ADD, A curse or a gift?
I am posting the article in hopes that it will help someone else make sense of their situation.
A quick overview: I was diagnosed with ADD when I was in first grade; at a time when doctors were handing out medications like candy. For better or worse, the decision was made for me to be on medication until I was in Highschool. My last year of Highschool, I was taken off the medication in order to meet specific set of job requirements of the time; this was a change for everyone who knew me. My entire personality changed, it was a night and day difference.
A radio on Seek:
Everyone has a different thought process; it has taken me a while to figure mine out. It was not until recently that I figured out my mind is a like a radio that is on seek. I jump topics based on key word triggers, obtain the information I need, then switch to a different channel. What appears as a chaotic disarray of topic jumping to other people is actually storing information based on references.
There are specific tools that help me throughout the day:
- Outlook Tasks – This allows me to keep track of random tasks people request during the day. I can drag an e-mail over and it becomes a task with a checkbox.
- Interruptions – Such as manager requests and the old fashioned cube visit, I write things down and transfer it to outlook. (In some cases, I let them know I was not listening, as in the last item.)
- A Journal – I keep a journal, but not in the sense you would think. It is a key word and highlights of information related to the key word. It is not full sentences or anything that is really meaningful to other people; just enough to tune into the channel I was on when I wrote it down.
- Time Chunking – This is a method of time management where you define blocks of time to work specific items. To keep my schedule fluid and keep my mind engaged, I use 15 to 30 minute increments. This allows me to switch topics quickly.
- Break Up Large Tasks – I break most of my large tasks into small ones, which allow me to switch between them rapidly. Some people work a single large task until completion, I work multiple small tasks associated with a larger project.
- Multiple Tasks At Once – This one takes some planning to do, but the basic concept is, you start something that requires minimal attention and work something that requires focus, checking on the other item with time chunks. This is the same as starting the washing machine and going to sweep the floor of your apartment.
- Recap The Conversation – This one I picked up from conference calls, I actually recap my key words with an action item. For example, “Alright, I will fix – X, Y, Z and you need it by Close of Business.” This allows the other person to change their mind, but assures them I understood their request.
- Let People Know You Were Not Listening – This last one is probably the weirdest one. Sometimes you get distracted with thoughts or you are right in the middle of something and people interrupt you but the interruption is not started with some kind of greeting or you thought the conversation was over and you moved to a different task. It is awkward at times, but it is ok, people understand that you are busy and know when they are interrupting. I politely say something like, “I am sorry, I was distracted with <task I was doing>, could you repeat that?”; in some cases it is just, “I was not listening, can you repeat that?”.
A long time friend of mine told me recently, “You are a dabbler, accept it.” His comment was in reference to starting a side business and focusing on a single thing. Focusing on a single thing for a long period of time is probably one of the hardest things for me, but with the tools above, it is doable. It just takes more planning before I can start. A previous co-worker of mine who I admire for her drive mentioned to me, “You go from C to Z in order to get from A to B and arrive at B when everything is said and done. You get stuff done quickly, I just do not understand how.” It caught me off-guard and I did not fully understand what she meant at the time, but it was a compliment. Her comment made me stop and think, I process things different, but I am still efficient at what I do. Recently, I had someone from a different department thank me for being able to pivot between tasks and teams. This person brought it all together for me; the tools I employed to improve a shortcoming actually worked in a high stress, highly volatile environment.