How do you Identify How Hard a Task Is For You

#1

I don’t quite know how to ask this question (and maybe it belongs in “Support” rather than “Toolbox” category?). Basically, what I want to know is, how do you decide or figure out when something is “too difficult” for you because you have ADHD, as opposed to it just being a “normally” difficult task?

Example might help. I stuck with studying toward a Ph.D. for a LONG time (almost a decade), without ever getting the degree. I wasn’t really doing anything else with my life at the time, either. Hanging out, living the grad-student lifestyle, I knew that it was not going well, but I also thought that getting a Ph.D. is a rather difficult task for ANYONE. I was not diagnosed at the time, so I did not know that ADHD might have been a culprit in interfering with the progress of writing my dissertation. But plenty of other grad students in my department were also procrastinating, having a hard time, not necessarily getting their degrees finished at ideal record-breaking time-to-degree speed.

How would I have possibly known that writing a dissertation is TOO DIFFICULT for me? Or, maybe, doing well at a certain type of career? When do you know that you’ve done as much as you can possibly do?

Another example. I have a close friend who confided in me about a divorce she went through. She told me that she really valued the idea of trying to make her relationship with that man (her husband at the time; now her ex-husband) work. So she worked at it. Then she worked even harder at it. Then even harder. And when that didn’t work, she worked even harder. Eventually, someone told her, that if the relationship required that much work just to make it succeed, maybe salvaging the relationship wasn’t worth it in the first place. But that’s circular thinking! Just one more ounce of work might have saved her relationship! She might have quit working on it (as they say in AA) one hour before the miracle. (She did get divorced, she’s been gone from that guy for over a decade and is happily married to someone else, by the way.)

So, how would you ever know if your own level of work, is MORE than is reasonable, or is THE SAME as what other people are expecting to put in? I was frustrated by a lot of failures; but, as an achievement-oriented guy, I wanted to “do well” in life, so, I tried harder and harder to get successes, and continued instead to experience failures. Other people said, “work is not THAT hard, man, you just aren’t trying hard enough.” And I (foolishly) believed them. It felt like I was putting in effort level 99 out of a possible 20; but they talked about it like they had to put in effort level 8 out of 10. I figured (wrongly) that my FEELING of 99 was comparable to other people’s 7s (I reasoned that, because they were succeeding where I was failing, then, all other things being equal, they must have been doing more than me, putting in more effort than me, and therefore my score had to be at least 1 digit lower than theirs). So, trying to up my supposed (but not actual) 7 to the 8 that would be required for success, I pushed my 99 on up to 110, 220, continued to fail, and still thought I must not have breached the 7.9-to-8 threshold yet.

How would you ever know? You can’t take someone ELSE’S own perceived level of effort and experience it for yourself. You just have to trust that when they say, “man, it’s not THAT hard,” they aren’t lying, right? There’s got to be some sort of “toolbox” for figuring this sort of thing out. I can’t go through yet more failed careers that I simply cannot do, because of ADHD; I need to know when the effort that I’m putting in, is throwing it away, as opposed to, when it will be effective and productive for me. So far I’ve done WAY too much extra for WAY too little reward, but I’ve only ever figured that fact out long after it was too late. ADHDers are ripe for exploitation of this sort. Even if there’s no chance of success, we just keep trying harder, because we have no idea that it’s easier for everyone else.

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Work: How do you tell if it's the ADHD or if you actually have too much work?
#2

First step: Stop comparing yourself to others. (This is the hardest, but absolutely necessary.)

Second: Take a break from the task. Look over how much work you have put into it. How much progress have you made? How many hours did that amount of progress take? How much of your energy/spoons/focus did it take you to accomplish that progress? (If the answer here is “all of it, even the energy I needed for basic daily tasks,” full stop, to to the last step.)

Third: Look at the whole of the task. How much do you have left to go? Looking at the information from the previous step, do you think you can keep up that level of energy for the entire length of time? If you can, great! Keep at it, you’ll get there! If not, go to the next step.

Fourth: How has your self care been while you were using your energy to make progress? Do you still have clean clothes left? Has your sink become sentient and started demanding the car keys? If your house is on fire and you can’t remember why, go to the last step. If you can still pass as human in most social encounters and have gotten more than 5 hours of sleep a night, you’re still doing all right. Just make sure you eat something.

Last step: Hard cold look at yourself time. Something’s not working. There could be a bunch of reasons for that; you might have too much going on to be able to devote the time and focus you need, you might just need to find a better way of going about things. Or it might just be too damned hard. Look at the reward outcome of this task. Is it worth the meltdown that’s brewing in your future? How far away is that reward? Is it still worth burning out your internal engine to reach?

If the answer is no, then it’s just too damned hard.

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#3

Wow, very elaborate response. Much too elaborate for me to ever implement, I’m afraid – I personally lack executive function skills like that and … oh wait … GEE WHAT A SURPRISE it’s because I have ADHD :slight_smile: . But it’s still very much appreciated that you described all of that (maybe I’ll work up to it in the future?) and it will certainly prove helpful for others.

