Notice how I didn’t title this post “how to manage ADHD symptoms” or “tips for managing ADHD as an entrepreneur” or “how to deal with a freelance schedule as a business owner with ADHD”?
That’s because I’m no expert on the ADHD brain. And I don’t think I ever will be.
What I *am* an expert in, though, is writing (hopefully) entertaining long-form content—aka oversharing—about my shortcomings in an attempt to bridge the unfortunately large gap between ‘business owner with her shit together’ and ‘regular ass person’ that we see online way too often.
So, instead of pretending like I’m an amazing superwoman with all her ducks in a row every second of every day, all I can do is tell you about my experience managing ADHD as a business owner, and while I definitely won’t classify this post as educational, I do think you’ll learn a thing or two.
Before I get to it, though—there’s always a prologue when you’re a Long Story Long person like me—I want to address my previous comment about not being “superwoman” because, actually, it’s slightly false.
Earlier this week, I went to lunch with one of my business mentors, Steph Taylor. She was visiting Boston from Brisbane, and I took her out to try her first-ever lobster roll (she gave it a 10/10) while we chatted all things business, freelance life, launch plans, and, surprisingly, ADHD.
I don’t remember exactly how it was brought up—we covered a lot of ground in our 90-minute lunch date—but I’m pretty sure the subject came up when I inevitably apologized for interrupting, blaming it on my brain always being on, on, on.
“Sorry, I’m a serial interrupter, I have ADHD.” That’s my usual speech.
She immediately understood, and we bonded over our shared recent diagnosis.
Side note: isn’t it wild how many women are diagnosed in their twenties? I received mine in March of 2022, at age 27.
(And I cried happy tears, thanking God there was a reason I couldn’t work like a “normal” person, so grateful to finally have an explanation for my immense need for the perfect environment, the perfect bout of inspiration, the perfect mood and setting to in order to focus… or, rather, hyper-fixate on a specific task.)
“ADHD is such a superpower,” she said to me. “I know so many other entrepreneurs who also have it, and so many of us are able to harness its power—it’s honestly amazing.”
And, let me tell you, I couldn’t agree more.
In fact, whenever anyone in my personal life discusses my specific manifestation of ADHD—it shows up differently in everyone—they always comment on how great I am at harnessing it.
And, yeah, it’s impressive that I can write a complete website copy draft in 3 hours when I put my mind to it. (Or, more accurately, when my mind decides to cooperate, which is completely and unfortunately beyond my mortal control.)
But it’s not so impressive that it takes me 2 weeks to put my laundry away, open a new package, hang a simple shelf…
Or when I cannot focus for the life of me, despite having to finish a task that day and having hours of free time ahead of me, all of which immediately rendered completely useless compared to whatever other task my brain decides is more important, like color-coding my son’s closet or customizing a new Showit template for my personal blog.
Or when I’m crossing and un-crossing my legs endlessly whenever I have to sit still for more than two minutes.
Or… you get where I’m going with this. Some tasks are ridiculously easy, some tasks (that shouldn’t be) are ridiculously hard.
I still haven’t unpacked from speaking at Squarespace Circle Day a month ago. Or taken off the packaging from (what was supposed to be) the over-the-door mirror I bought in November of last year.
So, sure, from the outside looking in, it seems like I’m “harnessing” my ADHD quite well. But the reality of the matter is that my ADHD is the one harnessing me, and she just happens to really like copywriting and earning money, so she knows she can’t F up those specific tasks.
The rest of my business operations, though? More often than not, it takes a lot of whooping into shape for her to get in line…
& that’s what you’ve come here to read, so let’s talk about it.
To be frank, this is the most annoying part of having ADHD. There is nothing more frustrating than having all day ahead of you, planned to complete something, and not having your brain cooperate—especially when you’re a single toddler mom who is only able to work between the hours of 10am and 4pm, four days a week.
Actually, I don’t even really have all that time, because I also need to use those hours to grocery shop, go to meetings, and go to dentist appointments (honestly, fuck being a periodontal patient—your girl’s ’bout to just get dentures and call it a day).
