I guess all my life I’ve had A.D.D. It’s mild and never really precluded me from doing anything. But I don’t think I’ve been able to be as effective as I want to be. I never noticed or accepted that I had mild A.D.D. until a few months ago and around that time, I started thinking about methods to work with it.
The A.D.D. brain is an interesting one. It’s creative, often thinking down multiple paths around the same time. This can be good or really bad, depending on the context.
But I’ve noticed that my A.D.D. has gotten better ever since I started programming full time.
Most of the work that I did pre-engineering was done in Word, email or in person. With the first two, it was pretty easy to do that work without paying my full attention to it. I could write a paper for school and watch two football games at the same time.
The thing is, you can’t really write code without thinking about it. Most of the time when I’m writing code, I thinking about the information that I’m passing from one place to another, if my syntax is correct, if the data is in the right format and if it’s as clean as I want it to be. I think a lot about writing tests to catch edge cases and how to refactor what I’ve already written to be more clever or concise. And it’s really hard to do that with the game on in the background.
I think I stumbled on a really great way to address my mild A.D.D. When I code, I have to dive in deep. Coding requires my full attention and I think that my brain has started to reconfigure itself to optimize for long periods of intense focus.
When I notice A.D.D. rising, I put on my headphones, start an album from the beginning, make sure I know what the task at hand is and start by breaking that task down into smaller mini-tasks. From there, I know exactly where I am and what I’m doing next.
Ruby on Rails. Zack on Rails.
It’s nice. I can let the A.D.D. run wild when I’m thinking about a problem or how to solve it but when I sit down to solve the problem, I force myself into that zone and try my hardest not to let anything in while I check mini-task after mini-task off on my list.
Some days are better than others but I think that since my primary job is to focus intensely, building software, my brain has started to realize that sometimes, it gets to calm down and just do one thing, instead of six.
If you have A.D.D. or thoughts on the subject, I’d love to hear about them on the Hacker News Discussion.
I’d also be humbled if you follow me on Twitter.
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