Time & Productivity

“Sorry, I’m Working” — Making the Most of ADHD Hyperfocus

Though our kids might not always understand, sometimes work really does take precedence over playtime — especially when our ADHD superpowers are finally working to our advantage.

A cartoon man being productive on his laptop
Cartoon man with beard and orange shirt working on laptop, illustration

My three-year-old daughter walked into my office at home (the “Daddy workroom”) and said, “Daddy, if you loved me, you’d stop working and come play with me.” I wasn’t heartbroken, as I might have been. I was amused and mildly annoyed. This was about the tenth time she’d come in, and I did have work to do.

I was filling out grant applications, on the chance that one of them would be accepted. If I could get my research funded, I could get a job that would support my wife and daughter.

Could I have worked on those applications later? In theory, yes. But in practice, I was having a good day, a day when my ADHD took a backseat, and that kick-ass-and-take-names person inside me was being highly productive and plowing through the to-do list.

One of the keys to managing adult ADHD is to make the best use of a good day. This is offset by the occasional need to admit defeat on a “bad day.” Most days lie somewhere in between: It’s a struggle, but getting good work done is possible.

On bad days, I force myself to work, but usually the result is unusable. I eventually say that no work is better than subpar work, and I’ll catch up later. I get some candy, take a nap, or play video games.

But a good day changes my outlook on that never-ending to-do list. That is something that cannot go to waste. Even if I have to turn down a dozen adorable requests to come out and play.