The amazing adventures of Doug Hughes

Posts tagged ‘ADD and ADHD’

My Personal Time Management… Thingy

I’ve ranted and raved on this blog previously about how having ADD can make it hard to actually accomplish anything that’s not strictly necessary.  It’s also no secret that I have entrepreneurial aspirations, but I’ve had a really hard time successfully executing on them.

I have also been known to avoid doing other things that I should, like cleaning, laundry, etc.  Unless it’s a responsibility, like keeping the kids, cats, and chickens alive or doing work I’m contractually obliged to do, it’s rare that I willingly do it.  Trust me, my grass needs mowing like you wouldn’t believe, and I’m just not very likely to actually do it.  As far as I’m concerned, laundry is for schmucks who care if their shirts are wrinkled.

While drugs have helped me, they’re not a panacea.  They can give me the extra wind behind me that helps make things like lawn mowing a tenable idea.  However, I still have to decide what to do at any given moment, and that’s where I fall down.

It turns out that ADD is an impairment of working memory.  Working memory is essentially the memory associated with goals and task execution.  The net effect of this (I once worked for a company called the NetEffect) is that it can be really hard to remember why I’m doing something.  Essentially, every time I decide what to do I have a different perspective on the world and therefore my decision making process changes.  This is why I could work for two or three months on a personal project and then switch to something new and exciting as soon as the first project becomes something less than thrilling.

There’s a ton of frustration, self flagellation, and guilt that goes along with this.  I really, really, want to get beyond these roadblocks!

My psychiatrist recommended that I create a flow chart of my decision making process that I could hang on the wall.  The purpose of this is to keep all the little variables that play into what I could be doing visible and harder to forget.  I tried making this flow chart and got pretty much nowhere.  However, after a little more consultation, she helped me come up with another approach.

What I’ve done is break things that I can or need to do down into categories.  For me these categories (currently) are:

  • Family Responsibilities
  • Chores
  • Recreation
  • Personal Projects (Not Committed)
  • Entrepreneurship (Committed)
  • Contracting Work

These are categories of things that I need or want to do.  For example, a family responsibility might be to take a kid to the doctor.  Recreation is anything I enjoy.  Etc, etc.  There’s also a seventh category of On Hold, which where my personal projects go to die (but now with permission).

For each of these categories I’ve created a list of categories of my life that they relate to, general notes about them, examples of these types of things, best time of day to do them, best moods to do them in, and ways to convince myself to do them.

My goal is to take this document and use it to help keep in focus what I’m working towards and what’s really important to me.  I assume this will morph over time as I learn better how to use it.  Heck, maybe I actually can make that flow chart now that I have so much information about each category easily accessible.

For those of you who might find it useful, here’s the final document I created (click for a larger version):

This is my table of stuff to do, when to do it, and more.

Who knew life could be so complicated?

So… what do you think?  Would this work for you?  Any bets on this being useful for me?

Clawing My Way Out of The Metaphorical Grave

When I started my blog I was at a low point.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m afflicted with ADD and depression.  And, I have seasonal depression on top of it all. I don’t remember my SAD being so bad the last few years, but this year has been murder.

Perhaps this is because over the summer I felt pretty good and decided that perhaps I didn’t need to be on meds any more.  I had been taking a cocktail of Dextroamphetamine, Zoloft and Wellbutrin.  Oddly, I felt fine.  So, clearly I didn’t need that stuff any more and tapered off it.

I felt fine for the next few months, though looking back on it now I can see that I wasn’t doing well at all.  My ADD, which I had only discovered the year, before came back with a vengeance (not that it ever really went away).  I pretty much did as little work (that I was supposed to be doing) as possible.  I spent much of my time working on various side projects and sleeping in the middle of the day.  Don’t get me wrong, I still got things done for clients, but it was as infrequently as possible.  In fact, I hired a contractor to do much of my billable work for me.

The side projects I’ve worked on are actually pretty cool, but I haven’t finished any of them yet.  I’ve followed my traditional pattern where I start something, get it pretty far, and then drop it when it gets tedious or I get another brilliant idea that just can’t wait.

