The ADHD Entrepreneur with Linda Walker

Linda Walker is an ADHD Coach with a special niche: she works with entrepreneurs. If you’ve been listening to our ADHD at Work series wondering when we were going to get to the good stuff, to the budding titans of industry? Today’s your day.

We talk about finding focus, figuring out what to do and when to do it, how to figure out what projects to work on and avoid burnout or disinterest along the way. It’s an incredibly broad conversation, just as the world of building independent businesses is, too. And if you’ve ever found todo lists aren’t your thing, you aren’t going to want to miss Linda’s take on the practice of list-making!

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Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Peter Wright:
Hello everybody and welcome to Taking Control the ADHD podcast on RashPixel.FM. I’m Peter Wright and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki:
Hello everyone. Hello Peter.

Peter Wright:
Hello Nikki, fine. Happy day to you.

Nikki:
That’s right. You too.

Peter Wright:
This is a big day. We have been talking about ADHD in the workplace for many moons now. I think, what is that? A month and a half [crosstalk 00:00:31].

Nikki:
Yeah. Lots of talk about.

Peter Wright:
Lots of talk about ADHD at work and I think from the first time we announced that our guests was coming on as our last episode of the series, people have been sending us questions about what it means to be an ADHD entrepreneur. So we are thrilled that our guest is here to talk about just that. This is the right person to share with us the story of being an ADHD entrepreneur. Before we do that, however, head over to Take Control, adhd.com, get to know us a little bit better.

Peter Wright:
You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to our mailing list and we’ll send you an email each time a new episode is released. You can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook at Take Control, ADHD. If you’ve ever found that this show has connected with you as help you live your life with ADHD in a new and wonderful way, we appreciate you visiting patrion.com/the ADHD podcast and supporting the show directly. This is listener supported podcasting.

Peter Wright:
For a few bucks a month, you can join a tier that would allow you to watch these podcasts as we are recording live to ask questions directly to our guests during the live show to take part in the community in a much more robust way, but mostly it allows you to just sleep well at night knowing that you are helping to grow the show. Helping to allow us to do more things like offering complete transcripts for every single episode going forward. That is a listener supported project. So thank you to those who are members already and thank you to those who are considering joining the tribe at patrion.com/the ADHD podcast.

Peter Wright:
Linda Walker is here. She is a certified ADHD coach, our very favorite people around these parts and she helps adults to overcome their challenges at home and at work. She’s the creator of the maximum productivity make-over for creative geniuses, a training program for adults with ADHD and the author of, you’re going to love this title With Time To Spare Colin, the ultimate guide to peak performance for entrepreneurs, adults and ADHD and other creative geniuses. These are the kinds of titles that make me love that I live with ADHD. Linda Walker, welcome to the show.

Linda Walker:
Thank you so much for having me, Pete, Hi Nikki and hi everyone. So happy to be here with you guys.

Nikki:
Welcome. Well, so yes, I am so curious to know how you got interested in coaching with ADHD entrepreneurs because if I’m correct, it’s kind of your niche. This is what you focus on.

Linda Walker:
Absolutely. So like many people, my husband Dwayne got diagnosed with ADHD after my youngest daughter got diagnosed with ADHD years and years ago. And we tried all kinds of stuff. As a family, we were very dysfunctional because of ADHD being untreated, being undiagnosed and so on. And it was once treatment started that helped a little bit. But really what made a huge difference was the coaching, it impacted us so much. It impacted us as a family but also the people around us and my husband’s coworkers and thousands of people today. Dwayne, my husband is the president of the IDD association.

Linda Walker:
And that inspired me to change when I got tired of drug pushing. I was a drug pusher at some point in my life. I used to do a pharma sales. I hated that. I used to cry every morning before I left and I decided I wanted to have an impact on people’s lives and decided to change careers and become a coach. BEcause the word impact that came to me, what came to me was that coach and what it had done. And of course, being someone who has owned several businesses, I started businesses even as a child, I tend to attract entrepreneurs and professionals and I love working with them. So create the programs and services that cater to them.

Peter Wright:
Good. That whole experience of watching that transition, watching your husband make that transition and your daughter make that transition, the whole idea. I spent some time diving into your biography this morning on your website and you share with such vulnerability that story. Can you talk a little bit, just briefly before we dig into the meat, what it’s like for you to be quite so open about your experience with your family and watching your family go through this and how that has impacted your work with, let’s say, ADHD entrepreneurs.

Linda Walker:
It’s really scary being that vulnerable. Definitely something that scared me at the beginning I was afraid that … But I’ve got their permission, often Dwayne [inaudible 00:05:21].

Peter Wright:
His name is everywhere [inaudible 00:05:25].

Linda Walker:
Exactly. And even my youngest daughter, we’ve been out for a long time. He was out at work a long, long time ago. He and I even were involved in the documentary, but some of the challenges that we had early on, because Dwayne and I have been married almost 36 years now. First of all, we met on a blind date and four weeks later he asked me to marry him. He’s very [inaudible 00:05:47] Very [inaudible 00:05:49] And oddly enough I said yes, which was really surprising for me. But after the kids started coming, that’s when things started falling apart. We struggled with, I would ask him to do something, he’d say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, seems so intentional.” And then he wouldn’t do it. At work he struggled.

