Yet again this week I faulted myself for two serious mistakes in how I conduct my personal life. and as I worked through each of them, it occurred to me that lots of adults who are marginally ADHD may have the same issues and not realize either the source or the symptomology.
ADHD is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Usually, it is more prevalent in smart people but its expressions make it hard to actually be the smart we have the potential of being,.
As a result, a lot of ADHD folks tend to self-medicate in order to “slow themselves down” in their minds because one of the more difficult things for us ADHD-types is completion. The brain simply moves ahead of the rest of the world.
Consequently, you’ll find ADHD people in high performance, high stress jobs that are like candy to us. News reporting, flying, first responders and such. It’s grand to be able to run into danger instead of running from it. There’s a lot of discipline to that kind of thing and it makes it a real challenge, sometimes.
Which is something I’ve been personally coping with for years.
The problem goes like this:
- I get an idea in my head, like “I want to build a such and such.”
- I order the parts while my “brain is on fire” and I can hardly wait for the parts to arrive.
- But, while waiting, life intervenes…so..new – competing ideas pop up… I get distracted..
- When parts do eventually show up, now the problem is scheduling the time to use them.
- But, while I was waiting for the parts, care to guess what happened? Even MORE ideas popped up and more parts were ordered (don’t be shocked here) and shortly later I’m swimming in parts by now.
- So, now I have bazillions of other parts – for OTHER hot/brain on fire projects – and they are all vying for my attention.
As a result, not as much gets done as I’d like because I’m spending more time ordering parts and chasing documentation than I’m actually finishing (completion is an issue, remember?) so I get into a loop…
The “self-treatment” has been simple enough, once I focused on the issue (“Why do I have so damn many parts around here?)..
- First I began to log what I was doing with my time.
- Second is I considered (and noted) whether I was working on a future project or actually completing a past idea or project.
- Third, when I discovered I was “futuring too much” and not outputting enough in the completion column in present-day, I came up with a simple answer which is…
DON’T START ANY NEW TASK UNTIL ALL THE OLD ONES ARE FINISHED.
As a result of this “New Years Pact” with myself, I’m pretty sure I will actually still get as much – or more – things done.
Frankly, I have enough projects “in progress” right now that I need to live at least another 10-years just to complete the ones that are underway. That’s just who we ADHD people are: Smart, full of energy, fine sense of inquiry, but the lag-time between starting with an idea and assembling the pieces to actually finish is where a lot of fallout occurs.
I find another thing that helps a lot is to divide anything that comes into my head into one of two general categories.
If something is a “project” then it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In between there are holes in time while I wait for material to arrive and when materials do finally get here, I line them up now in my new “project holding area.”
Projects used to create a terrible mess wherever I went. Scattered all over hell and gone. But then – for no particular reason – about five years ago while I was eyeing what was then a disaster of a shop. Parts, lumber, tools, all over. It occurred to me that I needed to separate current work from pending work in an orderly way.
Since we have almost unlimited space, I set up (in my office for the electronics projects) an area that I refer to as my “project parking” area.
Anyone with even a hint of ADHD will find such an area useful in helping to get a lot more done.
Sure, it looks a little messy, but when you zoom in, you’ll see that it’s actually a highly structured “bull pen” of projects: If the project isn’t obvious, the boxes of parts are all labeled…
At a glance, I can see each of the “projects” and can find one that fits my mood when project time is available. You will see most of the boxes have labels on them, so, for example, one box is an “Outernet” patch antenna so I can build an Az-El mounting so I can get back to pulling down content for my personal prepping library from the Outernet.
As you might guess, this is a lower priority project than, oh, stopping a roof leak, or something like that. And where you see a piece of equipment, it is either a stepchild – waiting for something to be made in order to be RTS’ed – returned to service) (Like that Icom VHF/UHF scanner which is lacking an available computer and an antenna project pending over on the shop side to pull down my own satellite-direct weather imagery, or that DC power supply which I got the parts in to fix – but haven’t yet gotten around to installing since I don’t need another DC power supply at the moment…
Thing is, there’s an order to things.
