I’m reposting this as a non-ask because I forgot some things.
This is a really old question that I haven’t got around to answering for months because I wanted to be thorough about it.
As a freelancer with pretty crippling ADHD, my life is a living hell of disconnected thoughts and impulses.
Even as I type this, I keep stopping myself—“maybe I should make an illustration,” I think, furrowing my brow. “Nah. It’s just a Tumblr ask. Who cares?” Then, thirty seconds later, I stop again. “But people read these. They like them. If I add illustrations maybe it will be cooler and more fun.” And so on.
Then I turn away from my laptop entirely to play a few more minutes of Kingdoms of Amalur. That lasts 5-20 minutes, and then I’m standing up and walking around and following some other impulse.
I was diagnosed with this when I was 11, along with my father, and retroactively, a long, long line of easily-distractable, eternally-inspired artists and engineers and writers stretching back into the twigs and branches of my family tree. There were strange, twin spinster great-great-aunts. Institutionalized sisters here, troubled soldiers there. Uncles who simply got up and left. Anyway.
Methods had to be developed. Self-policing, of various shades of severity. I warn you, the suggestions I outline below are not foolproof.
An online to-do list that is stripped down to its bare bones. I use this so much that I actually made it my homepage. Every time I wake up, open the laptop and start up my browser for some sweet sweet internettin’, there’s my to-do list. It hijacks my attention away from whatever dumb thing I was about to do on Tumblr and presents me with a more interesting alternative.
An absolutely brutal app for OSX that blacklists domains of your choosing until a timer runs out. Cannot be turned off by the application itself, restarting your machine, or deleting the application. This is the nuclear option—when you absolutely, positively, cannot look at Tumblr for the next four hours, accept no substitutions.
- Tea, and other nostrums
People with ADHD usually have something wrong with their brains in a chemical, physical sense. It’s complicated—it has to do with not getting enough dopamine or serotonin, but boils down to burning through feelgood chemicals a lot faster than you should, leaving you groping around for something else to stimulate your brain before you fall into ennui and depression Caffeine helps with this. It calms you down, lets you focus for longer, and recently theanine (present in tea, hence the name) was found to boost production of serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters and generally help with depression. This is why you find a lot of disorganized people with savage tea habits, like myself.
Self-medication is allowed, folks. And since the majority of American artists will never have health insurance, you have to find what you can. I will refrain from recommending anything more potent than tea due to potential liability issues, but there are options.
- The “Dad With an Egg Timer” Method
Get a timer. Online Stopwatch works, if you don’t mind how incredibly ugly it is. Set the timer for 20-40 minutes. Work until the alarm goes off. Now set a new timer, for 5-15 minutes. You get to fuck off and do whatever you want for this period of time. When your break is over, set a new work timer for 20-40 minutes. Repeat. Make sure the actual timer is facing you at all times—egg timers are nice because they make a little whirring sound. The trick here again is hijacking yourself so the stopwatch catches your attention before Tumblr, Gmail, or staring at a wall does. Dad used to do this to me when I had to do something that required more than 15 minutes of focus—say, writing a research paper on space stations—and it does help when there’s a second party keeping you focused. Which brings me to…
- Super Nag Bros™ / the Accountability Buddy System
Sometimes all you need is someone to be accountable to. Designate one of your friends as your Accountability Buddy (Accountabuddy, if you’re nasty) and stay in contact via SMS or instant messenger. Run each other’s stopwatches. Offer encouraging remarks, including but not limited to:
- “You call that a cover letter? I’ve seen more personalized greetings on boxes of tampons.”
- “Your gesture drawing look like a dishrag.”
- “I bet Andrew Hussie would be re-opening Flash right about now, instead of crying and puking like a babyman.”
- Chore Wars
Taking accountability buddies to their logical conclusion, Chore Wars is a doofy website that allows you to make your to-do list into a faux-D&D campaign, and embark upon it with your friends to earn XP, gold, and items.
Recently I promised my friend Cosmic Tuesdays a drawing if she finished her cover letters. It worked, and since she had no idea it was going to be a stupid drawing, she was suitably motivated.
That’s about all I can think of right now. Good luck, lil’ buddies.