Improving ADHD Performance Starts With YOU Management

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ADHD Adults struggle with their performance at work and in their personal lives

The biggest complaints I get from new clients is about their performance at work, problems with relationships as they fail to live up to their commitments with others, their tendency to procrastinate and wait until the last minute to get stuff done, and feeling that they don’t live up to their full potential because of these.

They think that these are different problems but they are really symptoms of the same problem: ADHD productivity issues. Learn to manage your productivity and these problems get solved.

Planning, organizing, engaging in, executing and following through on your commitments in your professional and personal life require you have a handle on your productivity. The problem is that ADHD adults struggle with exactly these issues because of their brain differences.

They try traditional time management systems like Franklyn Covey, Day Timer, Harvard that don’t work for an non-conventional brain. Often, the reason clients show up at my door is that they’ve tried these program and nothing worked. You have a Turbo Limited Edition brain so these programs’ don’t provide you with the right instruction manual for your brain.

You need a YOU Management program that recognizes your unique brain differences and allows you to work WITH your brain instead of against it. This means:

  1. matching your brain’s natural energy cycles with the tasks on your To-Do list;
  2.  creating ways to conquer boredom by “automating” the boring stuff; 
  3. overcoming your tendency to procrastinate by getting at the root of the problem; 
  4. using your natural strengths and talents to improve your productivity; 
  5. controlling obstacles to your productivity, like interruptions and losing things; 
  6. using a method to better manage your life so that you commit to and execute those activities that are important to you; and 
  7. choosing tools that allow you to maximize your time and avoid problems.

 The most important thing to recognize is that trying to do things like everyone else does leads to disaster for ADHDers. You need to manage YOU by working WITH your brain not against it.

How to tell my employer I have ADHD – Part 2

In Part One of this topic I discussed what you need to consider before you even consider mentioning your ADHD status to your employer. In this part, I’ll provide some ideas on how to go about it once you have made the decision to tell your employer.   

Before saying anything, you need to answer a few questions for yourself:

  1. What are my strengths?
    We all have them so dig deep
  2. How is it helping me?
    One client told me that she had a lot of energy and her out-of-the box thinking heloped her solve problems more easily. Another who was a salesman found that clients liked to work with him because he always seemed to be “on the ball”. Another who was a social worker felt that she was better able to empathize with her clients
  3. How is my ADHD hindering me at work?
    Difficulty with concentrating, with organizing, excessive perfectionism…
  4. What is the specific problem I want help with?
    Can’t concentrate because of noise or traffic, difficulty getting organized so often looking for things, difficulty with constant distractions of email and phone, can’t seem to organize time well, etc.
  5. What solutions do I want to propose?
    Will this solution help or should you consider a different career? What is the cost to the employer? Where can it be found?
  6. How can your employer help?
    Do you need your employer to help defray the cost of coaching, provide you with an accommodation, change something in the way he or she works with you?
  7. What’s in it for my employer? Why would your employer help you? What does your company stand to gain from reducing or eliminating your problem?

In most cases of course when your employer provides help, he or she ends up with a more productive employee; however, what is the benefit? Will you be able to get more done? Will you improve your sales? Will the quality of your work improve? It can also be an opportunity to solve a problem, or improve the way the company does things. For example, one client who got help with his productivity, was able to help other colleagues, non-ADHDers, also improve theirs.

Then prepare to meet your employer privately to discuss an issue you need help with. Here’s a sample script to inspire you:
 
“I was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, which is a neurological difference that. I find it helps me with my job because ADHD advantage as per question 2. “

“However, I am struggling with specific hinderance as per question 3 and it’s making it hard to be as productive as I think I could be.”

“I looked into it and found this solution as per question 5 that can help me solve the specific problem as per question 4.”

“I feel that with your help with answer to question 6 , I can really answer to question 7  I’m willing to do the work that it takes to make this solution work for me; however, I need help to access it.” 

 

 It will really help to know your strengths to give you confidence when you see your employer. Be prepared to offer information on the solution you are proposing so that you don’t have to run after him or her a second time.

It might help you know that in the survey I did last year, of the 50% of ADHDers who told their employers they had ADHD and needed help, 50% of them got the help they needed. I’m also finding that with the labor market where there is higher demand than there is supply, especially for specialized labor, many employers are becoming more open to the idea of helping good employees become even better.
Certainly, I will not tell you that there is no risk. While there may be some legal protection in some parts of the world, there is still a risk that you can be treated unfairly. My biggest hope is that one day, the fog around what is ADHD and does it exist will lift; and you won’t have to fear repercussions in “coming out”.  

How to Tell Your Employer You Have ADHD – Part 1

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This is a question I come across often in my work with people with adult ADHD. When they ask me how they should tell their employer about their ADHD, I usually ask them to identify what benefits they hope to gain by divulging their ADHD.

