ADHD has many specific challenges that can be difficult to manage. Many of these challenges arise around work – especially now that so many people are working remotely. Remote work is great for a lot of reasons: it’s flexible, relaxed, and requires no commute or uncomfortable shoes. But it can also produce a host of challenges for people with ADHD around communication, procrastination, and accountability.
Anxiety and ADHD often go hand-in-hand, whether you work remotely or not. If you’re like many of my clients, you probably find yourself procrastinating at work and not being assertive enough when it comes to asking for what you need. You may feel like you have to work so much harder than everyone else just to stay afloat and get everything done on time. And you might worry about getting into trouble with your boss or colleagues because of your struggles.
The anxiety produced by work challenges can be really difficult to deal with. And if you have a job with open-ended deadlines and minimal built-in communication with bosses or team members, this anxiety can get even worse.
Coming up with a compassionate accountability plan is one of the most effective ways to soothe your anxiety and feel more productive. So let’s talk about why compassionate accountability is so helpful for people with ADHD, and how to work more of it into your life.
Problems at work can make people with ADHD feel really bad about themselves and their abilities. A lot of my clients have heard their whole lives that they’re lazy or scatterbrained when really, their needs were just misunderstood and overlooked. If you’ve experienced this type of stigma, you know that it can be easy to internalize it. All the negative things you’ve heard about yourself and your learning style throughout your life can lead to anxiety, low self-worth, people-pleasing, and difficulty communicating with others.
But there’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with your brain or how it operates. You just have different needs and ways of doing things – and that’s okay.
One of the hallmarks of ADHD is difficulty with organizational skills. These skills – like planning, remembering small details, and focusing on a task – are part of the executive functioning processes in the brain. But ADHD brains have a tougher time with executive function skills.
Executive functions are really helpful when it comes to getting shit done. It’s really tough to do your job when you have a hard time remembering instructions, getting started on a task, and focusing. Having strategies in place to help you with all these skills can make your life much easier. And this is where compassionate accountability comes in.
Compassionate accountability is a way to gently help yourself do the things you know you need to, without making yourself feel like shit in the process. I am highlighting the word “compassionate” here because it’s important not to make yourself feel bad about the things you need. It can be easy to berate yourself about all the ways you feel you come up short at work and in life. After all, other people may have already made you feel inferior for how your brain works. But frankly, this is bullshit.
Just because you have needs that may be different from someone else’s doesn’t mean you’re somehow less worthy than they are. Just because you need more strategies and tools in place for accomplishing tasks doesn’t mean you’re stupid or lazy or bad. Beating yourself up about your perceived limitations won’t help you do better in life. It will just make you feel worse and more anxious.
Having compassionate accountability in your life means utilizing the tools that help you get things done. It means asking for what you need when it comes to your work schedule, your deadlines, and your habits. And it means forgiving yourself when you make mistakes.
So what are some specific ways you can use compassionate accountability in your life?
One way is to be more specific and honest with your boss about what you need to do your job better. Do the open-ended deadlines at work cause you to procrastinate and stress about projects? Ask your boss for help managing these projects. For example, you can work with them to implement mini deadlines over the course of a bigger project. That way you have small built-in deadlines to work with.
It may also help you to schedule regular check-ins with your boss to ensure you’re on track and have what you need to succeed. If you’re meeting with them more frequently, whether it’s face-to-face or online, you’ll likely feel more connected and empowered to ask for what you really need. You may also find that scheduling regular check-ins with your boss helps you stay on task more throughout the week.
Another way is to get support from someone other than your boss. Accountability is hard – especially when you’re relying solely on your own willpower. Help yourself out by getting an ADHD accountability buddy.
An ADHD accountability buddy is someone you can meet up with regularly, online or in-person, to help you get things accomplished. Work can be really isolating, especially if you work remotely. An ADHD accountability buddy can help keep you on track, get more work done, be accountable for your actions, and make you feel less alone in your struggles.
Online coworking spaces are one way to find accountability. You can try coworking with a big group or just one other person. Scheduling a coworking session with someone you know and trust can help you stay on task and focus on what you need to get done.
You can also use ADHD accountability buddies to talk through specific issues or difficulties you’re having. For example, maybe you’re struggling with your boss piling up too much work on you all at once, and you feel like you’re at risk for burnout. An accountability buddy might help you take the step of talking to your boss about what you need in order to avoid burnout. Having someone to bounce ideas and strategies off of can make a big difference in both your productivity and your mental health.
If you want help figuring out how to introduce more compassionate accountability in your life, I’m here to help. Together, we will come up with ways to manage your challenges, come up with helpful strategies for dealing with your boss and work woes, and reduce your anxiety. I’ll help you learn how to be accountable for your actions, both in life and at work.
You’ll learn how to create more accountability in your life and speak up for what you need, even when it’s scary.
I’m ready if you are. Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation.
Danielle is an anxiety therapist. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.