My Top Tips for ADHD-Friendly Gifts: Part 1

Sick of seeing your carefully selected presents gather dust in a corner or disappear from sight altogether? In this series of posts I am going to recommend some gifts that I would love to receive in my stocking. Unless otherwise stated I am not necessarily recommending particular products or brands, rather items that meet certain ADHD-friendly criteria. Obviously, we are all different and not everyone has the same needs but here are some basic principles that apply to me:

Guilt is not a good gift
Clothes that require dry-cleaning (or even ironing) or other items that require a lot of upkeep mean more work for our brains and we are unlikely to use them. They will, however, take up residence in our homes, staring at us reproachfully for months. Why would you do that to us?

We probably don’t have any batteries
Or if they do they are unlikely to be the right ones.

Parts and accessories will get lost
Immediately. If they’re not too expensive you might want to include a few replacements (we might not get around to ordering them).

Think multifunctionality
Products that serve more than one function help to reduce clutter and cut down on the number of items we have to remember, thus easing stress on our executive function. Think all-in-one beauty products, swiss army knives, that kind of thing.

Easy-to-access items such as bottles with flip-top lids or bags with large zips (or even velcro) are a good choice for the butter-fingered among us.

At-a-glance visibility is a big time-saver too. Something like this hanging transparent cosmetics bag is a much better option than an opaque alternative.

Think about how your gift makes the recipient feel. I loathe restrictive clothing. The mere sight of these high-necked pyjamas with cuffed hems makes me shudder and hell will freeze over before I agree to be imprisoned in a onesie.

Give the gift of colour (and calm). Avoid black where possible, particularly when buying electronic devices which we tend to be the grab as we are rushing out of the door. Making them easy to identify could shave valuable minutes off our daily dash.

Avoid gifts that are fiddly or have small parts since the recipient may struggle with hand-eye coordination or simply find them frustrating to use.

Share experiences, not life admin. ADHD brains are wired for novelty, adrenaline and learning. Cocktail-making classes and rally-driving are great options whilst activities like paint-balling might appeal to an ADHDer’s hunter instincts. But choice is over-rated. We struggle with making decisions and the voucher might expire before we get around to booking it. To avoid the poisoned chalice of extra life admin why not agree a date in advance and book it yourself? Booking directly with a local business means more money goes into their pocket so you can feel virtuous as well.

Heal their creativity scars
Art has been shown to relieve stress and promote focus. Working with wet clay activates the part the brain responsible for reasoning, executive functioning, and complex memory. These ceramic workshops for beginners will be a big hit with animal-lovers in particular. Brene Brown has shown that creativity is essential for wellbeing but many of us avoid it due to negative childhood experiences. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and am very proud of my ceramic cat!

The grumpy cat I made with the help of Richard at Twisted Earth Ceramics

Putting Up My Pool

One French word encapsulates how I experience the world: décalage.

Depending on context it can mean gap, shift, difference, lag or discrepancy but can also be used to describe that feeling of being out of sync.

I’m constantly en décalage, much to the amusement of others. My best friend’s Mum still laughs at the memory of opening her door to find 8-year old me standing there in bare feet in winter, or in wellington boots in the summer. 

Later, friends would be perplexed when invited to celebrate my December birthday with a Champagne picnic in the countryside. (I think they enjoyed it once we had taken refuge on a picnic blanket in the boot of the car).

Having an unpredictable brain in an unpredictable British climate presents particular challenges. Sometimes the décalage is because I hate feeling restricted. Long, tight sleeves or high-necked jumpers are unbearable, regardless of how cold it gets. Umbrellas hold me back when I’m in a rush.

Often it’s a result of being distracted (forgetting my waterproof because I’m writng a blog post in my head) or disorganised (the right clothes are in the wash/in the loft/at my boyfriend’s house/at the bottom of a bag).

But mostly, it’s because I operate in two different time zones: now and not now.  When I’m in now time, I don’t foresee visiting the foreign country in the not now time zone.  If I was sun-bathing yesterday, I fully expect wall-to-wall sunshine again today. 

This would be fine if I lived in Equador but can cause problems in West Yorkshire. By the time it has dawned on me that I need shorts (and have managed to make the decision to buy them) it’s August and I’ve been overheating for days.

