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Getting Back on Track with Your Routines

Picture was provided by DeathtoStock photographers Allie and David.

Picture was provided by DeathtoStock photographers Allie and David.

One of the advantages of having a “virtual” business is the ability to work from anywhere. Most of you aren’t really aware where I am at any given time, so you may not know that I’ve been away at my daughter’s in Regina since mid-November. I was there helping out for the birth of her second child (and our second grandson!) She recently moved to Regina for a job and so had no close friends or family in the area she could leave her toddler with in case she had to rush to the hospital Everything went very well, and everyone is healthy. I was able to help out while continuing to operate my business, but it was challenging working there productively, and it was challenging moving back home.

I’ve been back just over two weeks, and I’m just getting comfortable settling into my routines again. Even though many of my routines are deep-rooted, there’s always a period of readjustment when you’ve been away or when you’ve missed doing them for whatever reason. Changing my routines when I travel, and reintegrating my routines when I return home affects my productivity.

I don’t have ADHD, and it’s a problem for me, but if you are someone with ADHD, like my husband, it’s an even bigger problem. He came to Saskatchewan for two weeks over Christmas and found it very difficult not to have his familiar environment and routines that help him cope with his ADHD.  Then, when he came home again, he also struggled to get back into his routines even though he’d only been away for two weeks!

Since many of us take some time off during the holidays – and even if we don’t have time off, our regular schedules are often changed during the holidays with visitors, work schedule adjustments and so on –, I’d like to share some advice on how to get back on track with your routines.

First Things First

Continue any routines you can. Whenever possible, I counsel my clients to continue as many of their routines as possible, even when they are away or in transition for any reason. For example, maintain whatever routines you can – continue to make your bed, brush your teeth, go to the gym, etc.  Recreating as many routines as possible gives you a structure you can build on to get things done. Given that I was going to be away for 6 weeks, I enrolled in a local gym in Regina and immediately scheduled the same daily exercise appointments with myself each week.

There will be some routines you cannot continue while you’re away. Taking out the garbage, recycling and composting were routines I could not continue while I was there. In fact, since they don’t compost in Regina, when I returned home, I had forgotten that I should be composting all those apple cores and pepper stems and seeds. It was only halfway through my first week back that I noticed the compost bin on the counter and realized I hadn’t been using it. It was also difficult for my husband and I to plan meals since my daughter and her husband made those decisions at their house.

So How Do You Get Back

Start by making a quick inventory of your routines, and see which ones you need to adjust. Among my pre-Regina routines I was unable to sustain while gone, meal planning was at the top of the list. Much of my work routines had also been disrupted in Regina since at home, I use my mornings for program development and writing, but in Regina, that’s when I took Evan to daycare, and since the gym was close to his daycare, I’d pop in there in the morning, a change in my routine.

Forgive yourself. There is nothing to be gained by being mad at yourself for missing your routines. I kept up with some routines, while others had to change. However, while I might have been able to keep up with some routines, I was distracted by the new baby and the new environment and some routines fell through the cracks. For example, I didn’t drink enough water. Strange as it sounds, Saskatchewan is so much drier than Montreal, I really had to increase my water intake to compensate – in fact, my first week there, I lost my voice because I wasn’t hydrating enough. That acute laryngitis attack lasted three weeks!

Draw a line in the sand. That was then – when you missed your routines – and this is now – when you can take back the controls of your life. Don’t put off starting your routines back up one more day. Routines are one of the most effective tools for successfully living with ADHD, so the sooner you get back into the groove, the better.

Set the intention to return to maintenance habits, starting today!  One of my intentions was to get back to writing and I did – you’re reading the proof.  When setting the intention, make sure you create a plan to tackle those things that tend to get in the way. If I start reading my email in the morning, I KNOW I won’t get much writing done so I decided to set a 10-minute timer on my emails in the morning. When the timer rings, I close my email system and go to work.

Create appointments for routine activities into your agenda and set reminders.  Once these activities become automatic again, which shouldn’t take long (returning to habits the second or third time takes a lot less time and effort than the first time around), you can remove the alerts since, as habits, you’ll do them automatically.