Linda Walker:
So it meant that his work situation was very unstable. He’d leave jobs because he was bored. He changed jobs because he had an idea that, oh, I’d love to teach, and he’s gone teaching even though he doesn’t have a clue how to teach, where we flew all over Canada. We’re Canadian. We flew all over Canada or drove all over Canada to go from one job to the next. The stuff that he wanted to do. So it was a huge challenge. But one of the things that we recognized is that having lifted, and I don’t consider myself as someone who’s married to someone who has ADHD. I consider myself a member of an ADHD family.

Linda Walker:
And ADHD has such a huge impact on all of our lives that we had to take the bull by the horn. Dwayne has a situation at work that for a long time I thought he didn’t want to do any work around the house because he hated doing that stuff. But it was more than that. I realized that he completely sabotaged himself without knowing. And as a result, it changed the way I saw things and I had a lot more empathy for what’s going on for him. And as we fought, we fought an awful lot. The only way we were able to manage that was to write to each other. So he would write how we felt, what was going on for us.

Linda Walker:
But no blame, no shame, no nothing like that. And it took months for us to solve some of the challenges that came up over and over again. But when we finally realized, almost at the same time, oh my gosh, you’re suffering too because we need … So that’s when we decided, that’s it. We’re going to eat Kraft dinner for the next few months because we had no money. We’re going to not talk to anybody who’s long distance anymore. We’re going to cut off people, TV, but we’re going to manage this. And it made a huge difference.

Nikki:
Been married for 36 years, so it worked.

Linda Walker:
Yeah. If you had asked me 20 years ago, I would have said, I’m not sure that we would have survived, but-

Peter Wright:
Do you ever go back and read those letters?

Linda Walker:
No. They’re gone. We’ve moved so many times [inaudible 00:08:28] But I remember they were very long. They were all very long and all hand written because we didn’t have a computer at the time. And you had to go through each one. I had created these rules, [inaudible 00:08:42] How you felt, but then you had to read it and make sure, how is the other person going to deal with this? How are they going to, because everything is perception. How are they going to perceive it? Is it perceived as an attack? Are they going to understand you better? So that meant rewriting the same letter 500 times before you got it right. So we had moments, long periods of time when we didn’t speak too much to each other.

Peter Wright:
Wow. What a journey. And yet here you are, turning that into something to really help others. And we’re very excited to hear about you and building this roadmap and the kinds of lessons you’ve learned and that you’re bringing to the table. Can you share with us what this is all about?

Linda Walker:
Well, first of all, when I started my business, my seventh adult business as a coach, I’d love the whole process of marketing and I wanted to be a good business person and market to the right people and give the right information and help people understand what they needed and so on. And so I was around a lot of entrepreneurs and I’d go to conferences for online entrepreneurs for example, or conferences just for entrepreneurs in general. And I tell them what I was doing, who I was and what kind of people I worked with.

Linda Walker:
And I was flabbergasted at the number of people who would say, oh my gosh, I have it, I have ADHD or my kid has it. And I suspect that came from me. So that kind of gave me pause. And being around entrepreneurs, I realized that people who had entrepreneur ADHD and I call them creative geniuses. I much prefer that term.

Peter Wright:
Me too.

Linda Walker:
Tension deficit [inaudible 00:10:30] Deficit. There’s sometimes when you get hyper focused and that’s a challenge, or sometimes it’s a gift. And of course the deficit disorder, oh, had so ugly. So I prefer the term creative geniuses. It’s more empowering. And so the creative geniuses entrepreneur, everybody had the same kind of challenges. We know that entrepreneurs in general deal with cashflow issues and marketing and production and promotion and sales and all of this stuff like everyone else hiring and so on.

Linda Walker:
But ADHD entrepreneurs, creative geniuses deal with so much more. And I realized these things were problems with lack of focus. That’s where they came to see [inaudible 00:11:11] Actually they didn’t know it was lack of focus. They said productivity. I’m not productive, I want to do things, I don’t get it done. They struggle with planning and especially around prioritizing, and then they do plan, but then they tend to struggle with executing. And then finally, of course, there’s the whole process of streamlining their businesses.

Linda Walker:
Once they get to a certain point, some of them actually get to that point when it’s fine. Now they want to have a little bit of freedom because now they’re sleeping at the office and they’re spending a whole lot of time working. Now it’s time to grow. And they can’t do it because everything’s in their head. They can’t communicate with people. They struggle with creating systems. So I realized that all of these three main components seem to be issues that were common to entrepreneurs with ADHD, but not through Joe Schmo who has ADHD.

Peter Wright:
Can I ask you a chicken or the egg question?

Linda Walker:
Yeah.

Peter Wright:
I had a conversation with a friend who lives with ADHD and entrepreneurial-ism, and I told him we were doing this show today, and he says, “That’s fascinating. I left many jobs and finally settled on labeling myself as entrepreneur because I had no other choice. I felt like I was not hire able, thanks to my ADHD and I knew there were things I wanted to do in the world, but nobody was going to hire me to do it. So I became an entrepreneur. I didn’t know how to do it. It’s all I had left.” Do you run into that kind of sentiment often?

Linda Walker:
Very, very often. People with ADHD typically go into business, become entrepreneurs either because they don’t fit in the corporate mold. Maybe because they’re not hire able as your friend called it. They’re struggling with their ADHD so much that they can’t seem to fit into what they need to do, or they have so many ideas and he gets frustrated with how slowly corporate life were. So this idea that we’ve always done it this way, so we have to continue to do it this way. They want to innovate and so on.