So, what the frick do I do when my brain says “naw gurl” to what I’ve got planned? I pivot.
If I don’t feel like rest is the answer—which, let’s be real, I never do, I’m a Capricorn and an Enneagram 3—I’ll switch up my task.
When my brain doesn’t want to write a client’s sales page, I’ll shift to writing my newsletter.
When my brain doesn’t want to write a BTL blog, I’ll shift to writing a client’s website.
You get the picture.
If my brain says F the computer completely, I’ll take that as a sign to get some movement in, and I’ll take a walk, or do a household task.
And if “F the computer completely” isn’t an option, I’ll change my scenery. This one helps a LOT. I’ve found that the 3 places I’m able to focus best are the egg-shaped chair on my balcony, Study Room C at the public library near my son’s daycare, and this one coffee shop the next town over.
I’m sure it’s no coincidence that they’re all very specific locations, because one of the funkiest parts about my ADHD is that she refuses to let me work unless the vibe is 100% right.
This is something I always felt SO silly for, and was very frustrated by, before I was diagnosed with ADHD. I felt like I was being dramatic for needing the ‘perfect’ setting to be able to work.
Honestly, I felt absolutely ridiculous for not being able to just freaking do my job, because I LOVE my job. My job as a freelance copywriter is about one trillion percent better than the stuffy, stressful corporate role I held prior.
I couldn’t wrap my head around why it was so difficult for me to sit down at my desk and crank out all of my work from 9-5, and I felt guilty.
My friends were going to work every single day, being paid less than me, to work way longer. And I couldn’t even get it together to write my lil copy project unless my desk (and my bedroom, and my kitchen, and my son’s room, and my living room, and my laundry room…) was clean.
But then my ADHD diagnosis came in to rescue me from all of my shame and guilt surrounding my behavior, and I finally felt I had permission to feel the way I was feeling—but, most importantly, I could finally begin to FIX it.
I’d suspected I had it for a while, especially transitioning to freelancing from an entire lifetime of structured school, activity, and work… because the second I was in charge of my own schedule, damn.
I’ve been “organized” my entire life. I literally went through a Container Store phase, and thought I wanted to be a professional organizer. L-O-freaking-L.
I would technically consider myself organized… but now, it’s more organized chaos. Like, *I* know I’m organized, but explaining my unique type of Organized to someone else would be, well, impossible.
You’d think I’d listen to all of the online experts who explain the benefits of automations and systems—especially for people with ADHD—but my brain doesn’t function that way. There are elements of my life and business that I am 100% positive could be streamlined, but they’ve been pushed so far to the back burner that they’re actually not even on the stove anymore, they’re in pans in a cabinet collecting dust.
Priorities are hard. And I sometimes feel like I always pick the wrong ones.
Like, it’s 10:42pm right now. Why the hell am I writing this blog post when I should be sleeping? I don’t know.
Earlier today, at 3:12pm, I decided I had enough time to go to the bookstore. I didn’t.
Last week, I thought it would be fine if I wrote 25 emails in one sititng after writing an entire copy draft start-to-finish the day before. It wasn’t.
(Priorities are hard to figure out when your brain is chemically wired to zig-zag.)
And because I know situations like that would occur countless times during my week if I didn’t implement some sort of structure and routine, I try to combat them by…
>> Making an everything list. This is a giant master to-do list of every single thing I have to do. And when I say ‘every single thing’ I am not being dramatic in the slightest; I literally mean EVERY task I can possibly think of, because emptying my brain is necessary.
>> Making a must-do list. This is a list of, obviously, the things I *must* do either that day or that week (depending on when I’m making the list, of course). The only tasks that make it to this list are the ones that absolutely HAVE to get done, like client deadlines or calls or appointments.
>> Adding everything to my digital calendar. If it’s not in G-cal or on my Milanote board of to-do’s, it does not exist in my life.
I’m actually unhinged with the amount of digital planning I use to keep my mind on track. I have my main calendar, with everything on it, then I have a “BTL Client Work” board in Milanote separating projects by phases (onboarding, kickoff, drafting, under review, revisions, waiting on design, and follow up) which I could write an entire blog post on, then I also have boards for BTL Calendar, & To Do.
