Getting Into The Flow State When You Have ADHD
ADHD presents unique challenges to productivity and focus, but that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve a flow state anyway.
I just finished up three straight hours of writing in my novel manuscript. I also happen to have combination-type ADHD.
I wasn’t hyperfocused — that almost mythical ADHD ‘superpower’ people tout as a blessing in many forums — and I wasn’t reacting to my medication. The three hours I just spent writing resulted from a textbook “flow state” that I’ve finally trained myself to enter at least 8/10 times that I attempt it successfully.
Much has been written about the flow state on Medium and beyond, so I won’t waste time (or precious attention) on explaining it. I’ll leave you with a very basic definition in case you need some context, provided by the psychologist who named the concept (Mihály Csíkszentmihályi):
“Flow state is an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”
It is defined by intense focus and mental investment in the task being performed and is most often associated with higher level, creative activities such as writing or art.
Flow State Vs. The ADHD Brain.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hear things like intense focus and mental investment I don’t think of ADHD. I looked askance at articles about flow state for most of my life, considering it an intriguing but ultimately impossible dream.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a DSM V-recognized mental disorder characterized by less effective wiring of our brains' prefrontal cortex. Since this part of the brain is essentially the “adult” portion — controlling things like higher-level planning, organization, and impulse control — ADHD can cause a range of symptoms relating to these skills.
In short, we tend to suffer from an inability to plan and prioritize, a lack of self-discipline (especially when stressed), and a slew of other challenges that can…