Linda Walker:
But a lot of them also are born entrepreneurs. I see it all. I was surprised at a conference that I went to a few years ago. I asked people, they were all entrepreneurs. How many of you have started business as children? And three quarters of the room had their hands up, and the businesses they got involved in were shocking. Some people grew jumbles to sell to pet stores and they have all of these amazing businesses.

Linda Walker:
It was surprising. And then also, I think it comes into those three different categories. Sometimes it just can’t make it into the regular world. And as an entrepreneur, they’re really cool thing is that once you get to a certain point, you can start delegating your weaknesses. And hopefully you’re choosing right. You’re choosing a business that you’re passionate with.

Peter Wright:
Well, and I think choice is an important word in this whole conversation. And that is the sentiment that I walk away from talking with other entrepreneurs. Curious your experience that finally I feel like I have choices with how I use my time and what I build. When I was working for somebody, I was unsuccessful because I felt like I was trapped. I had no choice.

Linda Walker:
Absolutely. And that’s a major challenge. So they’re told what to do day in and day out. It gets boring after awhile when you’re always doing. And of course, if they’re not treated, if they’re struggling with their ADHD at work, they’re working so many more hours than most of the people that work in there. They’re usually doing it hidden. They hide the fact that they’re struggling, they work longer hours, they’re there till the cleaners close the office doors, they take work at home, they work in the weekends just to try to catch up.

Linda Walker:
And so a lot of them end up with burnout and surprisingly usually people who burn out, burnout once, but ADHD also burnout one and once because unless they treat the problem, they’re always going to have these types of challenges. But you’re right, choice is a huge thing. Every job has good stuff that you love to do hopefully, and stuff that you don’t like to do, but you’re stuck having to do both no matter what.

Nikki:
Well, and going back to focus, we had several questions around focus because there is this fear of procrastination and I’m not going to do what needs to get done because it’s not shiny enough. So I’m curious, what is this first part? I’m sure you’re going to go through each one, but the focus. What would you say to somebody who is fearing that they can even be an entrepreneur because they know that their focus is all over the place?

Linda Walker:
Yeah. So one thing that I think most adhdiers are not necessarily aware of is that depending on how they treat their brain, they can focus very well and they actually have certain patterns of energy throughout the day of mental energy. So a lot of entrepreneurs, or actually a lot of adhdiers tell me, "Oh, I hyper focus when I do this at a certain time in the day. And this particular thing is usually something that interests them or that requires a fair bit of mental energy. So you have these three different types of, I call them, there’s three of them. There may be more of them, but there’s three that I focus on. There’s a genius zone when you can focus really well and these periods are one or two in a day coming every day at exactly around the same time. I’ll say exactly the same time, depending on how well you protect to your brain.

Linda Walker:
There’s the kinetic zone, adhdiers at some point get to the point where their brains are constantly churning new ideas. They feel like they have to move, they’re more likely to multitask and then there’s a recharge time when they’re so white and all of us get white. But the difference between the genius zone and the recharge zone for most people is like this, but for adhdiers it’s like this and if you force yourself during this period of great fatigue, often after lunch, right now for example here at Montreal, you don’t focus as well. So as a result, if you’re trying to do a task that requires a lot of focus at a time when you can’t, because you don’t recognize your own energy patterns, you are going to struggle.

Linda Walker:
You’re going to try to do that task and you’re going to try to force yourself and it’s not going to work and you’re going to end up moving onto something else without even realizing and you procrastinate and then you feel bad about it and then you try it again and again and until you either figure out the perfect time for you to do that particular task or you do it at the last minute when you’re using adrenaline to get yourself going, you’re going to struggle. So part of the process of this focus is to first identify your energy patterns. Your particular energy patterns because they’re different for each person.

Peter Wright:
How do you do that? Do you have any exercises or a protocol to help people tune in to their zones? I find, and I think some of the questions indicate that often we’re just out of touch enough from a sensate perspective that we don’t even know. What is this? When I should be working? It’s the old SAR. As soon as you think about going to sleep, you can’t go to sleep. So if I’m thinking, oh gosh, it’s now should I be working and I’ll never get anything done because I’ll just spend on that.

Nikki:
I see a lot of clients too that feel that should. I should be working from 8:00 to 5:00, or I should be doing this and they’re not giving themselves the freedom to work in the evening if that’s best for them.

Linda Walker:
Absolutely. And I’ve had clients who are actually own stores that they open at specific times in the day specifically as a result of that. And if clients wants to see them at other times they have to call and make an appointment because they don’t normally open the store during those hours when they can’t. So I think that’s one of the major flexibility that comes with owning your own business. So there’re a number of exercises. I actually put together on them. I used to on a yearly basis, I stopped for two years because I was exhausted and I’m starting again in early March.

Linda Walker:
I’m going to be giving a three part workshop exactly on this. It’s a free workshop that people can sign up for. But there are a number of exercises that we do in the Focus of Freedom program, which is that first layer that we worked on. And one of them is to determine, okay, what are some of the indicators? Because there are certain things that you’re probably doing when you’re not working that indicate when are you better focused. The other thing is to determine what is the task that requires a fair bit of focus and try it at different times of the day and see what happens if you make sure that everything else is taken care of. So for example, if I have to make sure that I don’t get disturbed during that period of time, so I’ll try to focus on particular, let’s say writing or reading something really complex or analyzing data that requires mental energy for a long period of time.