The main thing I do to manage my work schedule, though, is limit distraction.
I rarely ever use my phone at all during the work day, unless I’m taking a break, but if for some reason I have to use it, I keep it on the most intense DND setting in the world, and I don’t have any social media on my phone at all (so there’s no possibility of me getting sucked into a scrolling hole).
I don’t have iMessage on my laptop, and I don’t keep my email open while I’m writing copy.
I use my Chrome browser on full screen, so nothing on my desktop can get in the way of the task at hand.
If I break my focus, it’s all over for me. And because I know that, I’m able to take the necessary measures to ensure—or, at least, do everything I can to try to ensure—that it won’t happen.
It’s also important to note that my work is very important to me, especially when it comes to serving my clients. I work very well under pressure (hello, deadline-induced hyper-fixation!) so I’ll purposely make my timelines shorter and then give them a due date in writing to force myself to get things done in a timely manner.
I’d never want to disappoint a client, so in a low-key twisted way, I use that fear to my advantage and the focus it inspires has allowed me to do some of my absolute best work.
(Remember that website copy project I mentioned writing in 3 hours? It was Whit Radacina‘s. And she responded “no edits, I love it!” and commented on how she could have never written something like it, even in 3 months.)
(This is why I don’t charge hourly.)
(Also, I know Whit very well, and she did an amazing job of filling out my questionnaire and sending me lots of supplemental materials, and I’d done my research beforehand.)
Part of me doesn’t want to admit any of this to you—part of me wants you to think that I’m a master of time management, and have a completely perfect skillset. But that’s not reality.
The reality is sometimes my ADHD lets my passion be my superpower, as Steph said.
And other times, it doesn’t. Other times, I take a couple weeks to write a draft.
But no matter what my brain feels like doing, my clients always get excellence—and that is something I can always make happen, one way or another.
Do you want to hear about how I do this? Send me a DM on Instagram to let me know you’re interested in learning more about the back-end of my process and client experience, and I’ll write a Part Two to this blog post to tell you all about it!
Dealing with my ADHD in my daily life is surprisingly less difficult, but only because I don’t actually have a life outside of work.
When I’m not working, I’m either on mom duty, or playing tennis, or reading. I spend two 30-minute sessions at the gym with my trainer during the week. I go to Trader Joe’s on Monday mornings, sometimes Target, the occasional Whole Foods.
I go to my parents’ house for dinner when I want my toddler to want Grampy and his TV shows more than he wants me and my kinetic sand castle building abilities.
That’s literally it. I genuinely do not do anything else.
As I mentioned above, my “official” work hours are 10am-4pm, and I work Monday-Thursday. From the second I pick up Woo from daycare Thursday afternoon, it’s full-on Mom Life ’til Monday morning drop-off.
Unofficially, though, I work whenever I have a free second. Not because I have to, but because I want to. I’m obsessed. Again, with the mix of Capricorn, Enneagram 3, ADHD, with a little recovering perfectionist mixed in, that’s what you get.
(You should see the list of blog post ideas and half-written newsletter ideas living in my Notes app. It’s probably 4 years’ worth of content or more.)
I do, however, feel like I’m pretty good at managing my day-to-day thanks to my morning routine.
If my morning routine is messed up, I get messed up. Existing without my morning routine—or at least some version of it—is not a possibility for me.
Every morning, I wake up around 5:30-6am. I’m a morning person, and it’s addicting. Being awake before the rest of the world is so elite, and, if you’re a toddler mom doing it all on your own, so necessary for protecting your peace.
After brushing my teeth and washing my face, I do my morning pages. Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way made this a thing; it’s essentially 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness journaling, done consistently.
It’s another empty-your-brain-out thing for me, like my aforementioned Everything List.
After my morning pages are complete, I work—usually on internal BTL things unless there’s a pressing client-facing task to do.