What maintenance routine did you have difficulty maintaining over the holidays?  If you’ve never had routines, what routines could help you better manage your ADHD? If you have no routines and don’t know where to get started, you’re missing out on a really helpful tool for dealing with your ADHD. In fact, it’s so powerful, I created a program just to help you implement routines – and it’s FREE – at least for now. Click here for more details.

Let’s Declare 2016 the Year ADHD in Women Gets Recognized

Let’s Declare 2016 the Year ADHD in Women Gets Recognized

womanWhen my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in 1994, there was virtually no information on ADHD in girls. Some doctors even told me it was impossible. At the time, specialists willing to admit it existed said that for every girl with ADHD, there were 3 or 4 boys who had it. Today, I still occasionally hear the same statistic quoted though we now know it is completely false. The new statement should be “for every 3 or 4 boys we diagnose with ADHD, we fail to diagnose and treat 2 or 3 girls.” We fail because we don’t recognize that ADHD often does not manifest itself the same way in girls as it does in boys.

The Impact of Unrecognized ADHD in Girls

The daydreaming girl who sits quietly at the back of the class doesn’t get recognized because she is quiet. She also doesn’t get the attention she needs to thrive and achieve her full educational potential. She does not have the opportunity to choose a career that allows her to contribute using her unique strengths. Without that opportunity, she may instead, land a job that forces her to work in her areas of weaknesses, handling details or doing work that bores her to tears. Not all ADHD women end up like this but that is, for many girls, the cost of not being treated.

Women Have Unique Issues

Women also struggle with unique issues. While we may have made great strides in sharing responsibility in the home, the responsibility of dealing with family details (a child’s friend’s birthday party, managing meals and daycare, dealing with housework and renovations, helping kids with homework, etc.) often fall on mothers. In this situation, many ADHD mothers feel overwhelmed and incompetent. When they let a ball drop, they feel a great deal of guilt and shame. On this front, we need to address these issues and change how we divide chores and responsibilities so that every member of the family contributes, not by some arbitrary standard of what each member “should” do, but going instead with your strengths.

Finally! Some Attention Given to Women’s Inattentiveness

Next year, 2016, arriving in just a few short days, has a great deal in store for women with ADHD.  First, the ADHD Women’s Palooza, hosted by Linda Roggli and Terry Matlin, will take place from January 11 to 16th. I’ll be one of 31 guest speakers address issues of ADHD in women exclusively.

Secondly, Sari Solden, author of Women with Attention Deficit Disorder and Journeys Through ADDulthood, will be hosting the Better Together Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She decided to hold a festival (which sounds a lot like a big party!) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the launch of her ground-breaking book, Women with Attention Deficit Disorder, on May 14th, 2016.  I’ll also be attending this event along with a long list of other ADHD specialists.

Let’s use these two events as catalyst to put more attention on the unique challenges faced by women with ADHD for the coming year and let’s find better solutions for them.

Feeling Burnt Out? I’m Not Surprised, and You Shouldn’t Be Either

lack-of-focus-300x249A few years ago, I had a large influx of clients. Within a month and a half, I welcomed seven new clients. Of the seven, six confided that they were on leave from work for burnout! One was on sick leave for burnout for the third time and, believing there must be some underlying cause, did his own research and discovered he’d been suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) all along.

I was intrigued by this seeming coincidence. I began reviewing my files to determine the number of clients, past and current, who had mentioned suffering from burnout at some point in their lives. I was shocked to discover that over half, 54%, of my clients had been on sick leave for burnout, depression or stress-related health problems at least once in their professional lives. Some had had several periods of stress-related sick leave.

I began digging deep into the literature and found one study that had been conducted on a group of people who were on long-term disability for burnout or stress-related health issues. What they found astounded me. Within that pool of 62 people, they found 24% suffered from ADHD and up to 56% met the criteria for ADHD but testing results were inconclusive because of other confounding issues.

When you consider that the incidence of adult ADHD in the general population is 4 to 8%, this indicates that there’s an increased risk for adults with ADHD; they are three to six times more likely to suffer from burnout or stress-related health problems.

