I love the show “Parks & Recreation.” One of my favorite moments of the NBC series is in Season 4, Episode 16, when Ron Swanson sagaciously tells Leslie Knope, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”
That’s great advice. One, problem, though: I struggle to whole-ass even one thing. And I’m not alone.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is, at its core, a problem with motivation. As I noted in a previous post, according to an article published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry in 2011, “Disruption of the dopamine reward pathway is associated with motivation deficits in ADHD adults.”
In other words, a person with ADHD has a lack of motivation to get motivated. And that, in turn, results in a whole lot of people, myself included, unable to get things not only done but also done well. The obvious solution is to sacrifice quality in the name of punctuality. But it’s not exactly ideal to have approximately 4 percent of the U.S. adult population not living up to their full intellectual potential. Remember, ADHD and intelligence aren’t mutually exclusive: Many ADHDers are born with an unusually high level of innate intelligence; many ADHDers tend to relish conducting research, especially online (more on this in a future post).
Speaking, I flatter myself, as an ADHDer of both of those kinds, I can tell you firsthand how incredibly frustrating this is. I often have what I, at least, feel are genuinely brilliant ideas, but even if I manage to get them out, seeing a project or task through to completion always feels like a pipe dream for me. After all, the more complex your ideas, the harder you have to work to take them out of the realm of the hypothetical and put them into practice.
The fact remains that ADHD or no, ideally, we’d all be able to work. It’s a source of financial security and the key to realizing the American Dream. Plus, much as we may deny it, life without some work is frankly kind of dull.
So what’s to be done?
First of all — and this is essential — you have to find work you like. I’m not saying you have to love every single moment, but you have to be interested in whatever the object of the work is and be enthused by the prospect of doing that work. This advice applies to job-related work and regular, everyday tasks, as well. Last year, I had a brief stint as an office manager at a nonprofit — I know, I know, nothing says ‘bright future in administrative work’ like chronic ADHD *ironic face*. But I believed in the mission of the organization and hoped that eventually, I would be able to move on to a position more suited to my talents. Yeah, that turned out to be a terrible strategy. If I never see another copy machine again, it will be too soon!
Likewise, you have to work within the constraints of your ADHD, dedicating your most focused time to the task in question, even if it means having to neglect (temporarily) household responsibilities or reschedule (politely) social commitments. That is a lesson I’m just now learning. In the past, I’d put other areas of my life on the back burner because I felt I had no choice; often, I wouldn’t even realize I was doing it until after the fact. Now, however, I prioritize with intentionality.
Finally, you must, must, MUST play to your strengths. To establish myself as a name to remember in the blogosphere, I’m supposed to have an active presence on multiple social media platforms, promoting every post multiple times. But with only 10 hours a day in which I can concentrate, I just don’t have the time to play the social media game. One thing I do have going for me, though, is a natural talent (again, I flatter myself) for writing. So I’ve chosen to focus on producing the best content possible for every single post, rather than attempting and failing to give my blog an ongoing active, involved social media presence (and I hope I’m succeeding).
The ADHD half-ass curse is no laughing matter. When you’re in thrall to it, it can derail your life, and thus, your happiness. But if you find work that is meaningful to you, work that you could see yourself doing if you didn’t have ADHD, and find innovative ways to do it with ADHD, you can face the working world like any other woman. Good luck!