PhD/writing fidget: Dragon Naturally Speaking Voice Recognition Software is a lifesaver for many of us with ADHD. I’ve got a number of academic publications under my belt and I’m very comfortable with the writing process, but I get overwhelmed with all the information and data at a certain point and then I can’t write. My perfectionism kicks in and I feel I can’t write anything until I know everything about a topic and until all the possible information is organized perfectly. Ha! Then I had a Eureka moment. Although I couldn’t write my paper, I could explain it very concisely, logically, and powerfully to a listener within about 10 minutes. Wow! So I got the idea to give the same explanation to a tape recorder, and transcribe it. This led me to purchase Dragon NS software. I use it mostly for my first draft.

PhD/writing fidget: Along similar lines, I often organize my journal articles and thesis as though I had to give an hour-long presentation on them, using Power Point. It’s really great! I know I need an introductory slide, then I need one slide for background on the problem, one for the objectives of the study, one for the methodology, and a couple for the results, ending with one concluding slide. Bingo, there’s my outline! All those zillions of thoughts and ideas have been boiled down to the basic points. What helps is that you can use interesting backgrounds and visuals for Power Point. I think that’s also a fidget. But the real fidget is to fake myself into preparing an oral presentation, while in effect really writing a paper. I’ll even “rehearse” my presentation out loud — that’s often how I get it boiled down into the slides themselves.

Writing fidget: I love using wild and wacky fonts and colours when doing boring writing tasks. Then I just convert everything back to some boring font in black before sending it out.

Wall colour: I work much better in a home office with a stimulating wall colour. For me, the best “work” wall colour seems to be a very bright and intense apple-green. I also have brightly coloured accessories, such as a bright orange file box, etc. It seems to wake my brain up.

Thinking/writing fidget: Although I use all the pre-writing techniques (free-writing, mindmapping, etc.), there comes a point when I need to put it all out of my mind and go for a long bike ride (summer) or walk. I take my laptop on the bike, or at least a pen and paper — and all of a sudden, everything will clarify, so I’ll stop moving and madly type or scribble it all down. Then I’ll move some more, although by then, I’m usually anxious to get back home and capitalize on the creative burst of clarifying mental energy that came from doing the activity.

Cafe: I think you talked about this in your book, but I take my laptop or Palm Pilot with wireless keyboard to a cafe, along with a task that has been hard for me to focus on in my home office. The change of environment really seems to help me focus on the task I’ve brought along.

Moving my work location: I love the summers (I live in Montreal where the winters are long), because I have lots more choice about how and where to work. I might start at my desktop in the morning, while still in my PJs. Then I’ll take a break, shower, breakfast. My next location is outside — for two years it was the back gallery of an old flat that faced onto a busy street, and I became known as “the lady who works on the balcony with her laptop” — and I could watch the neighbourhood pass by while I worked. After lunch, I’d put the laptop onto my bike and cycle to a nearby grassroots community cafe, which I called “my second office.” They had free wireless access and excellent coffee and an eccentric mix of community activists and students. I’d work there for a few hours, then go home. Change of environment seems to really help me work.

Working on the Metro (subway): I’ve learned that some of my best thinking happens in the 10 minutes or so that it takes me to get downtown on the Metro. I mostly use this time for brainstorming and outlining, using my Palm Pilot to get down my thoughts in point form. I think it’s not only the novel environment, but also the time limited nature of the journey — very short in terms of working time but very looooonnnnggg for someone with ADD who has nothing to do on the trip. So I break my boredom and break the back of a “stuck” task at the same time.

I hope these are helpful to someone else. Feel free to use them in your book.

- Silvia (from email)

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