Ruby Donaldson was first diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia while at university, after becoming one of the first women in her family to go on to higher education.
Her university professor recognised her dyslexia and encouraged her to seek out an official diagnosis. While going through this process, Donaldson was also diagnosed with ADHD. It was the first time that many aspects of her life began to make sense.
Now as a social media manager working at disability employment service Evenbreak, to mark ADHD awareness month Donaldson shares her own personal experiences and tips for employers.
What are the daily challenges you face?
During my working day, and I know everyone with ADHD is different, planning is everything. I look at my schedule and ensure that I have an alarm set 15 mins prior to every meeting to make sure I am in the right head space. To have this space to focus makes sure I do not become over-stimulated and lose the objective of the meeting. So I am very strict with my schedule and factor in walks to clear my brain fog. I also make sure meetings are no longer than 40 mins, or I will lose focus which is no good for me or the business.
What are the misconceptions you have to deal with?
People often say to me: “I would never have guessed you have ADHD” which minimises the challenges we face. People expect you to be hyper all the time, but with me I have to manage my impulsivity. Not losing focus is a huge priority for me and so I have to take time out to clear my mind of the thousands of things that flash through it. This is something people without ADHD don’t understand. We need time and a calm space to maintain focus. People also think you are lazy or uninterested in conversations, but what they don’t realise is that maintaining focus is just such hard work.
What advice would you give employers conducting job interviews if a candidate has ADHD?
Employers need to be open minded when interviewing people with ADHD. We are passionate creative people, with a lot of life project management skills, so therefore an asset to any organisation. The ‘one interview that fits all’ theory just doesn’t work. At one interview I was given a piece of paper and shown to a desk and asked to create a marketing campaign in a short amount of time. This is the worst way to ignite creativity in me, ideas don’t just appear on a piece of paper. Employers need to give extra time, and allow for flexibility to demonstrate creativity for candidates with ADHD. It’ll be worth it as we are talented creative employees!
What tips can you share for navigating the workplace as someone with ADHD?
- Avoid scheduling long blocks of meetings. If you know you’re likely to lose focus and zone out, then try requesting that the meeting be broken into chunks. For example, if you have a two-hour meeting, schedule two one-hour meetings with a 10-minute break in between instead, just to help you recharge and organise your thoughts.
- Recharge your batteries to enable you to focus on the tasks ahead.
- Set reminder alarms throughout the day to help maintain the right focus. At the beginning of the day I take a note of what activities and meetings I have coming up. 15 minutes before each meeting I set an alarm to give me that extra time to focus on the agenda of that meeting.
What are your top coping strategies?
- Reminders – Don’t be afraid to ask for verbal reminders from your colleagues. If there’s something important, like an urgent task that’s a priority with a hard deadline and you know you might need an extra prompt, ask for a quick reminder or check-in session to help you stay or get back on track. I also prefer to have a WhatsApp reminder sent to me as it is good at grabbing my attention.
- Apps – Find a method of managing the different tasks and activities in your life that work for you. For example, you can use a diary, or there are quite a few to-do lists and organisation apps like ‘Structured’ or ‘Any Do’ that can be helpful for people with ADHD.
- Alarms – another handy thing to do is to put the time on your phone, laptop, clocks and watches forward a bit. This is great as it gives you a little extra leeway if you tend to lose track of time or underestimate how long it’s going to take you to do certain things.