Unleash Your Creative Genius

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The Single Most Important Thing Creative Geniuses Can Do to Get Better Results

 

Most of you don’t know this, but I suffer from chronic pain from an injury I sustained almost 20 years ago in a car accident. Since then, I live every day with pain. I manage the chronic pain through good lifestyle choices such as exercise and good sleep. Every now and then, the pain increases to excruciating levels. Those periods can last between two and four weeks. A bone growth digging into nerves on both sides of my spine creates severe pain. It can affect my back and one or both arms. There’s no cure for this at the moment.

Want to Change Your Results? Change Your Mind

Why am I telling you this? I’m not seeking sympathy. Many Creative Geniuses struggle in a neurotypical world, faced with failure after failure. At least, they do until they discover how to unlock their full potential. Life is lonely and painful – it is its own brand of chronic pain. If you’re a Creative Genius who’s felt the “chronic pain” of not fitting in, what I discovered will make your life better.

This flare-up came right in the middle of the launch for my biggest program. Program launches demand enormous effort, energy and money to be successful. A lot was riding on this launch.

There couldn’t have been worse timing. Or…? I now see what happened as an omen.

It All Depends on Your Mindset

Like many Creative Geniuses, I struggle with negative thinking and rumination. Every now and then, a horrible Gremlin whispers in my ear that I don’t deserve success. That voice tells me “catastrophes” always occur when I’m taking risks.

But are these “catastrophes”? Or is it only life unfolding? No one is bombing my neighborhood; no tornado is destroying my home. Those are catastrophes. Let’s de-dramatize the problem.

When I’m stretching out of my comfort zone, I often feel I don’t “qualify” for the “Successful People’s Club. Is it true? Am I “not enough” to be successful?

Kick Your Gremlin to the Curb

Everyone has the potential to make a great contribution.

This belief led me to work with Creative Geniuses. My Creative Genius husband transformed his life, yes. But he also transformed our family. And his transformation has affected friends, co-workers and thousands more Creative Geniuses. All by learning how to succeed as a Creative Genius. I wanted to unleash that potential for every Creative Genius.

We all have the potential to make a great contribution. It’s true for me, and for you. “Being” is all you need to qualify for the “Successful People’s Club.” All you need is to change your mindset so you have the strength and the courage to say, “Shut up Gremlin!”

While this was happening, I was reading “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero. A great book for anyone, it is especially wonderful for Creative Geniuses. You’ll find wisdom and inspiration to push through the hurdles you face as you stretch out of your comfort zone.

Seeing the Perfection of It All

The author suggested we face every challenge with the statement “This is good because …”

One Wednesday morning, I called my husband, Duane, at work. I was crying in agony – nothing would relieve the pain and felt vulnerable and hopeless. Duane dropped everything and came home immediately. He spent the next week and a half with me. We often say “I love you”, but nothing brings home that love like the selfless support he provided. I’m getting teary-eyed as I write this.

I had no choice but to rely on other people for everything. There were people counting on my program and I could no longer deliver, not on my own. Duane and my assistant, Kelly, worked together to support me and to run the launch. With my support system in place and medication for pain, I was able to complete the last video.

It was terrible. It looked like I felt. I couldn’t think straight, I didn’t have my usual energy. I hated it, but I knew it was the best I could do. As I watched it, my inner perfectionist struggled to release it.

This is Good Because…

Despite that lousy last video, I enrolled twice as many participants as my previous record! The statement, “This is good because…” was challenging. But demanding an answer no matter what obstacle I faced that transformed my mindset. That’s what allowed me to push through instead of giving up.

Looking back now, I still ask that question. And I like the answers! This is good because…

  • I (finally!) realize I don’t have to do everything myself. I can rely on others to help me.
  • I discovered I’m a badass! I can persevere in the face of any adversity, as long as I adopt the right mindset.

How Can You Use This?

