Neurodiversity is common among entrepreneurs, and even more so among digital entrepreneurs.
If you create your own structures to make a living, you probably don’t march to the same drummer that most people do. There’s a reason Brian’s Clark project for freelancers and solopreneurs is called “unemployable.”
Neurodiversity just refers to ways that some people are different from the typical. It includes recognized conditions like the autism spectrum and ADHD.
But I know lots of business owners who don’t have a formal diagnosis, but they still have what I call “inconvenient brain.”
(There are lots of stories about therapists who don’t specialize in ADHD failing to help patients who come to them with it. And some countries won’t even recognize that adult ADHD is a real diagnosis. We can shout about those another day.)
Inconvenient Brain is any kind of cognitive pattern that’s not a good fit for the “normal” world we all live in.
And for many, many folks, their brain chemistry became really tough to manage during the pandemic. The combination of distraction, isolation, anxiety and boredom made it a zillion times harder to get important work done.
That was actually the impetus for me starting my community, Creative Fierce. When the most productive people I knew could hardly finish a sentence without writing themselves a reminder note, I knew we needed some help.
Strategies for climbing the Wall of Awful
Earlier this week I found a video that I think all of our brains can relate to:
Why is it so hard to do something that should be easy? from Jessica McCabe (How to ADHD)
Jessica talks with Brendan Mahan about his phrase, the “wall of awful,” to describe the feeling we get when we have to approach a project that’s insanely hard for us, even though we think it shouldn’t be that bad.
I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have a wall of awful of some kind. For one person it’s taxes (that’s me). For another it’s exercise. For another it’s writing blog posts or reaching out to potential clients.
And you might have more than one.
Jessica’s video (and the follow-up) has some smart suggestions for how to get through the walls of awful, as well as some thoughts on what doesn’t work, or what will cause more harm than good.
My favorite takeaway from the pair of videos is to reframe the time you need to tackle that wall as “climbing the wall,” as opposed to “sitting here like a loser because I suck,” which is how most of us frame it.
Whatever kind of brain you have, I think you’ll benefit from checking them out!
I thought today it might be useful to give you a few additional suggestions that I’ve found useful for managing an inconvenient brain:
Get help when you can
I’ve written before about how toxic individuality affects us both as individuals and as a society. Human beings depend on one another, and it’s just smart to get help with projects or tasks that get you down.
(And when you’re looking for how you might offer a product or service, look for the things that come more easily to you, but are someone else’s wall of awful.)
You may be able to pay someone to help out with your wall of awful. Or you might just find a friend or colleague that you can swap projects with.
Don’t add a big wall to your big wall
If you have a Wall of Awful project, make sure the tools you use to work on it aren’t adding to the horrible.
Jesse Anderson (ADHD Creative) posted a useful suggestion on twitter. Instead of a long checklist (which is going to make you hyperventilate as soon as you see it all listed out like that), try breaking the WoA project into phases. You can see a cute little explainer graphic at the link below:
How To Tackle Big Projects
Don't break your project into a giant checklist, follow this guide instead. pic.twitter.com/7GnJyiTaPV
— Jesse J. Anderson • ADHD Creative ? (@jessejanderson) March 10, 2021
If you want something more robust, my business partner Claire Emerson teaches a system called Personal Kanban, which both controls your focus and makes the steps instantly visible. It’s both fun and satisfying to make progress, and easy to see the bigger picture without getting overwhelmed. Both of which are very friendly for inconvenient brains.
You are not broken
If your brain works differently than most, or your wiring is inconvenient, that doesn’t make you broken.
The fact that you see things differently is almost certainly one of your greatest strengths.
When you can, try to notice some of the amazing things that your brain is good at. And stay fierce!
Update on the next small-group workshop
The workshop previously known as “Declunk Your Website” is evolving to “Path to Client.”
I’m going to be teaching my best strategies and solutions for finding great freelance clients (particularly for writers), starting with making your website someplace you’re proud to send potential clients to. We’ll also be talking about strategies that are friendly to inconvenient brains when it’s time to reach out to prospects and get the word out about your awesomeness.
We’ll be working in a small-group cohort, and you’ll have lots of hands-on help to actually implement what you’re learning.
If you do client work and you’d like to find more clients, make sure you’re on my email list, so I can let you know when we open up to new students. I’ll also shoot you a free ebook on how to consistently get more writing done.
(For existing members of the Creative Fierce community, there’s nothing else you need to do, you’ll have full access to the workshop.)