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If you’re just joining us on this journey through how I hack my life to take advantage of my ADHD, I recommend you start with part one, as it has a bunch of definitions and specifics that might be useful to you. Then come back here and read part two.
The first rule still applies: PLAN. If you have a plan, you’re much more likely to find ways that ADHD is beneficial to you. When you don’t have a plan, it’s usually seven hours later and you haven’t done shit with your day.
Part Two: The workday: (8:30am-6pm)
I like getting into my office early. I share an office with four other people, one of whom works for me, and three of whom run a company called The Home T, founded by my friend and biking partner Ryan Shell. Ryan and I got an office through similar circumstances, our businesses were growing, we needed a place outside of our homes to work and be more productive.
While I love being home, I love being in the office just as much, for multiple reasons, the majority of which benefit someone with ADHD. But, with four people in the office, three of whom are running an entirely different company than me, it can get noisy, and super distracting. So here’s how I handle that:
a) I get in before everyone else. Getting in before anyone else allows me to settle into a routine for the morning, focus on things that might not be exciting but still need to get done, and create a workflow for the day. If I can get 45 minutes by myself in the office, then by the time my coworkers come in, I’m already in my workflow, and it becomes harder to get distracted. (Tweet this!) If I come in after everyone else, then I find that I’m distracted by their conversations, by what they’re working on, by countless little things. But if I start first, I keep my workflow going when they come in.
b) My coworkers understand not to bother me when I’m head down in workflow. This is critical. My assistant Adam knows that if I’m in workflow, he needs to let me work and he’ll bother me later for questions or confirmations. Think about it this way: You’re cycling down a ridiculously steep hill, doing about 40 miles per hour. There’s a stop light at the bottom of the hill, and you’re praying it’s green when you get there. Why? Because if it’s red, you’ll lose all that momentum you built up coming down the hill, that’s imperative to help you get back UP the hill after the light. If you have to come to a complete stop, you need to work 4 times as hard, and you’ll only go 1/10th as fast as you were, if that. With ADHD, your brain is going a million miles a minute, all the time, as long as it’s focused on one task. When you have to switch to another task, you have to start from a stopped position again, and that’s detrimental to your productivity. So: to sum it up: Make sure you and anyone who works with you knows not to interrupt your workflow, so you can keep your progress at peak performance.
c) Sounds suck. Sounds make us look up. Sounds make us stop, look around, focus on other things, and forget what we were doing. To counter that, I do two things.
- 1) I’ve installed Noizio on my Mac. Noizio is a wonderful background app that simply plays background noise that I can listen to through my headphones. This background noise could be deep space, a Paris cafe, a roaring fire, whatever. I turn it on, and it keeps out background sounds from my office which could otherwise bother me. I’m writing this with the help of lovely sounds of a babbling brook.
- 2) I invested in a great pair of headphones. I bought the Bowers and Wilkins P7 headphones, and have never been happier. They’re light on my ears, block out the world, and the sound quality is worth every penny. The more I can “cocoon” myself from the outside world, the more productive I can be.
d) H20 and “exercise candy:” At least once every two hours, I do two things. I stand up and drink from a large bottle of cold water. But I do something else, as well, that might seem a little crazy. See, one of the key “negatives” of ADHD is that your body doesn’t produce enough dopamine, serotonin, or other fun chemicals that allow us to focus. It’s because of that (and that almost entirely alone) that ADHD is a real thing. It’s not that we “lack focus,” it’s that we lack the CHEMISTRY THAT ALLOWS US TO FOCUS. Once you realize that, the whole game changes. Your job then, isn’t to fight to get your focus back, because that won’t work. Instead, your job is to fight to give your body the chemicals it needs to focus!
Let me put it another way. Your car needs gas to run. But you accidentally run out of gas one day. Do you spend the next five hours trying to start it anyway, perhaps getting out and pushing it, hoping that by some miracle it’ll start? Or do you go to the gas station and fill up the car??
If my brain doesn’t make the chemistry it needs to provide me the focus I need, then I’ve learned that I have to give it to my brain manually. How do I do that? Exercise candy.
Just like a tiny piece of candy might be enough to satisfy your sweet tooth without kicking you off your diet, what I call “exercise candy” are quick little exercises I can do that don’t require me to change clothes, go to the gym, or get sweaty, and it fills up my “chemical tank” in my brain. For me, exercise candy could be:
- 10 pushups next to my desk
- 15 jumping jacks
- 10 squats
- 10 “chase the rabbits” (if I’m not in a suit,) (otherwise known as “Mountain Climbers)
You get the idea. It takes maybe 25-30 seconds to do a set of one of the above. But it truly changes my brain chemistry for an hour or two. There have been countless studies that say that the slightest bit of exercise makes people feel good. Well, what chemicals in your brain specifically are designed for making you feel good? How about dopamine and serotonin, to start? If I can naturally give myself a hit of those chemicals once an hour, once every few hours, whatever, why wouldn’t I? It’s awesome, and it really, truly works. To sum it up: Do something every few hours that gives your brain the chemistry it needs to focus.
Lunch: For me, it’s all about protein. I just finished eating my lunch for today. Usually I bring it from home (chicken breast, or a salad or whatever,) but today I treated myself and ordered in some fresh Sashimi. If your lunch consists entirely of carbs, you wind up with the “mid-afternoon slump.” That never helps anyone, and it can especially hurt someone with ADHD.
My afternoon is usually similar to my morning, with bursts of work broken up by water and small exercise minutes.
The one thing I didn’t touch on here is meetings – That’s a separate post unto itself, perhaps that’ll be part three, with part four being evenings. (The evenings are where things can all go to crap, really fast. There’s a super-fine line between ADHD and an addictive personality.)
As always, thoughts, questions, comments, I look forward to hearing them below. And of course, thank you for reading.