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Time Management with ADHD as a working professional not on meds

Veteran

james cooper Georgetown, KY

I've struggled with ADHD my whole life and assumed it was something I grew out of. I quickly realized once I left the structure of the Military and stopped pursuing every career opportunity Uncle Sam could give me, I still struggle with ADHD as an adult; out here in this world of freedom as a working professional is where it's choosing to surface and cause destruction.
I did a gut check after my first performance evaluation at a new career and made the decision to face my issues head on as I was less than pleased with my own performance and expected much better quality of work out of my own hands. I've become complacent to my own performance as I've allowed a wide variety of distractions to start taking precedence over my career (personal health, not understanding the VA healthcare system and wasting time trying to figure it out, chasing ideas rather than focusing on my work.) Fortunately to me, my VP is going to bat for me hard regardless my short-comings and assures me my performance is fine and he doesn't want me to get burnout. While I agree, I also don't want to take advantage of his faith in me as an employee by ignoring the item at the top of my list of "very real problems" I'm facing now.
I've been treated for severe ADHD my entire childhood. A recruiter "did me a solid" and tucked any page that had ADHD out of my file and guided me to, "deny, deny, deny." So I did, and over time I believed it, until now. I just can't keep believing this isn't a very real problem I'm facing despite my training to suppress it and bend to structure. Why can't I easily apply these principles I thrived in to my Civilian Career?
While I'm slowly going through the VA healthcare system to get my mind lined up with the better interests of my overall life; I could sure use a lifeline here before my performance becomes a talking point among my peers and colleagues.

How do I manage my time, my work, my focus while I am slowly going through a treatment process with the VA?

(For the record, I'm not trying to bash my recruiter for doing his job. It was 2008 and we needed able bodied infantrymen. I firmly believe my recruiter was doing what he had to do to secure his position and give units the men they needed to successfully carry out their directive. Doesn't make it right, but the issue was bigger than one recruiter fudging one recruit's file.)

28 January 2020 3 replies Mentoring

Answers

Advisor

Vicki McInnally Garden Valley, ID

Hello James,
It seems you have thought through traits/issues that are holding you back from bringing all our skills and talents to the table. I've been a team leader for 30+ years and have used several developmental tools. I've learned that most people go further in their career when they focus on their strengths. Sometimes a strength can be "overused" unless managed. Be careful not to attribute all behaviors to one reason. For example, I've taken learning agility tests and discovered I was a very broad thinker...I like to connect all the dots. Many others prefer to be detail oriented and drill down on a subject which is great for certain jobs. A symptom of a broad thinker is the love of learning new things and jumping from one thing to another (some would view this as being easily distracted). If you are better at seeing the forest than the trees, there are job functions that fit that natural preference.

At times, we all need to execute specific projects that demand attention to detail. Three things worked for me:
1) Read the Myth of Multitasking (We live in an ADHD world - provides good management tips for focusing your effort at work and in your private life.
https://www.amazon.com/Myth-Multitasking-Doing-Gets-Nothing/dp/0470372257/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=multitasking+myth&qid=1580494272&sr=8-1

2) Find a time management process that works for you. I tried at least a dozen before I found a simple one, using my task list in Microsoft Exchange, that organized weekly tasks into categories of Urgent (next few days), Normal (complete in a week) and Over the Horizon (items to start planning) to ensure strategic work progressed timely. Large strategic efforts need to be broken down into weekly buckets.
Few suggestions:
A) Understand the Urgent-Important Matrix (Eisenhower, Covey)
2) Read "The One Thing" - see link below.
https://www.amazon.com/One-Thing-Surprisingly-Extraordinary-Results/dp/1848549253/ref=asc_df_1848549253/?tag=bingshoppinga-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=&hvpos=&hvnetw=o&hvrand=&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=&hvtargid=pla-4583795260989838&psc=1
3) Listen to Ted Talks on Time Management. Link - https://www.timepot.io/blog/top-10-ted-talks-time-management/

Ensure you have a clear view of your department goals over the next 3-12 months, what you need to deliver and the specific metrics for success. Develop a project plan and break the work down into short term milestones. Have a clear vision of what success looks like and secure the help of others. Invest in yourself. Celebrate successes.
Hope this helps, Vicki

31 January 2020 Helpful answer

Advisor

Vicki McInnally Garden Valley, ID

Hello James,
It seems you have thought through traits/issues that are holding you back from bringing all your skills and talents to the table. I've been a team leader for 30+ years and have used several developmental tools. I've learned that most people go further in their career when they focus on their strengths. Sometimes a strength can be "overused" unless managed. Be careful not to attribute all behaviors to one reason. For example, I've taken learning agility tests and discovered I was a very broad thinker...I like to connect all the dots. Many others prefer to be detail oriented and drill down on a subject which is great for certain jobs. A symptom of a broad thinker is the love of learning new things and jumping from one thing to another (some would view this as being easily distracted). If you are better at seeing the forest than the trees, there are job functions that fit that natural preference.

At times, we all need to execute specific projects that demand attention to detail. Three things worked for me:
1) Read the Myth of Multitasking (We live in an ADHD world - provides good management tips for focusing your effort at work and in your private life.
https://www.amazon.com/Myth-Multitasking-Doing-Gets-Nothing/dp/0470372257/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=multitasking+myth&qid=1580494272&sr=8-1

2) Find a time management process that works for you. I tried at least a dozen before I found a simple one, using my task list in Microsoft Exchange, that organized weekly tasks into categories of Urgent (next few days), Normal (complete in a week) and Over the Horizon (items to start planning) to ensure strategic work progressed timely. Large strategic efforts need to be broken down into weekly buckets.
Few suggestions:
A) Understand the Urgent-Important Matrix (Eisenhower, Covey)
B) Read "The One Thing" - see link below.
https://www.amazon.com/One-Thing-Surprisingly-Extraordinary-Results/dp/1848549253/ref=asc_df_1848549253/?tag=bingshoppinga-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=&hvpos=&hvnetw=o&hvrand=&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=&hvtargid=pla-4583795260989838&psc=1
C) Listen to Ted Talks on Time Management. Link - https://www.timepot.io/blog/top-10-ted-talks-time-management/

Ensure you have a clear view of your department goals over the next 3-12 months, what you need to deliver and the specific metrics for success. Develop a project plan and break the work down into short term milestones. Have a clear vision of what success looks like and secure the help of others. Invest in yourself. Celebrate successes.
Hope this helps, Vicki

Advisor

Andrea Bryant New York, NY

Hi James,

Thanks for posting this question, and thank you for your service!

To start, I want to commend what you are doing - You are undertaking a civilian career, have the earned support of a supervisor, and you are taking additional steps to better yourself through the services available at the VA. Identifying and taking action are enormous first steps, and you should be extraordinarily proud.

Unfortunately, yes, the VA does take some time to get it together and provide those services. I would also recommend turning to your state's department of veterans services, as they can provide more local support. In the case of Kentucky, go to:

https://veterans.ky.gov/Benefits/Pages/default.aspx

Getting in contact with a more local representative and more local resources can help you to create contacts for support, and cultivate community support. Furthermore, they can help you with federal VA claims.

Let me know if this helps, or if you are looking towards other resources, whether it be something as simple as a podcast, guided exercise like yoga, scheduling to compartmentalize where and how you spend your time, or anything else.

All the best on your continued journey.

Andrea

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