Ep 10 - 10_10_19, 12.33 PM
5:40PM Nov 12, 2019
Lee Skallerup Bessette
Welcome back to another episode of all the things ADHD with Aimee Morrison and Lee Skallerup Bessette two Gen X academic women navigating life with a late in life diagnosis of ADHD. Today's episode we're going to continue talking about productivity and work. In this one we're going to talk about how do we productively work with other people? How do we collaborate? Because we don't usually do jobs in isolation, at least Aimee and I don't. And then of course with ADHD and and selective attention, how do we survive meetings? Like how do you do that? How do you get through meetings with ADHD? So we know drop you right in the middle of the conversation as always, we're going to get started about working and having to maintain colleagues. But one of the things like when when we talk about like, how do you work, right, how do you and one of the things I've really had to learn and and part of it was just Learning about my personality, but part of it is now even just figuring out how my ADHD works is just like, you know, I'd like people to meet me halfway, but I also have to kind of understand that I need to meet them halfway. And so like,
I know I stress out the planners and the introverts because I'm so extroverted and so laid back and don't really plan things in advance. Yeah, I've gotta like, I've got I gotta find a way to meet them in the middle where it's just like look, I hate doing like a detailed outline and like 27,000 planning, planning meetings and like, but like, okay, let's compromise and maybe say like for planning meetings with a like rough skeleton as opposed to a full detailed outline like could we can we find out like, what's, what's the minimum amount that I need to do to? To like, make sure that we all stay at like an even anxiety level, like, it's not so much that I'm anxious and it's not so little that you're panicking like what's what's the middle ground for us.
Yeah, okay, so like now we're talking about how can we collaborate with people right across, you know, the neuro divergence divide. Right? And, and also, I mean, like, you know, Myers Briggs gets a lot of flack for, you know, being a sort of nonsense scheme, but it's like, in some ways, does reveal differences in the ways people interact in the world. Right. And so, I might like, I might, I might say that I like but really, I'm sort of self medicating with adrenaline to do things at the last minute, but I need to realize that you know, if I'm submitting things to people at what for me is the last minute it is past the last minute for them. Right? So they like to do their piece of the work kind of like spread out in smaller chunks of time over a longer period. And I've completely messed up their way of doing things. Right. And for me to say, you know, it's because I have ADHD is like both True and insufficient, right? It is. It is a reason. But it's not an excuse, right? And so I think, like, as you're suggesting we get quite far in the world when we meet people halfway. And the only way you can do that is to have a kind of explicit discussion around methods right? around around parameters. It's like a, it's like a BDSM relationship where everyone sort of sounds like this is what I'm comfortable with. Right? This is my safe word. My safe word it is Vivance. I need to take my drugs but like we're, you know, there's, there's room for creativity within parameters that everyone agrees to. Right?
You know, you do your part, and I'll do my part. And I'm sure it'll work out like, which No, never happens. No, never happens. And so I'm just building a course right now. I'm co teaching a graduate course with my dear friend Frankie Condon, who is more methodical than me and We're so we're teaching a course where it's like, partly her area of expertise and partly mine. And so we definitely want to learn from each other. And we're going to be doing some some riffing, like you and I are doing now. And you and I are evenly matched for this type of thing because we're clever, loud belts, right? And so you can hold your own against me, and I can hold my own against you. And neither one of us has to make much by way of concession in our international style to produce this podcast, right? Yeah, me and Frankie have slightly different ways and like, She's so smart about this. She's like, you know, I want us to be able to riff in class because I don't want us to have to write lectures and be like, really careful about like, 10 minutes on this and 20 minutes on that she's like, we need to think about how one of us is not going to overwhelm the other week, which was a kind way of saying, like, Amy, you get your ideas really fast. And you keep talking until you're finished. Right? And you interrupt and so like what she didn't say, but it's true. What I was like, Yeah, I need to be Kind of attentive to leaving space.