In a survey I conducted last year, when asked why these participants with adult ADHD felt the need to tell, most mentioned that they needed accommodations or specialized help like coaching and that without that help they struggled at work. Some also felt it was a last resort as they were having so much difficulty at work, they felt they might be fired.

Those who never mentioned their ADHD status stated their main reasons were that there was no need as they were managing well or that it was a private matter and they didn’t feel their employers had any right to know. About half felt shame or were fearful of being negatively impacted. Unfortunately some of those who did mention it were discriminated against.

When problems arise at work, that seem caused by ADHD, require divulging your ADHD consider the following:

  1. Could the specific problem and solution be mentioned without talking about ADHD?
  2. What is the company’s track record around issues like this? Their size? their ability to pay for accommodations?
  3. What do you estimate is your value to your company? What is the employment rate in your industry? Obviously if you are a rare resource with a good track record, you’re less likely to suffer negatively when asking for help.
  4. What is YOUR attitude around your ADHD? Many see it as a mental disorder to hide; others realize that there are some positive and negative to having ADHD. If you are in the first category, you’re more likely to convey this sentiment to your boss.

The point is not to hide your ADHD status in shame; however, there is still a lot of misinformation and judgment around ADHD. You may not have the financial means or want to be a martyr. On the other hand when people around you understand and accept differences in others (no matter what they have) as a positive thing, it can be liberating.

I look forward to the day when you can talk about ADHD and people around actually understand the challenges but also ackowledge that you have strengths.

In my next post I’ll provide an answer to how to tell your employer you have ADHD.

Adult ADHD: Enough to Move You

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Dr. John Ratey, co-author of Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction, and speaker at the ADDA (ADD Association) Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota that took place July 10 to 13, 2008 spoke about adult ADHD and exercise.

He makes a good case around the fact that exercise is an important component to overcoming ADHD. As Dr. Ratey mentioned, more than 10,000 years ago, humans walked, ran or sprinted an average of 10 to 14 miles per day just to survive. They hunted and were hunted and so those who could out-run and out-plan their prey or preditors got to survive. This in fact, put ADHD adults at an evolutionary advantage. This ability to move quickly, this need to move, and make impulsive decisions actually aided in the survival of the species.

Now, fast forward to modern humans, we’re lucky if we walk, run or sprint 10 steps in our day. As a result, the same traits that ensured their survival in the past, create an unsatisfied need to move in ADHD adults. As a result of our sedentary lifestyle, ADHD has become a disorder.

To counter this, exercise becomes an important part of the solution. He described many convincing studies that described how exercise not only helps ADHD adults and children but is good for all brains because:

  • it increases blood flow by increasing the number of blood vessels in the brain;
  • it increases the release of neurotransmitters responsible for ADHD: norepinephrine and dopamine
  • over time, you build more receptors, enzymes and blood vessels in your brain
  • it helps control impulses because exercise arouses the brain
  • it reduces the need for disciplinary issues in school

His new book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, is available at bookstores and describes much of the research on the importance of exercise as a way of improving the brain’s executive functions and thus, reducing the effects of ADHD.

 He recommends:

  • find an exercise you enjoy and make it fun
  • make a commitment with yourself and others to help you stick to it
  • select more challenging exercises involving balance such as karate, danse, tennis, volleyball, etc.
  • use music to stimulate you
  • go outside to exercise whenever possible
  • make it into a ritual

As an ADHD Coach, I can safely say that my clients who have the most success in their lives despite their struggles with ADHD are often those who have adopted a more active lifestyle.

If you’ve never liked exercising or have found good excuses for not doing it, I challenge you to find something you’ll enjoy and begin with babysteps that you build on and

Get moving!

The ADDA Conference: Making Connections

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I just returned from the 13th ADDA Conference (http://www.add.org) called Adult ADHD: People, Purpose and Passion, and what a blast!

For adults with ADHD, this conference provides access to resource people (experts in numerous fields) and resources such as books, programs, and tools. Access to information through the numerous breakout sessions and motivation from the keynote speakers is unequalled anywhere, and it’s also a chance to see many different models for how to live with ADHD successfully.

At the same time, while the keynote speeches by Drs. Ned Hallowell, John Ratey and Sari Solden were definitely worth the investment and travel, they aren’t the most valuable treasures you get from attending such an event. As an adult with ADHD, you likely spend a lot of energy trying to meet “neuro-typicals” expectations. Trying not to ruffle feathers and dodging the proverbial bullet is stressful, exhausting and fraught with pitfalls.