On related point, I think that if I were to directly implement that on most of the long-term things I’ve had to do in my life, I would simply quit them all right now. In particular, the very notion of going to work every day – 1. compare myself to others: well, OTHER PEOPLE can go to work, so maybe I should be able to, as well? No, don’t compare. 2. take break from work: well, if I quit work right now, I’ll be free to think about it. 3. look at the whole task: it all sucks, and it goes on forever and ever, and never has any ending to it until I die or manage to afford to retire, either way it is seemingly perpetual, so, do I have that kind of energy? OF COURSE NOT. 4. how does self-care go while working? Well, there is zero time for self-care if I am also working a regular job. Period. I don’t even have time to shower and use the toilet BECAUSE WORK TAKES UP ALL MY TIME. So, no, I’m not doing it right. 5. (final step) take a hard cold look, something’s not working … better way to do it … too damned hard … too much going on? No. Work sucks. End of analysis. IT’S JUST TOO DAMNED HARD. Time to quit.

I’m not sure I want that result for the inquiry. If I implement your suggested inquiry, I get the result that, I should never try to have a job again. But I’d rather get a response that somehow tells me, not, that I should STOP working, but instead, HOW to change the WAY that I work so that I can go about SUCCEEDING at it instead of grossly failing or, as now seems suggested, instead of simply AVOIDING it. And by the way, like most people, I simply can’t AFFORD to avoid it entirely. There will be a bill to pay at some point in the future, no surprise.

So, the inquiry procedure suggested is a bit off-kilter for what I’m examining. Of course, it’s still a good suggested procedure, just not for me in this context, and the problem wasn’t that you answered the question wrong, it was instead, that I asked the question wrong, as I’m starting to realize as I think more and more about it.

One thing I’m learning, just by thinking about this issue, is something mildly different about my assumptions BEHIND the question. I didn’t really know how to ask the question. And now that I re-read what I wrote, I realize, I was initially (in my first post) describing some tasks as simply “wrong” for me to even TRY to do, mostly because of ADHD.

But now I’m thinking differently. I’m now thinking, ya know what, there’s NOTHING I can’t do, and ADHD does not need to ENTIRELY STOP ME from having those kinds of goals that might nevertheless prove to be something like, “difficult, even for normal people.” What was missing while I was trying to get a Ph.D. was NOT that I was failing at being neurotypical (although I was, probably); what I needed instead was KNOWLEDGE that I was failing at neurotypicality, and therefore should have implemented COPING STRATEGIES and counter-measures and so-on to intercept and minimize the ADHD, such that, instead of ADHD preventing my Ph.D., rather, I got a Ph.D. and did it DESPITE having ADHD. So, I couldn’t do at the same time all three of (a.) have ADHD, (b.) not a have a diagnosis, and therefore be ignorant of ADHD, and (c. ) finish a Ph.D. But now that (b.) is no longer true, for I do have a diagnosis and am learning to cope more and more every day, then I probably COULD do the other two of the above at the same time, viz. (a.) have ADHD and (c. ) finish a Ph.D. .

Just writing the question has allowed me to see, that I was kind-of assuming myself around the corner here. Assuming ADHDers “can’t” finish Ph.D.s, assuming that I would never finish one in my own future, assuming all sorts of negatives that aren’t necessary.

Other thoughts? Thanks for your reply! Glad to have the opportunity to bounce the ideas off of informed and sympathetic people, it’s certainly given me a better new perspective! :slight_smile:

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#4

I’m very much of the “over analyze and optimise everything” mindset because optimization = more time to get all the OH GOD WHY tasks done :slight_smile:

Though really, if your job is eating all of your time… it sounds like you have a pretty over-demanding job and maybe looking into something that doesn’t eat up your entire day might work better. (I say as someone who works 3 part time jobs, one of which is self employment. Some weeks work better than others with that balance…) Work should only eat up at most, 2/3rd of your waking time. Should have a few hours to recharge!

A lot of ADHD life is just finding the path and coping skills that you can make work for your brain and life. At this point for me, I have fairly elaborate system for working with how my brain does things and for the most part, have gotten my strengths to crowd out the weaknesses in how I pick and choose things.

To give an example: Breaking down the 3 jobs I do: One is on call contract work ranging from using content management software to upload and format an online publication to doing research on building products. Most of these projects are small, diverse, or go by really swiftly. (one exception is the project I’m on now where noone else on it is motivated cause it’s already been paid for and I’m slogging through a giant database… it;s… not…the best.)

Another is teaching/tutoring kids in state custody. This is a newer thing I picked up… almost by accident and for the most part, time is spent gathering and organizing information, and working one on one with the kids. (Both of the two on my load at the moment have ADHD so it’s very familiar territory. Hands on projects and documentaries and teaching coping skills!)

The self employment one is making and selling fidgets. Making things, getting very nice feedback from people who’ve been helped by having them, getting suggestions for new things I can make, fiddling and tweeking models, endlessly learning new things and creating stuff and actually getting a hobby to pay for itself! And with the deadlines of “ah crap, I need to ship this by [date]” I’m kept accountable and don’t flake out.

… I don’t quite remember where I was going here, but basically, each one has things that work for how my brain does stuff. Deadlines and accountability are built in, but not so tight as to be a stress source. Variety of things, lots of hands-on / seeing the results of actions / feedback from most of it. None of these are 9-5 jobs. None of these are traditional work, and 2 of the three of them are highly flexible in how I implement things.

Turning this back to the “Getting your PHD” the new question is: Is there an alternate way you can take this on than the way you’ve been going at it? There’s more than one way to get over/around a mountain, after all. Some people go over it, some go around it, some tunnel through it, and some get their pilot’s licence and just fly because screw that, this way’s more fun!

Standard solutions don’t always work for us. And when we find that the neurotypical path is just BS, we need to forge a new one that does work.

