You know, you don’t have to have ADHD to be horrible at prioritising, but it sure doesn’t hurt…
Give me one thing to do, and whilst I doubt I’ll get it done, it won’t cause me too much stress. Give me two things to do, and the heat will rise a little, but I’ll be all right. I doubt I’ll get round to them, but I doubt they’ll keep me up at night. Give me three things to do, however, and you will see me crumble before you like a digestive biscuit in a milkman’s fist.
Now, you might be thinking, “Well that sounds a bit like me – I struggle with knowing what to do sometimes. I certainly don’t have ADHD.” And you’d be absolutely right. Like almost all of the symptoms of ADHD, finding it difficult to prioritise is merely a more dramatic and extreme version of something everybody with a pulse experiences. The only difference is in degree.
I used trouble with prioritising an example, but it could have been anything. Mood swings, feeling restless, having trouble staying focused on something, having trouble getting yourself not to focus on something… the list of symptoms is long, and none of them are altogether that unusualy or peculiar. If you’re neurotypical, these things affect you from time to time, and to a manageable degree. If you have ADHD, they affect you a lot (or all) of the time, and to a degree that makes it more difficult to get on with your life. That’s the only difference.
Which brings me to the point of this piece: when it comes to trying to get things done, pretend you have ADHD, whether you actually do or not. (I obviously don’t mean diagnose yourself with what is a genuine and complex learning difficulty. I mean make-believe – pretend temporarily that you do, as an experiment.)
The thing is, us ADHDers can’t afford to mess about. Most of the “normal” way to do things don’t just not work for us, they make us want to gouge out our own eyes. And so what normally happens is that we make ourselves miserable trying to do the “normal” way, and to get along as a square peg in a round hole in this world.
And yet… the “normal” solutions to life’s problems aren’t generally anything to write home about, whether you have ADHD or not. Most often, they’re just the status quo. The way we do things round here. Doesn’t matter if they get great results or not… they work just about well enough that nobody thinks to question them.
That’s where having ADHD comes in handy – whilst a neurotypical person might not like doing things the standard way, our breaking point comes a lot sooner. We crash, we hit a wall, we can’t go any further. And then we try to think our way round it. And sometimes, just sometimes, we think of a brand new way of solving a problem.
Now, if these solutions happened upon by ADHDers only worked for people who had ADHD, then I’d stop typing right now. But that’s the point – they don’t. A solution is a solution. And it’s not that only ADHD people could come up with these elegant solutions, it’s just that we get frustrated with the standard operating procedure a hell of a lot quicker.
We find another way because we need to. But everybody is welcome to the spoils.
A great example is Ryder Carrol and his Bullet Journal method. An arty kid from Brooklyn with ADHD, he struggled for years trying to be focused and productive before eventually stumbling upon this incredibly unique way of journaling. If you don’t know about it, clink the link above. But the point is that this novel way of journaling really helped him solve his personal problems, he started showing other people, they found it helpful too, and now hundreds of thousands of people all over the world are using his system, as well as taking it in all kinds of interesting directions. Importantly, people without ADHD are using it.
I’d like to find and give you lots more examples, and maybe I will tomorrow, but for now, I’ll just sum up what I’m trying to say:
If you have ADHD, then solutions arrived at by ADHDers are more likely to work for you than the standard advice is.
But if you don’t have it, the solutions arrived at by ADHDers are still more likely to work for you than the standard advice.
So if in doubt, pretend you have it. Next time you’re struggling with something that seems quite trivial and “everyday”, and the normal Googleable solutions don’t seem to be cutting it for you, then Google your problem followed by the word “ADHD”. It won’t take you long to find some space cowboy out there on the interwebs, offering some mad but perfect solution to your difficulties.