Now imagine yourself with in a room 400 other ADHDers (hopefully more next year). They accept as you are, providing the opportunity to connect with others who deal with many of the same issues as you… most of them caused by trying to make the 90% of the population who don’t have ADHD happy! Even people who came to the conference alone left having forged connections with other ADHDers who accept and understand them. This is perhaps the most rewarding part of the ADDA conference experience: connecting with others who “get you.” Perfect strangers came together and shared their experiences as ADHDers without fear of ridicule or making a “faux pas.”

So often ADHDers avoid connecting with others fearing judgment (often with good reason). It’s simply too stressful to worry about doing something socially unacceptable. However, Dr. Hallowell (author of Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction among others) emphasized the importance of connecting with others who know you and love and accept you despite your “flaws.” It’s important for everyone, but absolutely for ADHDers to find someone in your life who can say:

“I know you and I love you anyway.”

If you haven’t found someone like that in your life, don’t give up! And I’ll see you next year at the ADDA conference!

Don’t Play the ADHD Blame Game

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ADHD blame game If you’re an adult with ADHD, you’ve lived through many negative situations, probably more than your fair share. A lifetime of failures, shame and struggles leaves scars in the form of low self-esteem and a tendency not to trust others or yourself. As a way to protect yourself, you may begin to play the ADHD Blame Game.

When disaster strikes at work, you blame your boss, the situation, the resources that weren’t quite good enough or when there’s no one or nothing else to blame, you play blame solitaire and blame yourself. You’re not alone, everyone does it… in the “big leagues”  they sue each other, always looking for someone to point the finger at.

The problem with the blame game is that it focuses on judgment, instead of learning. Mistakes are an essential part of learning and when you play the blame game, you deprive yourself of important learning experiences. You can`t learn because you`re busy looking for a scapegoat.

If instead you shifted your thinking away from blame, you’d find that maybe you’ve identified a need to acquire or improve current skills, or that maybe you should avoid certain situations in the future or at least ask for help from someone more skilled or experienced. Maybe you need a whole new approach! Heck! If nothing else, you now know what doesn’t work. Remember that and you won’t be doomed to repeat it.

Even if you were wronged, avoid playing the blame game just because it’s not productive. It keeps you thinking like a victim and only prevents you from moving forward.

So if you find yourself looking for someone to blame, stop! Now, ask yourself:

  1. What can I learn from this situation that I can use in the future?
  2. What have I learned about myself because of what happened?
  3. What do I need to do to move forward from here?

And then just do it!

Your 6 Building Blocks to Managing Adult ADHD

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building blocks,managing adhd,overcome adhdWhen they first contact me, many of my clients ask me where they can go to get the cure for ADHD. While medication can definitely help many adults with ADHD, they don’t eradicate it. They simply allow you to pay better attention so that you can learn to manage your ADHD. Managing it can feel like a chore but it’s worth it. I’ve already talked about others who have been successful with it.

What I have found over my years as ADHD Coach is that you need to work 6 building blocks to managing adult ADHD. They are the following:

1. Learn about and embrace your ADHD
While ADHD has likely been a very negative force in your life, knowing more about it will help you to develop the lifestyle that will help you manage your ADHD. You might even discover that there’s an upside to ADHD.

2. Learn and adopt effective productivity management
One of the biggest complaints my clients have around their productivity. As an adult with ADHD you need to learn not only time management the ADHD way, but also self-management, organizing, creating systems and overcoming procrastination, and more.

3. Develop emotional intelligence

If your history is like many of my clients’, you’ve had to and possibly still deal with some pretty negative forces in your life. A lifetime of failures, disappointments, and frustrations may lead to low self-esteem and a negative attitude. As an ADHDer you may also struggle with controling your emotions.

4. Create opportunities to self-actualize
Believe it or not, you have strengths, talents, a whole lot of untapped potential. Discovering and recognizing them are the first steps. You then need to create opportunities to live them, do more of them, and have a fulfilling life. You also need to take control of your financial health to help open opportunities for yourself.

5. Develop nourishing relationships
You teach people how to treat you. Developing nourishing and supportive relationships is your responsibility. Help your loved ones understand you and ask for their help to ensure they don’t sabotage your self-management. Learn good communication skills and reap the benefits in every part of your life.

6. Manage your life projects effectively
Life is made up of numerous projects. Clearing clutter, painting a room, looking for work, starting a business, even making supper, are all examples of projects. Managing projects effectively will help you greatly in managing your life.

As you can see, overcoming ADHD takes time and work. There is no magic pill. But I can tell you that you can have a happy and fulfilling life as an adult with ADHD and that you are worth the investment you make in yourself. Investing in yourself will have a positive outcome.

ADHD May be Helpful

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hunter, adhd, hunter-farmer

I just read this morning an article that described a study about the effect of ADHD in nomadic tribes in Kenya compared to Kenyans who are settled. One of the genes thought to be responsbile for ADHD, the DRD4, was found to have a positive effect in nomadic tribes such as the ability to find nourishment compared to farmers with the DRD4 gene. This suggests as I’ve always thought that ADHD creates problems in certain contexts but not in others. Our current work environment though resembles the “farmer model”, which is very sedentary and linear.

