My mind went for a walk the other day.
It returned after a time with such mixed company,
That I thought maybe it had lost its way.
The new notions, though, they mixed with old.
They composed and compiled, assembled and then beguiled,
Until I saw my mind had been quite bold.
It went off in willing pursuit with glee,
The shadows and crisp light of wanton understanding.
I am quite glad it brought such back to me.
Took a second pass to get the syllable count right.
Lately, I've started doing Khan Academy's "World of Math" while I wait for builds or tests or deploys. It's basically over 1000 exercises that encompass all of math you'd learn if you weren't a math major: from counting up through differential equations. Some of it is absurdly easy, some of it is a nice refresher, a few things I forgot how to do and there is of course a perfect explanation included. It's possible to make meaningful progress in a minute or two, so perfect for those little build breaks.
Generally when I get stuck I go into emacs org mode and just use it to brainstorm about what to do next. If that doesn't work I close my eyes and try and meditate for 30 seconds before trying again.
I hope it's working better for you than for me.
How do you deal with it?
However, if I'd become too bored to do Duolingo, I'd progress on something a bit harder like reading gossip magazines (they use simple language and have emotionally charged content, which makes it an easy read).
Honestly, software development is a really natural field for someone with ADHD. I half joke the reason why I learned how to program is because I hate repetitive tasks, but I think my inability to concentrate on tedious work really was impetus to learn how to program.
My friends in college, all of whom focus fully on one task at a time, used to joke that it was impossible to catch me working, cause I was always doing something else at the same time.
Cal Newport's book on 'Deep Work' covers similar ground.
I don't think I've ever had or ever will have any capacity to isolate a process and complete a large project.
I can hardly fathom the solar Babylon Musk has conjured up in his head
Either that or he's got a secret supply of NZT.
It does speak to several things I've read about the brain though. The higher brain functions are 'new' and rudimentary. It fits in with Moravec's Thesis about AI. I don't see many animals procrastinating or stressing out unless there is an obvious physical stimulus that explains why they're behaving like that. Many of the psychological phenomena humans experience must be related to higher brain function and it being evolutionarily unrefined. In the human species itself there is a wide spread of behavior, where a lot of intellectual people are neurotic as hell (kvetching being quite noticeable) but the obviously less intellectual apparently don't suffer quite as much. It cannot be a coincidence that meditation has the goal for absence of thoughts and so many geeks practice it.
That is the reason why dopamine-raising stimulants actually have a calming function on people with ADHD: they fuel this "suppressing" function of the brain, thus enabling it to calm itself.
My theory about ADHD is that there's a genetic disposition, where people need to move physically in order to have their dopaminergic systems functioning properly. Probably a bad adaption to our rather stationary lifestyle.
On top of that I think that if children are frequently interrupted and confronted with bad emotions they don't learn to focus.
If so, then your inattentiveness could be your mind trying to escape that feeling.
Could it be that you're dreading something that is "implied" by the lecture in a way? Maybe the practise that you feel obliged to do? Maybe the impact the lecture could have on your work or schedule? Maybe just the end of the lecture and back to whatever comes after?
And, I realise I'm leaning myself out of the window here, I think the inattentive type doesn't have the "dopaminergic focus problems" that strong.
He zones out because he is repulsed by given tasks for different reasons. That's the insula and emotions of disgust at play there.
Let me get back to you on a source, ICD10 somewhere.
 Varies based on diet, exercise, rest, vitamins, seasonal daylight, supplements and/or substances.
I'm not sure what this says about me.
Beyond that, I think the next step is doing something active and intentional to improve the mind-body connection -- sleeping and exercising is essentially only refraining from damaging yourself. Meditation, yoga, taiji, breathing exercises -- I don't think you can go wrong with any of those. Especially for people who sit in front of computers all day, minds in the ether, it's important to remember that you're also a body, always also a body.
I think its ridiculous that its not more commonly understood that the "mind" is literally (physically) part of your body. Whatever circulatory, electro-chemical, hormonal, or any other processes are happening in your body are also happening in your brain.
However, anecdotally, exercise (and getting a good night's sleep) has had no noticeable impact on my focus and/or productivity.
Is there anyone else that doesn't feel like exercise doesn't do anything? Or is it because I'm not exercising long enough or with enough intensity to make a difference?