Seeking to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of burnout, I began to research in earnest. While there is no diagnosis of “burnout”, we understand it to be extreme exhaustion brought on by prolonged periods of stress. As I learned more, I realized ADHD-related burnout was quite different from neurotypical or “textbook” cases of burnout.

ADHD-Related Burnout vs. “Textbook” Burnout

The underlying cause or reason that people burn out differs between the two groups. Neurotypicals (people without ADHD) who burn out often do so because they are trying to prove themselves. They (or others, such as their parents) face high expectations and are trying to “over-perform” as a way of getting noticed. People with ADHD burn out because of the stress brought on by a fear of losing their jobs.  They work harder and put in longer hours trying to catch up because they don’t feel productive. They try to make up for their poor productivity and to hide the shame they feel about their inability to meet their workload.

Neglecting your own needs can exacerbate burnout. These two groups (neurotypicals vs. adults with ADHD) neglect their needs for different reasons; whereas ADHDers skimp on sleep, abandon exercise routines and work through their lunch hour and late into the night in an effort to keep up with what they see as the “normal” demands of their job, neurotypicals do the same but because they choose to use that time to fit in more projects that will give them more visibility.

Another difference between the two groups is that while in both “textbook” and ADHD-related burnout, employees suffer from cognitive impairment such as lack of focus, poor short-term memory and challenges with managing their emotions, for neurotypicals, the impairment is due to their prolonged stress and will abate after a period of rest. For adults with ADHD, the cognitive impairment is typically symptomatic of their ADHD (made worse by the stress to be sure) and is at the source of the burnout. Those symptoms remain even after long periods of rest, so a second or even a third bout of burnout is inevitable unless changes are made beyond simple rest, because the source of the burnout has not been addressed.

Recognizing the Source of Burnout is a Prerequisite to the Right Treatment

It’s true that in all burnout cases, rest is needed to reduce the effects of prolonged stress. However, for ADHDers, the treatment must also include an “attack” on the underlying source of the burnout, by managing the ADHD symptoms. The objective is to reduce the level of impairment resulting from the ADHD, and so allow the ADHDer to improve his or her work performance. One of the most dramatic ways to optimize focus improve productivity is for the ADHD-burnout sufferer to learn ADHD-friendly energy and time management strategies as well as organizational strategies. Helping the ADHD employee build awareness of the signs of overwhelming stress and helping them prepare a plan of action to enable them to respond to it effectively is essential to prevent future burnouts.

Finally, beyond simple rest, burnout victims benefit enormously from “recovery activities” such as improving health hygiene (sleep, exercise and nutrition), connecting with family and friends and engaging in creative activities. These help reduce the effects of stress and cut the level of stress to a manageable level.

In today’s society, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to eliminate stress that could lead to burnout.  However, we can learn to effectively manage that stress by recognizing the true underlying causes of ADHD-related burnout and treating the problem at the source.

And the Winner of the “Quick Wins” Contest Is….

drumroll-pleaseWe’ve been hard at work developing the new program you were invited to help me find a name for! In fact, we held a contest to name the new program, which we were calling “Quick Wins”, a program of small changes that make a significant difference in your life quickly. Today, we finally get to announce the new name, the winner of the contest AND the launch of the new program! It’s a BIG DAY!

First, thank you to everyone who participated in the contest. There were so many great ideas, it was a challenge to choose, but we finally picked a name that defines this program well. So…
Drum roll please….

The name of the new program is
Your Path Forward
Conquer Your Adult ADHD One Step at a Time

And the creative genius who came up with this name is Bob R. Congratulations Bob! (We’ll be in touch with you in the next few days). The winner gets to choose between receiving a new Fitbit Flex or a $129 credit off any one of my programs he enrolls in (we increased it from $100).

Now, I want this to be a winning program for everyone so I’m inviting you all to enroll in Your Path Forward for FREE! Click here to take this 12-week program that will guide you through a number of small, simple steps that will lead to real change in your life.

Contest to Name Free ADHD Adult Program

I’m creating a new program and I need your help finding the perfect name for it. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to find a great name for this program and I thought, why don’t I ask all of you Creative Geniuses. As an enticement, I decided to make a contest out of it. If you’re the person who comes up with the winning name for the program, I’ll send you a cool new gadget, a Fitbit Flex or if you prefer, you’ll receive a credit of $100 on the next of my programs you enroll in!.

