Are you an Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder sufferer? Should I say “sufferer”?
Some of the symptoms you may have if you have ADD are:
- problems getting organized
- problems staying focused (decreased ability to screen out distractions)
- delays in starting and completing your work
- troubles in managing your time and money
- difficulties in remembering all the small things in your everyday life etc…
Even if you are not experiencing any of these symptoms, today we apply shorter and shorter time-boxing on all of our activities. We get bored so easily. We need something to stimulate us all the time. We jump from one activity to another often and fast.
Need for constant stimulation, getting bored easily and having problems to stay focused on one thing for too long (where “too long” may be as short as 5 minutes) have become global conditions.
What to do with a seemingly unfocused mind? Some chemicals may help relieve the symptoms, but maybe we can change how we deal with ADHD or a condition with similar symptoms in the first place. What would happen if we would not fight it, but tried to embrace it? Are there some good sides to The Condition? Yes, there is always that other side to every story. Intensity of experience one can achieve, for example.
One advantage – the ability to hyper-focus
While grown ups with ADD sometimes have a hard time maintaining attention, those same individuals often are able to “hyper-focus” for long periods of time on something they find interesting. They can even be compulsive about it, losing the concept of time, spending hours engaged in the activity, oblivious to their environment and even to their own needs.
This ability to hyper-focus can lead to amazing achievements, discoveries, and creative breakthroughs. (Also, it can get one severely hungry, dehydrated, sleep deprived and not very popular among his family members… but, let us focus on how to use the positive sides of The Condition, while minimizing the negative ones).
Jack London, one of my favorite writers, said that longevity and intensity usually do not coexist. I do not remember where I read that one, but – this another quote by him is quite famous, and it addresses a similar theme:
I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.
Make it short and intensive. Be entertained. Get your daily dose of endorphins.
Short and intensive works for me as a writer. I write flash fiction. Some would say that if a story contains up to 1000 words it classifies as flash fiction; 1000-5000 words, it is a short story. It is fast to read. If it is good it clings for some time. One is able to deliver a real punch in that form, it is challenging and fun to write. The best of all is that it makes me entertained. Writers deserve to be entertained, too. One should enjoy what one does, and the other way round – one should do what one enjoys.
Having this in mind, I am asking you programmers out there, who are reading this – are you having fun when coding? You should.
Time-box, hyper-focus and have fun. Get those endorphins flowing. If you manage to focus intensively and achieve what you want in a short time, you will get the slack, that wonderful slack! And do not overdo your intensive focusing moments, enjoying them too often is not maintainable in the long run. They are draining your powers, they absorb you and make you tired if you over-consume them. We are all different, try to pin down your own magic formula.
Attention Deficit Disorder/ADD Online Test (use only as an indicator of potential ADD/ADHD). I read somewhere that 80-90% adults who have this condition are undiagnosed.
Some researchers claim that whopping 40-50% of programmers show statistically significant amount of ADD symptoms. Those numbers are only a speculation, as far as I am aware, but it is probably true that certain professions may suit and attract certain type of individuals better than others.
My other blog, short stories and flash fiction.