At one point I went from being completely sedentary for about 6 years to spending about 3 months running 2-3 miles a day on an elliptical about 4 times a week with decent consistency. After a while, it did become easier to run further and for a longer period of time (from 2 miles to 3 miles), but I didn't notice any of the mental benefits that seem to be attributed to exercise. I still felt a general "brain haze" and sluggishness that I had assumed was a direct result of being out of shape. I've since gone to exercising on and off for another 3 months before going back to essentially being completely sedentary for several months and nothing about my mental state seems to have changed.
That being said, I do plan on exercising again to ideally get healthy in the longer term regardless of whether or not I get any immediate mental benefit. And I also plan on recording things more diligently to determine if there actually is a result for me.
I have found that hard exercise, requiring mental fortitude to push through is what really helps. Sprints, power lifting, and distance running wear you down physically and mentally. IMO, continually pushing past the mental 'this is hard I want to stop' phase translates to increased concentration and acuity in other types of mental tasks.
It's just far more interesting and satisfying. Telling someone to walk on a treadmill to help their focus is like telling them to watch paint dry. But team sports are dynamic, which I feel suits people such as myself, who have a hard time staying focused on one thing.
What does is playing a sport. Playing pick up soccer gives me a far better workout than lifting heavy objects and grinding on a treadmill, even at high intensity levels.
It's easy to say do these exercises, but to people who have minds that jump around a lot, mundane, boring exercises are not enticing.
After being frustrated by my air consumption on a scuba dive, I got interested in free diving (apnea) training. I found an iOS app called Apnea Trainer that looked promising and started doing the breathing exercises. I've gone from being able to hold my breath for just under 90 seconds to breaking 6 minutes for the first time last week. It also revved up my metabolism (like I said, I'm down 25 pounds) and I've gone from having borderline hypertension (with a family history of stroke) to having blood pressure that's almost worryingly low (usually around 100/50). And, like I mentioned above, it's been good for concentration and stress levels as well.
Wet training (in a pool or body of water) requires instruction and a partner, but dry training is pretty safe to do on your own as long as you don't push yourself beyond your limits on a regular basis.
I'm skeptical that you'd be able to lose that kind of weight just by breathing exercises.
Thankfully I'm not super overweight but I want to be cut. Gotta start lifting again.
I want to run though I think that makes your mind clear or soemthing.
I also paint, but you can probably insert any totally immersive creative pursuit here (music is probably more common amongst hackers). It completely switches brain hemispheres and unlike programming, my mind does not wander at all when painting, and I can literally go to another place for hours. Unlike when swimming, I can't think about programming or anything at the same time, I am completely absorbed in the painting. Paul Graham has lots to say on the subject.
This. Concentration can be practiced. If one is able to keep the mind from getting sidetracked from essentially nothing, it's much easier to keep from getting sidetracked from something. It's a lot of work that can be very frustrating at first (and most of subsequent times too), but it's well worth it.
As a sufferer, I agree wholeheartedly with that label. It's an absolute nightmare to deal with and negatively affects every facet of my life.
And it doesn't allow me to 'think freely and creatively' as the article asserts, it prevents me from continuing to think about what I want to think about. That's very much like saying 'nixing the brakes on your car removes the need for wasting time at stop signs and red lights.' I can't be creative with it because I can't think about something for long enough to nail down a useful idea. I GM pen-and-paper RPGs--but never again unmedicated, I learned my lesson there. Being unable to organize my thoughts enough to run a game or even think of a premise FOR a game is leagues away from 'thinking freely and creatively'.
Personally have it, and my "creativity" in my mind is off the charts. When I occasionally have hyperfocus I can make something from it, but I have the similar issues to you in that I lose focus or am unable to organize myself.
I think the mental illness side of things is very grey. Clearly you have a very severe case, but I don't consider my personal variant severe enough to label as an extremely debilitating mental illness,but I benefit greatly from treatment. I can still function-I get most of what I need to done, but I struggle a lot with it. But at the same time, I understand the problem of not always labeling it as such, because then people dismiss it in its more severe forms.
Really liked this comment.
On the one hand, studies have suggested that ADHDers are generally more creative than their intelligence matched peers. This is true with respect to laboratory tests of creativity  and creative achievements in the real world .
