• When Does Stimulation Become Unproductive?

    Posted on February 22, 2013 by in ADHD

    Busy CityI recently shared an article on LinkedIn titled City Living ‘Makes it harder to concentrate”. (You can read the article here. (Thank you Sara for originally sharing it with me.)

    My question on LinkedIn to a group of entrepreneurs with ADHD was, “How do you cope with living in a city that makes concentration difficult?”

    I got the question back: “So what can an entrepreneur with AD/HD learn from this article on focus and city distractions?”

    Here’s My Response:

    “Thanks for affirming that I am asking a valid question – what do entrepreneurs get out of this article? The more important question is what do we do with this type of research and information?

    One of my pet peeves is the gap between research and application – there is a vacuum when it comes to offering insight with regards to the praxis of findings such as this. Maybe the better question would have been, “what did you get out of this article and how can you apply it to your life as an entrepreneur?” Secondly, this was a genuine question born out of a real curiosity and a desire to share ideas about what works for others because ADHD solutions and strategies are not a “one size fits all”.

    As an entrepreneur myself who also happens to have ADHD, there are a number of things I got out of this article. I am also a licensed mental health professional who specializes in the area of helping those with ADHD bridge the gap between knowledge and performance. ADHDers know what to do and how to do it competently (brilliantly even), but ADHD robs you of the ability to do what you know how to do. Skill is not the issue.

    But, I digress…my meds have not “kicked in” yet for the day.

    Here’s what I got out of the article:

    1) It makes sense now why I feel overwhelmed when I drive into and work in the city. (It’s not just about the fact that Philly-ites drive and park by braille – and I happen to love my VW bug). I personally can’t live in the city because there have been many times when friends have pulled me back from walking into a busy street because my mind was hyperfocused elsewhere. It makes sense to me now why I feel the need to hyperfocus on knowing what is happening around me and why it’s more difficult for me in the city.

    2) The article helped me make the connection between enough stimulation and too much that throws me off. I will keep an eye out now for where my personal threshold is.

    3) I have more compassion for myself and the self-defeating belief (to be avoided at costs by entrepreneurs) that “there’s something wrong with me” or “why can’t I do this like everyone else” (thoughts which are common in individuals who have been diagnosed  with ADHD later in life) becomes moot. There’s nothing wrong with me. This is just how my brain works and owning this makes it easier to do something about it.

    4) Not going into the city is not an option for me as an entrepreneur. Now that I know the impact of the over-stimulation of the city, I can plan for it. I strongly believe that 90% of everyday stress can be anticipated – I just have to open my calendar/agenda and look forward into the next few weeks. If I am planning on going into the city, I need to also be planning on what I need to do for myself to maintain the energy levels needed to maintain focus. Get extra sleep the night before? Eat breakfast? Spend the extra money to park in a garage vs. looking for on-the-street parking? Take a picture with my smartphone of where I’m parked so I don’t have to expend energy to try and remember the location of my car later? How can I re-energize after being in the city? Plan a dinner with someone I like being with? Indulge in a little dessert? (Working to maintain energy will forces my brain to burn more glucose so, I shouldn’t be surprised if I feel more worn out, more hungry and craving sweets.) As the saying goes, “forewarned is forearmed”.

    5) I personally need to be cognizant of allowing “mini-vacations” away from technology and busyness. This ultimately is about self-care. I know myself well enough to know that quiet time and a slower pace actually re-energizes and recharges my batteries. Not taking time out for myself is like saying, “I can’t stop for gas because I’m on my way somewhere.”

    6) Many organizations are moving to open concept seating where employees are working in large rooms with desks pushed up against each other or separated by cubicles open to one another to flatten organizational hierarchy and increase a sense of teamwork. Entrepreneurs can actively increase employee engagement by providing quiet spaces for employees to access if they need.

    Ultimately, for me, the article is not about busy cities, but about our threshold of tolerance for stimulation – which can happen anywhere. At which point does stimulation become unproductive and, possibly, destructive? For me, it boils down to looking for ways to manage the focus and energy required to do things well and with as little effort as possible with an emphasis on productivity, meeting goals in a timely fashion and freeing myself (and others) to be my very best.

    What about you? What did you get out of this article?”

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