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Running A Business With ADHD

If you’re new here, I’m Amy. In started Cornucopia Clay in April 2017. Needless to say, a LOT has changed since then.

In 2017, I had been in full time employment less than a year after graduating university with my Fine Art degree. Like many people with an art degree, I found myself working in retail. I had a vague vision for the future (which actually hasn’t changed much.) In fact, although it’s shifted shapes a few times, I’ve come to realise that growing up, almost of all of my career ambitions were to work for myself, as an author, dancer, film director, and most recently, and enduringly, with a physical premises from which to run my business selling beautiful, handmade products from a whole bunch of amazing small businesses, and creatives, ideally with a café.

I have always longed for the flexibility, autonomy and control that comes with owning my own business. And I like to think I have the dogged determination to make it work.

A year on from starting my business we found out we were pregnant with our first born and he was born at the end of 2018. When I returned to work in June 2019 I had to learn to juggle parenting, running a business and working 4 days a week for someone else. And my ADHD, but I didn’t know that at the time.

Fast forward to today. We’ve moved house, got married, owned dogs (a whole other story in itself), and been through a miscarriage trying for baby no.2. I’ve had 2 different jobs since then, and at the end of 2022 had a lightbulb moment of realisation.

I have ADHD.

I haven’t had a diagnosis yet, but at this point, it seems only a formality. The more I have learned about ADHD these past 6 months or so, the more it has answered so many questions and helped me make sense of so many things. It’s also enabled me to put some coping mechanisms in place to help me deal better with some of the less desirable aspects of ADHD.

First things first. It isn’t all negative. Many people with ADHD are highly creative so it’s possible I have my ADHD to thank for that side of me. We also have a tendency to hyper-fixate on things that give our brain the dopamine boost they crave. And to monetise those hyper-fixations. So it’s possible I have my ADHD to thank for the fact that I am a business owner.

But there are certainly challenges to running a business with ADHD. I’ve certainly not got it all figured out yet but here are some of the things that have helped me keep going and stay on top of the work load and that ever important work/life balance:

  • Set (flexible) office hours:

One of the most well known tendencies of ADHD is ‘time-blindness.’ For me, this can be the inability to accurately predict how long a task will take me. I love a list (as many ADHD-ers do) and I find that my daily to-do list can either take me 2 hours to complete or 3 days. Because I’ve always juggled owning a small business with working elsewhere to bring in some steady money, and parenting, it’s taken me a long time to set working hours for myself but whatever time you can spare, it really is worth planning it out properly. For example, I currently work elsewhere on a Tuesday and Wednesday. On a Thursday, my husband works and I spend the day with our son. For the rest of the week I set Monday and Friday as my business days and Saturday and Sunday as our family days. And it's important to break that down further or I would just spend 2 full days doing my favourite parts (making) and not any of the other bits (accounting, photographing, social media, updating the webite, listing new products…) so I dedicate a couple of hours every Monday to admin.

But here’s where that flexibility comes in. ADHD-ers are notoriously not fond of change. So if something happens to throw your timing off, you need a cushion. So for example, Saturdays and Sundays are family days UNLESS I have a craft fair booked. Mondays and Fridays are office days UNLESS Ezra has a party invitation or it’s a bank holiday… Try to plan your time in rough blocks but not down to the minute.

  • Utilise apps/third party help/outsource

I know accounting is not my strong suit. I spent 5 years not really doing it and then panicking when it came to tax return time (always last minute, of course) staring at my crumpled pile of receipts pulled from pockets and the car door pocket and the letter rack. This year, I have finally downloaded the Quickbooks App and honestly I’m so sad I didn’t do it earlier. BUT you do need to stay on top of it so set yourself a reminder to go through your transactions once or twice a week. It may not be accounting that you need help with (though I’m willing to bet it is exactly that for most of us with ADHD) but whether it’s hiring a PA or a social media executive to handle your emails and marketing and communications, outsource what you can. And yes, there is an extra cost. But there’s also a value to your time so work out which is worth more. Perhaps you can’t afford a social media executive but there’s an app that can help you simplify your weekly tasks in that area.

  • Make things as easy for yourself as possible

This is good advice for every aspect of your life that is made that little bit more difficult because of your ADHD.

Going back to accounting again. If, like me, you’re always scrabbling around trying to find your receipts every January, try putting an envelope by the front door so that when you get in from the Post Office, you can slip those receipts straight in. Set aside a day at the end of every month to empty that envelope into a bigger folder and start a fresh.

As soon as you get an email that needs following up, set that reminder on your phone. Right now. You will forget by the time you get home.

Always forgetting to reorder supplies? Make sure they have a set place and add a re-order level sticker. For example, I stack my clay in the same cupboard and when I get down to the last 2 there’s a happy little post-it telling me to RE-ORDER. Again, do this immediately!

Another quick win is to save some sample replies for emails that you can copy and paste, or to set some chat responses or FAQs up on your website.

Running a business and juggling the rest of life, with ADHD, will always have its challenges. Like almost every aspect of our lives, things might often seem just a little bit harder, but remember that your ADHD might just be a big part of the reason you’re here in the first place, and the reason you’re blessed with the tenacity (or need to prove everyone wrong) to see it through.

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