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ADD and Working Adults

Excellent Article by Lisa Belkin on how adults with signs of ADD deal with full time jobs. One obvious point: many bloggers exhibit signs of ADD as well, and having internet access for a cubicle worker is (for me at least) outright torture.

It is accepted wisdom in A.D.D. circles that certain types of work are a nightmare for those with A.D.D. (accounting comes to mind) and that others are virtual magnets for those with the condition: sales, contracting, waitressing, hairdressing — any job that involves chatting and moving around. Stock trading, acting, law enforcement, emergency medicine — any job that runs on adrenaline and deadline. Journalism is thought to be full of people with A.D.D., doctors and coaches tell me.

A startling fact about the world of A.D.D. is the number of people who are grateful for the disorder, who consider it the best part of themselves. David Neeleman, for instance, the founder of JetBlue Airways, has said that he will not take medication for his A.D.D., fearing that it would make him just like everybody else. ”It’s the source of my creativity and my drive,” echoed Thomas Apple, who was given a diagnosis about seven years ago, when he was in his early 40’s, and went on to create the world’s largest video display for stock market quotations. ”You can think outside the box because you’re not in a box.”

The article tyranny of email raises the question of how email enslavement reduces productivity. Here’s his take on warp-off’s:

Finally, warp-offs. So, what’s a “warp-off”? Well, unlike the other three kinds of interruptions, in which other people interrupt you, a “warp-off” is when you interrupt yourself. Generally this happens because you’re stuck – you don’t know what to do next – so you switch tasks and do something you know how to do. My favorite warp-off is surfing the Internet. Sometimes when I’m working on a tough problem, I have to force myself not to do it. Other possible warps include: reading email (!), working on “fun” stuff instead of “hard” stuff, bugging your colleagues (“foosball, anyone?”), and of course posting to your ‘blog 🙂 Keeping yourself from warping off is really tough, and gets into what motivates people and a bunch of stuff I can’t really tackle here, but the main thing is to be self-aware enough to realize that you do it (everyone does), and strong enough to work on not doing it. I tend to warp when I’m stuck, so the best un-warp strategies for me are ways to un-stuck myself. These include talking to others, taking a bike ride, thinking out of the box (generally above the box – take a bigger picture view), trying to simplify the problem, and relentless application of W=UH (“if something it is too ugly or too hard, it is wrong”).

There are two types of warp offs I have. One occurs when my brain just is not functioning at peak capacity. I try to focus, but cannot and end up spending more time surfing (or blogging) than working. The answer, most of the time, is just to turn off the computer and begin anew. (I try this many a time with personal writing or programming projects as well). Simply blocking Internet access won’t accomplish anything because what you really need is time to recuperate.

The second type of warpoff is distraction-based. Your concentration level is high, but it is directed at many things. In this case, closing down Internet and email (and blogging) could be very effective. On the other hand, it needs to be said that this type of mindset can be very productive for chronic emailers and bloggers. There are some days at work where my best energy gets channeled into blogging, while hardly any of my energy gets channeled into my job. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, if I finish a bout of blogging, I finish on a high which brings me job focus. Also, I can appreciate that I need to have my type of work match my mood. If I don’t spend time blogging about something, chances are that it will keep bothering me until I do blog about it (so I might as well get it over with) .

This accords with Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of Flow; when I am at peak attention, I literally am unstoppable. But until I reach that point, I am one mass of bumbling incompetent mediocrity.

One final thought. Although I enjoy the dizzy delights of my brain and creative imagination, I do feel a bit of envy at people who just don’t face that sort of constant bombardment of distractions.

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