One of the alleged superpowers of living with ADHD is hyperfocus. If I enjoy something that I’m doing, if I’m really emotionally invested in it, find it fulfilling in a deeply satisfying way, know how to do it backwards and forwards and enjoy exploring all of its aspects… You get the point. If all of that, I and my attention span are golden.
Cooking is a great example. In the twelve years since going broke forced me to reject all fear of my kitchen, I’ve become a pretty accomplished home cook. I’m fearless at the stove, know my way around a pantry, can take a recipe and riff with it up, down, and sideways, no longer need a list to go to the supermarket except (or probably especially) for budgetary reasons… You get the point here too. Besides writing for you, you also want me to cook for you. (Ask anyone who’s ever been to any holiday at my house.)
I’m selfish with my attention span in the kitchen, too. It’s my domain. I may be in there with my noise canceling headphones on, attached to my iPhone 7 playing a nonstop chorus of pink noise. Do you want to raid the refrigerator, refresh your drink, or just come say hi? Your best bet is to send me a text first so I don’t physically chase you out of my favorite room while I’m in the middle of making magic happen.
It’s the same way if you put me in any situation where I’m similarly emotionally invested. Working with a really cool client. Writing my blog (especially if I’m walking around to think kinetically and dictating into my iPhone via my noise-canceling headphones.)
Any trip home.
Every trip to a Disney park. (Whether in Anaheim or Orlando, Ryan has learned I’m like a very directed wind up toy—point me with a touring plan towards a castle park at the crack of down and get out of my way until lunchtime.)
What happens when my hyperfocus loses its way? Ask Ryan about the kitchen disasters that have ended up on our dinner plates when I’ve attempted to multitask instead of following my focus. And though he’s always tried to be nice about it, if my unfortunate meal of heinously burned whatever is going in the trash, his is, too. (We keep a standing frozen pizza on hand for nights like these.)
And here’s an easy multiple choice: how many feet does boiling maple syrup splash when you accidentally knock it out of an elevated microwave? A.) 3 feet. B.) 5 feet. C.) Just kill me now feet.
Still it’s a lot worse with tasks I feel no positive emotional stake in. Hand me a rote, boring, repetitive, or monotonous task and you’d better be prepared later to send in emergency responders, a box of chocolate, or someone else to finish it. You have no idea how late in the morning my cats sometimes eat breakfast. Honestly, sometimes it’s brunch. The clothes hamper is flexible enough to bulge outward and on wheels for a reason. No, I didn’t say I’d call you back in five minutes, I said I’d call you on the next major holiday. Here’s your mail, it says open immediately—I just found it at the bottom of my computer bag.
If nothing else, hyperfocus teaches ADHDers what you love to do and what you do well, almost always the exact same things. In fact, it’s the symptom ADHDer CEOs often identify as the driving force behind their success. Learn what you love to do and do it like a boss. Take everything else that you hate and delegate, delegate, delegate. Unfortunately, my entire staff currently consists of two lazy cats who think I work for them.
But the day I hire a personal assistant, I’ll be on my way to rule the world.
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.