Friday, August 27, 2010

Alchemy: Turning "Impatience" Into "Efficiency"

Many of us adult ADHDers have manifestations of our ADHD that impact our employment, or our employability.

Some of us get fired. Some of us say the wrong things at the wrong time. Some of us are impatient with workplace protocols and processes.

My life being what it has been, I have always been just fine at playing the game. Notice that I use the word game. I am not one to arbitrarily bow to authority, but I will if it serves the mission and if it serves what I feel is right. I was raised by people who knew how to play the game, how to switch code to get along in whatever environment they needed to. I have learned a lot from my mother, in particular, about how to dress, how to talk, how to act, how to write cool stuff like resumes and cover letters, and personal statements for school. How to dress for an interview. How to be diplomatic.

Ex: How to say things like "I'll get back to you on that." when people ask you a question at work, instead of blurting ADHD things out immediately, and possibly blowing your cover. Blowing the cover that's allegedly hiding that you have ADHD, are a little left of center anyway, that you are female, that you are...a million other things that don't generally give status in our culture.

It took practice. And I started early. At about age 8, riding in the car with my mother, she introduced me to the concept that just because something pops in your head, doesn't mean you have to say it immediately. This gave me power, and I loved it. I practiced and practiced and practiced. I still spend a lot of energy at work and in meetings and in other public places practicing it. I think it's part of the reason that when I'm at home, I have a hard time not talking (in which case, sometimes blogging is really all I can do to channel my raging inner monologue). I simply need a break from all the self-editing sometimes.

So, I still have urgent thoughts pop into my head. I am still REALLY impatient. I still have snarky thoughts and somewhat inappropriate or ill-timed observations intrude upon my thought process and threaten to come out of my mouth. But I've learned ways to work with these things in the workplace, or make them "look" like something else.

Ex: when people are explaining processes to me in minute step by step detail, I simply can't wait to know the outcome. I will ask questions like " I'm having a hard time seeing where you are going with this, can you tell me the end-point and circle back to the process?". If they are willing to do this, I am WAY more relaxed because then the details make sense to me, and generally, people think that this type of question demonstrates interest on my part. If they don't get what I'm saying and are totally mired in the details, it really kills me. It may be more of a function of my personality that I see details as subjective. Not important, only important if they really serve the task. Add ADHD to that and I am REALLY driven to eliminate details I see as unnecessary. Often, I find myself listening to people's processes going "why in the hell would you do that like that"...but...probably not really an ADHD issue.

Ex: I can't stand sitting through orientations and lectures. So I take notes. People think it's because I'm interested. It's generally because I'm dying having to sit there. Note-taking also accidentally makes you retain a little info...or it just gives you a cheat sheet for later. Or I just doodle. But I LOOK busy :) Haha...actually, I generally retain more information if I'm writing, than if I just sit there and LISTEN. In class, I used get better grades after I figure out that I needed to bring People magazines to read during lectures. I would hide them in my textbooks. I could look at the pics while listening. If I didn't bring them I would want to leave the room a few times during class and just walk around. So: All hail the acceptable fidget!

Ex: I like to volunteer at work for tasks that other people don't like to do, because I like to do them by myself. It's not that I'm a total misanthrope, but a) it gets you brownie points b) it gets the job done and that's good for everyone c) it BREAKS THE MONOTONY OF ROUTINE, which I NEED to SURVIVE most jobs d) working in groups is stressful for me...when I already see the end-point, and have already figured out a way to do it that will get it done FAST, I get frustrated having to wait for others to catch up. I also get frustrated having to have a BIG talk about how to get something done as a group, when I can get it done faster as a solo artist. I'm not saying I'm always right, only that most plans I come up with alone, will get it all done faster than if I have to spend time talking to other people about putting together a possibly more efficient plan. So: being an enthusiastic volunteer has many benefits!

Ex: I am perfectly aware when I'm bored off my behind at work. When I have that feeling I have to assess if it's because I'm just frustrated with "the details" or if it's a real big-picture lack of challenge problem. And if it's a big-picture problem, I communicate to my boss that I'm ready for additional challenges. And if they don't have any...then I leave. Some people can just live a routine for years. I can't. As soon as the challenge for me is gone, and there is no compelling reason for me to continue, I simply won't do it. So: Learn to assess your boredom at work in a way that will help you and let YOU decide when you are done, not someone else.

Ex: Sometimes, instead of leaving jobs, I simply get another one. So I usually have at least 2. It breaks up my routine in a way that for me is helpful. I'm learning to LIMIT my breaks in routine...for me, that is a challenge, but I am learning that I really DO need a little distraction to keep me in line. So: a little excitement can be a good thing.

To make decisions about how to manage my ADHD though, I have to be paying attention to my own thought processes. At a young age it was pointed out to me that I was impatient...that I had BIG emotions...that I had BIG opinions. Nothing wrong with any of those, but the responsibility that comes with such realities, is that I had to learn to take responsibility for shaping and applying and managing those aspects of myself in ways that make life more pleasant and fruitful for me, and those around me.

It takes practice and it never ends...and sometimes, it does make me feel like there's two of me. So lately I spend MORE time in places where I don't have to modify myself quite so much. I still have the skills though, if I need them, to "play the game". It feels good to have both options available to me (even better now that I have learned more about putting myself in more ADHD-friendly environments and situations, so it's all a choice, not a mandate).


  1. Well, you describe me on the button. In college, I was called "Mr Bluster" by the Stoners...A truism - "Think what you say, don't say what you think". I started my own business in Human Resources..Personnel Recruiting. I'm stiil around doing it after 20 some years....There is a passage in Milton's Paradise Lost where the Devil says to GOD...."I would rather Rule in Hell than serve in Heaven".....That is Me!..I do my own Show or Act my way....With the A.D.D and my way of doing things....This is the only way for me....I "cut to the Chase" too, like you. Be aware of when you see things changing and make modifications, kinda like sailing a boat when tides and wind change.......If I get bored or don't do enough work properly, I make NO MONEY. So that really makes me focus. When I do slack off due to the A.D.D. & A.D.H.D. affects. I have both. I must to cut myself some slack so I don't get Anxious as I'm affected by that too.

  2. Well hello there bird of a feather :)