Why a New Adult ADHD Program?

Here’s what it’s all about: Over the years, working with executives, professionals, entrepreneurs and other adults with ADHD, I’ve noticed that many collect information on ADHD (some of them have whole libraries full!) but never do anything with that information. In fact, a couple of years ago at an ADDA conference, one of the attendees and I were browsing through the bookstore and she mentioned to me that she already knew a lot about ADHD, having read most of the books. What she needed was to work on taking action. She laughingly said, “I just need something that’ll take me by the hand and spoon feed me one thing to do at a time!”

I replied with a smile, “You mean, you need another mother!” But it got me thinking, and I came up with this idea.

Knowledge Doesn’t Mean Change

I realized that even though a lot of information was circulating, being read, discussed and debated, and it was great information, accurate, practical, information that could change lives, people just weren’t acting on it.  And of course, without action, there’s no change.

Now, I also saw people who were putting information into action. The thing was, I noticed they were a little over-enthusiastic. They’d try to change everything at once! Imagine trying to quit smoking, lose weight and train for a marathon at the same time! When you engage in multiple major changes simultaneously, it makes you so incredibly uncomfortable that you can’t sustain the changes and you revert quickly to your old ways.

Is it an Inability to Change or the Approach?

This is why many ADHDers come to me saying, “I can’t change! I’ve tried everything.” In reality, they’ve tried two approaches that don’t work: “change everything all at once,” and “learn everything and change nothing.” They haven’t tried the always successful, “learn a little, apply the change in your life, evaluate and adjust, repeat” approach.

A New Program for ADHD

That’s why I was inspired to create a training program for adults with ADHD where members receive excellent information in small doses, and they are assigned a small but significant action to take. Once they take action, adjust and get comfortable, they get another dose of information with another small but significant action to take. After all, that’s how you change, with small but significant actions applied in your life.

Soon, I’ll be inviting any who dare to take action to join me on a three-month journey where you’ll begin to really make transformative changes in your life. Right now, I’m calling it my “quick wins” program for lack of a better name (and because it’s too long to say, “learn a little, apply the change in your life, evaluate, adjust, repeat”!)

These “quick wins” are small changes that make a significant difference in your life quickly. Oh! and by the way, the journey will be free! That’s right, I’m launching this new program at no cost (though there are no guarantees it will stay that way, so if you’re interested in taking part, keep watching for my announcements. If you’re not already subscribed to my newsletter – like if someone forwarded you this email – make sure you sign up today to be notified when we launch!)

Details of the Contest

Ok, now that you know a bit about the program, I’m sure you’ve got some great ideas for a name. I’m totally serious about giving a Fitbit Flex (or the $100 credit on your next Coach Linda Walker program purchase) to the winner! Click here to enter your ideas. Don’t procrastinate, because the contest closes on February 27th, 2015 at 11:59 pm PST.

P.S.:  Yes, I’m completely serious. I am giving away a Fitbit Flex to the person who suggests the winning name for this new program. And I’m completely serious when I say that this new program won’t cost you a penny during our three-month pilot, so if you’re not already subscribed to my newsletter, make sure you sign up for my newsletter to be notified when we launch!

Adults with ADHD Are More Vulnerable to Daily Stressors

While doing some research this fall in preparation for a conference on ADHD in the Workplace I was invited to do for the Sudbury Partners in Prevention Conference and Trade Show, I discovered a study on how ADHDers manage stress.

The study measured the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, and the heart rate of subjects with and without ADHD and had them complete a questionnaire to measure their level of psychological distress several different times, including before the event, to see the stress they felt in anticipation of a stressful event, during the stressful event and after the stressor was eliminated.[i]

Feeling a Little Stressed? There’s a Good Reason for That

ADHDers demonstrated and reported significantly more psychological distress than non-ADHDers, but despite that, their levels of cortisol, which increase in the face of stress, as well as their heart rate, were lower than those of non-ADHDers when faced with the same stressful situation. In addition, ADHDers took longer to recover from stress even after the stressor was eliminated.