Linda Walker:
And when you try that at different times of the day, the only time you’re going to be able to do it for any length of time is during that period when you can focus. So we start by first determining, what are your genius thoughts? And then we start poking in and looking at the recharge songs because they’re the next one that’s easier to find, but you cannot focus on tasks that require a lot of focus when you’re in kinetic or recharge song as soon as you can’t focus, that’s it.

Peter Wright:
Fascinating. Okay. So I feel like I interrupted you with that question, you were talking about the roadmap and we got sidetracked on zones. Where do you want to pick up?

Linda Walker:
As I got to know more and more entrepreneurs, and as I mentioned, I’ve been working, I’ve been coaching since 2004, so I’ve met a ton, I won’t say a ton, I don’t know how much they weigh, but certainly a large number of adhdiers and realized that they struggle with these three pieces especially. And then sometimes they come in, they say, well, I want to work on planning and we try to plan, but they would try to execute and they couldn’t execute because they hadn’t figured out. Well, one thing that was missing is, when was the best time to do things. So we’re just treating every hour like every other hour. And time management, traditional time management is set up for neurotypicals, not for adhdiers.

Linda Walker:
It treats every hour like every other hour. You have all of these really strange rules that don’t work for ADHD, and so understanding that planning is something that you need to do, but only after you’ve started, you’ve learned to focus is one thing that’s in that roadmap, the roadmap has a specific way of moving. To start with the base, and to focus better, you may have to manage with ADHD friendly strategies.

Linda Walker:
Especially if you’re not taking care of yourself, you may have to deal with managing other people. How do I manage the people around me? You may have to deal with then managing yourself and your distractions, your tendencies to jump. So that’s one thing that we need to do in the focus period until you can finally figure out what your focus, when your three zones are and then determining what are the best tasks to do at the best time.

Nikki:
So the planning interests me because you had sent us an outline of what this looks like and you said the very first bullet point is to do list, don’t work. Please expand on that.

Linda Walker:
I knew you were going to ask about that [inaudible 00:23:31] But it tells you to use it to do list. So adhdiers don’t have a to do list typically. They have a to do book.

Nikki:
That’s very true.

Linda Walker:
Yeah. They start off the to do list or they have 500 little to do lists all over the place. And what happens is that they accumulate all of these tasks that they don’t get to do because the to do list is missing a whole bunch of information, first of all. It’s missing when’s the best time to do it? What’s more crucial, what’s more critical? There’s tasks in there that are nice to do, others that are critical to what you’re doing right now, others that are really critical to something you need to do later in six months from now. So this list, as soon as they have two minutes and you say, oh, well I have an hour, let’s say I have a cancellation from a client, what can I do?

Linda Walker:
You start reading through the to do list and now you have to prioritize from one task to the next. One of my first clients came to me with 684 tasks on her to do list. And she said, “I have no idea what to do when a client cancels on me and I have some time to go through some of these stuff. By the time I gets through the list and I try to make a decision, the time’s up.” So that’s very challenging. So I don’t use a to do list and a lot of people are like, why you use them? So it starts really first by being clear on what you want to achieve in your life, what’s important to you.

Linda Walker:
And then what are the projects that are going to bring you to that. Now that means possibly having to park some projects because instead of prioritizing tasks, you’re going to prioritize projects. So the to do list is undoubtedly the worst invention in the world for an adhdier and you really need to work in a different way with their priority list. Something that’s more-

Nikki:
I really like what you’re saying though, because that makes sense. You’re prioritizing the projects first. You’re then putting aside some of those projects, then you can really start focusing on the ones that needs your attention and start breaking it down that way rather than trying to work on everything all at once.

Peter Wright:
It gets to actually one of the questions that our listener had written in with it, which is as an entrepreneur, how do you focus on the 20% of activities that get to the 80% of your results? What do you do to focus on the most important but not urgent tasks? And so I struggle with it because personally one of my great accommodations and I would call it a success that I’ve had with ADHD is building, not a to do list, but a to do system that allows me to attach the stuff that you say is missing like the time and the prioritization and just being able to focus.

Peter Wright:
I don’t actually prioritize tasks that much, but like flags and all that. I don’t do that. But I live in a system that reminds me when I have obligations to others, client billable type stuff, I have to get those done and I have to get them done on a time. Those are the 80% of results tasks for me. So I’m curious how you coach through that. When you have an entrepreneur who has obligations to others, to clients, to other parties as they build this business, how do they find a way into a system that allows them to get their work done if we’re not going to call it a to do system?

Linda Walker:
Oh, one of them is creating routines. I’ll change routines to rituals and systems as routines like most adhdiers think it’s a terrible word, but it’s creating these rituals so that you’re not reinventing the wheel every time. And at some point, billing your clients is something that could be delegated. I don’t bill my clients directly. I have someone who does that for me now. I used to do it myself when I first started, but you start off by creating systems to streamline your business so that first of all, you’re not spending, you’re not reinventing the wheel every time you’re doing it and you have a specific way of going through it. So it’s fast but at the same time by documenting how you do it, you can then delegate it somebody else so that you can move to the things that you yourself are better at.