By then, shops are stocking their autumn range with the remnants of the summer collection relegated to a dusty rack in the corner. I desperately rummage through the 3 remaining styles but everything is too small so I resign myself to dressing inappropriately for the season. Again.

I can only assume that most people have some kind of internal barometer set one time zone ahead.  Or perhaps a signal is emitted to notify them that it’s time to buy the clothes they’ll need in 3 months time, but the frequency is inaudible to me (and to size-8 women).

It’s annoying because being the right temperature is extremely important to me. Being too hot affects my brain function and makes me miserable. My house is like an oven in summer so, a few years ago, I invested in a pool.

I love floating around in my rubber ring with my feet dangling in the water. Sometimes I take a break from work to cool off.  Other times, I invite a friend for the full holiday experience: a Wham-singalong (yes, that song) and a few glasses of fizz. 

But to have any hope of experiencing this summer nirvana, décalage is not an option. Everything must be timed for perfect synchronicity. I monitor the weather forecast like I’m preparing for battle, ready to leap into action whenever a heatwave is announced. 

So you can imagine my disappointment when the summer came to an end and I realised I hadn’t had any pool time at all.  You see, setting up the pool is a long and complicated process.  I counted over 40 stages (but I probably missed a few):

  1. Decide whether now is the right time to get the pool out. Seek opinions of others. Ignore their opinions. Change mind multiple times.
  2. Imagine how awful it would be if the cats drowned. Think up ingenious ways to keep them away from the pool.
  3. Research cat drownings on the internet.
  4. Try to remember where I stored the pool.
  5. Get the pool down from the loft.
  6. Try to remember where I stored the pump/rubber ring/chlorine.
  7. Get distracted by other items in the loft.
  8. Devise new organisational strategies for storing possessions in the loft.
  9. Begin a week-long clearout of the loft in blistering heat.
  10. Some weeks later, on a rainy day, happen across the pool while hoovering the the spare room.
  11. Drop the hoover and search through my emails to find the model number for the pool so I can download the instructions.
  12. Remember I impulsively deleted the throw-away email account I used to purchase the pool.
  13. Search for “frame pool” and hope for the best.
  14. Download the instructions and try to ascertain which of the three models described is mine. Wonder if I should have bought a different model.
  15. Research different pools.
  16. Wash the pool.
  17. Leave the pool outside while I make lunch.
  18. Wait for the rain to stop.
  19. Realise it’s midnight and I haven’t packed for my holiday.
  20. Miss the next heatwave because I’m on holiday
  21. Come across the pool again while pruning. Drop secateurs in an overgrown area of the garden and decide to spend the morning putting the pool up instead.
  22. Wash away dirty rainwater and slugs from the pool liner.
  23. Try and fail to identify which beam/leg is which, the tiny stickers having disintegrated long ago.
  24. Kick myself for not replacing the stickers.
  25. Receive urgent email. Go inside to reply on my laptop.
  26. Spend the next few days translating during a heat wave, wishing I could cool off in my pool.
  27. Wash the pool.
  28. Try to remember where I put the instructions.
  29. Download and print the instructions again. Find the previously downloaded instructions on the printer.
  30. Try to figure out which parts of the 19-page manual I actually need
  31. Try to follow the 11 steps in the booklet. Lose a page. Remember I have 2 copies. Realise the same page is missing from both.
  32. Download the instructions.
  33. Notice Sage is open on my laptop and decide it’s a good time to to revolutionise my invoicing process.
  34. Find the instructions on the printer a day later.
  35. Try to remember where I put the pump/chlorine/rubber ring.
  36. Buy new pump/chlorine/rubber ring.
  37. Put the pool up.
  38. Try to follow the 11 steps in the booklet and finallly succeed in putting the pool up.
  39. Receive text from the Environment Agency warning of flooding in my area.
  40. Cover the pool as it begins to rain and try to remember what I’m supposed to do to prepare for a flood.

Needless to say, this year I failed (although I did make it to step 19) and the pool stayed in my shed.  I missed out on my favourite summer tradition because it all became too much. 

In October I stumbled across the pool while stacking logs in the shed. Sometimes I feel like a 19th-century archaeologist: excited by the discovery of ancient artefacts but with no thought for context, long-term strategy or record-keeping.

Anyway, I started thinking about ways to make the whole thing less traumatic.   Since turning word salad into readable text is one of my favourite tasks, I decided to hire myself to produce some ADHD-friendly pool instructions.