Yes, it’s interesting. But what does it mean for you? Glad you asked! 😉

What Can You Do About It?

This explains why, when faced with the multitude of ADHD-related stressors – disorganization, struggling with decision-making, poor planning, etc. – many of my clients reveal they’ve suffered one or more breakdowns due to stress. Over time, your vulnerability to stress and the very stressful lives you lead can even lead to burnout, anxiety or depression.

No one wants that, but what can you do about it?

Actually, There Are Two Things You Can Do

There are two things you can do. You can change your response to stress and you can reduce the amount of stressors in your life. A combination of the two gives the best results.

Learning to manage how you respond to stress can reduce the intensity of stressors you encounter. A very simple – maybe too simple – approach is to learn to:

  1. notice cues in your body that you are becoming stressed, and to
  2. take several slow deep breaths. Each breath reduces the tension you’ll feel in your body.

The other strategy is to reduce the number of stressors in your life. You cannot eliminate stress completely but you have many more stressors in your life than most people because of your ADHD. Managing them better will offer some relief.

Some years ago, often when I was getting ready to go to work, I’d realize I’d lost my keys. I’d look in all the obvious places but couldn’t find them. My stress levels would escalate since I had to be at work on time and I needed those keys. I’d request demand everyone in my household’s help to find them. When we found the keys, I’d run off in a hurry and drive to work, berating myself the whole way for, not only losing my keys again, but for putting my family through the worst possible way to start the day.

I finally found a long-term solution to the problem; I now tie my keys to my handbag, which always hangs at the same place in my home. That one simple habit dramatically reduced the level of stress in my life and in my whole family.

I know you deal with much more than just losing your keys. Each time you need to make a decision you increase your level of stress. Each time you face your To Do “book” (remember back when it used to just be a To Do list?) and don’t know where to start, you’re stressed. Your level of disorganization – visual and procedural – heightens your distress. Poor planning that leads to forgotten commitments or late starts are also major stressors. Let’s face it; having ADHD is very, very stressful. This is why, in the New Year, I will be launching a “Quick Wins” program, a series of actionable steps you can take to help manage the most common stressors in your life. How much will it cost? Nothing! So stay tuned.

Next Steps:

1) Notice the body cues that warn you that you are becoming stressed;

2) Get into the habit of taking slow deep breaths when you feel those cues coming on;

3) Share your experiences with me in the comments box below. What are your top 5 stressors? I’ll try to address them here (I can’t guarantee I’ll get to all of them, I will do my best), but I’ll be sure to include strategies for dealing with them in “Quick Wins” (watch for it in January!)

 

[i] Lackschewitz, H., Hüther, G., Kröner-Herwig, B. (2008). Physiological and Psychological Stress Responses in Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Psychoneuroendocrinology. 33; 612-624

Avoiding ADHD Blow Ups at Work

One of the top reasons adults with ADHD are reprimanded at work or lose their jobs is for what is perceived as bad behavior. Adults with ADHD are very familiar with their issues with productivity, but ADHDers often struggle to control their emotions. You may ruminate more than most people, become defensive and overreact in the face of real or imagined criticism, become easily frustrated and blurt out your feelings (once again asking yourself, “Oooops! Did I say that out loud?”)

ADHD Makes Me Lose Control

ADHD affects your brain’s executive functions, one of which is to control frustration and other emotions. You may also enjoy the stimulation of an extreme emotion. Many ADHDers I know seek or create situations where emotions run high because it keeps their mind focused on what’s going on. My husband often says that while it’s not listed as an ADHD symptom, it should be! ADHDers are “drama addicts”! Finally, you may have scars from numerous reprimands and put downs that make you more vulnerable to negative thoughts.

Controlling Your Emotions Starts With Taking Care of Your Physical Needs

You may remember the recent candy bar commercial where the late, great Robin Williams played a football coach (with typical manic impersonations of numerous characters) before transforming into the actual football coach once he’d eaten this candy bar. The message that “you’re not yourself when you’re hungry,” applies very well to ADHDers. I quickly notice how much more emotionally charged conversations are in our house when one of the ADHDers I live with is hungry or hasn’t slept well the night before. Exercise also helps you manage stress better, so skipping your regular workout makes you more susceptible to feeling frustrated.