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#5

Thanks for your thoughts. Just bouncing this stuff off my own mind, seeing where it goes …

You’re joking, right? (Oh heck, I know you aren’t, I’m just being sarcastic.) I have frankly NEVER experienced any job or work-related position taking up less than 100% of my waking time. In fact, it even takes up some of my sleeping time (on the mathematical premise that I would be sleeping more if I didn’t have that job). I have always always been HAPPIEST when I’ve been fired. “Well, thank GOD I don’t have to get up early, dress up, and act like I enjoy myself TOMORROW morning” goes through my head immediately. Next thing? Pack up that box, head home, GO TO BED, get a nice long rest. I have heard from many people that this isn’t “normal” but it’s “normal” for me and anyway … I’m also not normal.

I talk with my counselor (CBT guy … shrink … therapist … call him whatever) about this regularly. I feel harassed and harried whenever I have a job, to the point of losing any opportunity to do anything else. I guess if I were being paid a whopping big salary to the point that I could afford to have a personal assistant, I would probably not complain as much, would be able to get some of the ancillary chores and living-of-life tasks done (excellent example: someone to pick up my finished dry-cleaning, which is a chore I WOULD NOT HAVE if I didn’t have the job, to which I have to wear dry-clean-only clothing). But I haven’t ever found that work “pays for itself” in the sense that, although dry-clean-only clothing is essentially required in the workplace, the salary pay benefits don’t add up to enough for me to be able to dry-clean-only my clothing. Same as for groceries or eating out, I’m expected to work so much I should just have a sandwich at the desk, but I can’t afford either (a.) the price of order-out delivery deli sandwiches all the time or (b.) the time to go to the grocery store to pick up the sandwich fixings, and then the additional time in the morning / night before, to fix the sandwich. Have to go to work, therefore, can’t afford (in terms of time and money) to go to work. I guess I’m lucky that the people who always hired me for those jobs I didn’t want, were so bad at capitalism that they failed to sneakily motivate me into keeping the job out of some kind of need to keep the level of income I’d become used to, because I wasn’t ever making enough of an income to be tempted to stick around anyway! LOL. Jokes on them, talented bright guy not being used over here, your loss not mine.

I like your stories about how you have cobbled together a working basis for things. I thought I would do that, too, but it turns out I simply can’t CARE enough about the capitalist requirement that we “believe in the product” to motivate myself. I’m whining a bit here, so I shouldn’t let it continue, I’ll whip my (poorly self-regulated, because I have ADHD) emotions into a negative frenzy, so, let me just stop and say, it’s an ongoing struggle. So, no more whining, here’s a positive story below:

On related point, I left that Ph.D. program in 1998 or so, wouldn’t be trying to resurrect it in particular, just using it as an example of how not to plan your life. The educational trajectory is actually quite a success story of overcoming ADHD in my life, although I didn’t actually know I had ADHD when I started the circumnavigation of the Ph.D. problem. What I did was, think to myself, “OK, I’m very bad at being a self-starter. I’ve always HATED writing papers.” (In fact, when I started that Ph.D. program, I didn’t even know that people who work as professors, and therefore have written a Ph.D. thesis to prepare themselves for the professorship job market, actually write papers all their lives long. Silly me! How uninformed was I?) So, disliking writing papers, I thought to myself, “What else is there that I can do?” and I recalled that, in most of my school experience, there were two types of students, those who liked writing papers and, on the opposite end, those who liked taking tests. And yes! I like taking tests. And I excel at them! (Now I know, this is part of my dependence on deadline-pressure due to ADHD. But I didn’t know that at the time.) So, I asked myself, “What professional programs are sort of related to getting a Ph.D., that are in a field I have some background in, and that will be good professional certification and qualification and so on?” And very intelligently (if I do say so myself) I ultimately over several years LEFT doctoral studies in the humanities and STARTED law school.

It was a decent fit. Although there are some branches of the study of law that are founded on the writing of academic-style papers, I could avoid that part. Most of traditional law school is entirely one-test-tells-all at the end of the semester, and the certification at the end of your three-year program (the State Bar Exam) is almost entirely just one big three-day exam. Although I was an older student when I started law school, the fact of having the strict rigor and requirement of attending every day, taking big tests which were imposed on my schedule by outside forces, and ultimately being judged NOT on self-scheduled self-starter requirements like writing papers, but rather on the tests that I sat? It worked!

I was very proud of that life decision. Not that I wanted to be a lawyer – I still don’t want to be a lawyer, and I find that the work that one does is very contrary to ADHD tendencies, to the point that I’m simply not geared for it – but at least I managed to FINISH the program, get the degree, and also pass the State Bar Exam (for two different states!). I’m currently in good standing as a fully qualified lawyer in both Louisiana and New York State, and I’m a notary in Louisiana. I shouldn’t say “I don’t want to be a lawyer.” I DO value the rights and responsibilities I have, and the community of like-minded people, and the opportunity to aid in the distribution of justice in our world. I just don’t like … desk work. Regular hours. Suits and neckties. Bosses. Cubicles (or offices). Billable hours. Repetitive tasks. Quiet settings. Conventional solutions. Repeated business models. All the stuff that comes WITH being a lawyer. I like helping my clients (what few I have, because I also don’t like getting clients, serving clients, billing clients, or advertising for clients) with the things that only lawyers can do, once in a while. But it certainly doesn’t get me up bright and early with a smile on my face every morning.