In those situations, and it was like really great to have that conversation. So I know that if I miss that boundary, that we now have a kind of space opened up for her to say something to me about it. Yeah, right. And I have had to set boundaries with other people to write because like I we talked in the last episode about how I like to chunk things, right. I don't want something unexpectedly planting in my field of vision, and then landing with a thud and I have to deal with it right now because I have trouble switching tasks and I tend to get really overwhelmed by unexpected things to deal with and, and so when I, you know, work with people or on committees, I'll be like, do not send me stuff. Like at three in the afternoon on Sunday. That's not fair. Not ready to deal with that, that I can't write like this is I'll tell you which hours a week I'm devoting to this. So if you want me to get you know, this done this week, it needs to come to me by you know, Tuesday. One because Tuesday between two and four is the time I have allocated to work on this right? You can come in Tuesday at like, you know, 12:54, that's fine. But like I can't come in Wednesday, because I now my time is gone. And so I've also had to say to people, like, I don't want to, you know, do this debate about curriculum, on an email thread, it's too much, it's too many words, and I can't keep it all on screen at the same time. And then like, I lose the emails and stuff, I'm like, if it's going to be a conversation that I needed to happen in an in person synchronous meeting, right. So it's like being aware sometimes of how my working styles can have a negative impact on on others, but also how, and I do have some boundaries and needs right around. I can't function in this type of scenario. So it's been really empowering for me to learn how to express those limits. Yeah, two people, and also really humbling for me to sort of say, I know that the way that I do things might stress you out. Right? What can I do to help with that? So So collaboration can be, can be difficult, but I don't think it's an insurmountable problem.
No, I don't think at all. And I think that there's been been something really liberating for me and understanding it better. Right. And, and I've been able to be kinder to myself, where I was, for so long was trying to be the person that I thought I needed to be, or they needed me to be, or to be like these other people, because I thought, well, maybe I was told that I needed to be more like that in order to be successful in order to work well on the team. Yeah, I was really hard on myself. Of course, when I could not meet those, right. It's like, they were saying what, just do it it's like, No, it's not that easy. Like you Don't...
And if being hard on yourself can accomplish the job. Right? Then great, but it doesn't because like, like, Oh, I'm doing this wrong, my way of doing is wrong. I am wrong, I should be different, which is like, Okay. Yeah, look there like there are some sort of ways of being or ways of orienting ourselves to the world that are hardwired. It doesn't mean that our behaviors can't change. Right? Yeah. But it does mean that you can't just tell yourself to somehow, like, I'm making the air quotes now be different. Yeah. Right. Like, yeah, honestly, that's the most ridiculous way. I was at this yoga retreat once and, and the teacher was trying to get us to do this complicated pose, and he was like, No, no, like Lyft from the hamstring in the back leg, and then it was a pause for no lift from the hamstring and like one more type that hamstring and then he stopped and he said, You obviously like don't understand what I'm saying. So me just saying it louder, is not going to help. Yeah, right. Everybody sit down, like let's figure this out, right? And I thought, Oh, that's a great way to be in the world is not to just tell myself, you know, Amy talk less. Yeah. Or like, just be less, you know, at the last minute with things I have to think like, well, how can I manage the ways you know that I am in the world that allow other people to be their way in the world?
And I really likethat i because I self hating myself for who I am, that doesn't mean that my behavior doesn't have to change, right? It does. My behavior does have to change, but also other people's behaviors, I can reasonably request that they change their behaviors as well so that we can work together it's not imputed, it's not people's characters, right? It's about getting the work done to collaborate.
And sometimes it's also about not just changing like, there'd be behaviors and our own behaviors, but changing also in managing expectations. Yeah. Right. where it's like, Look, I'm going to be honest with you that, you know, the way you're doing it, I'm not like, you can't, you can't expect me to be like you and I don't expect you to be like me. You know, so this is not what you're going to get or like, this is, you know, coming out wrong, but, you know, I mean, like, it's just, it's just kind of managing those kinds of expectations. And then once you have an understanding and like, have each other's expectations, and, and then you can start and begin to negotiate and find that middle ground. Yeah, right. Because, you know, like, because the worst advice I was I've ever received because it's, it's really hard for people to just be like, stop being too much.