  1. Live full out. You have much to contribute to this world. The world works best when we all enjoy our lives, when we do what we love, when we are our true selves… masterpieces trying to shine through.
  2. Reaching your full potential will demand you get out of your comfort zone. It’ll be scary… ok, terrifying! But if you push through despite the struggles, know you are growing into a better version of yourself.
  3. When faced with adversity, finish this statement: “This is good because…

Top 3 Strategies to Conquer Overwhelm

“I was running around, jumping from one task to another… as soon as I started something, I’d realize I was forgetting another task, so I’d jump on it. I was frazzled and then I realized I was getting nowhere!”

This was how my client, Chris described the moments leading to his near-breakdown. He was suffering a massive case of overwhelm.

“I lost it. I completely zoned out, paralyzed by this overwhelming feeling that everything was out of control. The phone was ringing, emails kept coming in, proposals needed my attention and I just couldn’t move, I couldn’t think. I felt this sense of doom.

“What’s worse,” he continued, “is that I have been having more of these episodes lately and I have no idea what to do.”

What Chris was describing is known as overwhelm. It happens to many of my clients, and as Chris discovered, unless things change, it’ll keep happening. If you tackle your work and your life the same way, you’ll get the same results, day after day… after day.

In this video, discover the 3 top strategies for stopping the cycle of overwhelm, strategies you can implement right now.

Facebook Live Event: Top 3 Strategies for Stopping Overwhelm

What: Facebook Live Event

When: Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 at 8 pm EST (New York time).

Where: on Facebook Live Click here to get notification

“I was running around, jumping from one task to another… as soon as I started something, I’d realize I was forgetting another task, so I’d jump on it. I was frazzled and then I realized I was getting nowhere!”

This was how my client, Chris described the moments leading to his near-breakdown. He was suffering a massive case of overwhelm.

“I lost it. I completely zoned out, paralyzed by this overwhelming feeling that everything was out of control. The phone was ringing, emails kept coming in, proposals needed my attention and I just couldn’t move, I couldn’t think. I felt this sense of doom.

“What’s worse,” he continued, “is that I have been having more of these episodes lately and I have no idea what to do.”

What Chris was describing is known as overwhelm. It happens to many of my clients, and as Chris discovered, unless things change, it’ll keep happening. If you tackle your work and your life the same way, you’ll get the same results, day after day… after day.

In this Facebook Live session, discover the 3 top strategies for stopping the cycle of overwhelm, strategies you can implement right now.

Like the Event and the following Page: CreativeGeniusCoach Page

Goal Setting for Creative Geniuses: the Big WHY

By Linda Walker
This is the time of the year, after indulging during the holidays, when many of us decide to buckle down and set new goals or targets for ourselves in the coming year. Creative geniuses often set big goals. Big goals have the power to energize and inspire, especially when the going gets tough; however, big goals are usually long term goals and that can often spell trouble for you.

You see, Creative Geniuses, a term I use to describe people with out-of-the-box thinking such as entrepreneurs and people with ADHD, are interest-based performers who need the quick payoff of shorter goals to stay motivated. In addition, many ambitious creative geniuses think big but, faced with then taking action, don’t know where to start. Add to that a sometimes limited level of belief in your ability to reach your goal, and your stick-to-it-iveness will be tested many times. If your goal seems too “pie-in-the-sky” or feels too out of reach, only a strong belief in your ability to eventually succeed will keep you going, or not. You’ve heard the old adage: “if you think you can or you can’t, you’re right”.

On the other hand, many who’ve tried and failed too many times limit themselves by only setting small goals. The problem with this approach is that when you choose goals that don’t move you out of your comfort zone, even if you manage to reach your goal, it doesn’t feed your need for accomplishment. You know you didn’t have to stretch so you don’t respect the achievement. Of course, small goals aren’t very exciting and so don’t have the same power to motivate. So what should you do?