Additionally – and probably even smarter – was the fact that I could avail myself of the disabilities offices associated with my new campus. In returning to school, I was returning to a student-support system, a shrink or two, people who did Personality Inventories, people in career centers, campus medical offices. I didn’t have to work very hard at causing that disparate group of people to work together and start helping me, in a way that was much easier than it would have been, if I had needed to gather their disparate resources from among the general civilian population outside of a campus. So, although I really have very little positive to say about the type of teaching that goes on in law schools in North America traditionally, and I’m not enamored of my law alma mater all that much (though I’m not particularly hostile toward it, I am not a big booster), nevertheless for the student-services offices at the major university in which that law school rests and operates, I have nothing but positive things to say. The counselors, career experts, shrinks, offices for disability rights, and so forth, eventually identified my ADHD and put me on the slow course to management and understanding. I consistently mentally thank them for giving me my initial diagnosis.

Thanks for the thoughts! If I seem like I have ADHD with all these non-typical experiences of being over-burdened by the tasks of a workplace, well, guess what? I may seem like I have ADHD because … I have ADHD. :slight_smile:

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#6

I… cannot tell if you live in a special sort of hellish culture or are just… way over thinking this all. WTF sort of job requires clothing that have to be dry cleaned but doesn’t come with a “I buy everything premade because I can afford it” salary? My work clothes have always been “business casual” aka a nice shirt and pants that don’t look like jeans even if they actually are. If I had to wear a suit, I’d damned well better be making enough money to pay for someone to take care of my laundry for me!

Unless you work in commission sales (in which case, RUN AND DO NOT LOOK BACK) that’s… not a thing people who aren’t working for themselves do? I mean, I believe in MY product but that’s because I MAKE the thing. Most people who work retail are just there for the paycheck and it’s a “drop the work mindset at the door, pick it up the next morning” where once you clock out, you drop your work face like a hot rock and shun it like last month’s leftovers until you have to pick it up the next day to fake it for another paycheck.

Basically, there are two types of jobs: Ones where you care about the work, and the ones you care about the paycheck. Most jobs are the latter.

//pauses, goes back and actually reads the 2nd half because the horror of the first half was too much and had to be replied to first

So… are you part of a firm or independant…? (because if you’re part of a firm, shouldn’t THEY be doing all the billing and advertising stuff? Isn’t that part of being in a firm?) And also, have you looked into being a research lawer? One of my brothers-in-law does that as his main lawyering job because the part he likes best is digging into the books and finding all the information.

…also, even with people who love the work they do, I don’t know ANYONE who gets up bright and early with a smile in the morning. I’m fairly sure it’s universal to hate the alarm clock and grumble that you gotta get up and UG I gotta DO the THING ug this is the worst, etc etc.

Example: My wife is a teacher. Full time, has her masters degree in Special Ed, loves working with the kids, loves being able to reach the ones she can, worries about the ones she can’t, gives it her all every day when she’s in, still has all the notes and emails from the kids she’s helped the most.

When that alarm clock goes off in the morning, she grones, rolls over, mumbles unhappily, and has to drag herself out of bed and down the stairs to get ready for the day. She has an instant breakfast shake because screw making food in the morning, screw doing anything in the morning.

When she gets in and when the students all greet her, THAT’S when the smile starts. Because that’s the work she loves, and that’s what makes it worth it to get out of bed when the alarm goes off and be a functional human being when she just wants to go back to sleep.

I could go on for an eternity about what’s wrong with the education system as a whole… (short short version: traditional mindsets, political campaigning and systems run by people who don’t actually teach. Or know how to teach.)

Huzzah for good support staff, however! Those are hard to come by (because what is funding for those programs /grumble grumble) and so damned critical for succeeding…

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#7

image

I love the flow chart (har har) because 1. GREAT visual display; 2. it helps me monitor where my skills are relative to task difficulty, and how that’s changing with time. Instead of feeling nebulously “anxious”, I can work on simplifying the task, or learning new skills, or both. Easier said than done, but anything to replace the tape, “I’m a failure and nothing’s getting done and AHHHH”… No one should have to hang around with that tape.

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#8

Oh gosh! Really, wow! Thanks for reading my rant so carefully. (Not sarcastic. Very seriously. Thank you.) I guess I sound a lot worse than I am … or maybe not, maybe I am having extremely negative experiences of the degree that you’re reacting to.

Give me a bit of time. I’ll consider what is up there in the responses to my immediately-previous post and see what my answers might be, to any lurking questions or suggestions.

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#9

So, I have given myself a little time just to cogitate over WHY my past work experiences have seemed so awful to me, and I did want to respond to anything out there that might be a misunderstanding. But honestly, you’re just seeing the tip of my particular work-related ADHD iceberg here in this thread. I don’t want to have to go into my whole life-specifics, but, yeah, past employment indeed has been as bad as described above. Forgive me, I’m going to blather on and on, here. I dunno, maybe you’ll figure out where I’m coming from.