I went through the manual and cut out irrelevant information (on models I don’t own, installing a ladder I don’t have, keeping my imaginary children safe).

Ultimately I turned a 19-page tome into a 7-page quick-start guide. There are 5 clear, concise and colour-coded steps. I used a large font and with one step per page to reduce the risk of getting lost or distracted.

Not for the first time I have been wondering what is stopping businesses from tapping into the ADHD market.  We’re a bunch of impulsive spenders and many of us would pay a premium for simplicity and clarity. 

Why not use a permanent method to identify the different parts of a pool rather than tiny stickers that disappear or become illegible when wet? Why not include separate instruction booklets for different models and for the maintance and safety information?

Given the work that goes into product design, surely these simple changes would be a worthwhile investment? Why don’t businesses care that we hate everything about their product before we have even had the opportunity to try it?

I had a lot of fun with this editing job but should I really have to do this much work every time I need to use something I’ve bought? I hope that the growing emphasis on neuroinclusivity in CSR policies will mean better research into the needs of neurodivergent customers, ADHD-friendly design and clear instructions.

With a growing number of ADHDers getting a diagnosis in adulthood comes greater awareness. For the first time in our lives many of us are beginning to realise that the problem lies not with us, but with businesses that are in décalage with the growth market that neurodivergent consumers represent.

The Miracle of Diagnosis

ADHD affects executive function, memory, focus, time management and so much more. But for me, in the decades prior to diagnosis, the corrosive impact on my self-esteem was infinitely more damaging. Conversely, nothing has had a more positive impact on my self-worth than learning that my challenges were normal and taking pride in the hard work I had put into overcoming them. Diagnosis has set me free.

I understand the reluctance of parents to label their children. I find the term ‘ADHD’ reductive and offensive myself.  But please hear me when I tell you that we already have labels.  They have been assigned by others and they stick to us like superglue. They are with us every second of every day: lazy, flaky, forgetful, loud, difficult, attention-seeking, scruffy, weird, disorganised, naughty, disruptive, over-sensitive, over-thinker, scatty, useless, emotional, obsessive…..

By refusing to acknowledge your child’s difference, you are relinquishing control of the narrative and giving the inner critic top billing. You may shout words of praise from the rooftops and think they will get through eventually. They won’t. Your message will be no more than an inaudible whisper drowned out by the cacaphony of insults in your child’s mind. There is no room for dissent. 

Every lost key, every scolding, every abandoned project, every mistake, every unfinished course, every missed bus, every missed opportunity, every forgotten assignment, every masked trait, every task reminder, every unfollowed instruction….all of these tiny bullets are added to the inner critic’s arsenal and deployed in her daily offensive until apathy is the only retreat. 

There are lesser-known aspects too.  I’ll let you into a little secret:   I wet the bed until I was 11 years old.  This experience was among the most traumatic in my life.  The knowledge that this was down to my brain wiring and that my neurodivergent peers were likely waking up to urine-soaked sheets too would have gone some way to alleviate my shame.

In adulthood I wouldn’t have spent thousands on driving instructors in futile attempts to become a confident driver or beat myself up every time I failed.

Society’s denial of neurodiversity took a little girl who was intelligent, full of ideas, sociable, passionate about justice and curious about the world and turned her into a mute, static, introverted empty shell of a woman.

Yes, ADHD comes with difficulties.  We are more likely to drop out of education, end up in prison, lose our jobs, become addicted to drugs, get divorced…  It’s scary stuff.  But I don’t believe that many of these outcomes are due to the condition itself.  Rather, they are the result of our ignorance and failure to adapt. Embracing your child’s neurodivergence will break down the walls and set them up for a career in which they can thrive rather than a working life characteristed by failure, exhaustion and misery. From Dave Grohl to Richard Branson, an army of ADHD role models awaits to inspire your child and give them a vision for their future. 

I used to think I had no talent, no skills, that anyone could do the things I could.  No big deal. It was always a surprise when I was so enthusiastically praised for my original ideas at work.  They came naturally to me.  I questioned how I could be so lazy, yet still make a decent living.  Then I learned about the extraordinary benefits of hyperfocus.  When I was locked down in a bar in Paris during the 2015 terrorist attacks I wondered why I was so calm when others were panicking. Later I learned that ADHD brains are extremely well-suited to crisis situations.

