This goal predates 43things by several years. I learned about the existence of something called ADHD six years ago, but have been aware that something was wrong and not working the way it’s supposed to work for about 20 years (I’m currently 35). And I didn’t delay trying, in fact my whole career orientation (educational software) is based on my early attempts to handle the problems that at age 15/16 I suddenly ran into at school. Before that I managed very well by simply attending, after that I had to actually study at home, which never worked. Finished school on a rather weird path just to see the problems multiply in university. First indication that “more freedom” can actually be a problem.
Luckily I specialize in exotic and hip computer problems, so there was always a niche for me, where my rather chaotic behavior was tolerated as long as the results were okay and my “unconventional” approach (to everything, incl. communication) was simply seen as part of me being a geek.
Since 1994 I have worked in a couple of jobs, alternating as employee and self employed. It’s very obvious by now that I’m the more efficient the more structure the job provides. Unfortunately I prefer to be self employed (I am again since 2003) where structure is something I have to define, which I usually fail to do or fail to implement.
So dealing better with ADHD means introducing and maintaining (more) structure. And from all I’ve experienced myself and heard from others, this has to be done in a very strict manner. “Happiness in slavery”, where slavery is not an option, but the key to success. This may sound at least strange, but after a decade of trying every organization method you can think of or can buy a book about even hiring someone to regularly beat you with a stick if you don’t concentrate on what you’re supposed to do becomes an attractive option (the zen master version).
So what have I done recently:
1) I joined a support group for adults with ADHD in Berlin. Primary goal was to collect some addresses for treatment/coaching, since researching these from the health care providers didn’t result in anything. Well, it resulted in “good luck finding anyone who has experience with adults, we don’t know any although this is requested often”. Pretty bad for a city with 3.4 million inhabitants. I got some addresses from the group, but more important was that I got an impression how others cope with ADHD under medication (I’m not on anything). Let’s just say that while I had some hopes in Ritalin etc. before seeing them, I am now back to having to handle this by behavior modification via coaching/training/tying myself to a chair. I actually tried the tying thing, it even worked in a very limited way. Not really worth it though.
2) The next approach therefore is implementing GTD (another goal on 43things). Seems like something that might work. In contrast to most other time management methods its basic principal seems to be to reduce you to a brainless robot as far as planing is concerned once you have listed all your projects and action steps. It uses flow charts and algorithms to decide what to do. No wonder it’s popular with programmers, who else would sacrifice free will for a decision method that could be performed by pocket calculator? If only I had this pocket calculator …
Has it worked so far? Not really. I’ve done some things, but so far I haven’t even finished the book, my project list will have grown tenfold once I’ve entered everything, so I have not entered slavery mode yet. I’ll see if it works once I’m there.
3) A third step: I stopped discussing ADHD with “normal” people. It’s just a waste of time. For them it’s just a question of organization and self discipline. OF COURSE IT’S A PROBLEM OF ORGANIZATION AND SELF DISCIPLINE! MORONS!!! But knowing that does not really help. And I’ve tried any trick you will ever think of. So telling me for the 1000th time that I should “just do it” won’t help. And being annoyed because I reject your proposal if you simply cannot explain how you “just do it” is stupid.
Nobody would give medical advice to someone with stomach cancer just because they themselves have a stomach. But this happens all the time with ADHD. Sometimes I get even worse advice: “Do yoga”. “Eat healthy”. “Set priorities”. “Reduce your ambitions”. Yoga no doubt is a good idea to improve your life in general, but people who suggest it usually have experienced that improvement, but not understood what actually happened to them and now praise it as a general cure. Unless you understand why something has helped you, you should be very careful with suggesting it to other people, since you have no way to predict how they will react to it or if they can do it in the first place. In my experience most people never think about “what actually happened here”, they’re just happy that it worked at all.
The best way to explain ADHD is probably to videotape yourself for a whole day and then show the video to someone at 30 times normal speed. They will not understand what happens, but will “see” what “driven to distraction” means. After that you’ll most likely get a “Gee, I don’t know what to say, I can’t help you”, but at least you’ll save the time spend in useless discussions.
I usually like humans. But sometimes …. I’m obviously pissed.