It’s time that I come clean with a personal confession.
I have ADHD. As someone living with the disorder in a business as precise as real estate, it can be a bit of a challenge — or a superpower depending on how you look at it.
I’ll explain what I mean, but first, let’s break down exactly what ADHD is.
The National Institute of Mental Health describes ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) as a “brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.”
The hallmarks of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. All three of these areas affect my daily life.
It’s far bigger than simply managing time and being distracted. It’s not always easy, and small tasks can present great challenges. ADD and ADHD are sometimes seen as “fake disorders” to people who just don’t understand.
I’ve even had folks ask me if it’s just something to say as an excuse for forgetting something or being distracted.
Sure, even the best of us get distracted. But when some of the best professionals focus at 100 percent, I deep dive, focusing at 150 percent for hours on end.
It’s like suddenly, my ADHD is an agent superpower that causes my brain to seek out things that grab my attention. I become obsessed and hyper-focused.
It’s really an unfair advantage about 10 percent of the time. With my superpower, I’m not attention deficit, but simply, as I like to call it, “attention different.”
Back to school
For me, I love to create processes, solve problems, build systems, share ideas, build community, entertain people and pay it forward. It’s easy for me to see the big picture.
I do have times when my weaknesses show with mundane tasks. Something like filling out listing sheets or paperwork, a 10-minute task for some, takes me hours to complete.
I’m suddenly that boy in school again, fighting to overcome an assignment.
At my age, even now, I still can’t spell very well, and I read slowly. I sometimes ramble a bit, sometimes repeat, and my mind can seemingly be in a thousand places at once.
Back in my days as a student, I was just good enough to get overlooked as being special needs. I charmed my way into more grades than I ever earned academically, but hey, at the end of the day I still earned them.
I learned to “cope” or work my way through school. This worked well until my freshman year of college when multiple professors suggested I get tested for ADD.
It turned out I wasn’t “just daydreaming” or “unfocused.” After identifying the problem, my professors allowed me extra time to complete projects and tests, and I was prescribed medication for college.
I started selling real estate as a junior in college in 2001, and then graduated with my B.A. in real estate in 2002.
Selling real estate
As I said before, my mind works differently from most. My favorite thing to do is work — it’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s true.
I’m so incredibly inefficient and going in so many different directions in my mind with ideas to fix different problems that I often lose track of time. I’m often late even though I despise tardiness.
Now, I have to limit the time that I spend working, especially as my sons and daughter are growing up, and I want to be a part of every amazing thing they do.
So with them in mind, I have been able to reclaim my life and time by embracing several systems.
One key thing that helps is to remember: “delegation, delegation, delegation” are the three most important words for a real estate agent with ADHD/ADD.
I’ve learned to create teams, and the things that do not interest me are delegated to those on my team who are better at task-oriented processes.
Below you’ll find a few other tips I’ve picked up along the way in my journey.
11 action items to turn ADHD into a superpower
- Identify, and own your strengths and weaknesses. Take a personality test to determine them. It’s also helpful to understand the personalities of the people who you work closest with.
- Put everything on your calendar. My calendar is my go-to, and it follows me on every device.
- Use technology hardware and software that seamlessly sync together. This is why I love Apple products, but rely on Google apps such as Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sheets and Chrome Browser. When logged onto correctly, they just all work together and help me stay focused. My iPhone, iPad, iMac, Macbook Pro and Apple Watch just work. If there ever is a problem, I know Apple Care will be able to fix it.
- Plan the next day the night before. Make to-do lists, and write down things to remember such as to look at your calendar at set times.
- Plan the day even more first thing in the morning. Prioritize your to-do list, and add things that are crucial for the day.
- Limit choices. This is a tough one. One example is try to mostly use my phone, tablet and computer to keep up with tasks or what I need to be working on. I do like paper, but I only use one notebook that I write down info in or a folder for the project or property.
- Set alarms to time yourself, and move to the next task when that alarm goes off.
- Give yourself deadlines. When taking on a task, make deadlines for yourself. I’m a master procrastinator, but I meet my deadlines and usually do my best work when I know someone else is expecting it by a certain time. Remember to put deadlines on your calendar.
- Get enough sleep. This varies for each of us. I am not a morning person, but I have to get up early almost every day. I typically need five to six hours of sleep so I limit how much television I watch at night or how late I work on a project.
- Arrive to work before everyone else to avoid distractions when working on basic tasks like paperwork, email, writing content for your blog or crafting social media posts. Give yourself a whole hour at your desk before your colleagues get to the office.
- Have a few trusted accountability partners to remind you to get things done. This is key. Even though tasks go on my to-do list and on my calendar, real estate is not a very predictable business. Every day varies — multiple offers come in on multiple listings, new client walks in, past client calls with urgent need, etc. Share your to-do list with someone in your office, and ask them to remind you about your progress.
Late actor and comedian Robin Williams once said, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. If you lose that, you’re nothing.”
Living with ADHD, I understand perfectly what this means, and I’m not attention deficient. I am a change agent with an “attention different” mind that relentlessly focuses on monumental goals to set new standards for my business and the real estate industry.