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“C’mon, Feel the Noise: ADHD and Productive Static”

A healthy dose of white noise actually quiets my ADHD mind, allowing it to focus on what’s important. Telling a good buzz from a bad buzz hasn’t always been easy, though.

I don’t have time to write this blog. And if I did, I’d never get it done.

It’s good to know that about myself. I feel more productive with three balls in the air and a bit of drama or self-inflicted crisis in the background. The “noise” of deadlines and anxiety helps me focus, and I dare say I’m not the only ADHD adult who performs better under pressure.

In a literal sense, background noise helps me tune in to what I’ve got in front of me to finish. I like working in noisy coffee shops with the ambient noise of strangers’ conversations, latte milk being foamed, and music overhead. There’s a coffee shop in the building where I work and, fortunately, my job is flexible enough that I can disappear there when I need to concentrate. By having something to tune out, I can tune in better to what I am reading or writing.

I’ve learned through trial and error, though, that some methods I’ve used to focus cause more harm than help. For example, my wife does not appreciate it when I play guitar through a serious conversation. I may like having something for my hands to do and something for a part of my mind to be engaged in but it does not help with important, consensus-building decision making or intimacy. Point taken.

Another unhealthy self-focusing distraction in my past: using an alcoholic buzz to aid my concentration.

Getting drunk created an ambient noise in my own head that made it feel like I could focus. I didn’t consciously use it for that purpose. In hindsight, I see that the challenge of completing mundane tasks while intoxicated was a motivation or subconscious justification for drinking. That’s when my drinking slipped the boundaries of social convention and began to be a daily, self-prescribed albatross.

The truth is, it didn’t work. There’s a fine line between using white noise to focus and surrendering to the distraction itself. Drinking didn’t help me concentrate or make me more productive. Alcohol made my life unmanageable. Rather than the temporary drama of a self-imposed deadline, my alcohol use created real drama, real pain, and real consequences. Before long, my addiction was the only thing I could focus on. The only task that mattered was getting my next drink.

It helps to know how I can be most productive, how I can arrange my circumstances to help me focus and what I need to do in order to concentrate. But it is essential for me to know and be honest with myself about what will not work. Life has plenty of drama, plenty of distractions, and plenty of noise. I don’t need to create any more through indulging in my addictions.

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