What lessons does ADHD offer everyone when it comes to productivity?
The challenge for all of us as we go through this information overload world that we live in is to sort through all the information and to make choices. You need to make choices about what is the most, about what to do first. What do I do second? What do I perhaps never do?
We’re balancing multiple goals and multiple priorities. Some things are really fun, and we want to do them. Some things are really painfully boring or cognitively challenging, and we’re not so sure we want to do them, but we probably should.
This is the world that we live in, and moment by moment, we’re making choices about where to put our attention, and where to put our energy or cognitive energy.
For folks with ADHD, really, what separates ADHD from folks without ADHD is that ADHD is kind of an exacerbation. It’s like on a spectrum, so to speak, with this kind of general human tendency that we all tend to favor the present over the future. So, in other words, what’s going to be more interesting, what’s going to be more important right now, as opposed to what’s going to be more interesting or what’s going to be more beneficial for me later.
For example, this is why people suck at saving for retirement because going out to dinner, or in this world ordering in dinner tonight, is way more interesting than putting money away into retirement that I may not need for 30 years – even though it’s going to be twice as much or five times as much as what we spent on dinner tonight. ADHD is that – but more so. People with ADHD have more difficulty letting go of the distractions, the temptations of the moment, and instead of acting towards the thing that’s better for the future. So, as a result, they tend to procrastinate more. And while procrastinating is something we all do, folks with ADHD tend to do it even more so.
Balancing multiple goals and priorities can be challenging for anyone, but ADHD makes it even more challenging. People with ADHD have to decide where to put their attention and energy – and while prioritizing may be a simple skill for you – it’s more difficult for them. Being cognizant of the process that people with ADHD work through can help you better understand the choices that they are making.
Why is it so hard to do the right thing in the moment?
The reason is, in order to think towards the future, we have to disengage from the present. So, if you get absorbed in something really interesting right now, you’re not pausing to think about, “Well, is this really the best thing I should be doing? Is this the best use of my time? What is coming down the pike that I should probably start thinking about and acting on sooner rather than later on.”
A big part of managing ADHD is about managing the environment. While medication is very effective for ADHD, if you can’t change the distractibility inside your own mind, then the thing you do is change the world around you. So, often you’ll limit how much comes at you. You will purposely set certain things aside in order to have a plan or to have clear goals and priorities. Because if you don’t really know your priorities, how do you decide what is the best thing to do in this moment versus in the next moment versus next week? Having a clear sense of what your big goals and priorities are is important, then the individual choices flow down from that.
Doing the right thing in the moment to move your business forward is important. Goals and priorities are essential for making that happen – as are limiting the distractions. These are lessons we can all use.
How do we handle uncertainty?
Uncertainty is always a part of life. It was a thing in December before any of us heard of COVID. We’ve always been dealing with uncertainty.
I think what’s changed is that all of a sudden, we got hit with a big wad of uncertainty – all at once. For example, those of us who all of a sudden had to transition working from home, there were lots of questions to work through, such as:
· How do we do this again?
· How do I do those old things?
· What are these new things I’ve got to do?
· How do I get my kid figured out on zoom?
A lot changed really quickly. But life has transitions, and things change. So, it’s not different in kind; it’s just different in scale.
The quarantine situation has had numerous effects. For some people, it’s really been helpful to wind down a bit and really focus on what’s most important. It’s also made things simple things more complicated.
Sometimes transitions like this can be an opportunity to think about what is truly the most important to you. While there’s more uncertainty ahead yet, it’s important to have some sense of this is what I’m trying to do. Here’s what’s most important, and here’s what I can let go of. Doing this makes it a bit easier to navigate some of the uncertainty, and that makes it easier to act rather than to not act.
Unfortunately, doing something doesn’t mean you’re doing the right thing. Sometimes we need to just wait for things to evolve and unfold in order to know what the best thing to do is.
People with ADHD tend to be more impulsive, meaning they’re not as good at waiting. They’re more likely to leap before they look, and it’s one of those things that you can cut both ways.
There are definitely a lot of entrepreneurs who have ADHD. And the benefit is if you’re one of the first to leap, you may wind up in an empty space and be able to really establish yourself and make that space your own. The problem is if you leap without looking, you may wind up jumping off a cliff and realize why nobody else has jumped into that space.
There’s a delicate balance. If you’re too cautious, you miss opportunities, but if you rush in too quickly, you can get crushed early on. Different people have different tolerances for how much risk they’re willing to take. You need to know for yourself what’s the right amount.
Uncertainty has always existed is a powerful truth. But dealing with large amounts of uncertainty is the game-changer right now. And deciding how you’re going to react to it will make the biggest difference.
3 Action Steps
- Clarify your goals and priorities.
- Clear goals and priorities will allow you to make choices that are good for your business now and in the future.
- Know that uncertainty has always existed, but use the current uncertainty to decide what is important to you and what is not.