Several of my relatives could be textbook examples, and I guess I’d long suspected I had some of the tendencies of ADD. Maybe that’s why I found myself crammed against the back wall in a packed SXSW session entitled “Tools and Processes for ADD Project Managers and Entrepreneurs.”
Aside from being fascinating, it was incredibly liberating. I felt some of the mysteries of my personality fade away.
Jason Ford, CEO of Feed Magnet, and his therapist, De Sellers, alternated sharing his experiences and her more clinical explanations.
Sellers explained “ADD is like a snowflake. It manifests uniquely in each of us.” She went on to point out that women with ADD rarely display the stereotypical hyperactivity. Interesting.
As they continued, I felt breakthrough after breakthrough – acknowledgment of quirks I’d felt, but couldn’t explain to anyone else.
Here are some of my biggest take-aways.
Identify your preferences, and work WITH them.
My hyperfocus is a gift. When I can harness it, I’m insanely productive in a very short period of time. Instead of hiding it, I should structure my schedule to take advantage of it.
I tried, but I can’t take notes on the iPad. I missed my Moleskine. I like physical things better than virtual things. (That’s also why I don’t try to live-tweet anymore.)
I like presentations to focus on the big ideas and be inspiring. I can study specific strategies and tactics in a book.
Acknowledge your weaknesses, and build support systems to mitigate them.
I need a clean desk and a clean inbox. Otherwise, I can feel the distractions pulling at me. Spending a few minutes at the beginning and end of the day to tidy them up gives me tremendous peace of mind.
When I’m focused, I forget about everything else. I also have a tendency to assume my team is focused on the exact same thing as me. (It’s odd and irrational; I know.) I’ve learned that what feels like over-communicating to me is probably still not enough.
I can’t handle long meetings. Staying seated for more than about 4 hours is extremely uncomfortable. (If you want me engaged, 1-2 is ideal.) I’ve started taking a book. When I can read, I can withstand just about anything.
Remember the Milk has been a pot of gold for me. I’ve trained myself to use it as my personal cockpit, letting it’s directions guide my actions. When I feel lost or unfocused, I immediately turn to it.
We can use the power of place, training ourselves to do certain things in certain places. For me, I make tough phone calls in the car.
When we procrastinate, it’s usually not in the traditional sense. It’s because we’ve found something else more exciting. We can use deadlines and social pressure to overcome that. Having a partner that can gently hold you accountable is very powerful.
Be aware of your addictive personality.
I think I knew this one, but I hadn’t ever put it into words.
It’s why I decided to never gamble again a few years ago. I’d never lost tons of money, but I could feel myself slipping out of control at the blackjack table. Thankfully, I’m blessed with an aversion to alcohol. I can’t stand the taste. But I did have a nasty Dr. Pepper and cheese enchilada habit for a decade.
Now, I run and I read, sometimes to extremes. And I’m just fine with that.
More than anything, I realized the power of being self-aware. I’m stronger simply because I understand how I’m wired. And it’s worth feeling like a zoo animal at times to maximize the benefits of our gifts.
(So if you see me break out a book in an incredibly long meeting, I’m not being disrespectful. I’m just trying to stay in my seat.)
You can listen to the entire presentation here. I haven’t seen the slides posted online yet, but I’ll add them when I do.
Note: I’ve never been diagnosed with ADD and don’t ever plan to be tested. Frankly, I know very little about it aside from this panel. I’m obviously not a doctor, and this isn’t intended to be medical advice.
What do you think? Can ADD be a gift, or is it always a curse?