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Five things I wish people knew about ADHD

Guest blog by Guy Walsh - what he wishes people knew about ADHD

As someone who found out he had ADHD aged 41, I’ve spent my life trying to live as a neurotypical and wondering why the advice given by society has never worked for me.

Because of this, people with ADHD often feel like they are failing. I guarantee that if you find it frustrating working with a person with ADHD, they are finding it three times more frustrating!

With that in mind, here are five things I wish were more understood about people with ADHD. One note: every person with ADHD is different. These may not apply to everyone with ADHD. As with any individual, make sure you talk to them about their personal needs and never make assumptions. 

We need to know why

If you ask us to do something, you’ll need to explain why. We’re not being obstructive; it helps us understand the bigger picture. We have an insatiable need for understanding, and by giving us this information, you will also allow us to work out alternative routes to the goal – which may well help you improve your processes.

Our working methods are not the same as yours

We don’t work in a linear fashion. A motivated neurotypical person, given a task and a deadline, will work steadily on the task until the deadline approaches.

People with ADHD can often seem to be procrastinating. Truth be told, sometimes we are. But more likely is that we’re using this time to work out a path to the goal in our heads.

This can manifest in the form of the person seemingly “not working”—spending time away from our desks, browsing on our phones, and making infinite cups of tea. As crazy as it may seem to a neurotypical person, this is part of our process. Most of us don’t understand why (oh, the irony!), but as long as this process isn’t interrupted, I promise you that we will get it done!

We may also need very specific working conditions. Some will need silence and space, others will prefer to have background noise and people around them. Providing the correct working environment will optimise our ability to work productively.

We need a deadline

In part because of our working methods, we always need a deadline. I finished writing one of my stand-up shows literally 20 minutes before I took to the stage to perform. This is standard for me.

A task without a hard deadline will never be completed. A soft deadline (“just get it to me when you’re ready”) isn’t a deadline. It’s optional.

This isn’t a conscious thought for us; it just happens. We find it as frustrating as you. Give us a deadline and some accountability, and you’ll get a finished product.

We’re not being lazy

People with ADHD are motivated by four factors: interest, challenge, novelty and urgency. If the task you’ve given us isn’t interesting or novel to us, then even if it’s challenging, the only motivating factor is urgency – hence the need for a deadline.

We’re generally not motivated by money or targets. I’m someone with a strong sense of responsibility towards others, and this can be either a motivating factor (if I’m interested in what I’m doing and/or the end goal) or a cause of stress and anxiety if I’m not.

Either way, we’re not being lazy—we suffer from something called executive dysfunction, which means that our brains will not allow us to do something if we’re not motivated by at least one of the four factors.

We can solve problems before you’ve even noticed them

Our biggest strength is that we can see into the future. We have this seemingly psychic ability to foresee bumps in road maps and to predict problems well before they occur. Rather than dismissing our concerns as negativity, a better idea is to talk these concerns through with us to a) make sure that we have a full understanding of the project in hand and b) help us come up with workarounds for these issues.

Guy Walsh is a neurodivergent multipotentialite and an empathetic distributor and is available to speak at events. Find out more at