Living with ADHD as an entrepreneur or business founder can have its unique challenges to say the least, especially regarding financial management. The highs and lows of focus, impulsivity and organisational issues that we all experience can make managing finances feel like an overwhelming feat.
Despite these barriers, with the right strategies and tools, you can turn these potential obstacles into opportunities for growth and success. From my experience with these struggles, I’ve written a comprehensive guide to help you navigate your financial journey with ADHD.
Understanding the Financial Challenges of ADHD
Before jumping headfirst into the solutions, it’s important to understand the facets of ADHD that might contribute to financial struggles for entrepreneurs. Grasping these interruptions will help tailor the solutions to your unique needs.
Impulsivity is a hallmark trait of ADHD and, in a business context, it could significantly impact your financial health. While impulsivity can be used as a superpower in entrepreneurship, such as risk-taking and business decisions, it can also lead to spontaneous purchases or investments. The pitfall of this is that your impulsivity doesn’t allow you to consider the long-term implications of these purchases, resulting in wasted resources for little benefit.
Difficulty with Organisation
ADHD often comes with struggles keeping things organised. While many view organisation as a physical thing, your mind’s organisation plays an equally important role in your finances. Organisation trouble can translate into difficulties keeping up with filing financial paperwork, missing due dates for bills, or tracking business expenses. As a consequence, late fees pile up and proper budgeting flies out the window.
Trouble with Focus
Maintaining focus on a single task for a prolonged period of time can be challenging for people with ADHD. Trust me, I’ve been there. For financial matters, taking the time to truly focus on a budget that works, or to decode the jargon of financial documents can feel next to impossible. On the other hand, hyperfocus can lead to trouble with time management, leaving you with forgotten deadlines and missed payments.
Many people with ADHD have the familiar habit of procrastination: your brain’s natural desire to put off or avoid tasks it doesn’t like. For your business finances, this could mean delaying important financial decisions while leads to missed opportunities for investment and even more late fees.
Forgetfulness is the icing on the nasty cake of time management and mental organisation. Even if you try to get your organisation under control, forgetfulness can swoop in and cause you to blank on recording financial transactions, or lose track of financial obligations. Sometimes it feels like you can’t win.
Difficulty with Long-Term Planning
ADHD people usually love living in the moment, which is a great thing! But, it comes with its own set of consequences for your business finances. Saving for long-term goals, retirement, or unexpected expenses is sacrificed in exchange for your day-to-day thinking.
Stress and Anxiety
If you have ADHD and you’ve read all these above struggles, why wouldn’t you struggle with stress and anxiety? ADHD people experience a bunch of it, leading to poor financial decisions or avoidance of dealing with financial matters because of your anxiety towards it.
Difficulty Maintaining Consistency
As a consequence for all of the things that make you a good business owner, like spontaneity and a passion for new adventures, maintaining consistent habits and routines suffer. While there are positive aspects to this, it can also make it challenging to stick to a budget or financial plan.
Strategies for Managing ADHD Financial Challenges
Now that we understand the potential financial challenges, let’s delve into the strategies to overcome them. If those situations sounded familiar, you may be overwhelmed by this point. You may think that you’ll never master your finances, but fear not! These strategies are designed to be practical, easy to implement, and tailored to your specific needs.
- 48-hour Rule: Wait 48 hours before making a significant purchase to ensure it’s not just another impulse buy. This delay gives you time to think more rationally about your decision and discern if it’s really needed.
- Limit Credit Cards: Limiting the number of credit cards you have will help you avoid making impulsive purchases. Seeing all your charges in one or two places will encourage you to think twice before spending money on things that aren’t truly necessary.
Tackling Organisation Issues
- Colour-Coded Organisation: Use colour-coded folders or digital equivalents to categorise financial paperwork. It’s going to help your brain perceive differences better, making things more attention-grabbing and easier to locate quickly.
