I really just need to get my shit together.
This phrase is something that has appeared in many a journal entry, and I’ve said it out loud repeatedly over, well, my entire adulthood.
It’s been said to (or about) me quite a few times, too.
And of course I’ve tried, time and time again to get my shit together.
And I’ve failed, time and time again.
What I’ve come to realize over the past year is that this is completely normal for those of us with ADHD. Doubly so if we’re dealing with other chronic mental or physical health issues.
At the center of the issue lies one core flaw: our definition of having our shit together is based on how neuro-typical people operate.
It’s the classic problem of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Once we recognize that, we’re faced with yet another problem:
Society tells us that we have to shave off our corners to fit in the hole. That it’s how the world works and we need to do whatever it takes to fit in.
But I’m calling bullshit on that.
Instead, we need to accept that we don’t fit there and build ourselves some custom holes to fit into.
So, as an ADHD Entrepreneur, how do we get our shit together?
Let go of neuro-typical expectations.
We have to accept that the normal productivity expectations and methods aren’t going to work for us like they do for everyone else.
How many times have you picked up a planner or tried a productivity method that “everyone just swears by” and then hated every second of it?
I always came away feeling like it was a problem with me. That I just didn’t get it, or I just wasn’t disciplined enough to stick with it.
Now, I know better. Now I know that I’m wired differently
So, let go of those expectations. Give yourself the freedom to create something that works for you and how your brain is wired rather than trying to restructure your brain to fit into everyone else’s systems.
Identify your (actual, specific) gaps.
The real key to finding or creating systems that actually work for you is identifying your gaps.
“I’m not disciplined” is not a gap. Neither is “I’m unmotivated.”
Gaps need to be specific and honest. And at first they can be hard to identify because they’ve been buried beneath the unkind things we’ve been telling ourselves (or soaking in from others) as we tried to fit into the world’s neuro-typical expectations.
One of my gaps is struggling to remember sequences. I can’t just say “my memory sucks” because that isn’t quite true. Some things stick in my brain really well. But when it comes to remembering the steps to do something, that is a gap in the way my brain is wired. I either completely forget steps and skip them, or I can’t remember where I was in the sequence.
“My memory sucks” doesn’t lend itself to solutions. But “I can’t remember if I washed my hair or not” is something that we can create a system to remedy.
“I’m easily distracted” isn’t helpful. But “I can’t focus when there are competing noises in the background” is something we can find a solution for.
Accept that systems give you freedom.
For many of us, the idea of systems is synonymous with feeling like we are beating our heads against a brick wall.
Or trying to cram ourselves into a box that’s much too small.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
All we have to do is create our own systems rather than trying to use the rigid ones that are promoted by neuro-typical people.
The truth is, systems come in all shapes, sizes and levels of flexibility.
And when we implement the right ones for our brains, they can be incredibly freeing.
Why? Because they fill our gaps.
And filling those gaps allows our brains to rest a bit.
When we have a system in place to help us remember a sequence, or reduce our distractions, it’s one less thing we have to worry about.
With every little system we put in place, every gap we narrow, we get closer to the feeling of having our shit together.
Give systems time and commit to tweaking them rather than giving up completely.
Not every system you put into place is going to work perfectly right away.
Instead of tossing it, take a look at what part of the system isn’t working for you. Why isn’t it working the way you wanted?
More often than not, the solution is a simple tweak rather than a whole new system.
If a planner isn’t working for you, is it really the planner itself, or is it the time of day you’re trying to use it, or maybe where you’re storing it?
If an app isn’t working for you, is it the actual app that’s the issue or is it how you access it? Can you create a shortcut or move where it is on your device?
When I committed to using systems for 30 days before swapping them out, I discovered all sorts of things about myself and how I work. More importantly, I discovered that more often than not, it’s a change of habit or placement that needs to occur rather than buying a whole new planner, app, set of baskets, etc.
It’s a little like the real estate shows where the couple is looking for a new house and then they come back and see their current space updated and staged and realize that’s all they really needed.
When it comes down to it, tweaking systems to make them work for you requires a lot less time, energy, and money than constantly looking for new systems and moving to them.
Seek out accountability.
Another holdover from clinging to neuro-typical expectations is that we harbor this belief that having our shit together means doing it all on our own.
Again, I’m calling bullshit.
While we’re here, let’s go ahead and admit that the whole “set deadlines for yourself” thing doesn’t work for everyone. I see that promoted as a self-accountability tactic and I used to feel terrible that it didn’t work for me and it created a belief that I carried about not being disciplined enough.
Instead I began seeking accountability in formats that actually worked for me.
First, I hired an assistant. Being an entrepreneur can be really lonely, and when there’s no one with a peek inside, it’s really easy to just let things slide. Always telling yourself you’ll get to them later.
Having an assistant and delegating tasks built in timelines for me. She can’t do her job unless I’m doing mine. It also forced me to set up some systems and leave them alone…it’s a lot harder to justify tossing everything and starting over when there are other people involved.
Second, I joined a virtual coworking group. We meet for three hours once a week and work in pomodoro sessions. Saying what I’m working on out loud and knowing that everyone else is working, too, was surprisingly helpful.
Turns out that body-doubling is a technique that often helps people with ADHD and this is a method that allows me to achieve that virtually.
In fact, this helped me so much that I started hosting my own virtual coworking for ADHD entrepreneurs. (Click here to sign up for that…it’s free!)
Getting your shit together will always be a moving target. And we’ll always have days where we feel like we’re doing better or worse than others.
It is what it is.
For me, the goal is always about improving the baseline.
I recognized that I’m never going to be as put together as someone without ADHD. Instead I’ve narrowed down what’s important to me, identified gaps, and put systems into place to help me narrow those gaps.
The more systems I get successfully into place, the more I can relax and enjoy the fun parts of my alternatively-wired brain.