I spent a lot of time in various fields related to writing, before I returned to school and finally got the law degree, so one situation that’s been consistent with me is simply that the market for employment is rather poor, such that a type of exploitation can occur in many of the fields that I’m qualified for. Yes, I played my part, in that I’m guilty that I actually allowed it, not knowing any better, and that’s part of the reason I started this thread in the first place. Should I have just departed within maybe a week or two, after learning just how exploitative the employment situation was? There was all this “you have to care to be in this field” signals being sent … but, how would I KNOW that it was an exploitation, rather than actual fact, unless I didn’t have ADHD? And all the other signals of how you should “do extra” above and beyond the call of duty, and how you should dress up for the “job you want” rather than the job you already have – all these subtle reading tricks, I am simply INEPT at. I am really well set up to be the idiot who volunteers for the scut-jobs and then doesn’t get the credit. I don’t exactly mean to say I’m “under-appreciated” (because I suspect I’m not an ideal employee, duh!), as much as, “I don’t get the concept” at workplaces. I’m always trying to do whatever seems best for the company, the mission, the customer, whichever is appropriate, but it turns out I was supposed to do the TPS reports that are a total waste of time but they’ll be the only thing people notice. Or, vice versa, when I finally quit looking at the important (to me) stuff and just do the TPS reports because someone gave me some well-meaning advice and I actually followed it, guess what? That will be the ONE time when the rest of the workplace gets very negative about people who spend all their time on pointless tasks like TPS reports and don’t look at the more important stuff like the bottom line and the company mission.

The way I put it to my counselor is, that some people ask for help and get help, and later are thanked for having made sure they met their deadlines. Me? I get fired, for not being able to meet the deadline, when I ask for help. It’s not entirely a relating-to-people thing, part of it is just being over-qualified in an under-employment world. But largely it’s simply ADHD – I don’t get money, because I can’t put in the work, because the “stuff” that goes with work becomes so difficult to deal with that I get 9/10ths of it all wrong and have to put in so much energy to figuring out how to cope with the people. So, my example of the dry-cleaning costs is just a good metaphor. If they want me to put in that type of effort, they need to give me that type of reward, yes; but they also seem to be able, somehow, to say, “you haven’t earned the reward yet, but if you show your commitment you’ll certainly get some … later … some day.” And I never have “enough commitment” evidently.

I know it’s a lie. The “commitment” line might as well be translated from “show your commitment, we’ll eventually reward you,” to, “work for free so we don’t have to reward you.” But other people (without ADHD I suppose) seem to navigate these subtle cues and NOT get fired and DO keep job and DO continue to do good work that is appreciated and remunerated. I haven’t ever kept a job more than 18 months, and have never known why I was asked to leave. It’s always, “Well, it’s not working out,” or, “we’re seeking other opportunities,” and no documents, no review sheet, no job description, no advance warning, so, no clue.

But I don’t really WANT a job. Instead, I want income, and I want to make a difference, and I want to contribute, and I want to be valued, and I want to be PART of my society, and to help people around me. A job, it seems to me, PREVENTS all that stuff. Work is the way that society forces me to be unhappy, unproductive, and unpaid. I just don’t understand!

So, here are some of my specific complaints about workplace experiences I’ve had. I know that I don’t have a “right” to demand that things be better – it’s a free and loose market for employment, if an employer CAN get a better price or a quicker performance he can certainly look elsewhere. I can’t command the universe to be like I want it to be. I’m just listing these complaints so you can see how I intrinsically FEEL about going to work.

  1. I can’t stand GOING there. The preparation, the travel, the commute, the daily shower, the put-on-the-outfit, the pack-the-bag, the whoops-I-left-something-at-home takes over DAYS of my life.
  2. I can’t stand BEING there. They give me small quiet spaces where the lighting is inadequate, the neighboring people are bigots and idiots, the kitchen is inadequate for creating a healthy meal.
  3. I can’t stand REPEATING it. If I did it yesterday, that means, to me, inherently, that I have therefore DONE it. Doing it again implies that I somehow failed at it the first time.
  4. I don’t have the energy to go for all day long. If I arrive at 8 am, I will not be productive until 11 am, because I’m so goldurn exhausted from having gotten up so early. If I do get productive at maybe 10 am, I will burn out by 3 pm. And if I’ve been working at some workplace for literally 8 am to 3 pm, then, I’m going to need two days worth of rest to recover from that massive burst of energy that was required.
  5. I don’t have the energy to go for multiple days in a row. If I go on Monday and somehow, through some sleight of hand magic, fool my boss into thinking that I worked from 8 am to 5 or 6 pm, I will need (as mentioned in item 4) at least Tuesday off, maybe also Wednesday. If, conversely, I go on Monday AND Tuesday, then I’m going to need from Wednesday to Sunday off, just to recoup, to recover, to take a breather. What do I do in all that time? NOTHING. I sleep a lot, I lie on my back on a couch and look at the ceiling, I regenerate my brain. I can’t even make sentences by Wednesday afternoon if I’ve been at work Monday and Tuesday all day. And if I do work a whole Week of regular work days, well then, it’s time to take a Month off or else, so it feels like, to me, I’ll either fall asleep while driving to work and cause a multi-car accident and get killed, or I’ll go bonkers and fetch a large semi-automatic weapon and start initiating random acts of violence against myself or my co-workers.

Of course I’m being sarcastic about violence against others. I wouldn’t shoot up co-workers, honest. I would shoot myself. I get slowly more and more suicidal over the course of several months at a workplace. I have gone so far as to buy a long-gun, partly thinking I would accompany a friend who was going to teach me deer hunting, but also secretly thinking to myself that the suicide option would therefore be one step closer to being right at hand. I returned the gun, explained it to the guy at the shop, and he was ((this delighted me, what a decent man)) very supportive and helpful, accepted the merchandise without any complaint, gave me phone numbers. This was in 2005, it’s been a while, I survived that incident, and I feel like I would never again consider ending my own life. In fact, I hadn’t really ideated the notion; I was just toying with it, to myself. But the information gives you an idea of how DEEP into unhappiness the “typical work” experience drives me.