Become Familiar with Your Internal Workings

You can help gain control over your emotions by learning how they work. And I’m not referring to “theoretical” knowledge you’d get from a book; I mean you need to take the time after an emotional outburst to think through what happened. What triggered the event, what was your reaction, and why were the results negative? You can then plan ahead by considering how you could have responded that would have had a different result so that you can better manage it the next time. This is a huge challenge for many ADHDers who, once the emotion has quieted down, don’t pay attention to it, other than to wonder how they can make amends for saying or doing what they just did.

However, if you can practice analyzing your emotional outbursts, you may need to apologize far less often. I know many ADHDers find rehearsed “scripts” that may or may not involve speaking very useful. One of the most common such scripts that everyone has been taught at some point is, “If I feel I’m going to say something I might regret, I’ll count to 10.) The problem is always how to know an outburst is coming before it’s too late (more on that in a minute.)

Techniques such as mindfulness can also be helpful. Mindfulness is not about contemplating your navel; rather, it’s about being present in the moment, engaging all your senses and feeling what’s going on now. What you want to review are:

1) What event triggered your emotional blow-up?

2) What sensation did you feel in your body shortly before the emotional outburst occurred?

Was there tension in your shoulders? Did you feel something in the pit of your stomach? Did your breathing or heart rate change? Paying attention to these signs can be very helpful for managing your emotions in the future. The next time you start feeling those sensations, you’ll be better able to predict and possibly prevent an imminent blow up.

3) What emotion did you feel?

Was it fear? Anger? Jealousy? Outrage? Sadness? At first blush, they all appear as, “I was just mad.” However, you want to hone in on the true source of the emotion you perceived as “mad.” This will shed light on the thoughts the event triggered.

4) What were you thinking?

Events trigger thoughts, which trigger emotions. What belief is at the root of the thought? For example, your boss may look at you one day with a strange look on her face. You might think to yourself, “I’ve done something wrong, she’s going to fire me” and begin to feel anxious. This feeling will cause a lot of tension in your shoulders and a lump in the pit of your stomach, thinking that you’ll probably be raked over the coals. You start telling yourself things like “I’m always making mistakes or saying the wrong thing.”

I’ll discuss how you can manage that thought in a future segment. For now, let’s keep our focus on how you can control the outburst at work.

Crafting a Game Plan

It’s always better to craft a game plan for those emotional outbursts that happen often while you’re not emotionally volatile. The best way to control your emotions is to be aware of triggers and clues that you’re losing your cool and to have a plan on how you’ll deal with these triggers when the clues show up. Most of us have a few options when events make us emotional.

1) You can react: This is of course, what you’ve been doing and you might want to change it since it is exactly what’s gotten you into trouble.

2) You can remove yourself from the situation: You can create a “script” to explain why you need to remove yourself; prepare it in advance.

3) You can let it go: As you become better at controlling your emotions, this will become an option that’s open to you.

4) You can prepare a response ahead of time: This requires forethought. Take time to analyze past experiences for clues. Once you have identified a few clues to help you predict an imminent emotional outburst, you can craft a game plan for managing your emotions BEFORE they occur. Become sensitive to the clues that something is about to happen and decide how you’ll handle things the next time these clues appear. The nice part is that you can even ask for help in preparing your game plan from someone who has more experience and more success dealing with people. You may want to practice your response in front of the mirror or with the person helping you, as long as they are someone who has your back and is willing to help you.

Your game plan may look like this:

  • When I notice myself feeling overwhelmed, I’ll take two deep breaths. As soon as I feel the tension dropping, I’ll make a list of what needs to get done and if needed, I’ll talk to my boss to determine priorities.
  • When I notice that I’m clenching my jaw and my fists and I know I’m close to losing my cool, I’ll tell people “I need a bit of time to think about this; I’ll get back to you later.” or you can simply use an excuse to walk away so that you can “regroup”.

How to Ask for Accommodations at Work (Without Coming Out About ADHD!)