Right. Okay. Okay, you know, where's my intensity dial? I'll just turn that down. Okay. Yeah,
I mean, I like okay. Too loud, I get that there is a volume on my voice and I have trouble using it. But like, I get that, but then, you know, you transferred over that to everything. It's like, well, you're just loud in a lot of different ways, right? I don't I know how to, I know how to change the volume of my voice, but like, what, where's the line? Yours, you know, because what hurts? I'll go with the hearing metaphor. But you know, what hurts your ears is what? You know what helps another person hear versus, you know, so like, what's too loud? What's too much? What's, you know, what is it about it? Is it is it the tone of my voice? Is it the pitch of my voice is it the, you know, speed at which I'm talking the volumes. I mean, at one point, again, I'm going with the voice metaphor, but we were at a conference. And, you know, for accessibility purposes, we were all using microphones. But the way I use the microphone and the tone or the volume My voice created this pitch that triggered a migraine.
Oh my god
...in one of the in what? In one of the other people in the room? And I mean, I felt horrible about it.
But you know, she said she's like, you couldn't have predicted that. She's like, I don't even think I could have predicted that.
I was I swear to god at that conference, I was just like, rage tweeting about this about well, I was, I don't want to say what conferences I don't want to say when.
It was a different conference, because you were definitely not at this conference.
Oh no, I mean, but like, yeah, so it was, it was the same conference in the sense that there was a microphone for accessibility purposes. And if it's like, this drives me crazy people. I mean, because they're not trained. How do you use a microphone, right? You don't yell into the microphone. And you also don't put your face like I'll do it with mine. Like you can't you can't be great in the microphone like this. Because it's just like, blows people's eardrums. It's not meant to be used like that and I I went and stood in the hallway, right? Because I physical pain.
From the kind of booming and crackling of that of that microphone. That's like, neither here nor there.
But it is, but it's those kinds of things, right? It's...Yeah, it's just those kinds of things that are very often until we're confronted with them. We don't know about it. And it's not that the people are being malicious about, like you said, they just don't know how to talk into the microphone. Well, until we figure out how to talk and interact with each other, and what's the proper volume level and what's the proper distance and what's the, you know, and and what's that going to be for accessibility versus migraines versus any of this other stuff. I mean, and all of that is is is unfortunately always shifting. And it's like that I think the metaphor comes back around to working really well because that's exactly what we are Experiencing, and trying to articulate and negotiate with the people that we work with. To be able to just get that balance
You know Lee I think this episode has very interestingly, become not an episode about working with ADHD but working with each other. You know what I mean? Because it's not. I mean, everything that we're talking about so far is is pretty much relational, right about how does the way that we need to do our work or or that we prefer to do our work, impact our relationships are working relationships with other people, or how does it impact their capacities to get things done in it and it's not just about, you know, you and I are the ones with the deficits or the functional limitations, right, like to use the language of, you know, it's not that we have a lack it's that you know, when you get right down to it, everybody has preferences. I'd like to think you know, or the institution would like us to think that we are all kind of fungible and that there's one right way of doing things and that you can just slot anybody into a given role and there's a correct way for that role to be enacted and they will do it and that's you know, not actually how it works. Most people you know, have their quirks some people really like to do emails instead of face to face You know, for various reasons. Some people prefer face to face some people don't like the phones and people you know, want things left on their voicemail and you know, some people you know, want to do things in the evening and you know, for various reasons, I would say like, some people have dysfunctional relationships to some others, right, like some people like to work on the weekends actually just have very poor time management, right. But some people who work on the weekends do that so that they can work fewer hours during the day during the week because you know, of either physical, frailty or or family care needs or or what have you, right? So like not always of producing worker or equal and but also not everybody has to do it the same way. Yeah. Right and and so I like I'm really intrigued where this conversation is going is not like oh Aimee and Lee are broken and they had to figure out ways to work around their brokenness. It's like Aimee and Lee are different from some of the people that they work with and at Lee are interested in having productive working relationships with people. Right. And we are.