More about work:
6. They give me too much to do. Say people usually can perform a certain task – riveting a widget? – about once an hour. Say the average new worker can rivet a widget about once every hour and a half; and as he learns more riveting, he gets quicker and more efficient at it. So, when he starts, maybe 5 a day is reasonable? But by the end of the first few weeks, he might even be doing 10 a day, right? They ask me for 155 per day. PER DAY. Idiotic. I look at my boss as though he’s either joking or nuts, whenever he comes in with something like, “Oh, can you take care of this little thing quickly before the meeting tomorrow? It’s only SEVENTEEN THOUSAND PAGES OF AN ENCYCLOPEDIA THAT YOU HAVE TO MEMORIZE AND TRANSLATE INTO PUNJABI!” So if the average human should be asked to do 10 a day, I am asked (it feels) to do 155 a day. What?
7. I get slower and worse at it over time, not better or more efficient or faster. I slowly learn more and more nuance about what I want to do, with any complex task. It just seems quite natural to me, that I should therefore take greater care, the better I am at it. For example, for writing a press release, a usual single page of quick information, double-spaced, for use in typical media markets, the first time I ever did that, I just typed it out and took about two hours total to complete it. Boss was OK with it, gave me some suggestions, I began to learn about journalism. Now that I’ve been doing it for about ten years, I can honestly say it takes me six weeks to write a press release. I need to do the research, I don’t want to lie and make it up like I did the first time. I need to learn about the client and the outlet that the release will go to. I probably want someone to look it over. The more press releases I write, the worse I get at them. Getting faster at a task, it seems to me, is only for people who don’t mind being bad at the task. I can’t rivet 155 widgets a day, and I can’t do press releases FASTER and FASTER. It’s like Zeno’s paradox – at some point, if work were perpetually accelerating, then there would be literally zero time taken to complete a press release, they would write themselves automatically!

The above are simply some random musings about the work world. It’s why I wanted to start this thread, to know how to figure out if other people were having similar experiences. So, I get exploited, and not paid very well. I know that I have no right to demand that the rest of the world acquiesce to the preposterous (but totally natural!) expectations and assumptions that I have, about how it works. I know that I can’t be telling a potential employer, “Look, I want a full time job with a legitimate living wage, enough to afford my dry cleaning! And I’m only working every third day of the week because when I work on Monday, I need to take Tuesday and Wednesday off. You will get used to it. Please pay a full salary while I work one third of the time that most people do.” Of course I can’t (and shouldn’t) be trying to make that kind of demand on the employment place, on the overall market that we have of people and payment and jobs and so on. The expectations and assumptions that I have, don’t work right at all.

But it still FEELS like I’ve got those expectations and assumptions. I can’t help it. It’s where my head is “at” and it doesn’t change just because I try harder and harder. I’m so glad I have a diagnosis of ADHD, because at least it explains to me why I haven’t (yet) “fit in” with all the happy campers who are being good little cogs and happy-camper wheels in the work machine.

So, you’re right to misunderstand my situation. Dry cleaned clothing, was indeed something that one workplace required, even though I was VOLUNTEER at the time. I got suckered by them. Another workplace had me going to New York, Chicago, and other major cities three times a year, expecting me to cover the cost of airfare, and all food and housing while there, while paying me annually US$19,000.oo (before taxes and so on) total. If I didn’t pay my own way to the important annual trade-shows and conferences, I wasn’t “showing my commitment” to that industry. Other people somehow know to navigate around that type exploitation or, in situations where they do decide to stick with the outlay in order to make their way in that industry, the outlay and commitment turn out to be worth it to them in the longer term because they value the sector or industry that they’ve chosen. They “get ahead” by taking some risks and by making some initial investments that DON’T have immediate pay-off, such as paying their own way to the conferences. As I described, however, I didn’t value that industry in which I was stuck … AND I NEVER WILL … no matter what industry it is, because it’s … AT WORK. And therefore it’s PREVENTING me from being a good person, being productive, helping my fellow man.

Well, that’s the rant. Maybe it doesn’t belong here. It isn’t “valid reasoning,” it’s just, “how I feel.” It points out my intrinsic faults and inabilities, most of which relate to ADHD. The description, by another respondent, about a teacher who gets up all groggy and hates getting out of bed, but THEN when the teacher gets TO THE CLASSROOM the zingo-bingo gets started in the brain, because that’s the kind of work they teacher wants to do and can do – this anecdote rings very true for me. I have that zingo-bingo in the brain, for a great many things, and I am competent to the point of excellent at those things. Riveting widgets is NOT one of those things.

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#10

This is a depressingly standard thing. Not just ADHD people suffer this, unfortunately. Currently the bulk of the job market favors employers. With wages so low, people often have to get a 2nd job to keep pace so there’s more people than there are jobs, so crappy work places see people as disposable, or at worst, liability (aka, “paying wages costs us so much money, we would have a high stock price if we didn’t pay people!!”)

I think this is a rarity. There are plenty people who have figured out the magic of putting in minimum effort that matches the minimum reward that the employer offers, but very few people who actually get appreciation and rewarded for good work. Good work ethic is something that the corporate world loves to take advantage of…

This, I have found out, is to prevent people from being able to sue for wrongful termination! And is the new standard for getting rid of people who haven’t done anything that they can fire them for. This can range for any reason from “I have a relative I want in your spot” to “We can higher someone else to fill your spot for minimum wage” or just “the previous manager oversaw your onboarding and I want to have only people whom I’ve hand picked working for me.”