So, here I am, not really making money and not really getting any of my personal projects done – certainly not to a point where I could make money off of them. As you can imagine, this is rather stressful and depressing.  Any logical and reasonable person would, perhaps, redouble efforts to do billable work and/or maybe buckle down and get one of these side projects to a point where they could start making money.

I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It.

And then winter came in and smacked me upside the head.

I was at a real low point a few weeks ago.  Laying in bed, curled up in a fetal position, nearly in tears.  It’s really hard to explain this to people not afflicted with depression.  There’s just a weight hanging on your soul.  It’s hard to move.  It’s hard to think.  It’s almost hard to breath.  And you can’t stop it.

Actually, that’s wrong.  You can manage depression, but it requires you to do something.  And then to not stop doing it.  For example, (real) exercise is a great way to improve depression.  Eating better will help too.  Vitamin D and getting outside in the sun can make huge differences as well.  Let’s face it, anytime we successfully make changes to better our health, we feel better.  But you have to keep doing it.  And even those without depression will attest that making these types of positive changes in your like, and keeping them going, is nye on impossible.  And failure just adds to feelings of worthlessness and apathy.

I spent the last couple months trying like hell to make some of these changes.  I stopped eating intentionally sweet food and lost 20+ pounds from that alone.  I also built a desk for my treadmill where I can walk and work.  (I’m typing this blog entry on it right now!) I find I can often walk for 90 minutes and get work done at the same time.  These things helped to a degree, but it wasn’t enough to pull me out of the depression.

And then I hit my low.  I was feeling so worthless that I would often fantasize of dying.  I would imagine getting cancer and wasting away.  Or getting run over by a bus.  Or, well, just getting so damned low that I just shut down and fell over dead.  Psychologists call these passive suicidal thoughts.  I wouldn’t have jumped in front of the proverbial bus, but I might not have jumped out of the way.

Additionally, I had been hiding the true depths of how I was feeling from my wonderful, loving, wife.  But she knew. I suppose it’s simular to what Paul Simon sang in his song, Graceland:

And she said losing love [depression]
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you’re blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow

I decided at that moment I really, really, had to get back on my meds.  My wife happens to take Zoloft as well and so I started using some of her pills while I waited for an appointment with my psychiatrist.  I also took my last few remaining Dextroamphetamine pills.  I started walking and working on the treadmill every single day (except yesterday when I was doing some heavy lifting work outside).

So now I’m on Zoloft and Ritalin and a couple of weeks have passed. I feel human again.  I feel like I have a big part of my brain back that had been missing in action for quite a while. And, I have a little bit of perspective on what I did to myself over the last half year.  It’s not perfect, but I swear to myself that I’m never again going to let myself get the way I was just a couple of weeks ago.

Phoning It In

As someone with ADD, it’s incredibly easy to get knocked off course.  The phone rings, you get an IM, you’re connected to the internet in any way, etc.  Or perhaps like me this morning, your little girl wakes up at 5am and proceeds to throw up.  And then your cat does the same thing 20 minutes later.  Not a good way to start out the day.

There was a part of me that really just wanted to say that the day was ruined and that I should go lay in bed all day and read, or something.  Truth be told, I did go back to bed and sleep for a couple hours and I feel much better now.  It’s times like this where I can’t tell if I’m lazy, being a prima dona, or if I would actually do better by resting.  Today I’m leaning towards it making me do better.

The reason I say that is that I’ve been putting off sending in my first proposal to KickStarter, even though there’s no real reason to.  The Alagad team has been working on a new nonprofit which shall remain unnamed for just a little bit longer.  We need a little cash to push us over the finish line and help it get going.