On the other hand, @viewer5 brings up a couple deep points about how we should qualify our interpretations of this research. First, ADHD comes on a spectrum, and is going to affect different people in different ways. So conclusions about the "average" individual with ADHD aren't going to generalize to everyone.
For example, I have the inattentive sub-type of ADHD, but am low on the spectrum. So my ADHD creates all sorts of problems (I'm late to appointments and deadlines, distractible, find it hard to sleep, lose expensive stuff, etc.), but I feel those are outweighed in my case by advantages (e.g. creativity).
Others who are further along on the spectrum might experience way more of the disadvantages, and in any case, it's deeply personal.
Second, @viewer5 brings up a super-deep point about creativity (though I'm not sure if this is what you had in mind). Being creative isn't just about generating novel ideas (which ADHD probably helps with, on balance). Creativity also requires the ability to focus long enough to assess and develop those original ideas.
There's an old idea that different psychological capacities support the generation and evaluation of creative ideas (see ). Psychometric (e.g. ) and neuroscientific (e.g. ) research has supported this idea. So ADHD might help idea generation, while hindering idea evaluation and development, which seems consistent with @viewer5's experiences (disclaimer: I'm spitballing with this last hypothesis).
 White and Shah (2006) "Uninhibited Imaginations: Creativity in Adults with ADHD" http://totallyadd.com/wp-content/uploads/White_Shah_ADHDCrea...
 White and Shah (2011) "Creative style and achievement in adults with ADHD" http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886910...
 Campbell (1960) "Blind Variation and Selective Retention in creative thought as in other knowledge processes" https://www.researchgate.net/publication/245588360_Blind_var...
 DeYoung et al. (2008) "Cognitive Abilities Involved in Insight Problem Solving: An Individual Differences Model" https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234819098_Cognitive...
 Beaty et al. (2016) "Creative Cognition and Brain Network Dynamics" https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26553223
I highly recommend you watch John Cleese's lecture on Creativity. He essentially makes that same claim, but terms it as being in 'open' and 'closed' mode. You need to be in the open mode to generate ideas and be creative, then you need to switch to the closed mode in order to get a good chunk of work done, then go back to the open mode to get and work with feedback, then go back to the closed mode to get a chunk of work done, etc. It fits what you said very nicely.
I've suspected for awhile that I have some level of ADHD (probably inattentive subtype), but after seeing what my brother went through with ADHD meds, I decided to just live with it. It's mostly worked out okay, and I can usually focus well enough when I'm working on something I like or a deadline is looming at work.
Watch it here: https://vimeo.com/89936101
> ADHD is labeled a "mental illness" in the opening paragraph
@skywopper is right that our article suggests the value of neurodiversity, and thus it's weird to think of ADHD as an "illness". But @Yanwar is right that because so many people think of ADHD this way, it's important to acknowledge this POV, and think about how our research puts pressure on it.
I'd add that negative perceptions of mind-wandering (and by extension, ADHD) go WAY BACK in the history of Western thought. Back in the 1200s, Aquinas classified mind-wandering as a "daughter sin" of sloth (!) .
So we wanted to engage, head on, with this intellectual tradition that casts mind-wandering as a "sin" and ADHD as an "illness".
 Thomas Aquinas (1273) Summa Theologica, IIa IIae q.35a.4
I also get really tired sitting the whole day in a cube farm. In my home office I can go for 8 hours straight and am still fresh at the end.
You could try some active noise cancellation headphones with something like http://rain.today or http://mynoise.net, I use this all the time at work to generate non-musical noise at low volumes and it blocks out all the office noise.
Recommended headphones would be the Bose QC series or the AudioTechnica ones. I'm sure there are others!
Several studies have indicated that stress resulting from ongoing white noise can induce the release of cortisol . . .
I noticed after a few months that I couldn't figure out how to solve some problem until I was walking home. Curious if it was the timing or the noise, I got some hardcore machine shop ear protection that I wore from then on. Suddenly I was dramatically better able to focus at work.
The dull roar in the background was definitely just sort of consuming attention unconsciously and seriously slowing me down.
It was really loud in there though, every place I've worked since it's always conversations and sudden noises like doors opening that distracts me. I would never have heard a conversation a few desks away at the earlier place.
Our office would look at those 'phones and mutter "challenge accepted".
