Your Mind Is an ADHD Comet. Take It For a Ride.
No process better defines the "Oooh, shiny!" moment more than the ADHD tendency to stop one project to begin another at the drop of a hat. This week, I want to talk about a similar tendency: collecting projects like shelves collect dust.
Sometimes we don't abandon projects; we gather them about us to ward off boredom. Many of us with ADHD know that we'll likely grow tired of our current project before it is finished. In fact, we plan on it. This is how ADHD manifests in me. Working on one project at a time seems like torture. Better to have an armload of projects to work on. We can cycle through them rapidly whenever boredom threatens and keep ourselves mentally stimulated. The problem is that at some point, one picks up too many projects to be working on simultaneously. Either quality will suffer, stress will increase, or nothing will be completed.
Unmanaged ADHD: A Disorder of Extremes
This is another one of those ADHD symptoms that people often say "But everyone has that problem!" As in the case of project abandonment, it is true that everyday people struggle with project collection. It is important to remember, however, that unmanaged ADHD is a disorder of extremes. We all can have sleepless nights, but we aren't all insomniacs. We all can be a bit overweight, but we aren't all obese. Yet, too often I hear somebody dismiss ADHD as a figment of imagination; usually mine, despite the mess my life was in. Would that same person dismiss obesity as an exaggerated perception? Why can't extreme distractibility be considered a "real" condition?
A good question to ask would be "what is the difference between this and the normal variety of project collection, and what can be done about it?"
First, the difference. I once had a guy drop by for a visit and jokingly say to me "I was wondering what you were working on this week." No, I didn't laugh, but it sure made an impression on me. The ADHD adult will leap into a project like a flaring comet. For a short time, it is a beautiful and glorious thing to behold. Then the flare peters out and suddenly the comet has changed directions. If you were to watch a comet zig and zag across the sky you might become fatigued watching it after awhile and wonder what it's problem was. Couldn't it just head in one direction and finish its journey? Geez!
That guy got a kick out of my passion that changed with the wind the way we enjoy watching Jim Carey bumble about. After all, what is passion if it doesn't ever amount to anything? The trick, therefore, is to tap into that fury and passion. If the comet could be harnessed and rode like a bronco through the sky from one end to the other, what a glorious sight that would be. Then instead of bemusement or contempt, there would be respect and admiration. ADHD would then be a blessing.
Here are four things I do to rein in my comet and keep it headed in one direction:
- Acknowledge you need to do more than one thing at a time, but limit your projects. I try to keep it down to three.
- Pick one project to be the main one—the one that burns brightest for you is the one you have a greater chance of sticking with. This is true despite the threats of boredom and drudgery that occur when the initial flare of interest has passed.
- Make plans to work on those projects. I write my projects into my daily list of ToDos. I prioritize the main project to take most of my time, but allow myself to be distracted by the other projects.
- Periodically, reevaluate your projects. Are you still passionate about them? Have they been replaced? Do you need to prune again and refocus, or is your mind trying to tell you that maybe you're working on the wrong projects?
Each one of these points is worthy of more detailed discussion, so I hope you will join me in the next few weeks as I tackle each one. I struggle with this aspect of ADHD most, yet I've had a lot of success lately that I'd love to share with you. If you've got a comment, please take time to leave it below. It could help shape the discussion going forward.
Cootey, D. (2010, April 6). Your Mind Is an ADHD Comet. Take It For a Ride., HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/adultadhd/2010/04/your-mind-is-an-adhd-comet-take-it-for-a-ride
Author: Douglas Cootey
Thanks for your comment.