All of us want to get more done, excel at our goals, and live the best lives we can.
But some of us have a little more trouble with that than others, sometimes because of our personalities and sometimes because of the way our brains are wired.
ADHD is a fascinating condition, because most people with ADHD are either on a “messy” path in life, or a wildly successful trajectory.
Of course, there is a comfortable middle ground as well.
But despite this complex reality, most people associate ADHD with destructive traits like impulsiveness, slacking off, daydreaming, hyperactivity, lack of focus, and more.
I think this is unfortunate, because there’s a much more interesting pattern of people who have used their ADHD to build business empires (Richard Branson), win Olympic gold medals (Simone Biles), change the world of marketing (Seth Godin), and so much more.
So if you have ADHD, it’s safe to say that you can find a way to publish a bestselling book, build a profitable online business, work a career that you love, or do basically anything else that you want in life.
You just have to play the game of life a little bit differently than most. That’s because you’ll need to focus almost exclusively on your strengths, take advantage of your ability to hyperfocus, have some persistence, and get to know the life-changing concepts laid out for you in this article.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the realities of ADD/ADHD and how you can harness them to be more effective in all you do—even if you don’t have ADHD yourself!
Why You Must Create the Right Incentives for Your Life
People respond to incentives.
You probably get up early in the morning because you’re incentivized to pay the bills, take care of your friends and family, and live the type of lifestyle that you enjoy. Incentives are a great thing, because they motivate you to work hard, and live life on your terms.
But, people with ADHD need to pay extra-close attention to the incentives that permeate their life for a number of reasons.
Most importantly, ADHD is often linked to decreased dopamine activity. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that enables you to see rewards, and to take the relevant actions to attain those rewards.
In fact, the decreased dopamine activity in the ADHD brain is thought to be one of the main reasons why many people with ADHD don’t seem motivated in life.
If your ADHD brain has a difficult time interpreting rewards, then you might not even understand why you should be performing certain tasks in the first place.
This phenomenon could very well be one of the reasons why famous ADHD entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Seth Godin have succeeded in taking on such large-scale and ambitious business ventures: They may have instinctively been on-the-hunt for BIG hits of dopamine.
Knowing this, it’s extremely important for people with ADHD (and, really, anyone who wants to really make a difference) to create the right incentives for their unique lives.
And the best incentives for people with ADHD are the incentives that work synergistically with their strengths.
- If you enjoy writing, there’s a good chance that you’ll love publishing books
- If you’re good at connecting with people on an emotional level, you’ll probably become obsessed with marketing or advertising
- If you love working from home and interacting with customers, then you might want to dabble in e-commerce
People with ADHD must have strong incentives for their life, otherwise they might not feel intrinsically motivated enough to care about much of anything.
The good news is that you don’t have to build a massive business conglomerate like Richard Branson to stay motivated and push forward in life.
Most people can take small steps like starting a “side hustle business” or writing just one book to become familiar with the immense power of having the right incentives in your life.
Once you feel the initial dopamine rush of receiving your first book royalty payment, or running your online business from anywhere in the world, you’ll know exactly which incentives work best for your life.
How to Conquer Your Executive Function
Your executive function dictates your ability to exercise self-control, solve problems, and engage in sustained action toward a goal.
The executive function can be summarized as follows:
- Goal-oriented problem solving
- Goal-oriented persistence
In other words, your executive function plays a critical role in your long-term success.
You have to conquer your executive function if you hope to get ahead in life.
Dr. Russell Barkley, who is one of the world’s leading researchers on executive function and ADHD, believes that the inability to self-regulate is the root problem that people with ADHD face.
So, Dr. Barkley essentially believes that ADHD is a disorder of control, because people with ADHD frequently act impulsively, and without consideration for long-term consequences.
According to Dr. Barkley, there are five executive abilities that are affected by ADHD:
- The ability to inhibit your behavior
- The ability to use visual imagery
- The ability to talk to yourself (internal self-guidance)
- The ability to control your emotions and self-motivate
- The ability to plan and problem solve
People with ADHD deal with at least some impairment of these five executive abilities.
Now, figuring out how to cope with the executive function impairment that comes with ADHD is a really tricky matter, because everyone’s brain works a little bit differently.
For example, I’ve spent a decent chunk of my life learning how to self-motivate through entrepreneurship, because I’ve always had a difficult time staying motivated in a corporate environment. I’ve never responded well to playing by other people’s rules. That’s just how my brain has been wired since birth.
Plus, I’ve always wanted to run an internet publishing company, as I knew this would be something that I would feel internally motivated to do every day. No external motivation is ever required.
Of course, you don’t have to have ADHD to feel this way, or to harness the power of passion to push your motivation and accomplishments to a new level.
If you have “unique” motivational needs like myself, then I urge you to find just one thing that you’re good at, and start doing that one thing in your spare time.
There’s usually a correlation between the things that you’re good at (your strengths), and the things that you love doing.
This makes sense, because just about everyone loves doing the things that they’re good at.
I’ve ultimately found that the happiest people with ADHD (or without!) are usually those who are engulfed in the activities that they’re good at. You might also call this “entering a flow state,” or living in congruence with your life’s mission.
So, you ultimately have to do something that consistently puts you in a flow state if you hope to conquer your executive function while dealing with ADHD. This might require you to find a great career, start a YouTube channel, run a blog, or do something entirely unique.
Other than following your strengths and entering a flow state as often as possible, I’ve also found that exercising, eating healthy, meditating, and watching comedy seems to help people with ADHD stay mentally sharp and creative.
