Addicted to Stress, ADHD, and the Perfect Job

Working in a startup means everyday is an exciting challenge. You’re chronically understaffed by nature, so there’s never a lack of projects to work on. When the company grows so do expectations, so the workflow never balances out in a way you might expect had you spent time in a more corporate environment. The challenge is finding a way to balance any perfectionist tendencies with finalizing items quickly and moving on.

I love working at startups most days. The people who work at startups share the same drive to create something new, and although there’s always the tiniest of chances that your company will hit it big and you’ll manage to turn a small amount of stock options into enough for a down payment, the people at the company are there not for the money, but for the experience. It’s fascinating to watch a company grow from nothing to something and then something to something big. Not all startups get past something but I’m very fortunate to be in a situation where my company is in hyper growth mode and shows no signs of stopping.

But there are days when I look at all the work on my oversized plate and feel overwhelmed. Having ADHD generally makes me enthusiastic about mountains of varied tasks at hand, but sometimes it just gets to be too much and my entire momentum shuts down. So I’m seeking out ways to cope with such stimuli, to manage the stress and be productive when there’s a list of 100 things to do and realistically time to do 8 at best. There will always be people who expect more from you and you can’t be perfect, is what I constantly have to remind myself. But  even then, it is demotivating when it seems people don’t understand just how long everything you do takes, and you can’t possibly get everything done that is expected of you. It sometimes feels like you’re running up an incline and you can’t see the top of the mountain but on the other side is this giant cliff and you have no time to pay attention to where that cliff is because you just have to keep running and running and running.

Moral of the story, I’m trying to really get in tune with my stress levels. It was ok, sort of, to be massively stressed out all through my 20s, but I feel like it’s not the best idea in my 30s when my health will start deteriorating fast. I don’t even have any major responsibilities outside of work yet, and I can’t imagine living this lifestyle with kids (though a lot of people do and I admire them for it.)

As I look to the future, I study the people I work with at different points in their lives, and I wonder – who do I want to be in 10 years? Would I want to be a VP of the department I’m currently in (albeit at another company) or is there something else that would make me happier and more productive? I know I love to create. Sometimes when my projects have no “end results” and are more ongoing I start to lose that momentum. I love the concept of releases and working on a set of items together with others for a common goal to make something tangible. In marketing you have that in some respects, but in others a lot of the work is ongoing. There really is no “finished” in marketing. You’re constantly pushing for more coverage, more product marketing documents to support sales requests, more branded elements, more paid and free promotional opportunities that need content and logistical organization. It is this weight of not having a clear goal to work towards that will hurt in the long run, I think. When I’m working on a project that has an end goal and that I can get my head wrapped around I enjoy it greatly and feel most productive. But all of the other ongoing pieces are what distract me because with ADHD I seem to have terrible trouble regulating how much effort to put on every task, and instead of some being a “1” and others being a “10” I work EVERYTHING at a “10.” Which sometimes leads to great work but more often then not leaves me tangled up in my own web.

So there’s dealing with this today, and for the foreseeable future, and being the best marketer I can be (I have a list of ideas on how to improve here!) And then, for the future, really analyzing what is it that I’m good at, and what can make me happy – and highly productive – over the long term. I really want to be a creator, an inventor, and in charge, but I’ve learned that I can’t do everything on my own, and my people skills leave much to be desired. So I’ll never be the next Jobs or Zuckerberg or Shark Tank success story. But I feel like I’m somehow getting closer to what it is I’m meant to do in life. Something about creating products that help people. I’m not sure how yet. But I know my INFP side wants to know that the work I do on a daily basis has some impact on the world for good. And I’ll keep brainstorming until the right answer pops up. Until then, I’m going to figure out how to be a total rockstar, and a person people enjoy working with, and not a total ball of stress. I just wish there was some magic way to do this, but it seems my work environment lends itself to stress naturally (as many do) and I have a hard time understanding what’s a normal amount of stress and what amount has me ready to get in my car, drive to Texas and change my identity so no one could ever find me again.

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