If you’re a creative genius who wants to aim higher and accomplish more, the first thing you need to do is to think about the change you want to make happen in your life and get clear on why it’s important to you. Keep digging deeper. Once you have found a first reason it’s important to you, ask why that’s important to you. Then ask why THAT is important to you and so on. Keep digging deeper until you reach a reason that really resonates emotionally with you.

Here’s an example: many people want to be wealthy and set a big financial goal for themselves. The problem is that, oddly enough, even if it’s a big number, the dream of being wealthy is not a compelling one. As soon as you hit some bumps along the way, you’re very likely to resign yourself to your current lifestyle. But go a step further and ask why it is important to be wealthy? “I want to be able to quit my job”, you answer. Then ask, why is quitting your job important? “I hate that my job takes me away from home”. Why is it important not to be away from home? “Because I want to spend more time with my spouse and kids”. And why is that important to you? “Because I want to be a bigger part of their lives”. And why is that important? “Because I love them and I cherish every moment I can be with them and I want to guide my kids through all the experiences life has to offer them.” Ah ha! Now we’re talking!

Once you have a reason that really resonates with you emotionally, when you face setbacks, and you will face setbacks if you’re reaching high, which is more likely to keep you going? The thought of having a lot of money? Or the dream of being present in your children’s lives and being able to share all sorts of wonderful experiences with them? So the real goal is to have more time and more freedom so you can be a bigger part of your family’s life. Your goal is really not be wealthy. The great thing is, there are ways to break that goal down into smaller steps with the possibility of spending more time with your family showing up as a reward much sooner than the time required for you to achieve sufficient wealth to quit your job.

The next time we talk, I’ll show you how to set yourself up to take action toward whatever change you want in your life.

Mastering Productivity with ADHD Through Focus

Available for a limited time only (December 18, 2016 at 11:59 pm EST)

I launched a workshop for ADHD adults, entrepreneurs and other creative geniuses with challenges with their productivity earlier in the week. This 3-part workshop offers a key strategy for managing your productivity through improved focus.

Many people who’ve come to attend the video workshop found it very helpful. Here are a few comments:

comments1bv2

 

If you want to find out more, visit the Focus to Freedom Workshop.

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.

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.

Is My Working Memory On Strike?

TimeManagementReminderRecently on my Facebook page, one of my readers asked an excellent question that, I think, merits some exploration. She asked me, “Why can I remember the smallest details about events that happened years ago, yet not remember what I did an hour ago?” Memory issues are a common problem in people with Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) that we don’t often discuss, but the repercussions can be huge.

Over twenty clinical studies on ADHD have shown that the volume of the prefrontal cortex and the cingulate cortex of people with ADHD is different compared to those of non-ADHDers.  These two structures in your brain are responsible for the executive functions, functions which are involved in many high-level cognitive processes such as planning, organizing, strategizing, focus, time management, project management, emotional control, initiating activity (getting started) and working memory.

If I Forget, Is It Always Caused by Lapses in Memory?

Two of the executive functions can play a role in memory issues. For example, if you are not paying attention to where you drop your keys when you come home, no information will be remembered but not because you forgot. You never had any information to store in your memory banks in the first place. Most of the memory issues ADHDers face are associated specifically with their working memory.

Wikipedia defines working memory as “the system that is responsible for the transient holding and processing of new and already stored information, an important process for reasoning, comprehension, learning and memory updating.”  It’s the process you use when you try to dial a phone number or complete some mental calculation. Imagine your spouse asks you to complete a task, and you agree to do this task. So, you’re off to complete the task, but on the way, the phone rings or you have an interesting idea or some other distraction occurs. Now, if you have a poor working memory, which is the case for people with ADHD, the task you promised to do, which is not yet in your long-term memory, is completely forgotten. It was wiped out by the new information you put in your working memory. Of course, as many of you know, this can cause a lot of problems in your relationships.

Why Can You Remember Certain Information or Events and Not Others?