This “Project Parking Area” is great because, just to give you an example, I ordered a speaker that had to be a particular size (and with a small diameter magnet) to fit inside a power supply for one of my vintage tube type SSB radios. Only place to get it was from a fellow in Ukraine who had collection of old Soviet era speakers and one would fit. Thing is, that was paid for and shipped on December 6 of last year and just arrived this week.
Project parking works…but another key concept for managing chaos in an ADHD life is…
Managing Your “Softs”
These are things to have to be done but there is no particular timeline for them to be done by.
I am trying to keep a reasonable balance between my “softs” and “projects.”
What are some of my ‘softs?”
- Martini time with Elaine – generally about 4 PM but it moves around due to whatever we each have going on. Often, one thing leads to another and we get dinner…er…late…lol.
- Paying bills: No particular deadline, but usually I try to get to the bottom of that inbasket every day or three.
- Taxes and other necessary evils. These things go into folders like my 2018 tax paperwork has its own file. This week, the 2018 “all scans drawer” (will be labeled and go into the storeroom with other past return backups and the finishing of the return is waiting for a couple of forms and the trading platform people won’t have the account download ready to be sucked into TurboTax for several more weeks.
- The yard is a “soft” too. With 30 acres to manage, nature seems like a dandy idea, but needs my assistance with the tractor, pole saws,, lawn mower, and this year we’re planning a huge wild flower area for the birds – which will be applauded by the cat.
- Reading is a “soft” in that I can pick up anything, any time, and chew on it for a while….
One could easily see what goes on around here are nearly total chaos. But no, not really. If Elaine wants to go on a trip, she tells me when to be ready. And when I get wind of a deal, I ask her and then we’re synced up on it.
ADHD can be your best-ever friend in life – if you develop some personal coping skills to manage it.
One CEO I worked for years back was a highly ADHD person. He coped with his “condition” by being meticulous at every step of any process. Drove people crazy who worked for him. He would take forever it seemed to get to highly obvious conclusions to those of us less ADHD than he.
Asked him about it and he admitted “George, it’s the only way I can make sure I do things right. When I don’t stick to processes – even if they seem to take more time, I end up making obvious mistakes. And that eats up more time fixing things that doing it right in the first place.”
There may be something to it.
A while back, I bought a second “component tester” for my electronics bench. years back, I thought the CEO with ADHD was a little nuts for checking every resistor value and so on before letting something pass through his approval. Now I appreciate that may not be such a bad idea..
Oh, sure, I can look at a capacitor with “104” written on it and assume it is a 0.1uF cap. BUT, more than once I have found that what should be one value can actually be off by more than 20 percent and that’s enough to make a piece of equipment function marginally, if at all, depending on whether the component was “mission critical” or not.
I don’t have plans to put everything in my life in a planning program (like MS Project) because to my way of thinking that verges on OCD. (Interestingly, my son’s ham call sign is KF7OCD which he uses as KF7 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: which spoken on 20 meters phonetically…)
For now, I’m using the system borrowed from an attorney pal back in 1970, or so. Walked into his office one day and every horizontal surface in the room was covered with stacks of paper. Floor, desk, chair seats, window ledges…
“What the hell, John?”
“File by Pile, George. Fast, efficient, and you can do it anywhere.”
“Project Parking” is like that, except all the piles are in one area or series of shelves.
The biggest problem I’m still working on is that you have too many interests.. and as a result….the number of piles can multiply like rabbits like they have around here.
Time for a drop more of that Maoist “criticism-self-criticism” stuff, maybe? But, while “We have the Marxist-Leninist weapon of criticism and self-criticism,” we carefully turn it on ourselves befroe turning it on anyone else, so we can discover where we can be certain that change will be implemented…
Write when you get caught up…