The workplace has become a very challenging place, even for neurotypicals. Maybe it’s always been this way, but with the speed things happen today, increased expectations from bosses and clients and world-wide competition for your job, it certainly seems more stressful than ever. If you have adult ADHD, you add a big bunch of extra challenges to the mix:

  • Inattentiveness and lack of focus can lead to missed details, and make it challenging to accomplish work that requires concentration at the best of times,
  • Forgetfulness has very likely already led to more than one missed commitment and the resulting loss of credibility,
  • Disorganization has you feeling overwhelmed, distracted and jumping from one task to another,
  • Procrastination leads to last-minute, gun-to-the-head, high-stress production to meet deadlines, causing you great stress,
  • Or you play the hero, pitching in to put out other people’s fires while your own work goes undone,
  • and more.

These extra challenges make the workplace a veritable minefield of reprimands and disappointments, but what can you do about it?

The obvious answer, and the one most experts provide, is that “You should ask for accommodations at work.” That sounds simple, doesn’t it? Accommodations have been proven to help, and it’s likely they would help you, but there’s a little problem. How can you ask for and get accommodations unless you disclose your ADHD at work? And as we know, there are risks associated with that.

So what can you do? There are ways of asking for accommodations without disclosing your ADHD. If you don’t feel it’s safe to disclose your ADHD at work, or if you’d just rather not, you’ll be happy to hear there’s a “formula” that will help you to ask for “accommodations” without outing yourself. Use this model “script” to write down what you’d like to say, adapted to your specific circumstances, practice and use again and again with success:

Step 1. Describe your specific struggle and the circumstances surrounding it.

Step 2. Describe a possible solution you’ve thought of.

Step 3. Describe the benefits your boss, your co-workers and you will get from implementing this solution. WIIFY & M (What’s in it for you and me.)

For example, if there’s too much noise in your cubicle farm and you feel you’d be able do a better job preparing a particularly challenging report that you need to do regularly if you had a quiet place to do your work, you would apply the three steps as follows:

Step 1. Describe your specific struggle: Say something like, “I really struggle to stay focused on the XYZ reports because of all the noise in office.”

Step 2. Describe a possible solution: “I’ve thought of one possible solution: when I work on these reports, would it be possible for me to use a closed office, conference room, or to work from home?”

Step 3. Describe the benefits: “This will help me get it done much faster, so Joe can get started on his part sooner, and I’ll complete it with fewer or no mistakes so it’ll reduce the time you spend double-checking everything.”

You’ve done a good job of selling the solution by pointing out the benefits to all, it doesn’t sound like you’re whining… and no one mentioned ADHD!

So the formula is:

accommodations-ask-formula

 

“Job accommodation means modifying a job, job site, or the way in which a job is done so that the person with a disability can have equal access to all aspects of work.”1

Job accommodations may also include the use of tools such as headsets, assistive technology, training, job restructuring, job reassignments or even an administrative assistant.

One of my clients, an administrative assistant, had to review all of her supervisors’ direct reports’ expense reports once a week. This was tedious work that required a lot of focus and some quiet uninterrupted time. The challenge she faced was that she was expected to answer the phone at the same time, which led to numerous mistakes. Here’s the script she used:

Step 1. I’m really struggling with reviewing your direct reports’ expenses. The challenge is that each time I answer the phone, I lose track of where I was before the call. This leads to missing details or making mistakes.

Step 2. I know that I need two or three hours of uninterrupted time when I am most focused to ensure I don’t make these mistakes. I’ve found a possible solution: Could Carol take my phone calls on Tuesday mornings so that I can do the work uninterrupted?

Step 3. With this solution in place, I’ll be able to dramatically reduce mistakes and make sure all the receipts are there and accounted for. This will prevent you from getting calls from the Accounting Department or the company paying out more than allowed by receipts. With fewer interruptions, I may even be able to get it done faster.

Her supervisor thought it was an excellent idea and allowed the phone call transfers so my client was able to complete this work without mistakes. And they all lived happily ever after!

ADHD Time Management Woes Part 3: Big Picture thinking

ADHD Time Management Woes Part 2: Overwhelm

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