Hyperfocus has been called the ADHD “Superpower,” and lately, much has been made of that.
As someone who has ADHD, and who managed to get along without the aid of medication for 55 years, my perspective is that hyperfocus has its drawbacks.
The only way I ever got things accomplished, before getting treatment, was to just stay at them for a solid block of hours, often foregoing sleep and food for unhealthy periods of time. Hyperfocus was my coping method. Since my “executive functioning” was pretty messed up, because my “working memory” was really bad (trust me, I am very, very, forgetful), I found that if I just stayed in roughly the same place and did just one thing at a time, I could get it done. If I left that one place, I would forget what I had been doing, where I put my stuff, what needed to be done next… essentially, I would have to start over.
Over a period of decades, I developed the habit of avoiding any task until I knew that I could work at it uninterrupted for a really long time. Procrastination wasn’t just avoidance of the task – I was unwilling to waste time and try to do something inefficiently.
In the long run, what that really meant was that I didn’t get much done. Life is complicated. Sometimes, you have to ask people questions, and then wait for them to get back to you. Sometimes, computer programs break down. Sometimes, learning a new process, or a new program, takes a lot of time. Sometimes, people rely on you to come and help them out at particular times, especially when you have a family, and it just doesn’t work to devote blocks of time to your own projects.
So, those projects didn’t even get started.
Even after I started treatment for my ADHD, my old habits stayed with me. I didn’t want to commit to something until I knew that I could finish it. Then, I started to accomplish more, and I over-committed… but that’s another story.
Now, though, I’m starting to adapt. My meds do allow me to keep focus. I can record my progress on a project, put it aside, and come back to it.
The secret is to know when to start. And the best time to start is right away.
Now, I’m starting a lot of things. I am learning to do a lot of things. I’m starting on an e-book series about life with late-addressed ADHD. I’m learning to produce my own music. Together with local chef Crystal Fossheim, hired as an Educational Assistant, I’m developing a new way of doing a Culinary Arts and Enterprise program in a rural high school.
The projects that I do won’t be perfect when I’ve started. But it will be a lot more than what I’ve done up until now.
My latest effort, an experimental audio and video project in which I just harmonize with myself to the spiritual “Let My People Go,” is now on YouTube.
It may take me a decade, but – if I’m allowed to stick around long enough – it will get done, and when I’m done, it’s gonna be good.