- Financial Management Apps: Consider using a financial management app that can aggregate all your accounts in one place. Your ADHD wants simplicity, and this can greatly reduce the complication of tracking different financial payments and records.
Addressing Focus Issues
- Task Breakdown: Break down financial tasks into smaller, manageable tasks to make them less overwhelming. Smaller tasks are more appealing to your ADHD brain, as they require less, prolonged focus than an entire task all at once.
- Timer Technique: Use a timer to dedicate specific blocks of time to financial tasks without distraction. For example, 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. This is also known as the Pomodoro Technique and allows your brain an attainable “finish line” to your focus.
Dealing with Procrastination
- Reward System: Give yourself a small treat or reward after completing a financial task. Procrastination is reduced to a lack of motivation in getting started, which is why you need to make tasks interesting with rewards.
- Scheduled Tasks: Create a financial task list and schedule specific times to work on them. A lack of structure fosters procrastination, so knowing when you’ll be tackling a task can help you mentally prepare for and gain motivation towards it.
- Reminder Apps: Use an app or digital tool with reminders for bill payments and important financial tasks. You can’t force yourself to remember things, it’s just how your mind works. Invest in ways to work with your ADHD not battle against it.
- Automated Payments: Consider automating as much as possible, like bill payments or savings transfers. This can reduce the amount of time you need to spend on financial management. As a result, your mental clutter is lessened and leaves room for other things.
Addressing Long-Term Planning Issues
- Visualisation: Long-term is hard for your ADHD to comprehend, so you have to make it tangible in the here and now. Visualise your financial goals with pictures or vision boards to keep them top-of-mind.
- Short-Term Targets: Just like breaking down daily tasks, you can also break down long-term goals. Short-term targets provide your brain nearby gratification, making financial goals feel more achievable.
Managing Stress and Anxiety
- Stress Management Techniques: Sound financial decisions require a clear mind, which is why stress management is so important for your financial standing as a business. Things like exercise and meditation are great ways to give your mind a break and prepare it for tough financial choices.
- Seek Support: There’s nothing wrong with considering seeking support from a therapist or support group to manage your anxiety related to financial matters. Do what your mind needs to succeed!
- Habit Tracker: Use a habit tracker to monitor and encourage consistency in financial habits. Don’t be afraid to try out different habit-keeping apps to see what works for you and your needs.
- Coaching: Consistency includes gaining a full view of your barriers and combatting them routinely. Consider using an ADHD business coach to provide an outside perspective of your business routines and help you keep them on track.
How I manage my finances, as an ADHD entrepreneur and coach
At times, I grapple with significant challenges in this area, despite all the resources I have at my fingertips. I’m susceptible to spurts of impulsive spending, particularly when I’m not feeling at my best.
My impulsivity tends to surface more frequently when I’m feeling mentally low than at any other time.
The ADHD cause of this is my own struggle with soothing my emotions, causing me to fall into impulsive decisions aimed at reducing anxiety.
However, over time, I’ve discovered two primary ways to manage this.
Firstly, I’ve found other, more beneficial ways to deal with my emotions. I realised some years ago that anxiety craves action, something to appease it. But, I learned that this action doesn’t have to be making a purchase. It can be a hike, writing down my thoughts, or cooking myself a meal.
Secondly, I’ve learned to delay gratification. Whenever I feel the urge to make an impulsive purchase, I follow the 48-hour rule, telling Siri to set a reminder for two days later. This gives me a window to calm down, discover whether the purchase is necessary and make a clearer decision without the influence of ADHD impulsivity. If after this period, I still believe the purchase will be beneficial, I’ll go ahead with it.
Managing finances as an entrepreneur or founder with ADHD may seem challenging, but it’s certainly not impossible.
Remember, the key is to find strategies and tools that work best for you and your unique situation. You don’t need to implement every single one of these suggestions tomorrow; choose a few that spoke to you and think of ways to try them out. In addition, if you are struggling, seeking help is never something to be ashamed of. Remember, every small step toward better financial management is leading to big improvements over time.