Having one – albeit imperfect – label allows us to understand ourselves, find our tribe and finally know how it feels to fit in. It enables us to advocate for ourselves and our needs. I cannot describe the feeling of relief and pure joy that comes with being able to talk with friends who get me or the sense of liberation that comes with putting my struggles into words.

In practical terms diagnosis has helped me to find my voice and write about my experience, confidently express my needs and boundaries and ask for help when I need it. It has given me the tools to identify the right strategies for me, even if they seem a little unconventional to others.

This may be hard to believe (because nothing in life is this easy) but the negative self-talk almost evaporated completely the day I found out about ADHD.  Back when I was plagued with depression and pouring money into therapists and self-help books I would have given anything to be given a magic bullet to resolve the turmoil.  I am still in a state of joyful disbelief and gratitude that the magic bullet actually exists. 

Speaking of magic bullets, maybe you’re worried about the health implications of medicating your child? If so, you are probably unaware of the depressing health outcomes for those living with undiagnosed ADHD.  ADHD shortens life expectancy by anywhere from 13 to 25 years in the most severe cases, more so than any other single health threat including high cholesterol, obesity and alcohol or tobacco use.

Some of this may be down to genetics, comorbidities and socio-economic impact, but the fact that accidents are the most common cause of premature death among people with ADHD suggests that behavioural factors are far more significant. This is good news as it means that these outcomes are far from inevitable.

I am very fond of my brain. It has taken me on enough adventures to last 10 lifetimes. But knowledge is power and the evidence backs this up.  The risk of an early death increases with age at diagnosis. In other words, the earlier you find out about the condition, the better the health outcomes.

Believe me, I understand the temptation to brush the flaws under the carpet.  But ADHD is a package.  By failing to acknowledge their flaws, you are denying your child the opportunity to celebrate their superpowers.*

*I know some people don’t like to talk about ADHD superpowers. I do. 

Special Stuff

I haven’t written here in ages because I’ve been working. And before that I was hyperfocussing on (in no particular order) keyrings, colour-coding, magazine-holders, Google Sheets, Alexa routines, Zapier automation, travel bags, transparent boxes, transparent bags, photo storage solutions, blackboard labels, smart plugs, health trackers, go-bags and more.

I have a million draft posts saved up from my last blogging frenzy but many of them have since become redundant as I’ve forgotten whatever strategy I had decided was THE answer that particular week. They languish abandoned in my Onedrive folder, staring at me accusingly. I’m too scared to open them and be reminded of my past enthusiasm and chastised for my neglect.

This post on food popped into my head today as it seems to have stood the test of time. Perhaps it’s because, having grown up in a family that prioritised food, my relationship with it has been one of the few constants in my life. Meals have given me structure when everything else was chaotic and cooking has soothed my mind in a way that nothing else could.

But when I’m in hyperfocus mode everything else falls by the wayside.  Even with my miraculous medication, I’m incapable of focussing on more than one thing at once. Life admin, housework, finances, friends, family and self-care all disappear into the recesses of my mind (unless they happen to be the subject of my focus).

Even the basics like eating and drinking can be a struggle. I am lucky enough to have inherited a love of cooking from my Mum and Dad. More importantly I’m not scared of it. I am comfortable in the kitchen and love to play around with ingredients and flavours. But , whilst I enjoy cooking, it too is a hyperfocus activity, It involves stirring a roux on the hob, keeping an eye on a cake in the oven whilst something bubbles away in the slow cooker and the dishwasher washes take-away containers. A true crime podcast is the essential soundtrack, interrupted only by Alexa’s reminders. The point isn’t to eat but to cook. It’s a standalone activity.

At the moment I’m obsessed with researching Congolese culture, not researching something to eat. My house resembles a crime scene, the dishes have stacked up and the inside of the fridge resembles a science experiment. 

It’s tempting to abandon eating completely, particularly as my medication suppresses appetite. I’ve not mastered this completely but I have a few strategies that help me to get at least some nutrients inside me.

I start translating as soon as the coffee hits my lips and I refuse to waste any of my precious morning focus time on breakfast. I’m probably out of bread, eggs or butter anyway and besides, I’m sick of fending off my cat as he eyes up my marmite on toast.  My solution is Special Stuff©, a term for home-made muesli coined by my parents. 