Linda Walker:
I have my clients when they first start with me putting three different buckets. One is the bucket where all of the tasks that you yourself are the best person to do either because it’s a strength, it’s a passion. Or as an entrepreneur, as a CEO of this business, you are the person who needs to be doing that. Vision of the business is your purview. You’re the one who needs to set that vision, determining what projects are going to be going and what we are going to do, that is your purview. You can’t delegate it to a consultant for example. So that’s the first bucket.

Linda Walker:
The second bucket are things that you do, you can do, you’re able to do yourself, but that really could be delegated to somebody else. So you want to list all those things. And the last one is anything that you do that you hate doing, that you procrastinate doing, you don’t like doing it. And that is the first bucket that needs to be delegated. And a lot of people say, well, I don’t have money to delegate. I did the same thing as an entrepreneur myself. I don’t have money to delegate. Well, the first time I delegated some of these tasks that I had in my most of the admin stuff to a virtual assistant that I paid 10 hours a month, I was surprised at how, first of all, it was so worth it. The money was so worth it because it liberated me to actually do other stuff. And it wasn’t just 10 hours that I liberated because she’s a lot better at doing some of these things than I am, number one.

Linda Walker:
So it might take her half the time or a quarter of the time, but it liberates me from all of the, oh, I should be doing that at all. I need to do it. You try to capture yourself into doing something you hate doing. And so yes, there are things that you have to do, but you don’t want to run your business so that others are running your life. That’s not what you’re signed up for. You didn’t sign up to be again, working for other people. You’re working for yourself. You need to at some point take control of some of those projects and if it means that at the beginning you take on one project that’s for growth, then that’s what you start with. But you want to start working on moving those systems into somebody else’s hands.

Nikki:
I just want to add about the virtual assistant. I think that is something that’s really scary and I know it was scary for me too as an entrepreneur myself of being able to say I’m going to give up this income and give it to somebody else, but I’ll tell you for me as well as it sounds like for you Linda, it was life changing. It changes your business because then you are able to focus on what you need to focus. And I had somebody mentor me that says, when you’re hiring your virtual assistant, this is very similar to what you just said with the three buckets. What are the three things that you have to do and then what is everything else that they can do.

Nikki:
And so as a coach, well, I do the coaching, I do the podcasting and the vision of where you want the company to go. But like you said, billing, getting back to inquiries, all of these things can be done with the virtual assistant. I guess it’s a fate. It’s a matter of faith that I’m going to be able to do this, this is going to help me. It’s going to pay off at the end. And it really does. And it also prevents burnout. And we were talking about burnout earlier. As an entrepreneur, you can’t do everything, as much as you want to, when you want to save costs, I just don’t see that as being a road to success. You have to be able to figure out what you’re good at and hire and delegate the rest to somebody else.

Linda Walker:
Absolutely. And I hire people who are good at what I’m not good at. So my first virtual assistant and she’s still working for me was good in administrative stuff but she was brilliant with technology and she loves technology. So most of the work I delegate to her now is mostly technology driven. And I have another assistant who’s good at administration and then she does the administrative work. So that’s one thing. And when you think about it, if you’re, let’s say you’re charging $70 an hour for your work, if you’re paying somebody $40 an hour to do the same work at half the time, now you’ve liberated yourself to make much more money than you did.

Linda Walker:
However, it is an investment in time at the beginning. Some virtual assistants require more help at the beginning and you need to learn to communicate as part of the reason why that last layer, that streamline. In streamline, we talked the third layer of … So we started about focus then planning then streamline, that third layer is about scaling. And scaling means you now have to communicate to people. And that can be a challenge for a lot of entrepreneurs with ADHD because they have everything in their head, their plans in their head. And that’s why the other two pieces have to come in first. You have to learn to plan so that you can delegate and communicate what you know.

Peter Wright:
It’s all such a satisfying exploration of leverage. What you can do to leverage other expert’s time to free your own. You can go ahead.

Linda Walker:
Absolutely. And do one of the things that you’re good at, and change more people’s lives in the process. I coach with many more people and have a bigger impact on people’s … I don’t just coach. I also offer training and group coaching. So I can impact so many more people by liberating my time to be able to work with them and having somebody else who’s much better than I am doing something else, doing the stuff that I’m not so good at or even the stuff that I can do myself. I can do my own book. I used to own a bookkeeping business, is one of the first businesses that I started as an adult, but should I be doing it? No, because I can use that time for other stuff.

Nikki:
So we’re going to go backwards a little bit to the planning again. I’m going to go back and forth a little bit. So the ritual, so I’m just curious because I know there’s probably a lot of people out there listening and wondering. Okay, again, I know we’re getting hung up on if it’s not a to do list, then how do I structure my day? How do I know what I need to do when I go into the office that day? What are your thoughts around that?

Linda Walker:
Oh, I look at adhdiers as big picture thinkers. They tends to be big picture thinkers. It’s one of the qualities that makes them very suitable for entrepreneurship. So looking at your business from a big picture of you instead of looking at a to do, which is really a minutiae way to deal with things, it’s really detail oriented. You look at what projects you’re going to be working on. And from there you determine and once a week you sit down and you look at all your projects, okay, how are we doing? Where are all these projects? And determining, okay, what are the next things that need to happen?