My anecdotal evidence from talking to friends and coworkers is that this varies from person to person. Some people can work very well in a crowded coffeeshop with loud random background chatter, and find complete silence to be distracting. Others like working to a sound like rain or ocean waves. Others like a rhythmic sound like fast-paced electronic music. Others need complete silence, and can’t deal with pure white noise. My speculation is that it has a lot to do with past experience/practice.
However, now that I'm reading other comments, I'm wondering if it's still a concentration breaker like others are saying. I def don't feel I can concentrate as much as I did a year ago, but I've got literally 3x as much work as I used to have, so I can't really tell if it's the noise or just too much on my mind... :/
Been wanting to try the QC30, but reviews indicate the noise cancelling is less than the QC20, not more.
Quiet class time was the same. This has decreased a little with age: Yet it comes back just the same while meditating or doing some other tasks. Sometimes it is nearly painful.
Yet I find actual quiet - the type I get at night when the neighborhood is sleeping - quite wonderful at times.
Seems like you've been having a great discussion. Thank y'all and stay curious! I'll go through the comments and respond where I can.
[Edit: thanks to @upen for posting this!!]
The only way to control my thoughts and mind was ridiculous amounts of exercise, 1 hour run daily or equivalent and drinking 5 cups of coffee per workday, just to have a normal focus.
Somehow, after living a very random 20's. I graduated with a bachelor and a master degree. My life was a still a mess, but at least I graduated.
Something had to be wrong. The thought had occured to me, is this ADHD, but I surpressed it. Didn't want it do be me. Felt agonized over the thought of having a condition, and offended by the character traits that were all exact descriptions of me.
At age 32 I kept going at a rock bottom slow pace. Had no job. The occational consulting stint. No proper money in the bank. Everything messy around me, including my head, clean but untidy. Relationship with my girlfriend hanging by a thread.
If I was was to stay in the paradigm of trying to get a solid career dayjob, and performing well, something had to change fundamentally.
ADHD is real. Get diagnosed if you believe you have it. I waited 7 years before daring to speak to a professional psychiatrist, don't do the same as me if you believe you have it!
I took the plunge and visited a private Psychiatrist. Nice office, expensive art hanging on the walls, meters of full bookshelves on surrounding the interview area. The guy himself, top notch, understanding and genuinely interested. Through 5 solid sessions, and 2500USD later, I was diagnosed with ADHD level. "For your own sake, it was really fortunate that you came".
I was prescribed Concerta 54Mg (3x 15mg Ritalin daily).
My life is now entirely upended and everything has been an incredible improvement in all aspects of my life.
- After taking the medication, I was able to focus completely on tasks. Seeing them through, completely focused and analyzing the problems.
-- Sequential tasks (doing something from A through to Z) like doing the dishes, cleaning my room, or building a spreadsheet model over 7 hours - no problem.
- Frustrated thougts and mild depression over lack of life progress completely evaporated
- Before this I couldn't get a job. Couldn't make it through the interviews. My CV was never good enough et cetera.
- After this, I got 5 job interviews with great companies, 2 job offers with high salaries
- I now work in the world's largest technology & strategy consulting company.
- I was just promoted, fast tracked
- I just got a raise
- My bank now believes in me financially and is about to offer me a mortage to buy an apartment
- My diagnosis and medication has given a fantastic life where all my opportunities are within reach. #RealLifeLimitless
The one thing I would like to note here is that medication alone may not be enough. It helps me a great deal with persistence and motivation but it also brought issues to light that I apparently had previously suppressed. I find it hard to break the behavioral and emotional patterns I developed over the past 30+ years and I feel like I need help to overcome those.
Adderall is completely illegal here, and to get Ritalin, Dextroamphetamine, or similar, you basically have to have been diagnosed as a kid.
Thanks, War On Drugs, for ruining my life.
Fear mongering about drugs has led us not to use them for fears of addictions. Alcohol is legal and yet we discourage the use of drugs that may help people medically.
Many people have seen drastic improvements in their lives because of ADHD medication. The potential risks are well worth the reward for people with truly disruptive ADHD.
But I do't buy that adults should be completely unable to even try them to solve their medical problems, but can get wasted on alcohol and literally kill themselves and their family with cigarettes just because they feel like it.
I was given a leaflet to go to counselling.
Sooner or later, the psych disciplines are bound to catch on to this. </sarcasm, to greater or lesser degree>