it comes to ADHD, most folk think of the “H”. Unfortunately, people with inattentive ADD typically don’t manifest the “H” in obvious ways. Oh, it’s there. It’s just harder to see.

Because it’s harder to see, a majority of people with the inattentive variety of ADD aren’t easily diagnosed (or are never diagnosed). One of the reasons more boys are diagnosed than are girls is that females tend to have inattentive ADD. Many women aren’t diagnosed until their children are diagnosed.

So, what characteristics might we look for in someone with inattentive ADD? Here is a list of nine common traits. A person with inattentive ADD will manifest at least seven of these.

Careless mistakes. Oh man, has this one bitten me in the butt! I’ll have written an article in record time, proud of myself for beating a deadline. I think it’s perfect and click send…only to learn that I’ve transposed letters in a person’s name and have two other typos – including one in the headline. Lesson: please, get someone to proof your work.

Short attention span. I’d say this is a dominant characteristic of inattentive ADD. If we’re doing something boring, mundane, routine – it’s a given that we’ll be looking out the window, or even staring at our computer screen for hours…

No follow through. We start really well…and then the attention thing kicks in, we get distracted, forget to write down what the next step is supposed to be, misplace the phone number we’re supposed to call. And then…nothing happens. And the people around us quickly lose faith and trust in our ability to get anything done.

Poor listening skills. It’s a fact, our mind begins to wander…especially during a long conversation. Or, something pops into our head and we interrupt, blurting out the disconnected thought. Either way, we’re not listening. And, when we are listening, it’s not uncommon for us to ask our partner in the conversation to repeat what they said many times.

Forgetfulness. Another key characteristic. Here’s the deal, if you don’t write down the things you need to do, and remember to look at your list frequently, you will forget to do things.

Misplacing things. Have you ever left your car keys in the refrigerator? I have…

Laziness or apathy. Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I was called lazy. But, we’re not lazy, are we? Apathetic, maybe. To be engaged we need to be interested in what we’re doing. If we’re not interested, we don’t care.

Distractability. We specialize in rabbit-trailing. Shiny objects…well, you know. It’s real easy for us to get off track.

Disorganization. Our filing system tends to be a series of stacks. Our car hasn’t fit into our garage for decades.

Whew! Are you tired yet? You see, being inattentive takes a lot of energy. It’s not uncommon for us to be completely tapped out when we get home at night. Our condition creates a lot of stress.

That being said, there is a way to manage this stuff, reduce the drama, and actually create a life that is fulfilling.

In the coming weeks we’ll tackle a few of these tactics with a goal of experiencing a new level of authenticity and joy.

The Responsibility is Mine

Ever have a time in your life when everything – I mean everything – seems to be going in the wrong way? You and your S/O bicker about every little thing. Maybe you’re asked a direct question and you give a vague, non-committal answer, or, your social editor goes on hiatus and you blurt an answer that you wish you could immediately take back?

While that’s happening at home, stuff at work is mounting, too. You fall behind on a project, you forget to do daily, routine tasks. You miss deadlines, show up late to an important meeting, say something inappropriate to your boss or to a customer. Voila! You are the proverbial frog in a vat of water that is slowly coming to a boil. Pretty soon you will be fried.

The bank calls. Your rent check bounced. Your daughter calls. You were supposed to pick her up at the airport an hour ago. You’re standing in the middle of a grocery store, staring dumbly at the different brands of coffee – you’ve forgotten what you needed to pick up.

Things can go to hell pretty quickly when you have ADHD.

We’re lucky. It’s real easy to blame everything on having ADHD! Woo hoo! We have the perfect, built-in excuse! Isn’t that exciting!?

Yep, ADHD is a built-in excuse, an explanation for our sometimes erratic, seemingly irresponsible behavior. In fact, it really is not an excuse at all – stuff does happen (or not happen) because we do have ADHD. This neurological/biological disorder is very real and can create real problems.

That being said, our behavior affects others – and sometimes at the worst possible moment. That inappropriate thing said to our S/O? It could literally cause a hurt heart for years. Forgetting to do mundane tasks at work? Welcome to the unemployment line. Bounce the rent check because you handle money about as well as a teenage girl on a shopping spree with Dad’s credit card…you get the picture.

We never mean to do the odd stuff that we do. Typically our hearts are in the right place but, for whatever reason – impulsivity, bad timing, lack of an internal editor – our social ticker is off a few beats. Nevertheless, spouses, girlfriends, friends, bosses will at some point feel the effects of our unique talents for getting in trouble.

So, what can you do?

First, stop making excuses. Own whatever it was that happened. Take absolute responsibility.

Second, make amends. Make sure that whoever was affected by what you have done understands fully that you are responsible, and that you’ll do whatever is necessary to make things right – and do whatever is possible to not let whatever happened occur again.

Next, become a keen observer of your behavioral patterns. Essentially, step outside of yourself and notice the types of stuff you do that is outside the norm. What leads to doing these things? Is there a trigger? Numerous triggers? What are your feelings? Take note of what is going on that initiates this behavioral pattern.

After that, do your best to be mindful of those feelings, triggers, and situations that precipitate the behavior. Awareness can allow you to disrupt the pattern.

For example, let’s say you have a pattern of interrupting people during intense conversations. The trigger might be a feeling of being threatened or accused or confronted. Your brain gets over-stimulated through a flood of adrenaline and you must defend, respond, interrupt.

When you feel this happening, you’re mindful that you are about to open your mouth at exactly the wrong moment, take a deep breath, close your mouth, and listen. Just listen. Take as many deep breaths as you need to take whenever you feel the words scrambling to the tip of your tongue. Breathe. Just breathe.

It will be difficult at first. But, the more mindful you become, the more often you practice this, the easier it will become. You’ll find that you’re developing a new pattern, a healthier response that is more socially connective.  Guess what? You’re absolutely responsible for this behavior, too.

The more you do this, the more patterns you disrupt, the better life will be. You won’t disrupt everything. You won’t catch every behavior. That’s okay. Roll with it. Take responsibility. Forgive yourself.

The more you do this the more graceful you will be with yourself and with others, and the more grace you will receive.

And it begins with owning it all. No excuses. You are responsible. Joyfully responsible for all that you do.