Linda Walker:
Now all these projects, by the way, is just three to five, it’s not 25 projects, three to five projects that you’re managing. And at work you may delegate some, that’s fine, but three to five that you are managing yourself and then determining in each one, what are the tasks that need to be done next? What are the critical tasks that needs to be done next? And you do have a list, that I called it a priority list, but it’s a Wiki list and that Wiki list then gets added in your agenda.

Linda Walker:
And depending on how fast your business runs, you may need to review it on a daily basis and see, okay, where am I at with the tasks that I determined I needed to do in my agenda. And of course, when you’re putting them in your agenda, you’re putting them based on your own energy patterns and the requirements of that task. So you have a to do list or priority list for a few minutes after you start planning your projects and then all of that just plotted into your agenda. It’s really from big picture and you’re constantly moving down.

Nikki:
I love that. Something that I call it, which is similar to what you’re talking about, is that it’s intentional planning. It’s just being very intentional with your work and what needs to be done. I like it. Priority list [crosstalk 00:36:32].

Peter Wright:
I’m satisfied now. I struggled because I couldn’t make the leap from like, I know what I have to do. Where do I write it if it’s not on a list somewhere? And so for me, I can’t do to do lists, but I absolutely block my time for the work that I need to do with specific intention on what that work needs to go and comes from.

Nikki:
You’re very good at that.

Peter Wright:
If I just start making lists, I’m in real trouble. It’s going to disappear. But again, that sort of work box, we call it the work box around these person, it’s not an inbox. It’s a work box. It’s where you are intentionally putting the work and the time to achieve it, to accomplish it. That’s good. I do that.

Linda Walker:
Absolutely. And [crosstalk 00:37:20] Arising different types of tasks. So there are ways that you can improve on workflow to reduce that kind of trauma.

Peter Wright:
Well, this gets back to, you were talking about finding those zones. Figuring out where those zones are. And this was some years ago, we did the ideal calendar exercise on this show, where we said like, if I got rid of all of my obligations, where would I be? I should build a calendar and put all the times on for ever. I’m sleeping, I’m eating, I’m with family, I’m doing, everything is represented. There’s no minute that is not structured and then overlay that my real life and it’s a disaster. It’s a horror show. So this really gets back into that frame, but finding those zones, my ideal calendar should represent, here are two hours every day where I know I’m most focused.

Peter Wright:
And then also recognizing that I drive carpools and swim teams and all kinds of things that I really enjoy doing. That is the most important part is being a part of the family, taking back the role. I have to make trades. I know that I have to make trades, but all of that I should be able to represent once I go through that exercise we talked about earlier, figuring out when I’m best at what I’m best at.

Linda Walker:
Totally. If you’re listening to this before March, 2020, you’ll be able to jump into this particular [crosstalk 00:38:46].

Nikki:
And they will. So we’ll have to make sure we have a link to that so that people can see.

Linda Walker:
Yeah. Link in the show notes.

Nikki:
Absolutely. So I have a couple more questions from last [inaudible 00:38:55] That came in. And one goes back to that balance. So there’s this guilt when you’re working on your business and you’re not focusing on home and then there’s this guilt when you’re at home, but you’re thinking about your business. And especially for people like Pete and I, we work from home and so it is really easy to step into my office and forget that three hours goes by on a Saturday. What is your approach or how do you work with clients to balance that when they’re an entrepreneur?

Linda Walker:
That’s a really challenging thing. I always laugh at people who say, oh, you’re so lucky. You own your own business. You could choose your time the way … From midnight to 5:00 o’clock in the morning. It’s pretty much [inaudible 00:39:37] Work so hard, especially at the beginning when you first start your business, you’re working so many hours and if you’re passionate about what you do, it’s really a challenge to step away from that. I had to create what I call a time map. It’s almost like time blocking or you create these pockets of time in your day that work for you. And you don’t do it necessarily because it’s 5:00 o’clock, but there’s periods in a day it’s like, you know what? If I try to work during that time, I’m not very productive or this is the time when the family needs me most.

Linda Walker:
And so creating those as non negotiable periods of your day. You don’t book clients during that time. You don’t book work during that time. And I think it’s important also to leave some free time in your calendar because as amazing as you could be at planning, at the rate of today’s business life, things move so fast and you can be called at the last minute. Somebody calls you when you’re just about ready to leave and you’ll take the call and 10 minutes in, you’re done and you’re not done yet, then you’re supposed to be somewhere else. So being able to have these pockets of time when you free up or almost what I would call buffer time, that would answer your challenge, Peter, of having a disaster when you try to put all of these things, it’s having some of those buffer times, I think you need that.

Linda Walker:
And also you have to recognize that your brain cannot function as well as it should if you don’t take care of it. And taking care of it means enough sleep, it means exercise, it means eating well and being around people that cherish you and feeling good about your life. It also means having time when you decompress. We all need that. And unfortunately entrepreneurs, that’s where they cut when things get so crazy. So you need to learn to say no, more often I think. That’s a really [crosstalk 00:41:49].

Nikki:
Having those boundaries.

Peter Wright:
There’s another side to this. If we just take that very coin and turn it over, about not just planning the work and figuring out when to focus and be productive, but how to, let’s say meter one’s enthusiasm and be able to see projects through to the end. We’re getting reports of people who say, “ I get very excited up front and I burn real bright and then I get bored and I’m done and I move on to something else.” But now we’re talking about our livelihoods as an entrepreneur. Now it’s not just like, oh, it’s a project I never finished at work. But I was able to sweep into the drawer and move on to something else. And everybody’s fine. It’s fine. Don’t worry about me, I’m fine. How do you keep from getting so bored?

