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Succeeding With a Lack of Structure: Tips for Working On Your Own (Part 1)
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By Alan Brown

We’ve all heard entrepreneurs are disproportionately ADDers, many of the most famous declaring their ADHD or other LD was in some way an asset in their success.

And indeed, many of us seem to gravitate toward work situations where we can operate independently – the sole proprietor, artist or designer, field salesperson, etc. – many of these in the antithesis of the structured corporate environment, the home office.  This can be both blessing and curse.

If you work in a corporate or group environment, you can rely on your boss to “compensate” for your unstructured, unorganized, un-prioritized brain – “I need that report today!”  And our teammates and assistants, even our subordinates – “Hey, aren’t we supposed to be on that conference call in three minutes?!”  They collectively help us get to meetings on time, focus on the important stuff, and then to get that stuff started and finished.  If we didn’t have them around, we’d sure be further behind than we are. More overwhelmed, certainly.  Maybe even unemployed.

It’s no secret we ADDers LACK internal structures.  We lack linear, structured thinking – the kind that allows lucid goal setting and crisply rationalized prioritization.  We lack a realistically structured sense of time, resulting in horrendous time management.  All of which comes home to roost big time for those of us working from home or otherwise independently.

Now, you can work to improve these mental structures to mitigate some of the associated miseries, but the surest way to compensate for our lack of internal structure and the structure afforded by a corporate/group environment is to build your own external structures.

Let’s look at the first in a series of specific areas we lack structure paired with ways to build your own structures.  And even if you’re employed in an environment with a boss who keeps you on your toes and support staff who keep you lookin’ good, these tips will boost your productivity…

Lacking Structure …in Prioritization: In a corporate or team environment, you can often fall back on others’ prioritizing FOR you – “Need you to get this done by 4:30 today.”  That takes the onus off you having to figure out how to spend the bulk of your day.  But when we’re working independently, you must decide your priorities for yourself.  And that’s not an ADHD-friendly task, especially when your to-do list – or lists, as is most often the case – is a mangle of indistinguishable “must-do’s.”

Build Your Own Structure:  There are several ways you can structure your to-do’s to help you prioritize and focus on one item at a time.  The first is to simply ask yourself, “If I could do only TWO things today, what would they be?”  But even this simple method often defies your overwhelmed mind’s ability to narrow things down to the most relevant priorities.  So…

This even better way, I learned from a friend who’s a successful retired entrepreneur.  She calls it “3 Minutes. 3 Hours. 3 Days.”  If you write this at the top of your To Do list and always keep it there, you can easily structure your priorities based on what needs attending to now, soon, and later.

You can also build structure around your own personal principles, values or goals.  ADHD coach, Laura Rolands, teaches that if you write your core values at the top of your to-do list, you can structure your priorities around those values.  Similarly, if you identify broader goals for the week, month or year (finish the so-and-so evaluation, get promoted, etc.), you can use these as prompts for assigning your priorities.

Even if you’re happily ensconced in a well-structured office environment, this tip (and those that will follow) can help you take your game to a new level. So, start building!

Watch for the next installment in an upcoming issue of ADDA eNews.

Alan Brown, creator of the acclaimed ADD Crusher™ videos, was undiagnosed until adulthood and coping with chronic underachievement, substance abuse and worse. Upon diagnosis, he struggled to learn coping strategies from books, so he developed his own strategies.  He is also co-author of best-selling 365+1 Ways to Succeed with ADHD.

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