Do you have career ADD? A few days ago, I had a great conversation with my old next door neighbor. He is a guy I connect with when it comes to business and brainstorming ideas. He has ADD like me, and has always been happy and excited about his life and about his work. I want to share a few of the tips I learned from Marco that might benefit some of us who tend toward career distractions. Marco knew early on that he loved sales. He manages tee shirt accounts through a company that caters to “big box” retail stores as well as mom and pops. When the economy took a nose dive, he used his outside-the-box creativity and “I need to keep working or doing something so I don’t get bored" ADD skills to help bring in a good income for his family - although they have had to make some changes. He also owns (and his wife operates) another company in our town that is reasonably profitable. You can see just by the description of Marco’s life that he has multiple streams of income which require a wide variety of skill sets and activities that keep him busy. True to ADD form, his work day is never linear. For example, he makes lists of what needs to be done, and instead of going down the list, skips around so he’s doing the tasks he enjoys the most first, and hopefully getting to the least enjoyable tasks later on. He is very much aware of his nature, and although he has not been formally diagnosed, he embraces his idiosyncrasies and exclaims to his wife, “If I weren’t like this, our life would be boring.” She agrees. This is key. She is very organized and absolutely thrives on the details. Marco, on the other hand loves to throw out the task at hand as if it were as simple to accomplish as a smile. Although this has been a source of some irritation for her (as well as mild arguments), she willingly helps him to manage it all in both businesses! I have often thought those of us with ADD should be born with a personal assistant to take care of the details… but I digress. Not bad if you can find that in your life partner or maybe just hire someone. Marco explained he uses a timer every day. He understands he can spend more time on tasks that are not profitable just because they are fun, and less time on those that require a bit more focus. The timer helps keep him on track and also allows him to get up and take a breather so he can return refreshed and ready to tackle another task. Notice I didn’t say “the next task.” Try as we might, this is almost impossible for those of us with the distraction factor wired into our brains. Even now, I am tempted to switch activities and am amazed I’m still writing this article without getting another cup of tea. One of the key factors in Marco’s success is he LOVES and THRIVES on the variety in his work - “I never do the same thing every day. It is always new and fresh.” He enjoys traveling to new places. When he comes back to his home office, he is ready to throw orders out to his wife to take care of the details. Marco’s office is something to behold. He has a desk piled with papers (disorganization is something that is part of our make-up – the key is knowing where to find everything). But the most surprising and key element of his office are the two drum sets in either corner. One is so he can get up and break the day up with a completely new activity that is somewhat physical. The other is for when his son comes home from school and they can take a break and play together. It was so fun to get caught up with Marco, and so enlightening to finally understand our connection. He wholeheartedly labels himself as ADD, although he’s never had a true diagnosis. However, he embraces his finely tuned brain and uses it to his benefit to live an amazing life.
Tips To Embrace Your Career ADD:
- Love what you do by working in a field that allows you to switch activities often and offers enough variety in your work to keep you from getting bored.
- Define and design your workspace so that you maximize your day (cubicles don’t general work well for folks with career ADD).
- Consider work that allows for independence and does not require a great deal of organization, or...
- Hire or marry someone who can help you manage the details, or bribe someone with chocolate chip cookies.
- Use a timer so each of your tasks are given the attention they need, allowing for min-breaks throughout the day.
- Don’t expect yourself to follow the tasks you list for the day in a linear fashion – it’s okay to skip around.
- Embrace your gifts – you tend to think bigger and more outside the box than most – you are ten steps ahead of everyone, so let them catch up and be patient when they don’t get it right away.