In nomadic herders, ADHD may be a strength because of ADHDers’ tendency to be easily distracted and notice stimuli in their environment, making them more likely to notice preditors and their impulsivity allows them to act quickly to protect the herd. In his book, Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception (published in 1997), Thom Hartman wrote, he advanced the hypothesis that ADHD may be the product of evolution where the ability to hunt was necessary for the survival of the tribe. The ability to notice everything in your environment allowed people to find their prey while avoiding becoming prey themselves.

We saw first hand the validity of this hypothesis when a few years ago my husband, Duane, and a group of guys went into the forest in Banff to take pictures. Duane who has ADHD noticed all the animals in the forest, which lead one of the guys to ask Duane if he hunts. He doesn’t.

The effects of ADHD seem to be based on the context. In some situations it can be an asset like for herders and hunters while in others can be negative like in farming and in most of today’s work environment. The career you choose can have an impact on whether or not you succeed. Entrepreneurship is a career choice that resembles the hunter setting the most. This may explain why so many ADHDers tend to choose to become entrepreneurs.

Of course, other factors are also important in choosing a career such as level of interest, and many work conditions have to be taken into considerations. Each person is different and these differences mean you don’t have to become a Kenyan sheep herder to have success. You need to understand your ADHD and yourself enough and put in place strategies at work that will allow you to succeed, like improving your self-management, and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

How to Tell Someone They May Have ADHD

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Recently I received an email from a woman who heard me speak at a business conference and who felt that her sister had all the symptoms of ADHD. Given the struggle her sister was dealing with at work, she felt that investigating the possibility of her sister’s ADHD might explain her sister’s difficulty and help her provide a solution. The problem was how do you tell someone you think they have ADHD in a way that she won’t feel attacked.

Here’s what I answered:

Telling someone they have ADHD, which may have very negative connotations, requires love and empathy. Your sister likely already knows that something is going on. She may suffer deeply, thinking that it’s her fault or that there’s something wrong with her. Her self-esteem is likely affected by her inability to manage it.

Remind her that you love her and that you want what’s best for her. Tell her without judgment about the “symptoms” you see her exhibiting and that it must be painful for her to struggle with these. Explain that you’ve heard something that could explain her difficulties. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) is a difference in brain wiring that requires a differing approach to doing things and that learning specific strategies can not only allow her to minimize or eliminate her struggle but also reap the upside of ADHD.

The important thing is to ensure that it be done with compassion and without judgment and that she know that she doesn’t have to struggle anymore. Most ADHDers are relieved upon hearing that it’s ADHD and that they are not lazy, crazy, or stupid. Once she gets a formal diagnosis, it’s imperative that she gets the help she needs to manage it. ADHD is an explanation but can become an excuse if you don’t do anything to improve your situation.

Lost Productivity with ADHD? It Doesn’t Have to be That Way

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A new study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) lose approximately 22 work days a year! Imagine! That’s more than a month of productive time less than other people get to do their work, build their businesses, achieve their goals.

Of course, the study only focused on 8-hour work days. ADHDers lose productivity on their off hours as well, missing out on time for themselves and time to spend with their families. Entrepreneurs who typically work longer hours (because they have more to do AND because they love it) are probably losing far more of their time and energy into the productivity black hole.

Poor productivity and lost hours is one of the biggest complaints my ADHD clients come to me about. They often feel that time just slips through their fingers despite their best intentions, often leading to feelings that they aren’t living up to their full potential. Of course, it’s pretty hard to live up to your potential when you only have 11 months to do a full year’s work! The good news is that for adults with ADHD, with help to implement ADHD-friendly tools and strategies, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Once my clients learn to work with their ADHD instead of against it, they are amazed at the dramatic difference it makes in their lives, both at home and at work. It also often astounds me just what adults who have learned to work with their ADHD are capable of achieving. My clients frequently report productivity leaps using these special strategies and tools that let them deliver 8 hours worth of productivity in 5 hours.

Of course, as this WHO study proves, results like these are impossible to achieve without ADHD-friendly strategies. My clients learn to:

·        match tasks to their energy flows,

·        create systems to reduce or eliminate lost productivity,

·        eliminate procrastination

·        better prioritize so they work smarter instead of harder,

·        reduce or eliminate distractions,

·        master self-control and self-management, and to

·        take advantage of productivity tools and systems that protect your productivity like Fort Knox.

If you, like many of my clients, face ADHD or “entrepreneurial ADD” every day, and you’d like to learn more about how these ADHD-friendly productivity enhancing strategies can change your life, please enroll in this easy to follow email course (ecourse) at http://www.productivitymythsbusted.com