Yeah, we are. And I think that that's, I mean, for me, and again, for me talking about work is as much about talking working with other people. Right? Because, you know, we're, we are in social, social environments, right and always about, we can talk about class planning, and we could talk about running meetings and we could talk about, you know, how I can't sit through a meeting without like playing Candy Crush because
Yeah, exactly. But uh, but at the end of the day, it's, it's, it's setting that expectation as well, that it's, you know, I was actually told at one point, it's like, you know, people are starting to take offense to you at meetings, because they don't think you're paying attention. Right, right. And so that it becomes, okay, well, what's their expectation of what paying attention means? versus what I'm actually doing, versus telling people I'm playing Candy Crush, which most people will be like, No, that is not paying attention. And you're like, you're right, that does actually look bad. What's something that I can do in a meeting that makes me look productive, but not? Because these are also meetings that you don't necessarily have to walk in and everybody in the room and say, Hey, everyone, I have ADHD and distract very easily, so don't mind me while I sit on my phone. I'm really listening. Right, right. You're not going to go into every single meeting with every single person. on your campus or outside your campus, to say that,
But just there like a certain way in which like, honestly, most meetings are terrible and very poorly run. Like, like, I know the Candy Crush thing I sometimes like, get so enraged by boredom, you have meetings that I have to check out onto my phone, or I'm, like just going to have a meltdown of some sort of, like, I have things to do, right. And this is not going anywhere or this meeting started and there's no agenda or like, someone came in 20 minutes later just asked the chair of the meeting to catch them up on what they missed. And why do I have to sit here and listen to that because I came on time, right? Like I just, I'm say something awful, or I'm going to disappear onto my phone. Yeah, for a little bit. But But for me, the main sort of meeting management strategy that I have is to become chair of all the meetings. I know I talk a lot about my time as grad chair, but I got this compliment when I was done. This colleague of mine who had been on a member of my committee for about two years, he said, or you must be glad to be done. I said, Yeah, I am. And he said, I just wanted to tell you that, you know, you run a really good meeting. I was like, Oh, thank you. Like, that was just the most specific and like, like, let's be frank, true. feedback.
Got it. It was like so meaningful to me that someone had noticed that my meetings had agendas. Yeah. And we stuck to them. And we stuck to the topic. And it had exactly like, you know, 90 minutes worth of stuff on the agenda. And then we got through it, and then we left, right. I try to run the meetings that I would want to attend to me. So I cannot seem to change how other people run meetings and for me here in ENFPMNENTJD destroyer of worlds, right? Okay. The people that share my personality type include Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, gang, Gus Kahn and Napoleon. So, so yeah, I tend to get in front of the meeting and try to run it that way. So sometimes it's like that the ADHD person is the canary in the coal mine of like, this is actually a shooting meeting, that could have been one email or, you know, it needed an agenda or it's not a good idea to hand out 20 pages of reading material at the meeting to be voted on at the meeting. Yeah, right. These are not good practices, generally. And if it's the person with the disability who feels empowered to say, like, you know what, this isn't working for me? Well, good. Like, maybe we can, we can create better workspaces there too. So I don't think I have to walk into every meeting and be like, ADHD, like try not to bore me or I'm just gonna candy crush my way out of here. Yeah. But it is not unreasonable to expect your time not to be wasted. Right? And it just our threshold for wasted time is like set with a much shorter fuse. Possibly than other people's.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And and I think that that's it also goes again, with the idea of like how do we how do we work productively together different personalities with different abilities and disabilities with different like just were people who have to get along in the workplace. And I think the hardest thing has been systemically and, you know, did just broadly over generalize is to figure out how to make systems that were built for one kind of person under the assumption that everyone fit this one. This one persona, yeah. Right that that that that was that that was it. Right. And so now it's trying to get the system to change where it was sort of like, oh, but but it but that's not how how we've done things it's like well, it's it doesn't have to be how we do things now, right? Like it was not. This was not dictated from on high. This was built by people and we can rebuild it. Yeah, I mean in productive ways.
There's something sort of intellectually attractive about, you know, the one rule to rule it. All right. It's like Yeah, yeah ring of Mordor but it's like policy book. Yeah. And that somehow everyone can make themselves fit to this idealized subject. It's like, like personas that you write in, like, web design and stuff, like, oh, Sally is going to use this website. And Sally is, you know, a suburban Mom, you know, drives a, you know, Prius, all this stuff, and then you build the site for that person. How can we sort of build structures for work that are accessible, right, like, because like now, like, let's say someone like you or me could technically qualify for accommodations at work right where the system remains the same let some special arrangement is made to work around what is characterized as our, you know, functional limitations or lack when probably a lot of people don't fit the system, right but just a subclinical level of not fit, right, and that we do things the way we do them because that's the way we've always done them. Or we have this idea that we should all be this kind of ideal subject as constructed through policy manuals, or, you know, the way things have always been, this is really limiting people's creativity, right and, and limiting their use of their gifts. If, if what people are spending, all their time doing is trying to arrange their face so that they don't look like they're about to fall asleep in the meeting.