Honestly, I’ve been putting it off for a few reasons.  Firstly, before you can submit a KickStarter project you have to go through a page where they explain their submission policies.  One of the things they don’t support are donations to charities, causes, etc.  Our nonprofit probably falls under that category, but I emailed them earlier this week and asked for clarification and they asked me to submit a proposal.  Unfortunately, this rule has put me in somewhat of a “why bother” frame of mind.  Another reason I’ve been putting this off is that I’m intimidated by the submission form itself.  I wasn’t sure what rewards we should offer supporters and I wasn’t sure what to say about the project.  The other major reason I hadn’t been doing anything is probably due to wanting to avoid rejection and disappointment.  If this proposal is rejected I’ll feel bad about it.  If I never submit it, it can’t be rejected.

However, after resetting myself with a nap this morning, I decided it’s time to stop talking about it and just do it.  So, just a few minutes ago I submitted my first project proposal to KickStarter! Go Me! I don’t know how long it will take for them to review it and get back to me, but I’ll try to keep my blog updated as I hear things.

Truth be told, I really don’t expect them to approve this project.  And that’s OK.  I’ve got a bunch of other ones up my sleeve.

Wish me luck!

Transition Point

Hi, I’m Doug Hughes.  This is a reboot of my personal blog at  I used to have another blog here a few years ago where I wrote about personal and technical topics.  This was back in a time when I was still getting my company, Alagad, off the ground and a lot of business and personal content was mingled together.

A while back I moved most of the content from onto the Alagad blog and simply pointed to  That was fine and dandy, but it is now time for me to reclaim my own personal space on the internet.

The reason I’m doing this is because I’m going through a bit of a mid-career crisis.  I haven’t really talked about this publicly before and, honestly, I’m not quite sure why I’m going to start now.  Perhaps it’s so I can talk through the challenges I’m having.  Maybe I can get useful feedback from those people who read this.  Maybe it’s a narcissistic ego thing.  I don’t really know.

The problem I’m having is this: I don’t really enjoy the work I’m doing (contract web programming) as much as I used to.  There, I’ve said it out loud!  The world knows!  That at least that’s off my back!

There was a time when Alagad and programming was all I could think of, but these days I’m really longing to do something else.  A while back I hired my father in law as a program manager for Alagad.  Over time he took over many of the tasks I didn’t want to do such as collections.  This continued until we decided he should formally be the CEO of Alagad.  So at this point my role in Alagad is as a technical leader and programmer.  This has enabled me to luxury of thinking about doing something other than just Alagad.

In fact, in late in 2011 I quietly handed my resume around to a few companies but I didn’t really find anything I liked (that also liked me).  My idea was that I would take an extended leave of absence from Alagad, get a developer-level job with a startup company that I found interesting and use that as an opportunity to meet new people and learn new things.  It didn’t really pan out.

For those who are familiar with Alagad, please know that Alagad itself isn’t going anywhere, even if I do.  It’s being operated by capable hands and works is done, as always, by Alagad’s excellent employees and contractors.  If I step away from the company nothing will change.

Also, over the last few years I’ve brainstormed business and product ideas on an almost daily basis.  For a while I was trying to tweet one new business idea a day at DougsIdeas, but that petered out after a while.  I didn’t really get much feedback or interest in what I was trying to do.  However, I think some of my ideas are actually pretty good!  I even started work on a few of them, but I haven’t yet had any success taking them to any meaningful completion.

To complicate matters, I’ve learned that I have Depression and Attention Deficit Disorder.  I’m trying to treat these, but they sure can make it harder to do what you want to.  This has been very hard to admit to myself – or to anyone else, really.  I feel like I should be able to pick myself up do something, but it’s not really that easy.

What this all boils down to is this:

There are lots of things I want to do with myself.  By this I mean there are lots of businesses I would like to start or jobs I’m interested in.  I’m a curious person.  However, I don’t have a ton of time or money to invest in these businesses.  And depression and ADD often stymie me.

So, on this new blog I’m going to start trying to think verbosely about some of these challenges, things that I want to do.  I’m going to try to strategize ways to do these things.  I’ll also talk about other more personal things as well like family, friends, etc.  I’m going try to lay it all out for the world to see.  I hope to get some good feedback and support.  We’ll see where it goes.

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