Linda Walker:
Yeah. It’s a big challenge. So one thing is, first of all, when you are trying to embark or you’re thinking of embarking in a particular project, there’s a term that I found that’s a really cool way of managing the tendency for entrepreneurs to get exuberant about a particular idea. It’s called whoop, it’s an acronym for wish. What’s your wish? What’s the outcome that you’re looking for? So you have to be clear on the why you wanted and what it’s going to be like when you get there. So you need to be dreaming that, that’s a good thing. And I think entrepreneurs with ADHD don’t usually struggle to so much with that. They struggle with the next piece, which is the obstacles. There are things, you are somewhere here and you need to move over there at point B and there’s going to be a whole bunch of hurdles along the way. What are those hurdles and what do you need to do to make it happen? So that’s the second O and then the P is planning for those things. So that’s one thing that’s missing. The other thing is recognizing that there are some tasks that are going to be challenging and maybe you need to redesign your tasks, those types of tasks so that you make them more interesting.

Peter Wright:
Interesting, smaller?

Linda Walker:
[crosstalk 00:43:52] It could be smaller, could be using your body double, it could even be-

Peter Wright:
Ridiculously easy for me to get bored with a task that’s too big to even think about starting. Oh Gosh, wow, I need to do something else.

Linda Walker:
So if you break it down into a smaller piece and you use a chronometer, a timer, you time yourself, 30 minutes I’m going to get it done in 30 minutes and then you go, you will focus, you get it done.

Nikki:
And those are the strategies that you have to rely on. You go back to your ADHD toolbox, you look at how can I get started on a project that I’m avoiding? Because that’s going to go with you anywhere, whether you’re an entrepreneur or you’re doing household chores, right? [crosstalk 00:44:35] Getting started.

Linda Walker:
Something in the middle is great because that’s where the fun stuff is. But the beginning starting and then ending with those little details, the minutia is always a big challenge.

Nikki:
It’s so hard. But one thing I really want to emphasize is the why. And I think this is really important for entrepreneurs who aren’t really sure yet where they want to take a business and they’re still swirling on different ideas. That passion is so important. So if you’re passionate about something, the chances, yes, you’re going to, maybe not, it’s going to be harder to follow through on some of those icky things. But for the whole, you’re going to be in the business because you’re going to love what you’re doing. And that’s what’s important I would think is to encourage people to really zone in on what is your passion, what do you care about, what’s your why? What’s your outcome? Such an important piece.

Linda Walker:
Absolutely. I think the passion is the key. I’ve had some clients come to me and they decided to go in this particular business because of the money and it doesn’t work [crosstalk 00:45:43] Not interested. They don’t like what they do. They don’t like their product. They don’t like even their clients. You’re not going to survive [crosstalk 00:45:51] You’re going to make money, but you’re not because there’s zero passion and adhdiers are interest based performers. If you’re not interested, you don’t get those dopamine hits in your brain and you can’t stay focused long enough to do it.

Nikki:
And you’re going to lose your clients anyway. You’re going to lose your business.

Linda Walker:
Totally. So the passion is really important and constantly keeping the why in front of you because if you’ve got a big project, it’s going take a while before you get there. You need to break it into smaller milestones and celebrate each milestone. Another challenge that adhdiers struggle with, they don’t celebrate. And you need to because you need those dopamine hits.

Nikki:
Right. I had a client who is actually going through grad school, or medical school. He’s going to be a doctor. He is trying to get into medical school. Now this is different because he’s not an entrepreneur. But what we did is we wanted to have a vision of him being a doctor. So he photoshopped his little face in a stock photo of a doctor and then he bought the little, what is it?

Linda Walker:
Stethoscope.

Nikki:
Yes, thank you. And he hung that around the photo and that’s what he had in front of them the whole entire time. And I loved it. I thought, what a great idea because that really is keeping the vision in front of you of what you’re trying to accomplish and actually seeing yourself doing it.

Linda Walker:
And that’s an important thing. I think keeping it in front of you. I often have my clients do a collage. They assemble pictures of what life will be like because it’s not just all exactly what you’ve got. I saw that in the back door. It’s not just about the business. I think productivity is more than just a business. If you’re doing well at work and you’re doing bad at home because you’re not pulling your weight, things are not good for you. Your life is not great if you are losing credibility in your social life, it’s not [inaudible 00:47:52] Or in your financial life. So you need to have that big why, you need to be able to focus on all the things that are important to you. We are human beings and not human doings.

Linda Walker:
And I think as entrepreneurs, one of the major things that we need to do is work on ourselves because there’s all those limiting beliefs that keep on coming in, that stop us from moving forward and adhdiers with their portfolio of failures and challenges in the past and reprimands often have a huge amount of limiting beliefs and they need to constantly work on that. So journaling is a really important piece of the success journal if you need to. And I love the gratitude journal.

Peter Wright:
It’s such an interesting, just as an observation, it’s just such an interesting thing when you hear the limiting beliefs that entrepreneurs spear tend to have. They are all about the work itself. They’re all about, oh, I can’t. The friend I mentioned earlier builds robots, home assistant robots like Roomba, but for other things. And his biggest complaints are historically, it’s just all about the work, the projects, the skills, whatever it is, until he stops and starts to think about the ADHD, the soft skills.