they could be actually producing something of value to the group that's holding the meeting. Like Yeah, another form would be really great. And I think that requires us to do a lot of, you know, like what we were talking about earlier, this conversation at the meta level, right? Like You know, what can you bring to this committee? And what can you not? I mean, this group, the students with disabilities advocacy group on campus, and at our meetings, it's really great. We go around the table first and sort of say, like, How you doing today? Like, where are you at? What do you what do you have to give it? And we have, like, different tasks that we want to do. And, and some people will say, like, you know, I don't really have the capacity to stand in front of a group of people and, and speak, and I don't, I don't want to do that. But I could poster, right? I don't mind doing that. I could put up 400 posters, and I'm like, I would rather die than happy to walk around and put up posters. But I will retweet all your stuff, right? I'm really good at that. I have a lot of followers. I can retweet everything or I'm happy to talk in public or, you know, I'll do this but I, my skill is not in doing this. And so, you know, I don't take minutes at the meetings because I can't listen and type at the same time. I could do or the other. So somebody else who's like, I remember it better if I'm typing it well, other people are talking. Okay, great. So there's no assumption that everybody walks into that room with an equal capacity or interest in doing the tasks that require doing, and they're able to say, like, you know, it's not that this job is more or less important, it's just that that job would be very difficult for me to do. And this job would be very easy for me to do. Right. And I love that. I love that like you at what do you got to give today? Right? And what do you need to keep for yourself? It's like, Ah, it takes a bit of time maybe to do these negotiations. But like, ask yourself how much time do we waste being assigned tasks that we know we're going to do a lousy job at? Right? Yeah, and then procrastinate on forever? And then like, Yeah, really screwed up at the end. So I think it's ah to just pretend that everybody always does things the same way is, as they said, like penny wise and pound foolish right? Because if you don't deal with this stuff up front, you're going to deal with it at the back end when the work is not getting done, right. Or people have conflict or you know, someone has to be excused from the committee because they're overloaded and they're having a meltdown about it. Right? Yeah. Yeah.
And I think that's one of the reasons and again, bring it always think about, about teaching. That's why so many students despise group work. Yeah. Right, a) is called group work and not collaboration. And so I always make that important one, but it's because they don't know how to negotiate these things. Right? Yeah. And they all assume productivity means everybody has to contribute exactly the same amount of the exact same thing.
Yeah, it's gonna be like, Okay, this is a five page thing. we're each going to write one page like, Well, no. Yeah. You know, maybe somebody really likes word smithing. Maybe somebody really likes doing the library research. You know, maybe somebody really likes being the person who keeps the group on task. Like these are discrete roles. Yeah. And skills and you know, maybe you're Not the person that winds up doing the annotated bibliography because you'd like rather shoot yourself and have to like figure out the MLA format for so maybe you're the person that, you know, sends out the reminder emails, like we're having a Skype today. And maybe you're the one that sets up like the Google docs for everybody, because you really like to organize in those ways, right? Like, if you need to be more creative about, you know, what is the essential work that this group is coming together to do? And how can we divide the tasks according to people's not just like, capacities or limitations, but their interests? I think everything everybody would be happier and more stuff would get done.
Yeah. Well, and there's also because I, you know, I think of some of the types of projects, it's like, Okay, well, each of us have to make five slides. I'm terrible making slides. Right, right. And then everybody's mad because I made ugly slides. Right. And we should not because I had to be I mad because I had to make slides.
So it took you forever, right
and ever to make the five and then everybody else's bad because I made ugly, why'd you make your slides ugly? And I think I say, I think they look fine. And they're like, Well, you know, they don't look like our slides. And I'm like, No, they clearly do not. You know, and, and I've had that situation where it's just like, everybody leaves unhappy and bitter. And it's like, this is why we don't like group work. And it's like, well, like, I'm not good at making slides. And you know, but like,
then don't volunteer for that, right? Yeah,
yeah. But it but it was, but it wasn't that I was volunteered for it. It was just that it was decided everybody's gonna make five slides.
Yeah. And I mean, but why? Because that's like, the equal way. Yeah.
Because that's the way to do it. Yeah.
But I mean, this is this is the trap we fall into. Were saying like for things to be fair, they need to be the same.
