Monday, July 21, 2008

Adventures in ADHD - So What Did I Find Out?

After a month of experimentation, what exactly did I learn about the ADHD obstacles between me and my desired goals?

Night fighting dayThe project seemed so simple. Choose two goals to complete during the month of May. Work towards completing those goals, and only those two goals, and take notes on the types of obstacles you encounter. This was going to be my big stand against ADHD — my showdown at high noon. I live in the West. We have tumbleweed. It was perfect.

Then I had my fanny handed to me by a wagon-load of nitroglycerin pulled by a team of hyperactive horses.

Goal one, to finish the first draft of a picture book so that I could shelf it and focus on my novel, was completed. Goal two, to finish designs for a web project, was not as successful. Turns out, the first goal wasn't such a success either. I was so focused on making the first goal I failed to realize that I wasn't as prepared for my upcoming writer's conference as I thought I was. I thought chapter one of my novel was finished and chapter two was half finished. Turns out chapter one was half finished and chapter two was a random jumble of ascii characters that loosely resembled ideas. Sorta. So much for the best laid plans of mice and men. I had one week before my June conference to fix that mess.

Multi-Irons Syndrome (MIS), the tendency to take on too many simultaneous projects, had claimed me as a victim again. This time I was too focused on one project to worry about the other. The story of my life. In this case I was so convinced that I needed to finish one project before finishing the other that I steam rolled ahead without checking in with reality. Still, the experiment was a success in that it showed me the importance of working only on one or two projects at a time. Otherwise, I'm bound to make careless errors — a hallmark of ADHD.

The greatest symptom of MIS is starting something new before finishing something old. People can do this for many reasons, even those without ADHD. Longtime reader Soozcat offered her take on the problem:

I think part of the reason why this happens is that *starting* a project is always more exciting than the plugging along that comes later--and, of course, *finishing* a project means you've now got something to show for it and that something is going to be subject to scrutiny and criticism. It's easier to imagine you can write a brilliant story than it is to go about writing one. And as long as the project remains unfinished, no one can poke holes in it--after all, it's not finished.

Whatever your reasons may be, we can all agree that it is hard to cross the finish line when you're always leaving the race to start another one. Since I wanted to finish a race or two before I died, I began this experiment. Here are eight hurdles I found that tripped me up:

  1. MIS Addiction: Once I started pulling irons out of the fire to simplify my life, I discovered I was extremely adept at finding new irons to replace them. Or to keep with the race metaphor, I was all too happy finding new races to sign up for after I pulled out of the first bunch. This was my first hurdle to overcome.
  2. It was very difficult just to pick ONE task to work on: Related to boredom, my mind was gasping for new projects to begin.
  3. My distraction time was considerable: This is perhaps the greatest problem I will need to master.
  4. Info Addiction: I am a hard core news junkie. If I'm not distracted, I'm reading news. This is my second greatest hurdle.
  5. Family Life: One thing that really messes with my mojo is family life. Golly gee, you think being a full-time Dad might be a touch distracting? This is my third greatest hurdle. Family throws distraction at me like confetti. I often forget to allow for family life shoehorning its way into my schedule.
  6. Insomnia: My wacky sleep schedule is a serious roadblock to my success.
  7. Focus Myopia: Sometimes the direction I'm heading in is the wrong one, but I'm so determined to win I ignore the signs.
  8. Problems Prioritizing: Related to the myopia, choosing the right race to run, or iron to work, sometimes proves to be a problem.

Imagine that. I find achieving my goals difficult. With a list like that, it is a miracle I get anything accomplished at all. Certainly, May's goals were a challenge. I finished the picture book, but at the expense of a more important goal. I worked on the website, but not with any focus or clarity. I could focus on this list as evidence of what a complete and utter failure I am, except that I did achieve goals in May. Most importantly, however, I made this list. Now I have a very clear roadmap of what to work on. That was what the experiment was all about anyway.

Related Articles:

Multi-Irons Syndrome Burns My Mind

My First Steps at Managing Multi-Irons Syndrome

Progress Report: My Month as an ADHD Shrubbery

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