It’s total bullshit and not anything that’s on you. It’s just corporate culture.

Possible solutions: Work from home / telecommute / virtual office. More companies are actually making this part of the standard package for how they work. Most of them are smaller ones that have freedom from stock prices and corporate bullshit.

Do you have some more specifics? Like just general repeating tasks that don’t seem to have had any new input and are just being repeated to be repeated? Focusing on why something has to be repeated (someone else needs a thing, new information has been gotten, someone used up all of the last thing, etc) might help short circuit the feeling that somehow, you failed. Most tasks are / should be responses to things. “I need to refill the coffee maker because all the coffee has been drunk.” “I need to make a new item to send out in this order because the last one of the old batch was shipped out yesterday.”

If it’s just the repeating the going to work part, the going physically somewhere isn’t the task. It’s how you get to the task. And the task that is “work” is a huge task that takes multiple people an extended period of time. Kinda like when you go out to get groceries, you’ve likely gone to that store countless times before, but each time, it’s because there’s a task you need to complete there. ( “Get milk” the like) Getting your brain to recognize that being physically present in a location is not the task itself, but how you get to the large project you’re doing small parts of may help circumvent the failure feeling.

For parts 4 & 5, this takes a lot more digging. Figuring out why work is so exhausting, why it takes so much out of you and what you can do to change that, or find work that doesn’t cause this same problem.

I have perfected the art of waking up 1 hour before I have to be at work. And that one hour mark is mostly because I have to wait 45 min between taking my morning meds and eating. Wake up, 5-10 minute shower. 5-10 min drying off and getting dressed. 20 min of checking email, picking up loose ends, making tea, shoving things into my bag, locating my shoes, etc. 10 min to shove something resembling food in my mouth. And then out the door for my mercifully short commute. (the majority of my jobs, I have a 10-15 min commute. Some have been even shorter. I could literally walk to one of them in 10 minutes.)

Also, most work places, you do not work solid. You should not work solid. Unless you’re on an assembly line, you take breaks. Finish a thing, take a minute or two breather. Get up. Walk over to the water cooler/sink/ whatever. Every 15 min, physically get up to do something. Every hour, take a 5 minute break. Head to the bathroom and just stand in the stall if you need to. Every 2-3 hours, snack break.

If anyone gives you crap for it, there are at least 100 different workplace productivity studies that back up this method of work that you can print out and leave on their desks.

3pm burn out is real. It’s a legit thing people have. The last few hours at work are the least productive. Multiple studies exist that show this.

This… I think is the root of a lot of things. For me, efficiency is a thing. There is an upfront time cost to optimization but it is utterly worth it.

Using the press release example: There are a finite amount of news outlets that these tend to go to. Once you’ve done the research on these, make yourself up a cheat sheet of bullet points to keep in mind while writing for them. The research phase now can be skipped for any future releases going to that outlet since it’s already been done. Once you know the information about the source, you can work on standard bracketing for the release. Set up a basic form-release for the wire frame, and then adjust it to fit the specific information for the release. New product? This form. New staff member? This form. Responding to criticism/national event? This form.

With each release you write, you should be building a resource library. The hard work for writing them is front loaded, so the more you do, the less unique situations you face. You have shortcuts because you’ve already done the work.

That’s why people get faster as they do things more and more. You get familiar with it. You figure out short cuts. You find the most efficient ways to do it. You know what parts of it are things that don’t actually need doing/are redundant. You’ve already done the learning, so you’re not reinventing things every time you do it.

And… yeah, it does sound like you’ve gotten hit by the most abusive jobs out there, ouch. There are a lot of skumbag jobs out there, and most people don’t realize that they’re functional scams until after they get badly burned by them.

So, brainstorming time:

  • What are the things that your brain does go full on into?
  • What things could you sustain doing day after day?
  • Conversely, what stuff do you know you can’t sustain and thus will want to avoid? (ie, dress code, talking to people, sitting in long meetings, TSP reports, etc.)
  • What would you like to accomplish with work?
  • What would you like to accomplish if work weren’t in the way?
  • What could you do that would get you a paycheck that wouldn’t feel like work?
  • Do you think you could sustain working for yourself? Or do you need some sort overarching structure to take care of the paperwork/advertising/front facing parts of things?

These are not going to be quick answers. These are things to get your brain chewing on if you haven’t already reflected deeply on them. Some of them are things you may have to test out to get the answers to. That’s perfectly fine and normal, even for neurotypicals! You’ve had a lot of experience that’s identified the problem. Now it’s time to start focusing on possible solutions and see if you can pull out of the sinkhole.

Workshopping an issue so we can get to the toolbox part seems to fit, I’d think. :slight_smile: And sometimes you just have to let it all out so you can figure out what tool you need to hammer away at it.

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#11

Hey, FranB, thanks for being a good listener. I’ll do my best to cease whining in this thread (though it has been therapeutic)) and look over any discussion or advice from a more clear, less jaded, point of view. Thanks again!

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#12

I’ve been thinking about this, off and on, thought I’d add one comment.

A thing that’s suggested here, and often by other people, about finding a good fit with one’s career, is to try to do the thing(s) that really get(s) you excited about them. And that’s a sensible recommendation, of course. Supposedly a very good way to make work NOT feel like the undue burden that I’ve always felt, is to WANT to be there precisely because the tasks performed at work are enjoyable.