I combine oats, dried fruit, milled seeds (like this) nuts, desiccated coconut, freeze-dried fruit and – if I’m feeling naughty – chocolate chips in a huge container. I have a scoop-full with milk delivered by my lovely milk lady and throw in frozen blueberries if I can be bothered. Special Stuff© is constantly evolving so I never get bored. It’s a sort of nutritional insurance policy so whatever I consume that day, I know I have got at least some special stuff in my body.

Special Stuff prep

Sometimes I resort to Special Stuff for other meals when I’m short on time or ingredients. It’s got to be better than a take-away, right? (“Must be better than a take-away” is my (admittedly low) bar for healthy eating).

These delicious breakfast bars are a portable, albeit less healthy, version of Special Stuff.  Unlike flapjacks they are made from condensed milk rather than butter so I can store all the ingredients in the cupboard.

My freezer plays a vital role in keeping me fed, particularly when a big translation has turned Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into an unwelcome distraction. When I’m in cooking mode, I batch-cook healthy meals for the freezer like vegetable curry (Special Stuff’s spicier cousin) and brain-boosting fishcakes. I use this recipe but experiment with different flavours and ingredients. Pilchards make them meatier and pickled cucumber gives extra tang. Sometimes I add Indian spices for a change.

Delicious (albeit slightly soggy) fishcakes

Pea and ham soup is another favourite. I wash a ham hock then bring to the boil, cook it in the slow cooker with water, onion, carrot, bay leaf and any veg I have lying around, then remove it and add some dried split peas and cook again. I shred the ham hock and add it back in. It’s super cheap, filling and delicious.

I make a huge vat of cheese sauce for the freezer to use up leftover cheese (yes reallly). I’ve played around with using cake tins to freeze small portions so I can grab the quantity I need for macaroni cheese.

Cheese sauce for the freezer

I have freezer and cupboard ingredients for easy meals when my stock of home-made ready meals is running low.  The top drawer of my freezer contains leftover wine (honestly!) for bolognaise, herbs, spinach (it’s not as nice as fresh but a quick way to get my greens), ginger, celery and frozen onions.

I have a permanent stock of storecupboard ingredients, black olives, tuna and tomatoes for spaghetti sauce being the ones I reach for the most. Sun-dried tomatoes and pickled cucumber are also a godsend since most fresh cucumber ends up in the compost and forgotten squishy tomatoes are destined for sauces. Fishfinger butties are a staple too on the basis that, well, they’ve got to be better than a takeaway.

A trip to Aldi is long overdue

I love cookbooks but rely on them more for inspiration than instruction.  I prefer to improvise rather than be restricted by an ingredient list. ADHD brains can struggle with sequential instructions and miss crucial steps when following a recipe.  For this reason, Jessica McCabe swears by cookbooks intended for the teen market. 

Myself, I am evangelical about the Roasting Tin series of books by Rukmini Iyer.  The Quick Roasting Tin is the one I rely on the most when I have a translation deadline and want to save on time and washing up, but I recommend buying them all. I have friends coming tomorrow and I’m not ready for them. The coconut and lime dal from The Roasting Tin Around the World is going to save my bacon.

Rukmini Iyer’s coconut and lime dal

I’d love to hear your tips on eating healthily (or at all!) when you’re busy.

Time-tracking is fun!

A change management (sacking people) consultant hired by a previous employer asked staff to track our time. Needless to say, this didn’t go well. I was either hyperfocussed on writing to a deadline or dashing from one task to the next. Either way finding the form, let alone filling it in was a struggle. Urgh. Forms. Had I been familiar with AHDH back then this might have been a lightbulb moment. In the end I filled it in with my best guesses and kept my job. And my imposter syndrome.

As a self-employed translator there are no consultants telling me what to do and I have always rebelled against any kind of monitoring. It felt so restrictive and boring! I don’t always work to a fixed schedule and for my brain there are only two times, “now” and “not now” so without tracking I had no idea what I was doing with my time.

Then a client enquired about my hourly rate and I reluctantly got on the tracking train. I have tracked religiously ever since. Here’s why:

⏱️It saves me time

ADHD brains struggle to judge time. I might set aside a morning for a task that ultimately takes just 30 minutes or be forced to cancel social plans because I’ve underestimated a project. Tracking gives me crucial data to inform my decisions so I’m not relying on my own judgement. In short, tracking saves me time.