I’ll use the time before Woo yells for me (which, unfortunately, is an amount of time that is completely unpredictable, given his bizarre variation in wake-up times) to write my newsletter, draft blog posts, create 76 new income streams, make a second online course, conceptualize an entirely new digital product, build a new personal brand from scratch… you know, just casual stuff.
Or, I’ll read.
Buuut usually the morning pages brain dump has sparked some work-related inspiration, so, that’s not as likely anymore.
I also don’t go on my phone in the morning until way later—as long as I can stave off the urge. Looking at your screen first thing when you have ADHD is a huge no-no. Trust me on this one. So is going on your phone before bed.
(TBH, even if you don’t have ADHD, going on your phone before bed and after wake-up is never a good idea.)
Limiting my decision-making in the morning has also been really vital in helping me stay focused in my daily life, which is something I learned from watching too many “billionaire morning routine” videos and being too obsessed with every person Tim Ferriss wrote about in Tools of Titans.
But just because I’m sharing all these things doesn’t mean I’m perfect at implementing them.
It’s an ongoing, every-single-day decision to wake up and choose focus, and it’s admittedly a lot more difficult for me than it may be for some people. I have to decide to put effort into existing with an ~optimized~ schedule because I can not thrive without structure.
Is focusing too much. And that’s another way I’ve found that my ADHD manifests—making it hard to ever turn my brain completely off from work.
If I’m being 100% honest, this isn’t something that I view as a negative aspect… although I know it’s not very healthy to be laying next to my toddler’s bed as he’s falling asleep, writing a blog post in my mind, physically itching to get up and go write it as soon as he’s off to dreamland.
This is one element that I have no helpful hints for – I don’t know how to hit the “off” switch. I don’t even know where it is. And that’s okay.
I don’t want you to read this blog post and think I have everything figured out, because I don’t. No one does. We’re all just managing, and simply doing your best (or, tbh, doing what you can—because I know all too well the word “best” has way too much pressure attached to it) is enough.
Because, yeah, my FYP is that specific, and, no, I’m not above taking medical advice from a social media platform.
(Also, managing ADHD is weirdly popular on Tiktok.)
>> Don’t take your shoes off if you want to be able to focus on work.
>> Do something productive first thing in the morning to set the tone for the day, even if it’s just making your bed.
>> Tidy up your environment the night before so you can wake up to a clean slate.
>> Don’t put it down, put it back. (Why can’t I master this one? I don’t know. I catch myself doing this every freaking day, probably 18 times a day.)
ADHD is manageable if you make a conscious effort to play into it, and harness the superpower that it can be.
And, getting an official diagnosis is extremely validating.
To learn more about managing your ADHD, I recommend subscribing to this newsletter—they send a lot of helpful tips on various topics, and share other side effects of ADHD and how it relates to other things you may be going through that you don’t yet realize are possibly related.
If we haven’t had the chance to *virtually* meet yet, hi! I’m Sara Noel—website copywriter and marketing mentor for creatives, copywriters, and all-around cool people. If you like my content and you want even more BTL in your life, here are a few ways you can connect with me:
Subscribe to my newsletter! I send one marketing tip, once a week – and, according to my subscribers, it’s “the best marketing newsletter on the Internet” and “the only reason to wake up on Tuesday mornings.” So… yeah. You’ll love ‘er. 😏 Click here to subscribe!
Check out my services. I write website copy, sales pages, email sequences, blog posts, and brand messaging guides for entrepreneurs of all kinds! Maybe you’re my next favorite client.
Read the rest of my blog. It’s home to everything from copywriting tips, to marketing education, to freelance advice, to portfolio-worthy projects… if you like this post, you’ll love the blog. Here’s a quick roundup of my most popular posts.
Sign up for my web copy course. Actually, it’s not *only* about website copywriting—I also teach modules on copywriting basics, developing your target audience, search engine optimization, blogging, and email marketing.
Enlist me as your mentor. I have an entire in-depth blog post about my one-on-one consulting process for new and aspiring copywriters, if you’re interested in having a big-sis-style mentor to help you grow your freelance copywriting business & get results.
To get in touch with me directly, send me a DM or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great day!
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