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Discussion on: Managing your ADD/ADHD and coding

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Andrew Buchan

I don't have ADHD, but I do have insane concentration issues. I'll skip the external issues such as muting notifications on your phone and muting co-workers with cold stares, and offer a solution to the two code-related issues which trip me up.
The first thing that knocks me out of kilter is when I'm unsure what I should be doing next. This typically happens after completing one task or hurdle, and I end in "now where was I?" state. If my brain hurts figuring that out, that's when I reach for a distraction. Its quite insidious: I don't notice it happening, but in retrospect it's quite clear. One solution to this is to always work within list, so that you have a instant answer to the question "when I finish this what's next". This is why a list of tickets, a list of unit tests to write, or to make pass works so well. Fixing an issue also keeps you focused: your plan of actions is guided to an end. It's when you are doing open ended architecture or design work where things go wrong, not so much because the work is open ended, but because of how often you end up unclear about what's next, and hence reach for the distraction. Try to turn all work into lists.
The second thing which triggers my distraction is when the task is too easy or boring. It sounds stupid but that really is the second biggest focus problem I have. Stupid problems require stupid solutions, so use a stupid psychological trick for that. I convince myself that there's a catch: that even though the task seems straightforward and boring, something unexpected is going to go wrong, so I need to keep my eye out for it. That changes the task into something more interesting that I can actually make myself do.