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As Busy As An ADHDer

Yes or no?
Yes or no?

Have you heard the expression “If you want something done, give the job to someone who’s already busy.” Yeah, I’ve heard it too. And sadly, it’s true. Especially if the busy comes from being someone with ADHD.

For those of us with self esteem issues, it seems like an honor to be asked to do something. We hope it means we’re considered capable and competent. We want that to be so, and we don’t want it to change if it is true.

So if we are asked to do something, we throw ourselves into it. If enough people exploit this, we become overwhelmed. Something has to give.

What happens next?

What happens when we get overwhelmed? One of two things. The first one is that we crash and burn and drop all the balls we were trying to juggle. This makes us look not so competent. In fact it makes us look downright incompetent. And in a way, we are.

We are often competent at all the things we have taken on, but not competent at time management. We may know exactly how to do something but be clueless as to how much of our time that will require. We double book and triple book our hours and days.

What’s the other scenario?

The other thing that happens is we swear at ourselves, promise to get caught up on our own lives later and not get into this mess again, and then spend all our time doing the things we’ve promised others we’d do. This one happens more often when we find ourselves overwhelmed than the scenario with all the balls dropping.

Are the two really different?

In point of fact, these two different outcomes are different degrees of the same thing. In scenario one, there’s an emotional implosion and we just become incapable of moving on. We can’t prioritize the things that need doing, so we freeze.

In scenario two, we pull out the three or four main tasks that need doing and “get ‘er done!” This leaves us dropping all the balls that won’t affect others. But these are the balls that will affect us and our lives.

So what’s the solution?

There isn’t one. If you’re in this situation, you’re in it and it’s too late. But it’s a great time to realize what you could have done. And if you’re not in this situation currently, it’s a great time to start watching for the signs so that you avoid it next time.

The main sign is a sense of well being, of being sought out and respected for your abilities. This means that you’ve been asked to do something. It means that you consider being asked an indicator of peoples confidence in you. That’s good.

But don’t let that be the reason you accept more tasks than you can reasonably accomplish.

What’s the magic word?

There’s a word that can help you here. I know you don’t want to hear this, you’re afraid of this word, afraid it will lead people to believe that you aren’t responsible. But believe me, nothing is farther from the truth. Saying this word will make you look even more responsible than being asked to do something you think is important.

The word is … “no.” That’s it. Just say “no!” when you’re asked to take on something that you can’t fit into your life. In fact, set a limit to the number of projects on your plate and stick to that using the magic word “no.”

Contrary to the idea that you will not be sought out later, saying “no” makes you seem more desirable, more “in demand.”

Trust me, saying yes, and not coming through, or squeaking it out poorly in the 11th hour will make you look far less capable in the end than a simple “I’m sorry. No. I can’t take that on now.”

As Busy As An ADHDer

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live on the traditional lands of the Chippewas of Nawash in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or 7 generations and my First Nations friend's families go back hundreds of generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I am a freelance writer and I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about living with ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2013). As Busy As An ADHDer. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Oct 2013
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