Researchers have identified certain factors that influence your capacity to remember certain information or events:

  1. Your level of attention for the event. Do you have something else on your mind? Are you anxious or excited about something else while this is going on?
  2. Your interest in the subject. Of course, if you are interested or passionate about a particular subject, or it is one that you need to know, you are more motivated to expend the effort to pay attention and to retain it.
  3. Your emotional state during the event. In the past, when my ADHD husband and I fought, he was able to quote me on things I said or did during some of the more explosive fights we had five or six years before. I was amazed he could quote me word-for-word what I had said, what I was wearing, where we were standing, but he couldn’t remember what he had committed to do fifteen minutes earlier. As you can imagine the situations he was recalling were very emotional for both of us, and as a result, they tended to be stored easily in long-term memory.
  4. The sensory context. We best remember situations that were vividly captured by our sense of smell, taste, sight, hearing and touch. You’ll more easily remember a meal you had in a restaurant where the food was incredibly tasty or awful.

How Do I Manage If My Working Memory Is On Strike?

Now that you know more about your memory, it’s important to recognize that working memory is an issue for people with ADHD, and that there are strategies you can use to compensate for those issues.  Here are a few:

  1. Avoid relying on your memory for important information. Keep a small notebook on you or use an application such as Evernote on your smart phone to capture all relevant and important information.
  2. Create a system that includes reviewing your notes. You could make an appointment with yourself in your calendar to review your notes periodically during the day and to make decisions about how you will manage the information. Do you need to set an appointment with yourself to complete something? Do you want to capture the information for a project you’re working on? Use your agenda to create reminders for things you must remember later.
  3. Learn to move important, relevant, information to your long-term memory through repetition or by reviewing the information through different senses.
  4. Create systems such as habits and routines to avoid needing to remember tasks that are important in your life. This way you can “set ‘em and forget ‘em” because your system will kick in when it’s time to remember.

If you want more information on memory, here’s a good resources:   http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/a/a_07/a_07_p/a_07_p_tra/a_07_p_tra.html

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

What If It’s Not Procrastination?

By Linda Walker

struggling to focusNothing’s more frustrating than to plan to complete a certain task only to discover you don’t “feel like it,” you’re “not in the mood,” or you’re blocked, “drawing a blank.” You’ve spent time you’ll never get back, and you have nothing to show for it. We hear adults with ADHD are poor time managers, but when you make the effort, when you do what you’re supposed to do… it would really be nice if you accomplished what you planned. After all, it’s not like you have nothing but free time the rest of the week!

Even when you do everything they say

You dismiss it as “writer’s block,” or not being “in the zone,” and juggle appointments, staying late, again, to make up for the unproductive time you wasted. It’s so frustrating because you followed every time management expert’s recommendation: you broke your project into manageable chunks, you planned time to work on those tasks, you blocked off appointments in your agenda so no one could ask you to do anything else, you eliminated distractions (maybe you even hid out at a coffee shop to avoid phone calls and emails) and it still didn’t work. Hours have slipped through your fingers, never to be recovered, and you have nothing to show for it.

Mention this to most people and they’ll dismiss it. “You’re just having a bad day. It happens to everyone.” When it happens again, people wonder why you’re “procrastinating.” After all, you didn’t get it done today, so you’re rescheduling it for tomorrow, or the next day. It sure looks like procrastination. And they’ve got great advice for that too! They tell you, “Always do the toughest thing first.” Someone else confides that their secret is, “Always do the easiest thing first.” Another offers the always helpful, “Just do it.”

But when it happens regularly, they begin to look at you sideways. “Maybe you’re blocked because you’re not facing your fears?” Or the old favorite, “Maybe you don’t really want to succeed; are you sabotaging yourself?” Maybe you’d even believe them, if it wasn’t for the fact that sometimes, you’re not sure why, the stars align and everything clicks. You’re able to get things done, faster and better than anyone else. Obviously you can do this. You start to wonder if you’re crazy.

