Ok, so here’s a topic I haven’t talked about “publicly” so far: I quite possibly-maybe-but-most-likely have some form of ADHD or ADD or whatever. This is probably not a huge revelation to anyone who knows me personally, and especially not to anyone who had the pleasure to work (or even – god forbid – live) with me.
Nevertheless, like many others I never got a proper diagnosis because while it can be exhausting or frustrating at times, I was never really suffering that much because of it. At least not since I’ve been out of school. Since then, in the words of my therapist, I “somehow managed to build my life around it pretty well”. So, why bother with a diagnosis, when the result wouldn’t change much anyway. But because it helps to talk openly about this stuff and because I hate that there’s still this stigma around mental health, here we are. If you are here for Webdesign, WordPress or what-not, feel free to skip ahead to the next post.
The idea for this post sparked originally, when I read this tweet by Cassie Evans, where she told about her own yet-undiagnosed-ADHD, and asked for the experiences of others around medication, and for tipps in times when procrastination and a lack of focus strike really hard.
The tweet, and also some of the answers to it, resonated a lot with me and I’ve been there more than once. I have no experience with any medication, but it made me think about what strategies I have and what worked for me in the past. So I thought I write them down, in case someone (or even just future-me) finds them useful. Of course, this is neither professional advice nor do I claim to have any superior knowledge, it’s basically just a few random thoughts of someone with a similar experience:
- Focus comes in waves. Accept that it’s natural to not have the same amount of focus every minute of every day. Motivation ebbs. Focus ebbs. But they usually come back and “flow” again, as well. Like a surfer can’t surf a wave that isn’t there, sometimes the only thing we can do to get into focus again is to wait for another wave. (This part actually got a lot harder with having kids. Spontaneous actions are hardly compatible with the planning a family requires.)
- Let your brain do, what your brain wants to do! Sometimes your brain wants to wander. An idea wants to be pursued, even if it might not be the most “productive” thing to do, or the thing you set out to do this day. Or week. Go ahead anyway, scribble those ideas for this new art project you might never finish. Write that blogpost draft you have in your head right now. Heck, start to redesign your portfolio. Again. Even if you throw it all in the trash the next day, maybe it is actually a great idea and it would be gone if you don’t grab it in time. Also: allowing my brain the time to do whatever it wants for a moment, can often be enough to get me unstuck for the-thing-I-should-actually-be-doing.
- Learn to trust your ability to meet deadlines anyhow. My brain naturally works best for things that are either new or that excite me a lot. Luckily, it also works quite well, if it gets under pressure. So if there is a fixed deadline approaching, I can usually trust my brain to magically snap into “hyperfocus” mode to get shit done just in time. I don’t say this is not scary at times or that it feels like the healthiest of habits, but so far it did work (miraculously).
- Go outside. Seriously. Hop on your bicycle or go for a walk and get some fresh air – and sunshine if possible – for even just a few minutes a day, even if you’re not feeling like it. Especially if you’re not feeling like it. Clichée, I know. But it works wonders.
- Write your most important tasks of the day on a piece of paper that you keep in front of your face during the whole day. If you are like me, you’ve certainly got enough long lists (sigh). Limit this one to the three or four most important tasks, or it won’t work.
- Trick yourself. If my brain “wants” to jump right onto something (hello, portfolio redesign), I can look at this short list of tasks and use the motivation I have for the-thing-I-want-to-do to get through the-boring-stuff-that-needs-to-be-done. Like dangling a carrot in front of a donkeys face.
- Ask. For. Help. If you have a bad day or even just feel stuck, ask someone for help! In many cases, it’s enough to just talk through the whatever-it-is and explain it out loud will make it easier. It’s like rubber-duck debugging for your brain.
- And if you feel down for an extended period of time, and I cannot stress this enough: Talk to a professional! Call one of the numbers. Get yourself a therapist. It sounds scarier than it actually is.
Apart from the stuff above, there were a few things I picked up from the answers to Cassies tweet, which I found interesting and might try in the future:
- Leave a task open “in the middle of it” at the end of your day. This way you don’t have to find a first-thing to do to get started in the morning.
- I definitely need to read up on “Lions mane“, which some people recommended and it sounds interesting. I mean, what not to like about a fungi that could help with inflammation, anxiety and depression.
- Start work at different times. Maybe 4 pm is just the time your brain is booted up properly, after all? Again, not sure this is something I can still pull off with small kids, at least not regularly, but starting late and working late into the evenings was pretty much what I used to do naturally for my whole life.
- Meditate & breath for at least 2 mins before work.
- Keep stimulations and distractions like social media feeds at an absolute minimum.
- No coffee. Feels counterintuitive on a tired, burned-out day, but I see how this could help. Should also help with anxiety, which is another plus.
Phew. Personal posts, right?
But it’s important to talk about this stuff, and to show that those things affect much more people than we might think. I always enjoy reading posts like these about the experiences of others, so why not writing it down for myself as well.
Oh, and as a side-note: I even kind of like my little ADHD-or-whatever-it-is and think the term “deficit” in the name doesn’t do it justice. Of course it can be a deficit, but under the right circumstances, and if you can organize your life with (or around) it, it can also become quite the superpower at times.
I actually wouldn’t want to trade whatever-this-is for being “normal“. Whatever that is.
PS: If you happen to have ADHD/ADD and have something to add or ask (especially if diagnosed later in life or yet-undiagnosed as well), please send me an email, I’d love to hear from you!