I bet adulthood has made most women wonder, “How can I become the perfect woman who has it all sorted?”. Of course, I also fell for this unattainable goal! I thought it was about having a perfect daily routine, a healthy and fit body, glowing skin, dazzling communication skills, multiple sources of income, a ‘bullish’ investment portfolio, and whatnot! But for women with ADHD, goals like these, or even things in general, are not as straightforward as they seem.
In my quest to become ‘That Woman’ at 29, I started working sixteen hours a day, took up multiple language-learning and solopreneurship courses, joined pilates, and tried every type of detox smoothie, only to find out that I have ADHD.
Writing about how to excel at work with ADHD is a tricky thing. Not every two days in my life look the same. Instead, controlled chaos is a constant in my work days.
Is it possible to thrive in your career with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? I would like to believe YES! To get there, however, you must know how to identify and prevent triggers.
Let’s look at some iconic women reportedly diagnosed with ADHD. American “Goddess of Pop” Cher and British actress and activist Emma Watson join the list. Then there are hardcore athletes like Simone Biles and Cammi Granato. At the pinnacle of Granato’s career, the renowned Olympic gold and silver medal-winning hockey player faced struggles with ADHD. But she dealt with her weaknesses and thrived.
During her coverage of the increasing prevalence of ADHD in 2014, American journalist Lisa Ling learned that she had the condition, specifically the non-hyperactive type. Ling was 40 years old at the time. However, upon reflection, she acknowledges that her lifelong struggles with attention span may have shaped her accomplished career in the media.
The underdiagnosis of women with ADHD
Despite the prevalence of ADHD in both genders, there is a myth that it is more commonly a male condition. Unfortunately, this misperception could result in females missing out on critical attention, treatment, and appropriate support in school or workplace environments.
ADHD presents in two forms: hyperactive/impulsive, inattentive, or a combination.
- Men typically exhibit hyperactive/impulsive ADHD symptoms, manifesting as restlessness, impulsivity, mood swings, fidgeting, and disruptive behaviour.
- In contrast, women with ADHD display inattentive symptoms, such as difficulty focusing, staying organised, paying attention to details, listening, and remembering things.
People can mistake these symptoms as being “hormonal” or “anxious,”. In addition, some traits, such as impulsiveness and shyness, are often perceived as personality traits rather than symptoms of ADHD. Therefore, getting diagnosed would be the first step to ensure.
Identifying the common challenges faced by women with ADHD
Let me list all the symptoms I slowly identified. For starters, I realised I inherited ADHD from my father (I won’t get into how it messed with his career). Then, with unlimited exposure to the internet, I studied and understood the triggers first.
The typical challenges associated with ADHD include:
- Lack of attention: Difficulty concentrating on tasks and following through on instructions or conversations.
- Hyperactivity: Restlessness, fidgeting, difficulty sitting still, and constantly feeling like they need to be on the move.
- Poor time management: Difficulty planning, prioritising tasks, and completing projects on time.
- Impulsivity: Acting without thinking through consequences, interrupting others, and making impulsive decisions.
- Forgetfulness: Difficulty remembering details, losing things, and forgetting about appointments, events, and deadlines.
- Lack of focus: Difficulty staying engaged with tasks, getting easily distracted, and requiring effort to follow a conversation or lecture.
Tips to cope with ADHD
Challenge 1: Distractions
ADHD distractions have two forms: external and internal. External distractions include environmental factors such as noise or movement. On the other hand, internal distractions stem from thoughts or daydreams.
I use noise-cancelling headphones and close my home office door to reduce noise. I also limit access to social media during focused work periods. Creating a to-do list works best for me, and I still use the old-school method of writing my tasks on paper. The long list stops me from daydreaming, and ticking off the check box gives me a whole different sense of accomplishment.
Challenge 2: Poor memory
One common challenge associated with ADHD is poor memory. This challenge can lead to difficulty remembering essential details such as deadlines and project requirements, ultimately hindering job performance.
I record calls and meetings to capture and store important details or instructions. In addition, I create checklists to simplify complex tasks or rely on reminders such as sticky notes to serve as announcements or memory aids.
Challenge 3: Boredom
Women with ADHD often experience “boredom blackouts” while performing mundane tasks like paperwork, as they need more stimulation.
To overcome this, I set a timer to stay focused on the task, break it down into smaller segments, and take frequent breaks to move around. Moreover, I seek opportunities with more engaging responsibilities and fewer routine tasks.
Challenge 4: Time management
If you have ADHD, you might often struggle with time management. As a result, you may underestimate the amount of time required to complete a task.
I divide the timeline into more immediate and specific deadlines to avoid losing track of time. In this timeframe, I split the work into smaller chunks. Additionally, alarms or other reminders, such as buzzers, can be helpful tools to stay on top of scheduled meetings or other responsibilities.
Challenge 5: Paperwork
Dealing with paperwork and managing details can be challenging, mainly when it involves locating crucial documents, organising filing systems, and submitting reports or timesheets on time. I also have an intense phobia of losing important documents like IDs, degree certificates, passports, etc.
I maintain a personalised filing system to monitor the complex paperwork. By using separate folders with labels, I can find anything easily. Additionally, I try to eliminate papers that are no longer necessary to avoid clutter as much as possible.
The critical takeaway for women with ADHD
The war between my ambition and ADHD is real. But fortunately, I work in a field in which I am passionate about what I do. When you have attention deficit disorder, you must be enthusiastic, open to new experiences, and creative to thrive. So I pursued a diverse, engaging, and fulfilling unconventional career. Being genuinely interested in a particular job naturally enhances one’s focus and motivation, leading to better performance and productivity.
Another vital key to success is being able to identify triggers. For example, whenever I lose track of time, I set my timer. Sometimes I tend to procrastinate, but I try to remember why I chose this career path. Taking notes of essential details, double-checking work before submission, and practising active listening help me carry on my commitments. These tips and tricks have helped me, but ultimately, professional counselling is the best option for women with ADHD to manage their symptoms and thrive at work.
Can you relate to my story, even parts of it? Turning this into a self-diagnosis may be tempting, but resist the thought. At the very least, take this online ADHD test or watch the video below to become more aware of yourself. It helped me understand my triggers better.