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When My ADHD Fails Me

March 11, 2016

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I figured out I had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD.) Actually, I have the Hyperactivity thrown in for good measure. Having ADHD is frustrating and extremely useful. If, as Kipling says, you can keep your head while all around you  are losing theirs, you probably have ADHD. We make great crisis managers. 

The more chaotic a setting, the easier it is for me to jump in and make a difference. One aspect of my current job is managing our outage calls. When something goes wrong, as it did this week, it’s my job to bring order out of chaos and figure out how to get us back on track as quickly as possible. Often that means an hour or two on multiple phone bridges. This was not a typical week. Over the past two days I’ve spent about 15 hours on multiple phone bridges trying to get a small group of our agents back to a healthy state. 

While there are times where the phone bridges are very busy, most of the time is spent waiting. While an ADHD person does great during a crisis, we do terrible during the lulls. It’s boring. And boredom is the bane of any ADHD suffer. We don’t get bored. Or, I should more accurately say, we don’t stay bored. We look for shiny stuff and allow ourselves to be distracted. 

Here’s where my ADHD really messes me up. You would think that being on a five hour phone call, as I was yesterday, or an eight hour call like the day before, I’d get lots done during the lulls. After all, I just need to “distract” myself with the other tasks I have on my todo list. 

Nope. It doesn’t work that way. I used to feel bad about it. Then, I figured it out. I still feel bad, but I’ve learned to not beat myself up over it.Because while ADHD people are easily distracted, we also have the ability to hyper-focus. It’s a cruel irony that the same person who seems to have the attention span of a gnat, also is capable of intense focus and concentration, and this is the bad part, to the exclusion of everything else.

I’ll find myself during a lull jumping into my email and I’ll start working on a solution to a question and before I know it, I’ll suddenly look up and 15 minutes will have gone by. And I will have no idea what is happening on my outage bridge. Did I make an assignment that I’m waiting on? Is someone waiting on something from me? Did someone say something and I missed it? I actually missed the end of one bridge call. This one was a testing call. The engineers finished their work, the project manager shut down the call and I was still on the phone bridge working through my email. I had to sheepishly ask the PM the next day if I had any assignments from the call. 

So, to avoid similar embarrassing moments, I find I can’t let myself get too far removed from the call. Mindless tasks? Sure. Online news stories? Perfect distraction. Answering email? No way. I get lost.

So, even though I spent two days sitting on phone bridges, I’m now pretty much two days behind on my other tasks. Sadly, the issue from yesterday will reoccurs today as we continue to look for the root cause. I have another hours long phone call to look forward to. 

ADHD is definitely a blessing and a curse. But, at least my system outage plays to my strengths. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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