ADHD is a broad term. The main psychiatric text, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), lists a series of criteria to meet for ADHD. But, while the DSM-V has specific criteria, there are:
- many ways one can have difficulty focusing,
- many origins for having these difficulties,
- many reinforcing factors that could be at play, and
- many ways that difficulty focusing can play out in different environments.
ADHD is therefore not some monolithic thing. Some people struggle to function. Others find a working rhythm. Some use medication. Others do not, instead finding certain habits and skills beneficial. Some find rapid changes of focus well suited to their work. Others exhaust themselves, fighting their own minds all day long.
Still, there are commonalities we can look at.
One is the difficulty in realizing a choice when it appears. For example, when in the middle of one thing, another idea comes to mind. “I could work on that.” Whims like these can easily pull attention away. Dropping one thing for another can leave one incomplete mess after another. Soon, clutter fills the room. At some point, one longs for a painful looming deadline to give a sense of focus to cut through the clutter, if only temporarily.
Meanwhile, the clutter itself continues to demoralize and erode confidence.
I could say that learning to close a session well, bookmarking quickly, saving, setting things aside and more would be helpful. And they are! But they are not primary.
Primary is to know you can even do so – that there is even a choice to make. There is a struggle against feelings of failure and a sense that only whim and harsh deadlines can lead the way. A pause to save work may feel like a practice of absurdity.
When pausing, we start to face the feelings of overwhelm. We start to recognize our methods of escape. It is where we can feel that if we don’t finish something now, it will never be finished, causing us to blow through other work, creating more problems.
It also is the time where we can visualize what choices we actually have. We consider what the work even is.
We can think:
- How can I come back to this?
- How can it be out of the way otherwise?
- How can I forget about it now but still feel safe that it will come back when and where I want it?
Those with ADHD may find pausing to be the most difficult exercise of productivity. But it can often be the most important.