Where to start as an ADHD business owner

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Last week, I had two very fun and lively conversations with Winnie Anderson extraordinaire, for her top-rated podcast, The Let’s Talk Tech Show. (See the links at the end of this article to listen to the original interviews.) One of the questions she asked me, when we were discussing the top five issues entrepreneurs with ADHD struggle with, was where to start.

In my years of coaching ADHD entrepreneurs, I’ve had many conversations and run many surveys. These five challenges keep bubbling to the top as the issues ADHD business owners most often struggle with:

  1. Follow through
  2. Planning ahead and not waiting until the last minute
  3. Getting out of overwhelm
  4. Prioritization
  5. Systems, processes, and structure

Winnie asked me: “How do you help someone focus on their greatest issues? How do you help them know what to do first?”

Start with reducing overwhelm

Everyone is overwhelmed. And when you have ADHD and more ideas than the average person, the overwhelm just gets compounded. The feeling can completely overcome you and weigh you down so that you can’t do anything, for fear that you’re working on one thing at the expense of something else. The result, for a lot of ADHD business owners, is that nothing gets done.

What I like to do first is a brain dump.

Climbing out of overwhelm is tricky, and it has to do with getting to know exactly what it is that is overwhelming you—all the pieces and parts. The best way I know to do this is to do a brain dump with sticky notes.

I get my clients to just start writing every task floating around in their minds on individual sticky notes in whatever order they come out, and sticking them on their wall or a white board. Just put them up in any order, you can group and rearrange them later.

If “taking the car in” is sticking in your craw and gumming up the works, write it on a sticky note—get that thought out. Get them all out, stick them on your wall. You’ll start to see patterns. Start grouping the personal ones together, start grouping the business ones together. Then start rearranging, moving ones together that seem to go together. You’ll think of more to add.

When your brain starts to feel empty or you get tired, walk away. Keep the notes up there for as long as you need to, I keep mine up for weeks.

After awhile, you’ll be able to “see” all the issues that have been overwhelming you. You’ll be able to see how they overlap, you’ll be able to group and rearrange them. Most of my clients, at some point in this process, stand back, look at their wall and say,

“Is that all? That’s not too overwhelming. I can do this!”

Do anything for 5 minutes

Another trick that helps to get out of overwhelm is to just pick anything and work on it for five minutes. You can do anything for five minutes. Set your timer—it can be any timer, I like Time Timer because you can see the actual piece of pie disappearing, so it’s visual rather than digital—and just work for five minutes.

If you get through that, set the timer for another five minutes. Pretty soon you’ve worked for half an hour on something and it feels pretty good, and you’re feeling less overwhelmed. Maybe you decide it’s not the best thing to work on, so pick something else and work on it for five minutes, and set your timer again.

Just starting to work on something is a wonderful way to break through some of the heavy fog of overwhelm.

Listen to the original interviews here:

How to Manage Your ADHD and Grow a Profitable Business on Winnie Anderson’s Let’s Talk Tech Show

Let’s Talk Tech—The After Show: How to Manage ADHD as an Entrepreneur


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