⏱️It makes me value my time, literally

Having a true picture of the time spent on all aspects of my business helps me to justify my prices in my own mind so I can negotiate with confidence.

⏱️It’s a focus metric

If my tracker shows successive 5-minute time entries, I know my brain is not ready to work and can use brain-boosting strategies to get back on track (see my post on positive emotion).

⏱️It helps me to spot patterns

I can identify times when I am in hyperfocus mode and consider ringfencing those slots for translation, or spot slow periods when I can take a holiday without missing work.

⏱️It’s fun!

If I want a reminder of my achievements, I can check my tracker and give myself a pat on the back. I can compete with myself and try to beat previous scores! Gamification is what has made this particular habit stick.

Toggl ( is simple and easy to use. I make it simpler still by bastardising its functionality. Rather than create a new project for each task, I create one project for each client, one for business development and one for business admin so I can categorise my entries in one click without entering extra data for each new assignment. I can make a note of more granular information on individual time entries if I need to.

Toggl sends a reminder if I have forgotten to track (I can manually adjust time entries) or I am tracking whilst inactive (with an option to delete inactive time).

I can visualise my Toggl entries in my Outlook calendar which makes my work time feel more tangible and gives me satisfaction as my days fill up with blue blocks.

Do you track your time?

Lists, notes and reminders

My core task is translation and I have no problem getting that done. Translation offers everything my brain needs to shift into hyperfocus: novelty, deadlines, accountability, a challenge, interest and a reward. Routine tasks are another matter. Paradoxically, the easier the task, the less likely I am to get around to it. I’ve had fun with to-do list and note apps, playing with categorisation, colour-coding, ranking and scheduling but have always forgotten or got bored of whatever complicated system I had devised.

Some experts recommend visual cues in strategic locations. I have bought post-its in bulk and spent days designing checklists (one redundant example is attached to this post). I have used red wipeable markers to scrawl reminders on every window and mirror in the house until my home began to resemble a serial killer’s lair. These directives quickly become invisible to me (but not, embarrassingly, to visitors), frozen in time like the archaeological remains of an ancient mental state. A hand-written note ordering me to pick blackcurrants has remained on my patio doors since last spring. I think the birds enjoyed their haul. (Note to self: add “clean windows” to to-do list).

Now, I use Alexa reminders for routine tasks like taking the bins out, taking medication and checking my junk mail. When I’m hyperfocussing on a translation Alexa reminds me to eat, hang my washing out and turn the stove off. I don’t use Alexa’s to do-list as it can’t be synced with Outlook but the option is available for Google, IOS, Todoist, Trello and Evernote users.

For everything else, my inbox is my to-do list and notebook in one. Clients email me tasks, so it makes sense for me to do the same. I use the snooze function to set reminders.

My brain is a beehive of ideas but they buzz away quickly if I don’t record them. A notebook is one more thing to forget to pick up and to refer back to. I can use my phone to email myself from anywhere. If I have an idea while I’m researching a translation, I email myself the details and snooze for later. All future tasks can be seen at-a-glance in the Snoozed Emails folder.

This system is great for personal tasks like returning borrowed items or checking in with friends who are having a rough time. It’s the only solution I’ve found to remembering annual tasks like paying subscriptions, feeding my fruit trees or servicing the boiler. Once the task is completed, I snooze it for the following year. I snooze concert and travel tickets so I can print them off when I need them. Tasks that are behind a wall of awful ( may never get done. For these I use all the weapons in my armoury: Alexa reminders, emails, accountability buddies, rewards and artificial deadlines.

How do you manage your to-do list and keep track of your ideas? (This post is in English.

Busting inertia with Asmara Kazmi

I have made my first foray into interviewing. I have no interview experience or video-editing skills but when I came across a Yorkshire-based professional inertia buster on LinkedIn I knew she was someone I needed to talk to!

Asmara Kazmi helps solopreneurs and value-aligned small businesses holistically improve operations and create systems that empower by considering perspective, platforms, processes, and people.

She draws on psychology, design principles and an understanding of systems to solve problems and facilitate change and was kind enough to share some of her insights.

Our conversation touched on decision-making, the inadequacy of language, the importance of self-compassion, over-complicated tech, our mutual dislike of Duolingo and much more.