You can’t tell if you’re not managing your time properly, if you’re procrastinating or if you’re secretly self-sabotaging! What you do know is that nothing seems to work, at least it never works well enough that you can count on it.

You’re missing the real reason

What if I told you that you’re missing the real reason for your inconsistent performance? You’re not lazy, procrastinating, or even crazy. You’re not “afraid of success.” No, the real problem is that your energy levels are not optimal for the activity you have planned. Everyone’s energy levels fluctuate throughout the day. However, adults with ADHD are particularly susceptible to variations in brain energy. Concentration or mental focus requires a lot of energy, so if you plan to tackle an activity that requires your full attention at a time when your energy levels are low, you’ll struggle. You’ll find it impossible to focus, difficult to control your urge to fidget and a complete waste of time to attempt to “will” yourself to concentrate anyway.

Most people underestimate the importance of matching your energy levels with the demands your activities place on your brain. Unaffected, the prefrontal cortex can function well enough through a range of energy levels. However, as an adult with ADHD, your impaired prefrontal cortex is sensitive to even slight variations. The effect of a drop in energy is so dramatic, just understanding your own energy cycle so you can schedule tasks to match the appropriate energy level well lets you reliably finish whatever you plan rather than having to reschedule because you “weren’t in the mood.”

Scheduling the right activity at the wrong place in your energy cycle is like throwing perfectly good time out the window. I had one client, Diane, who had taken the plunge, leaving her job to start her own business. Within six months, she was desperate. Consulting contracts weren’t coming in because she was really struggling to complete and deliver her proposals. Funds were running low and she was wondering if she was cut out to be a business owner. She contacted me to help her to overcome her procrastination; she really needed to be able to prepare and submit proposals on time.

Once she explained the situation, I recognized that her main problem was not actually procrastination. It became obvious that because she was unaware of her energy patterns, she was attempting to work on her proposals at the wrong time of the day. In fact, her time allocation was completely off.

In the week following mapping out her peak energy cycles she called at 6 pm in a panic. She’d been trying unsuccessfully for the last four hours to complete a proposal for a potential client despite a next-day deadline. In the past, if nothing else worked, she’d count on the deadline to get her focused enough to complete the proposal, but today even that wasn’t working.

I helped her see that proposals require a lot of mental energy and that she’d have better results if she scheduled this work at a time when her energy cycle was high. She decided to tackle the proposal the next day during her peak energy time, and the next morning called me back, excited because she’d just completed her proposal, with ease, and it had only taken her 45 minutes! She had time left over to check her figures, have it edited and deliver it by the end of the day.

She loved the feeling of being “in the zone.” She got more done, in less time, and turned out better quality work. No surprise, really, that she got the contract.

Most people don’t pay attention to fluctuations in their mental energy, treating each hour of the day as if they were all the same. Unfortunately, while this may not dramatically affect most people, adults with ADHD are working at a real disadvantage when they don’t match their activities to their mental energy patterns. Many ADHDers also have habits that affect their energy patterns, making it difficult to stabilize and recognize their own energy patterns.

To improve your effectiveness:

  1. Adopt ADHD-friendly strategies to understand, identify and stabilize your energy patterns
  2. Take note of your predictable energy pattern fluctuations  and how they affect your ability to focus, your need to move and your periods of exhaustion throughout your day;
  3. Optimize your mental energy  by matching the type of energy necessary for each task to the best time to complete it;
  4. Engage in healthy habits that energize your brain
  5. If you still struggle to put this puzzle together, get the help of an ADHD coach who understands how ADHD affects energy patterns and how your energy patterns impact your ADHD.

Coach Linda Walker, PCC, helps adults with ADHD improve their productivity at work, achieve work-life balance and prevent burnout. The author of With Time to Spare: The Ultimate Guide to Peak Performance for Entrepreneurs, Adults with ADHD and other Creative Geniuses, she is also the creator of The Maximum Productivity Makeover and Thrive! The Natural Approach to Optimal Focus and Effectiveness.

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