But I’m worried, that this is simply a NORMAL or neurotypical suggestion. The problem with having ADHD, for me at least, is that my interests change. If I get a job that somehow allows me to do something which makes me excited, well, within a month or so I will no longer feel excited by that thing, because I crave variety. It just seems absolutely normal to me, to want to do something different tomorrow. If I have to do the same thing again tomorrow, that must be (so it feels) because I failed to do it very well today. In fact, one of the best ways I know, to really eliminate my excitement for something, is to take it on regularly and as a required job task.

I’ve gone through “What Color is your Parachute” a zillion times, and often come up with very very different answers to what I might or ought to look at for a career. Sometimes when I do the exercises it turns out I’d be best as an accountant. Sometimes I really should go into advertising. Sometimes I’m a fiction writer; sometimes I’m a theater director; once in a while it’s the military; there’s almost never something having to do with counseling or psychiatry or the “helping” professions and yet people who have worked with me say that those are my most sell-able assets and the most likely to be employment-worthy, that I respect a variety of viewpoints from people of all strange mental types. (And yet I learned to be like that mostly by not getting enough respect for my own ADHD, so, it’s not like I have any background in giving out counseling OTHER than having received it, LOL!) Often the career-assessments tell me to do something because of a skill or preference which the assessment wrongly assumes is a major part of a job, when in fact it’s ancillary at best – be a schoolteacher because there’s not much paperwork! be a professor because you don’t have to write things, you just say them! be a fireman because you are never dealing with government regulations! Silly people, schoolteaching has been ruined by paperwork, though originally it was low on paper tasks and high on performance in front of the room; professors write academic articles or don’t get employed as teachers, and the teaching is merely a secondary consideration that won’t help them keep employment; firemen spend all their time learning new regulations about insurance and what they can and can’t spray a hose at. It would be nice to get the recommendation to be (for example) a fireman because my ADHD means I’ll be great at spraying hoses, but in fact what firemen do most of the time is WAIT AROUND (like that would be good for an ADHDer? NOT) and NOT spray hoses, and go to insurance-regulations classes memorizing minutiae.

So, I object on two grounds. First, that my interests will change. And second, that the ancillary job-requirements are likely to eclipse and ruin any inherent value a task might have had for me. I would like to teach at the college or junior-college level, but I HATE writing academic papers, so, although I’m a very good teacher in the classroom, nevertheless, I can’t get the job because very bad teachers are consistently hired and re-hired based on their lack of social skills and their fear of speaking before large groups, as honed through years of geekdom in libraries writing academic papers. I can’t explain why academia chooses bad teaching precisely in order to hire teachers. It miffs me. But I find this kind of double-reversal everywhere – if the task would have been good for me, well, leave it up to the employers to entirely reverse it to the point that you never get to do the actual task.

So, just a few thoughts. Still working out my considerations and opinions here …

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#13

I can say 100% without a doubt that I am not neurotypical and if I have no interest in a job I’m doing, it becomes a sisyphean task of drudgery. So the whole “do something you actually care about/find interesting” is very much good advice for the ADHD brain.

So I’m noticing a trend: You’re kinda only looking at the bigger/wider picture of “career” type jobs, rather than just picking an industry/wide type of direction and looking for a spot where your venn diagram overlaps.

There are plenty jobs that have constant change built in. Anything that’s in a project-based industry, while there will be patterns to the task, you’ll be on different projects year after year (and sometimes, month after month.)

Also, most jobs are not static things. Very few jobs outside of an assembly line will be the same task over and over, and even those that seem like they would be wind up shifting and changing.

If your interests change and you want to switch jobs, you can! Job-hopping is the new norm and outside of some specific industries, it’s pretty rare anyone stays in a job for life.

Also: There are variations of things that avoid the parts you hate. Consider: If you’re an adjunct professor, there’s absolutely no illusion that you’ll be published because you’re an adjunct. Want to do high school teaching without having to do the grading and paperwork? Become a sub, aid or assistant. Or work as a tutor. The caveat with these is that you will take a paycut compared to the full fledged, paperwork drowned teacher. (Unless you tutor. That pays 25+ an hour. But it has its own set of downsides, like everything.)

It also feels like the long string of bad experiences have left you with a defence mechanism where you over-examine the possible downsides to everything as a way of talking yourself out of trying something new. It’s a pretty common thing that develops after you get burned a few times, unfortunately, and it can be pretty paralyzing.

Also, most “what career should you choose” activities are kinda… useless. No person is a static entity. Every single day we are a live, we change. Those quizzes are supposed to be starting points to get people to think of careers that they may not have already, but there’s a huge flaw: The very concept of a career is antiquated. Unless you’re going into a very specific field (teaching, medical, mechanical, etc) the chance that you’ll be doing the same thing the entire length of your working life is basically zero. So instead of trying to big picture pick something, look at local job listings and ask yourself: “Could I see myself doing this for a year or so without feeling like my soul has been set on fire?”

Jobs are flexible. People are flexible. Don’t let your mind get caught up in ridgid absolutes.

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#14

Yeah most definitely. Agree agree … :slight_smile:

I read your latest message soon after it was posted but didn’t get a chance to respond. Then I went out of town with dad to work on the house and yard in the middle of nowhere so, I was in the middle of nowhere (ha! working on the house and yard) and because it’s in the middle of nowhere I didn’t have any internet (which was very nice thank you). So, I wanted you to know the response was appreciated. And maybe I’ll continue the thoughts in a while when I get a chance to think and write about them.

Best wishes to my best internet interlocutor FranB ! :slight_smile:

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