Monday, July 16, 2012

Managing Mr. Shiny

Hey look! Something shiny! Yes, we have heard a ton of jokes about ADD. I've been known to come up with a few of them myself. For example: how many people with ADD does it take to change a light bulb? SQUIRREL!

It's good to have a sense of humor about it but it can also be a pretty serious condition. A client once hired me to do a narration on ADD and ADHD and I told her it was right up my alley because I have this condition.

Some consider ADD a disability, but in reality, it’s a super-ability. People who do not have ADD have the ability to regularly focus on one thing at a time, while ADD people have the ability to focus on multiple things.  It’s not uncommon for a person with ADD to be simultaneously listening to music, playing a game, texting a friend on their cell phone, instant messaging several more on the computer, all while reading a blog with the television on in the background!  

People with ADD deal with it in different ways. Some need medication. Some need Yoga. Here I've compiled a few stories featuring some voice talent friends of mine who have ADD and how they deal with it on a daily basis. Especially, since many of us in this industry work from home, this presents immediate challenges and distractions for anyone with this condition.

I believe I have had ADD since I was a child. I struggled in school my entire life because it was very difficult to focus, and things in which I would be interested, would always fade in favor of something new and fresh. In the past year, I have really turned up my level of exercise. Running, playing basketball and working on the machines in the gym have really improved my focus and my overall work ethic. I feel less anxious and more relaxed. Now, don't get me wrong. I still have stressful weeks where I feel like I could pull my hair out, but it is so much better than it used to be.

My doctor subscribed me to Adderall once and it didn't really work for me. It felt like a really good caffeine buzz, but all I wanted to do is stare at the screen for 20 minutes. I know it works for some but it didn't for me. I have found that less coffee and more exercise has really been the difference maker for me. It's not a cure for ADD, but it sure helps me manage it a lot better.

Here are some stories about how a few of my voice talent friends are coping with ADD:

Pearl Hewitt:
ADD—where do I start? My motto used to be "If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done!" Keywords are procrastination and distraction, lack of focus but also hyper-focus! I get hyper focused on projects on which I'm working and other stuff (especially in the house) gets avoided until I'm finished. If you have ADD traits or tendencies, it's so important to get some business training on time-management skills. Bad time management will cause unnecessary stress, the inability to stick to a schedule and could potentially ruin your business. Working with various coaches to learn about the VO business I am gradually improving my time-management skills and consequently achieving greater things. It's very—very hard to break the habits of a lifetime, but with the right coaching all will become clear and you will be enlightened! I'm nowhere near perfect, but I'm getting better and my business is now prospering because I'm learning to work according to a schedule, setting timers and consequently, I’m less stressed! I'm much happier because I can now see the wood for the trees. I could never have done that on my own. People with ADD have to learn and be trained to be more organized. It's worth every penny.

Laura Branch Mireless:
Although I've never been officially diagnosed, I have no doubt I have ADD. It's gotten worse since I had kids, so I call it "Mommy ADD"—she loses brain cells with each birth!  I agree with my dear friend Pearl. She has made some very good points. I guess for me, the biggest "ah-ha" moment was when I realized that working in a "project" oriented business (such as VO or video production) is where I'm happiest and the most fulfilled. It's those pesky little follow-ups like billing and marketing where I drop the ball. Oh, to have a business coach for that!

I have found that using any kind of visual aid to keep me on track helps. I have a large monthly calendar next to my editing screen so it's in my left peripheral vision at all times and a daily log sitting on the desk to my right. That way, I have a mental photo of what's coming up or if there's not much written on them, I know I need to work on marketing. Overkill for some, but helpful for me.
Mara DuRousseau Junot: 
I also have never officially been diagnosed, but I’m a firm believer that I developed ADD soon after I became a regular internet user in 1996. Clearly it's not just my imagination either, as articles seem to abound on the this one fresh from today:

Case in point -- at this very moment I have 15 browser tabs open, email with no less than 5 accounts constantly updating, I’m texting my mother on my cell phone, Oprah Super Soul Sunday playing on the DVR in the next room, and Spotify playing music. Bored much? Lately I've been forcing myself to practice mindfulness meditation exercises for at least 20 minutes, and it's definitely making an impact on my ability to focus.

I'd like to thank Pearl Hewitt, Laura Branch Mireles and Mara DuRousseau Junot for the gift of sharing their stories on my blog.  I hope by sharing theirs, you'll be able to gain more focus for your own!