How to Hit Deadlines and Stay on Track
People with ADHD are seemingly always running late, backed up with work, and having a tough time adhering to deadlines.
This is probably a result of impairment of the executive ability that involves planning and problem solving. ADHD’ers don’t always have the ability to effectively plan and solve problems. This naturally creates friction when it comes to meeting deadlines at work.
Adhering to deadlines is something that I still have trouble with to this day, because I try to work in a creative flow state and often lose track of time.
If you have the luxury of working as a full-time author, there’s a chance that you might not even have to worry about adhering to deadlines, because you’re essentially your own boss. This is absolutely awesome, and should serve as a powerful motivator to everyone with ADHD. No rules. No deadlines.
But for many of us, adhering to deadlines is still a normal aspect of everyday life (at least until we hit it big).
To meet my deadlines, I personally use Microsoft OneNote to create to-do lists, track the progress of my work, manage submission dates, and organize so many other small details of my life.
The best part about OneNote is that you can store all of your most important information in a single digital location. You can even password-protect sections of OneNote if you need to keep certain information secure.
If you run Microsoft Windows, then you can download OneNote free of charge.
If you’re a Mac user, then you might choose to use something like Evernote, which offers a similar structure to help you stay organized, and meet all of your deadlines.
Using a tool like OneNote or Evernote will ultimately help you free up mental energy, save time, and meet your deadlines every day of the week. It’s a real game-changer.
If you have trouble actually performing work that needs to be submitted by a certain deadline, then you probably haven’t found the right incentives for your life just yet (time to go back and re-read the part about finding your best incentives!).
How to Write Consistently
The best trick for writing consistently is something that I picked up from a recording of a seminar delivered by Eugene Schwartz, who was one of the best copywriters in the world at one point.
Schwartz claimed to have never suffered from writer’s block in his life. With that in mind, I took his advice to heart and applied it to my work.
Schwartz recommends that you write for about 30 minutes straight, and then take a 15-minute break immediately afterwards. You can repeat this cycle of “30 minutes on, 15 minutes off” as many times as necessary (with longer breaks occasionally substituted in, if you like).
The key is to write intensively during your 30-minute writing session. You have to work hard at this.
But simply knowing that you will have a 15-minute break every time that you write serves as a powerful incentive for people with ADHD (and, often, others who have a hard time getting started on a difficult task). This trick will help you write consistently, because it takes some of the pain out of writing. You’ll always be just a few minutes away from a nice little break.
Today, this writing strategy is commonly known as the Pomodoro Technique. You can even download a “Pomodoro timer app” on your smartphone if you’d like to customize the durations of time that you spend writing and taking breaks. Using a Pomodoro app is also helpful because these apps typically track how many “Pomodoros” (writing sessions) you’ve completed in a day.
The Pomodoro Technique works unbelievably well for writing consistently over short periods of time.
However, if you need to write consistently over much longer periods of time, then you might have to get creative in the following ways:
- Change your environment (go to a cafe, public library, or park)
- Use different word processing software (switch between Microsoft Word, Google Drive, Scrivener, etc.)
- Listen to different types of music while you write (EDM, classical, instrumental) or try ambient noise
- Drink yerba mate or coffee
There are so many different tricks that you can use to motivate yourself to write consistently.
But at the end of the day, there will come a point where you just have to accept that writing is a somewhat painful process that needs to be done regardless.
Sometimes, I even use the power of fear to motivate myself into writing, telling myself:
“No one is coming to save you.”
This is a mantra that I think about whenever I catch myself using ADHD as an excuse to avoid writing.
I also like to remember the mantra of:
Sometimes, you just have to be okay with writing something that’s “good enough” rather than “perfect.”
If you burn too much time worrying about every little detail of your writing, it can turn into a major bottleneck that stops you from making real progress.
The Power of Having Autonomy in Your Career or Business
There’s something about having ADHD that just requires autonomy in your career or business.
This could have something to do with the fact that people with ADHD lack control in their personal lives in many ways.
And when people with ADHD can finally take full control of something in their life (like a career or business), magical things start to happen.
For example, you can use your desire for autonomy to do amazing creative work, pursue intrapreneurship or entrepreneurship, run advertising campaigns, or work any of the best jobs for people with ADHD.
Autonomy just makes people with ADHD happy. So make sure to take advantage of autonomy in your career or business, and see what kind of results you experience.
By now, you should hopefully have a clear understanding of how to actually get things done with ADHD…as well as how you can use the power of targeted incentives, planned breaks, and consistent engagement to help you reach your goals regardless of how your brain works.
Just to recap, here are the main takeaways that we’ve covered:
- Creating the right incentives for your life almost makes ADHD a non-issue, or even an advantage in certain cases
- You can conquer your executive function primarily by focusing on your strengths, and consistently entering a flow state
- Getting organized with OneNote or Evernote can help you free up mental energy, save time, and meet all of your deadlines
- You should use the Pomodoro Technique, change your environment, and listen to different types of music whenever you need to write consistently
- Autonomy is one of the most important “lifestyle factors” that people with ADHD must consider
I genuinely hope this article helps you get more things done, and live an all-around better life with ADHD.
ADHD can seem like a confusing and hostile condition at times.
But it’s possible to take control of your ADHD, and enjoy an unbelievable career and lifestyle with the condition.
You just have to create the right incentives, focus on your strengths, get into a flow state, and seize all of the opportunities available to you.
About the Author
Stefan Taylor is a writer and online entrepreneur with ADHD. He blogs at ADHD Boss, a website that helps people with ADHD live a healthier, happier, and more productive lifestyle.