Peter Wright:
That seems to be the stuff that he doesn’t talk about isn’t practiced at talking about. And so he forgets that the skills, the reason he started his own business and became an entrepreneur is because he already has the skills. He knows how to build stinking robots for crying out loud. It’s the stuff that he hasn’t been able to stop to give himself a little grace and patience and actually think about taking care of himself. And I think my hunch is that, others listening are probably in that boat.

Linda Walker:
Yeah. I was surprised I was on a call with a number of other entrepreneurs with Seth Gordon. Seth Gordon is [crosstalk 00:50:01] Arising ADHD or by the way he came out years ago. The work that we did, it was a very interactive type of work where we worked in smaller groups and got together afterwards to debrief. And what came up was the number of people who had imposter syndrome. More than 85% of the group had imposter syndrome. And it shocked me because when I was talking to these people, if they didn’t tell me they had imposter syndrome, I wouldn’t have believed that they [crosstalk 00:50:35].

Peter Wright:
You would never know.

Linda Walker:
It was just so amazing. And the knowledge that they had and their poise and their ability to … And I know a bunch of them had ADHD, they told me themselves, but it was shocking the number of people. And so we are told constantly that we’re not enough and we need to shut that conversation and we do it by being good with ourselves, by recognizing our humanity and what we’re able to do or what we do well in our success. As small as they might be from one day to another.

Nikki:
And it’s okay not to know everything. You can say, I don’t know and I’ll look into it or what do you think? There’s so many different ways to not feel that pressure. There’s one more question that I want to address because I think this is also something that a lot of people deal with. Transitioning from a full time job to a business that you want to develop. So you’re not ready to cut the ties of that full time job because you need the income. But you don’t want to stay there. What do you say about that? How do you make that transition when there is a risk? We can’t pretend there isn’t.

Linda Walker:
Yeah. There’s definitely a risk and that’s why four out of five businesses fail. Not all businesses … But what we know is that people who try over and over again after a number of businesses start succeeding. So what I usually say is, what’s your level of comfort? Do you have something just hit on? How can you downsize as well? Because if you’re ready to do it. I left a job as a drug pusher, as a [inaudible 00:52:22] Where I was making six figures. And I was going to go into a job or work career or a business where I was not going to make that kind of money at the beginning. I’ve invested a lot of money into my business. And so I had to be clear on that.

Linda Walker:
And I ended up working full time, but making sure that I had certain times in a week. I didn’t have my hubby was working on that business and being intentional. And because I had so little time to do it, oh my gosh, I got so much done during those periods of time because I knew my time is so limited then if I didn’t use that time well, I was going to squander my business opportunity. I wasn’t going to make it. So I think you might need to wait before you can make the full leap. Is there any way, for example, that work to negotiate. I work four days instead of five. And also there’s a number of things that you can do, but it’s not easy. Definitely, you’re going to work hard and entrepreneurs have never been known to be lazy. They work really, really hard. And like I said, from midnight to 5:00 o’clock in the morning, that’s all the time that you’ve got free.

Peter Wright:
I got it. I just feel like there is an experience what you have to look forward to after everything that Linda just said, what you have to look forward to is there will be a moment when you’re working hard and you’ll look up from whatever it is you’re doing and you’ll say, oh my God, I have a business and it’s working. And I remember when that happened to me. I remember when I felt like I have enough clients to actually feed the family and not be desperate and not be terrified all the time and there is nothing I would trade for that moment, to have that moment.

Nikki:
That is so interesting because I had that moment too. I remember driving in the car, listening to some music, some fun music, and I just remember sitting there thinking, I am really happy. I’m just so happy how everything’s evolving and yeah, it is, that’s what you want. You want that moment. That’s awesome.

Linda Walker:
I would not trade that moment for anything either. Even I’ve been offered a whole bunch of jobs where I would make probably more than I am making right now. I’ve said no to every one of them because once you become an entrepreneur and you’re at it for a while, you don’t want to go back.

Peter Wright:
Oh, I would be the worst employee for anybody ever [crosstalk 00:54:57] Please God, don’t hire me for any of the work I represent.

Nikki:
I would be mad about asking for anything. I’m like, what do you mean I can’t go pick up my kid? What? I’m going.

Peter Wright:
I’m telling you, Linda Walker, you’re amazing. I hope this is not the last time we can have you on this show. You’ve been just a delight. Thank you so much for your time.

Linda Walker:
Thank you. It was amazing being with you guys. I’ve really, really enjoyed the conversation. I love working with entrepreneurs, so I love the conversation that we’ve just had. Hopefully, this is inspireful.

Nikki:
Yes. Inspire people and we’ll make sure that we have the link to your upcoming workshop. That’s fantastic. Peter, what else?

Peter Wright:
We’ll certainly do that. Well, we’ve got a couple of more questions that we have that have come in through the live chat for folks who are watching this live, and if you were checking out our patrion.com/the ADHD podcast group, you know what? You’ll be able to stick around after what I’m going to say next, and hear those questions. Until then, all I can say is thank you everybody for downloading and listening to this show. We appreciate your time and your attention. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer and Linda Walker. I’m Peter Wright. We’ll catch you next week right here on Taking Control, the ADHD podcast.