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I wonder how common this is among HNers. I felt like I could relate to many of the feelings in the article and I certainly have trouble keeping track of time (w.r.t. rabbit holes and whatnot) and do better with some external motivation. In particular, I can be “hyperfocused” when it comes to interesting technical challenges for many hours, but I get distracted instantly when doing my email, the laundry, or taxes. I’m not sure if the magnitude might be what sets me apart from people who have genuinely been diagnosed with ADHD or if no one ever suspected it because I did well in school and at work.





For me the difference is that the feelings of distraction and inattentiveness aren't just with things I don't want to do, they are always there, and are sometimes worse with things I enjoy doing. And the hyperfocus happens when it happens, and sometimes it will be on stuff I don't enjoy doing but can't seem to stop thinking about.

Without my medicine I have trouble watching a tv show or movie I really like, I can't play some videogames because they can't keep my attention even though I'm having a great time. I'll normally listen to an hour long podcast over a few days because every 5 minutes I need to pause it to "focus" on something else (like I just did to write this comment), and often I don't come back to it (like I probably won't tonight!)


You may or may not have some ADHD tendencies, but it’s not uncommon for people to miss out on diagnosis as children.

I wasn't diagnosed until I was 19 or 20 because my perfectionism (which was/is directly tied to the anxiety/major depression I was diagnosed with at 14, but self-diagnosed at 9) sort of overrode the traditional symptoms. I did well in school (because I couldn’t NOT have perfect grades). I excelled at work. For many years, I was compulsively neat. (I’m not really sure what happened to the neatness).

When I was 17, I was put on ADHD meds as a way to treat side-effects of an antidepressant, but I found it had a ridiculously positive impact on my life. In college, I was formally diagnosed, and my psychiatrist posits that the fact that I appeared to be “fine” is what kept me under the radar. According to my doctor, it’s not uncommon for that to happen, especially if the individual is of above-average intelligence (I was given the “gifted” label before entering kindergarten).

I always “joke” (except, it’s not a joke an I’m 100% serious), that I’m a high-functioning ADHD person. And it’s true; over the last 15 years or so, I’ve learned to augment my behavior and recognize when the disease is impeding on my life. For clarification: being able to recognize something != always being able to change what is happening. I’ve also been fortunate to find work in fields where my ability to do multiple things at once is useful.

But I tell people I’m in meetings with frequently about the stuff I do to help quell my worst tendencies (I play puzzle games on my phone, for instance, so that I can pay attention to what people are saying. It looks rude, but the alternative is me literally not being able to focus on what is being said. And when I explain it, I’ve never found someone to be unsupportive), and I try to plan and make adjustments for my own time clock.

Like you, if it’s something I’m interested in, I can be hyper focused for hours. But the second something is born for even just not that compelling, it’s a struggle.


> I play puzzle games on my phone.

Jesus, I did this a lot in my previous job, and couldn't explain it to my colleagues. Always felt so judged.


Yeah, people will sometimes judge, but I try to explain the why.

“I’m doing this so that I can pay attention. It sounds counterintuitive but it is not.”

I had an editor once (I should note, he went on to become my mentor), get really frustrated that I wasn’t “paying attention” and he quizzed me like we were in school and I just rattled off a complete list of everything that had been discussed, as well as some ideas that hadn’t — and he kind of looked stunned. I told him (again), dude, there’s a method to my madness.

He never got mad at me for “playing on my phone” in an editors meeting again.




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