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Better Be Good to Me

I get a lot of articles sent my way on tips, tricks, and apps people with ADHD can use to improve their lives and I’m getting a little tired and wary of them. How to manage your time better? How to focus better? How to be more productive? I feel like this line of thinking could often be called “improve other people’s lives by not having to deal with your neurodivergent brain as much.”

I mean, I wouldn’t subscribe to newsletters and read blogs and watch videos with these suggestions if I didn’t get something out of them. There are things I want to do in my life, ways I want to spend my time, and it isn’t always easy for me because my sense of what time it is and how long it will take to do something is pretty screwy, my executive dysfunction can make it very difficult to decide what thing I want to start on and to actually start doing it, my attention can be easily pulled away by notifications of incoming emails, Facebook comments, tweets, texts, IMs (and even without notifications, I can be in the middle of something, like writing a blog post, and my brain will suddenly yell, “HEY, I WONDER IF ANYONE HAS COMMENTED ON MY LAST INSTAGRAM POST? LET’S GO CHECK RIGHT NOW. THEN WE CAN GET BACK TO WRITING. OR CHECK FACEBOOK AND TWITTER. WHATEVER. IT’S ALL THE SAME, RIGHT?”), or I can have an emotional crash and not feel up to doing much besides bingeing Netflix. Yes, I would like to be doing more of the things that I love. And if you’re neurotypical, your answer could be “Well then, just avoid the activities you don’t like, disconnect from the internet, and do what really engages you.” But if you have ADHD, “what you love” and “what engages you” are not always the same things all the time and choosing which ones to do is not as simple as JUST DO IT.

So if I can find ways to stay on the “things I love” track, terrific, yes, please let me try those tips, tricks, apps. Bring ’em on!

But if the problem is “I’m not punctual” or “I take too long to accomplish tasks” or “I spend a lot of time futzing around and being unproductive”…those aren’t necessarily my problems, they could very well be other people’s problems with me. If I’m consistently 5-10 minutes late for things, it may be annoying to more punctual people, but let’s face it, the world isn’t going to break, and if you can’t handle me at my tardiness, you don’t deserve me at my punctualness. Unless there’s a deadline for finishing a task and the deadline is crucial (before the latest issue of the magazine goes out, before the patient in the operating room dies, before the climate collapses and makes the planet inhospitable to humans), the time it takes for me to finish something is probably not all that important. I’m with Austin Kleon that productivity doesn’t necessarily equal happiness.

Dani Donovan’s thread on Twitter sums it up perfectly. Sometimes the hardest part of having ADHD is trying to be “better” for the sake of neurotypical society, not because I want to but because others expect me to. I’ve lived in places where punctually was not a cultural thing, where people were expected to show up late and there was no pressure to be on time, and it was SUCH A RELIEF for me. In my library career, there are very few crucial deadlines, and productivity is often “Did you help people in the moment? You did? Success!”, and it is SUCH A RELIEF for me. Yes, ADHD is a disability and yes, having ADHD is an explanation but not an excuse, but this doesn’t mean I need to be more like neurotypicals. It means I will never really be like neurotypicals AND THAT’S OKAY.

I want to be the best ME I can be, and if trying to be better isn’t helpful, isn’t good for me, then I don’t want to be better.

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