But they don't. I mean, I like doing stuff. Part of my department service that I do is I do a lot of the recruitment events because I am an extrovert and I Don't have to prepare anything to talk to undergrads about why they should do an English degree. I don't have to prepare anything to do like a sort of extemporaneous speech on New Media Studies at the University of Waterloo. Like other people really prepare for those things. So they find it very stressful. I'd like what time, okay, like, if I'm late, start with me. I'll just walk in, you step up to the podium and I do it and like everybody wants to talk to me after other guy just really good at those things. And they're easy for me and other people don't want to do it, they find it stressful, or they feel they're not like, good at it. And they like over prepare. And I'm like, well tell you what, why don't you do the like, handwritten cards to guidance counselors, because I am never like if we're just on this, I mean, I'm always worried that that I'm like, skimming the cream off the top of stuff and it like it turns out that the things that I really like to do a lot of other people don't.
Yeah, to do.
Yeah. And I would hope that if I am in a situation where I'm like skipping all the good stuff that someone would say like, well, others of us would like to do that as well. Right? Like, maybe pick your second best thing that you want to do and and i would be open to that, but I become a lot more open about kind of actually claiming the strengths and interests that I have. I mean, some of which are related to the ADHD, right? Like I would I always hesitant to accede to this training of the disability, it's like always a deficit, a lack of functional limitation, like a failure to meet the essential duties. And sometimes I'm like, you know, I'm interesting to listen to because my boredom threshold is so low, that I have a terror of boring people, right? So I'm like flying around the room like Kermit the Frog, my arms are going I have like, slides with a million pictures on them and people like, Whoa, like maybe it's a bit much if you had to sit with me for three hours, but it's great for 15 minute presentation to grade 11 students. Yeah, that doesn't mean that I'm stupid because I'm good at talking to great 11 students, right? Some people don't have those skills. So it is as, as I've kind of like been in. I've been like, you know, it's okay to be good at the things that I'm good at. And some of them are related to my disability and they don't have to be ashamed of it. Right. Yeah. Yeah. So that's for me that's like working with other people is just, you know, not sort of saying, like, how are you guys going to accommodate me? Because I'm broken, that it's like, what are some of the ways that my style of working has a positive or a negative impact on your style of working, and vice versa? And how can we figure out what needs to be done and do it in a way that has both of us or all five of us? Or 22 of us feeling supported and useful?
Yeah. Ultimately, that's what we want to feel right. supported and useful.
Yeah. Everybody wants to feel that way. Not just the disabled scholars.
Well, on that note, I think we've given everyone a lot to think about and we'd love to hear all of the ways that You manage your work, particularly collaboration, but not exclusively so and you know how open or not open you are about your disability at your workplace. I know that that is very complicated. Amy and I have a certain amount of privilege to be able to be like, you know, I have ADHD and, and that's okay. Because it could it is also a hidden disability and that sort of way. And so some people are more and less comfortable and more or less able to be able to disclose and so not to not to discredit those experiences as well. And so we'd love to you know, we'd love to hear you share some of your stories. Again, the email address is all things ADHD at gmail. com. You can also tweet us using the hashtag all the things ADHD Oh. And if you'd like to share your story, but don't feel comfortable revealing your identity, we will be sure to Make it anonymous and we won't share your name unless you say that we can. And if you want to actually come on and talk about your experience, we'd love that too. It doesn't just have to be Amy and I talking for 50 minutes.
We could totally do that forever.
Gosh, we totally could do that forever. Obviously, why we started a podcast, that's right. And then hand it over to people to edit, like make it shorter. Take away the digression so take way too much in it. No, leave the digression. Maybe like volume levels a little bit like
hey, can people also send us stories from like the worst and most boring meetings they've ever been to?
Oh, gosh, yes. Yeah. Most Yeah. most boring meetings you've ever been to worst meetings you've ever been to? I would love that. That would be
that'd be great because we could maybe make a document out of them that people could read the next time they're at a really boring meeting.
Yes, that'd be cool because it it is reading and furrowing your brow is is less seen as being engaged rather than just sitting there swiping a candy crush. Even if at the end of the day no one is actually paying attention,
optics people optics. So, with that, we bid you adieu, and everybody I will see you next time. Thanks so much for listening