Why we don’t talk about productivity with our ADHD clients...
And what we talk about instead.
There’s a lot written about productivity and ADHD. As you might expect, there’s some good stuff, and there are also some things which are nonsense. Especially when this information is coming from people without a lived experience of ADHD.
Productivity as a word itself feels mechanical, not quite human in many ways. It’s impossible to standardise outputs and productivity where human beings are involved. As the saying goes, we’re human beings, not human doings!
In any coaching capacity, but especially with our ADHD clients, we prefer to focus on a sense of progress – what has moved forward; functioning well – you’re working to your strengths and taking care of yourself and, satisfaction – you’re pleased and proud with your accomplishments.
An ADHD-er might be absolutely on fire one day, but then the next, it turns into a CBA (“can’t be arsed”) day. This doesn’t diminish their worth or value to an organisation or project.
Work with and not against your ADHD
1. Figure Out What Works
Being an ADHD-er does not mean that everyone is the same. One-size-fits-all tips can be tricky to implement and leave some people feeling excluded. There’s no silver bullet; it really is about figuring out what works for you.
Planning, prioritising and protecting time have helped me feel less overwhelmed.
Planning: the day or week ahead
Looking ahead helps me. I’d describe this as giving me a sense of certainty and control over what’s coming.
Inevitably there will be things that crop up that weren’t planned, but by the end of this week, and I am looking back, what will have progressed my work, life or business? Plus, what is essential that can’t be missed?
Prioritising: tasks and outcomes
I create a priorities list (from the Massive To-Do List!). This breaks down the mountain into tasks that feel achievable and doable in the week.
I don’t assign these to any particular day or time (unless a deadline requires it). I see what my energy and mood are like that day and choose accordingly. If you don’t finish something, accept it and focus on what you have done!
Protecting: time and energy
A common thing I have seen in ADHD-ers is people-pleasing (linked no doubt to Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria).
I was no different. This led to my calendar being full of things that would have me task-switching throughout the day. I felt all over the place with calls and appointments every hour or two, dealing with different subjects.
Yes, an ADHD-er can get into the zone, but they need time to find the flow and utilise it.
So, be kind to yourself and not give over every waking moment to clients, colleagues or others. Be precious with your time and set some boundaries!
2. Understand Your Strengths and Make them Work for You!
“Of course, you’d say this, James,” I hear you cry, “you’re a Gallup Strengths coach!”
You’re right! But it works.
If you focus on so-called ‘weaknesses’ you’re putting your energy in the wrong place. Focus on your strengths, nurture and hone them and give yourself the chance to be brilliant.
That’s what Gallup is all about. Read more about Gallup's strength based coaching here.
With each ADHD coaching client, we complete the Clifton Strengths assessment from Gallup. This gives us a profile of the person’s strengths, and we figure out how to deploy those strengths to solve current challenges or to help them excel.
There are a couple of essential realisations from this work.
If you are more aware of who you are and what you are naturally talented at, you are more confident, more motivated and reassured you’re doing a great job.
On the flip side, we also explore how your strengths can potentially de-rail you or affect your working and personal relationships.
Here’s an example. My top 2 Gallup strengths are Strategic and Futuristic.
I like to jump to the future, come up with a gazillion ideas, and figure out the pathways to get there. Brilliant.
But, this means sometimes I have ideas that are perhaps 2-3 years away, could take endless resources to bring to fruition and send my co-Captain into a tailspin! This is very much a derailment. It doesn’t make that strength less valid or diminish the idea; it is, however, important to be aware of.
I have learned that these strengths are both a gift and frustration (to me and others!), leading to procrastination and not finishing what’s needed.
My solution was to create an ideas board in Trello. Whenever something pops up again, a revised solution, a person to connect with, I dip into the Trello board, write it down, and then get back to what I was doing.
Knowing my strengths and how to use them has been a big help for me.
Find the Right Support
Unsurprisingly, no one is good at everything. And if they tell you that they are, you know exactly what they are full of. 💩
It can be daunting to ask for help. I get it. As an ADHD-er, if you’ve been masking and giving off the impression of being fully in control, this can feel like a big step.
If you are employed by a company, chat with your manager, HR department or people professional.
There are reasonable adjustments and supporting staff to do their best work. This will be unique to you and may include additional support through coaching, mentoring, specific tools or technology.
If you run your own business, look around at what help is available.
The UK Government’s Access to Work support we have found to be particularly good in providing support worker help for tasks that bring value to the ADHD-er and their business.
Join and get involved in groups online (or offline) such as on Facebook or in your local community.
I have got a massive amount from hearing the shared experiences from everyone in these places. I ended up feeling listened to and understood, and I came away with tips from others ahead of me in their ADHD journeys.
Reflect on these three things:
How could you be more precious with your time?
Which of your strengths can you direct at your current challenges?
When are you asking for that additional support?
To talk more about our ADHD coaching services, or to take the first step in getting support, get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org