If you run a small business and want to put some warp drive in your operations, you can book a call with Asmara ( or connect with her on LinkedIn (

Keeping track of clients

Nowhere has inconsistency been more detrimental to my business than in customer management. My failure to maintain records, send pitches, follow up on enquiries, record achievements and re-engage with satisfied customers has lost me a fortune in potential income. My inconsistency has forced me to reinvent my marketing wheel every time business is slow, placing a strain on my executive function and well-being.

My working memory offers little assistance and time-blindness deprives me of the security of a future-focussed system. In short, once clients are out of sight, they are instantly out of mind. I have translated millions of words on scores of subjects and received plentiful praise but much of the evidence is lost.

In many areas I’ve abandoned systems in favour of other strategies. But customer management is immune to positive emotion and too important to leave to chance. So, I’ve set about implementing simple, low-maintenance systems to help me. I use one Google spreadsheet for all enquiries and pitches so I can access it from anywhere. It has columns for all client/enquiry details and every marketing task including dates, rate, referral requests, cards sent etc.

I record assignments in a separate table which I can refer to when I need evidence. Recording customers and prospects is pointless unless I use the information. Pitching my services is not something I enjoy so I use triggers and hooks to nudge me.

Corinne McKay recommends sending handwritten cards to thank prospective clients for their interest. This is effective but it is a chore that takes me weeks to complete (recording contact details-buying card-writing card-writing envelope-buying stamps-forgetting to go to post box-going to post box-forgetting to post card-going to post box-realising I have forgotten card -finally posting card-searching for receipts-recording expenses). Using a handwritten message service means I can tick the task off quickly and save the recipient the arduous task of deciphering my serial-killer handwriting.

Emailing people out of the blue makes me cringe and gives me writer’s block. Having a hook makes the task less daunting but it can be hard to remember details about my client. I snooze incoming emails so I can refer back to a previous conversation or at a later date. Informing clients of my availability at the start of the summer is another stress-free way of remaining on their radar.

LinkedIn posts are a non-intrusive way of staying in touch with clients. I have opted into notifications for each client and prospect as a reminder to comment when they post.

Keeping track of clients is my achilles’ heel and I have a long way to go. I’d welcome any tips to help me on my journey.

Maintaining a consistent online presence

From an up-to-date website to regular social media posts, maintaining a consistent online presence is a challenge. I have outsourced and automated as much as I can to remove any barriers.

My website needs to be user-friendly, both for me and my clients. As a freelancer admin is the bane of my life and, as a customer, digging through pages of hard sell to unearth basic information will send me running into the arms of the competition. The talented team at Xpand designed a timeless, low-maintenance one-page website for me. I used the “capstone” technique” to write a brief pitch and had it translated into French by a colleague.

For everything else, I use LinkedIn. Choosing a single theme for regular posts has removed a barrier to decision-making making it easier to get typing. Writing about neurodiversity, a subject that fascinates me, generates positive emotion and reduces reliance on willpower. If inspiration strikes at an inconvenient time, there is a risk that the idea will distract me from my work, or that I’ll dismiss it and forget to post. I email myself any ideas and snooze for later. I use Buffer so I can write to my heart’s content when I’m feeling inspired and schedule my posts for later. This also gives me the breathing space to edit posts and organise them into thematic clusters. I research annual events to use as a hook and write posts about them in advance. You can automatically post your LinkedIn updates to Twitter (dropdown list in draft post) or use IFTTT to post your other social media updates to LinkedIn.

ADHD brains are particularly susceptible to the dopamine hit of likes and comments. I use the Freedom app to restrict my access so I can check all my notifications in one sitting.

Reviewing and updating my profiles doesn’t offer the same dopamine rewards as posting new content. As I discuss in my last post, accountability is essential for important, non-urgent tasks like this. I book onto networking events like March Marketing Madness to create deadlines.

Recommendations save me the trouble of adding testimonials to my website and I share these unsparingly. My email signature is an effective, low-maintenance marketing tool and a useful insurance policy since I may forget to share my credentials or request testimonials when I’m hyperfocussing on a translation. My signature includes:

– A link to CV and certificates
– A link to LinkedIn recommendations (and brief instructions on how to add one)
– A link to ITI/SFT Guide to buying translation in French and English
– My logo and the ITI logo

How do you manage your online presence?

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