How My ADHD Affects Me in Running My Business

A decade ago, at the age of 31, I accomplished a significant life goal: opening an independent bookstore that focused on the community. Prior to starting my own business, I had never held a traditional full-time job that required me to work 40 hours a week for a company that hired me through a standard application and interview process. In my early 20s, I worked various jobs but never found a long-term career path that suited me.

ADHD & BUSINESS: How to be Successful with adult ADHD

The planning process for my bookstore, The Avid Bookshop, felt different. I found the challenges invigorating, and I enjoyed the constant learning. When I tell the story of how my business came to be, I emphasize my diverse range of interests and how Avid allowed me to explore them without committing to just one.

With my recent ADHD diagnosis, it is now apparent that my brain chemistry has influenced my career decisions from the start. My therapist informed me early on that a significant percentage of entrepreneurs have ADHD, and I have encountered this information in many books and articles about the disorder. My brain craves new challenges and becomes bored with mundane tasks. Like many others, I feel the most fulfilled and accomplished at work when I can use my creativity and quick thinking to solve problems. When I come up with a unique solution to a long-standing issue, I feel confident and capable. I am grateful to have a career where thinking outside the box is not only welcomed but necessary for success. These moments assure me that I am the right person to be the founder and owner of my business.

However, I often struggle with self-doubt. I worry that people will soon realize that I am an imposter pretending to be a successful business owner. For years, I have wanted to sarcastically dismiss compliments when someone tells me, You did your best.

But I know that I didn't actually do my best. I fear that if people were aware of my untapped potential, they would hesitate to praise me for my accomplishments. They cannot see all the ideas I have but lack the discipline to follow through on. On challenging days, I am plagued by anxiety knowing what I should do but being unable to do it. While there are several aspects of ADHD that cause stress in my work life, procrastination has always been my greatest hurdle.

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Usually, I am hesitant to admit how much I procrastinate. Occasionally, I will mention it in a self-deprecating manner, but usually only after I have finished a task just before the deadline and can breathe a sigh of relief. It was not until my ADHD diagnosis in the spring of 2021 that I realized my procrastination stemmed from executive functioning issues in my neurodivergent brain.

Work is both immensely fulfilling and consistently stressful for me. During the years leading up to the opening of my bookstore, I was convinced that I would become more organized, happier, and less prone to procrastination once I was solely working for myself. I believed that my tendency to delay important tasks was connected to the fact that they came from others, such as bosses or teachers. Surely, I would stop procrastinating once I became my own boss. However, I was wrong.

Despite working with exceptional colleagues, I have implemented systems and checks to ensure that important matters do not slip through the cracks. Prior to my ADHD diagnosis, I spent considerable time creating reminders and safeguards to minimize the consequences of my procrastination tendencies.

Overall, I am proud of how I have taught myself to be more focused and organized at work. During smoother periods, my work stress is relatively low, and my ADHD patterns, including procrastination, are manageable. However, during tougher times like this current season, my ADHD symptoms become overwhelming. This leads to increased anxiety, which reinforces my desire to avoid work and procrastinate, thus amplifying my overall anxiety.

During moments like these, I try to remind myself that no feeling is permanent. The current version of myself in 2021 possesses more insight and knowledge than any previous version, highlighting the potential for personal growth. I can choose to close my laptop at the end of the workday, even if I haven't completed all my tasks. I can treat myself with compassion and carry today's lessons into the future. I can express gratitude for this demanding yet meaningful career that brings joy, even on the most challenging days influenced by ADHD.