the struggle between logic and black water

I’ve always been a ‘to-do’ list addict. Often written with more items than humanly possible to achieve within a reasonable timeline, I cling to those lists as some loose measure of productivity. Get something done, cross it off. I now have visible progress logged on a scrap of paper. My rule number one: never cross things out so much that you or someone else cannot still read the finished items. Proof of productivity lies under that strike-through and no man or beast can take that away from me. I like knowing how far I’ve come and I realise that psychologically there is much more to this than simple task-goal assessment.

Thanks to the wonders of ADD and my general inability to get focused and down to business on the right thing at the right time in the right order, it seems that I am in a constant battle (with mostly myself) to prove that I’ve achieved something – anything -¬†to the point where I will sometimes (OK, often) construct ‘to-do’ lists which include a few items I’ve already completed on them just so I can cross something off. I keep it reasonable, say, within the same day of tasks, but the point is that I already have something achieved and so then the rest of the daunting list doesn’t seem so scary. Plus, I like seeing measurable progress. I need to see measurable progress. My whole life has been an uphill battle to feel focused and to feel as though I’m accomplishing things and so if I don’t give myself a reminder that I am making progress, I will slip into despair. For me ADD triggers depression. That’s what led me to seek help. I’ve only begun to understand this relationship in recent years.

ADD can cause immense feelings of worthlessness-¬†the highs of hyperfocus mixed with my sometimes spontaneous euphoric episodes are not without their equally powerful opposite: the depressed lows and struggles with self-worth and deprecation. I’ve been medicated for ADD in the past (for a year and a half or so a few years ago) and did find a powerful change in this imbalanced and unpredictable beast of a brain. Though I felt ‘in control’ for the first time in my life, I don’t like taking medication for my mind – shit, not even headache remedies, let alone chemical imbalance stabilisers -¬†and so I went off of the drugs. Bolstered by diagnosis, I forged a keen interest in fighting my demons the natural way. I’ve spent most of my life that way already. It is not easy.

I’m back to confirming my worth through ‘to-do’ lists and am struggling to understand and integrate more powerful tools for project organisation into my daily life. It’s not easy for me to grasp and I am confused by how others map out progress and the businessy terminology they use to describe progress and project components. Milestones, tasks, critical paths, baselines, Gantt Charts, action, and deferred. None of these things fit into my brain and the logic behind them confuses me to the point where I teeter again on the precipice looking out over potential depression. I find that even with these modern organisational tools at my fingertips that I am drawn to entering data relating to things I’ve already accomplished, yet again searching for that reassurance that I’m getting something done. I’m making progress. I am focused. See? It’s all right here in digital strike-throughs…

I may be fooling myself by attempting to use these tools. I may fail miserably in my attempt to integrate them into my lifestyle, but I’m desperate for something better than a scrap of paper with my ‘to-do’ list on it. Life and my work are much too complicated for such project management anymore. Perhaps I just need to upgrade my scrap of paper to a little notebook… pens and paper have never failed me before and I can shape the data to work however my brain wishes. I know this isn’t the real answer, and certainly not a practical one. I need to figure out a way to work with project management instead of feeling like it’s working against me. I do love my brain and the way I think, but it doesn’t stop me from wishing I didn’t have ADD sometimes. I stand on that cliff looking out onto black water more than I admit to anyone. I could do without that.

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