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Dave Mitten
Dave Mitten

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Coding with ADHD

It's estimated 15-20% of the world are neurodivergent.

That is a huge spectrum of divergence too.
15-20% of 7.888 billion....thats a lot.
Within that group, ADHD sits...not still, but sits.

I have ADHD.

tl;dr There is light at the end of the tunnel.

People say it's a super power. Is it really?
For my job, I would say it isn't.

I have/am clears throat:

  • Poor working memory
  • Impulsivity
  • So, so, so, easily distracted
  • Easily confused
  • APD (Audio processing disorder)
  • A huge array of sensory issues

...The list is long and that is not the task today, to write those out.

What is the task today?

That is not properly decided, but I will take you on a short and sweet journey.

Recently in work, i screwed up, badly. I do this sometimes. I think I am plodding along doing my work, making wonderful code, really championing DRY principles...but then...
makes a whistlying noise of a bomb falling

My mistakes are unveiled in spectacular spectacles of awfulness.


It does not matter particular the mistake, it matters more the issues that caused the mistake to happen in the first place.

1. No accountability

No accountability for my poor working memory or for my APD.

2. Scattered attention

No focus on the task, spreading my very limited focal skills in other areas and essentially "draining" my "stamina bar".

3. Thinking I am doing ok

Presuming, that the work I am doing is ok, hunky dory, perfectly fine, when, in reality,

Where does this leave us?

Funtown.....nope, not funtown.

A painful, embarassing, guilt-ridden slope at which, in the moment of realising this has all happened, at the bottom of.

So, we have a little emotional melt down do we? yes.

Then, like all ADHD medicated or not, we have a little brain storm powered by the deep, unexcavated reserves of seemingly never-ending hope we have.

Let's. Make. A. Plan

Crafting a rope, to help pull us up this slope, can be arduous painful and at times, draining, emotionally, mentally, all the -llys.

The plan

We have identified 3 areas that let us down.

Accountability, scattered brain, focus.

So let's address these concerns with viable, tested methods to reduce the impact of the invisible demons that lurk in the ADHD-adows (bit of a stretch)


Write it all down. Everything. All the things.
Engineers have note books, for daily notes of what they have done.

  • We are going to take that to the extreme.
  • We have a table, in notion (or similar program).
  • It has entries for each day of the week.
  • In each day, we add tags for all manor of wonders and information.
  • We write each step of everything we do, and we also write out what we are about to do.

The general idea here is nothing is left undocumented.
It will allow us to revisit these if anything goes wrong.

Sure, it's not perfect, but it's a lot better than not having it. It might point out rabit holes and issues long in advance of them spiralling out of control.

We also do this in the code, we write comments like that is the job.

Comments for any thought, any idea, anything we need, in that code.

Scattered attention

Close those tabs to amazon.
Close those tabs to that reddit group about the thing that you do that you like.
Close them.

Put bookmarks to all surfae level sites you need.
That database? Bookmark.
That accountancy thing? Bookmark.
Those docs? Bookmark.

Remove the need to search google everytime. The less barriers to getting to the task, the less chance you will go to youtube or facebook or where ever.

Talk, yep, you heard me, well, read me, talk.
Talk aloud everyting you are doing. Yes. You will seem a bit weird, but we all are already that to the normies (or weirdies for us), so...goes with the territory.

Why? - Talking allows you to stay on task and stay focused. It keeps you in the here and now.

Which, brings us too


Read that line again.
Do you understand that bit?
Why did you write that bit?
Can you explain absolutely every choice you make and why? No. Find the reason.

You want to do something distracting? maybe?... you are tired? Hungry? What is the reason you want to be distracted?

Sometimes asking these questions will help you break the need to do the insert distraction activity

Other ideas and final words

I am still struggling, pushing up the hill to find the way out, but, what I can leave you with is this.

It's hard. Theres no shortcuts and you got to work at it. Yes, you will fail, a lot most likely, but remember, you are disabled, at least in terms of patriarchy, capitlism etc etc, you are fine, but the system does make it hard for you. Hence the annoying tag. I'd like to see a capitilist rattle off the knowledge I have in baking, or the gym, or gardeing, or neurodivergence research...etc, etc

A few extra ones to really help you out:

Check out rewind
Very interesting tech

Check out notion
Helps get it all in one place, one source of truth

Check out Reminders
If you're on mac, use it, it will help get it out your head and onto the page.

If you have any other strategies or tech to cope or thrive, please comment them!

Keep fighting the good fight!

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