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Dorcas Adjeley Laryea
Dorcas Adjeley Laryea

Posted on

My learning styles as a software developer with ADHD

A photo of my study time with my DELL laptop, my notebooks for taking notes and my phone

I graduated the university with a degree in Civil Engineering, barely surviving that four year journey. I knew there was something wrong with me, but seeking help seemed like a weakness until I kept getting into trouble, skipping classes because i had absolutely no interest whatsoever or I just could never find the motivation to learn and do my assignments.

After graduating, I worked as a Civil Engineer in a fast paced environment which was all fun until my country went on full lockdown due to the spread of COVID-19. I found myself stuck at home, bored and very depressed. And that was when i decided to scratch the itch to learn programming as a hobby.

My learning pattern

I learnt a lot about myself when i started learning programming on my own. I understood myself better and realised that I wasn't slow or lazy like I thought I was in school. That, coupled with speaking to my therapist at the time, helped bring much clarity to my situation: I had ADHD. It finally made sense. It had gone unnoticed for a long time because I was already being treated for another mental health issue.

My diagnosis brought me so much clarity and positively affected how I approached my studies, and currently, how I approach my job.

1. I learn better when I make notes.
No matter how seemingly trivial a lesson is, I have to write it down for it to make sense to me. It is not enough for me to just listen or watch. I would forget everything the moment I finished, unless I make notes. My notes are essentially my way of walking myself through whatever I have learnt and this serves as a sure way for me to remember everything I learn.

I still apply this approach to my current job. Every task I am assigned to, I write down the task, elaborate on what the task description is and finally write down the step-by-step solution to the given task, before going ahead to write my codes. My notes basically help me walk myself through my thought process and make me more efficient.

2. Having a routine and (trying to, lol) stick to it.
This is a difficult thing to do for someone living with ADHD. As productive and efficient as routines are, they seem quite impossible to follow. I forgive myself when my day goes wasted when I don't have a routine because my excuse is that I didn't plan my day anyway. Having a routine and breaking it makes me feel terrible and so in order to avoid that, I do everything possible to stick to it. I set reminders on my phone, my watch and on sticky notes and I sometimes set reminders to remind me of these reminders.

Currently, one routine I am proudly sticking to, is pushing a commit to my Github every day. So far, I am 33 days in and I am eager to see how far I can go on this streak.

3. I listen to myself speak.
Whenever I learn something new, or I'm faced with a task and I need to understand my solution better, I like to listen to myself while I reason with myself. I do this by recording myself as I speak out loud, whatever steps I'm taking to reach the solution, or when I'm learning, I like to record myself as I revise my notes off the top of my head.

I then go back to the recording, listen to it and correct any mistakes, make notes of what solutions work and also appreciate my understanding of what I am working on.

Conclusion

This blog post has taken me a week to write because initially, the words were all jammed up in my head and I couldn't make any progress until I followed all the steps I just spoke about. These are not the only things I do that work for me, but they are the major ones and I hope they work for someone else too.

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Latest comments (51)

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alex_alex_0417642415a7f05 profile image
Alex Keeprock

Alright, I'd written a big list and it was gone after login. So, here we go again. For all you ADHD-ers out there, here is my list of tips that I use personally. It may not work for you but at least you'll have an example of what is working for other and figure out rest for yourself:

  • Don't be hard on yourself.
  • Figure out that works for you. Don't follow gurus or advices like mine. If you hate pomodoro's but your favourite blogger swears by it, ditch that guy advice and follow your own path. You'll have to be bold with that.
  • Use lists like this. Live by lists.
  • Use notebook system like Joplin or similar
  • No porn. No M. No O. Read yourbrainonporn.com. This thing mess with dopamine and ADHD is all about dopamine. Gotta know oneself.
  • Exercise. Exercise hard. No more rest days. Your rest day is a light day. Other days are hard days. Lift heavy. Run fast. Do both types of training - conditioning and strength.
  • Run everyday.
  • Stretch everyday
  • Use watch to track time you spend doing something
  • I don't use Pomodoro cause I don't like restrictions on a way I work
  • Work with therapy. All the mental issues can impede your progress
  • Use SRS system like Anki. Or better, use Supermemo. I personally like Supermemo more because of Incremental Reading and tree like knowledge structure. It suits my learning style better.
  • Use todo-lists with repetition functionality and with unlimited sub-tasks (like OmniFocus)
  • Break down tasks to most simple tasks you can and finish big tasks by crossing off your small tasks.
  • Install break reminder apps
  • Use laptop to change location and work where it is better for you. Buying laptop helped me with that.

Here is my short-list (yeah, I can came up with a bunch more :) ) of tips that work for ME. Important note - you have to figure out what works for you. Everybody is different. Can't stress that enough.

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stevefan1999personal profile image
Steve Fan

As a university student with ADHD, all I gotta say you just needed motivation -- and usually you will get exceptional result since we got a double edged sword -- hyperfocus.

Without this blessing (and a curse) we aren't able to achieve anything, because we will become very lax, lazy and procrastinate, and that's not the normal kind of procrastination, it's a force of nature: that if you ain't interested in something, you will never get it done, you don't even want to take a look of it in your eye, just like you simply don't want a very badly structured or boring course. This is one of my excuse of being academically underperforming

Fortunately, it is easy for us to get interested in something, but you can only select a few at a time. We are hyperactive, but it doesn't mean we have enough energy to achieve every interesting thing too.

Again, as a (probably adult) ADHD patient, all you needed are motivations, a curiosity, an intuition of interest to do something. Then when hyperfocus kicks in, we are able to get things done -- usually really incredibly.

Otherwise, don't expect us to produce any positive outcome, not even a little. This is what makes our life tough though, because although we are outstanding in some cases, but your general productivity is directly associated with your personal interest for something who suffers from ADHD.

Thus, this makes us a very unreliable workforce. We are more like catalyst -- normally we don't react, but we speed things up FAST when the prerequisites are met.

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robole profile image
Rob OLeary

Keep going! ⭐

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yournewempire profile image
Archie Smyth

Disclaimer: this response may not contain programming.

Wow. I love how you delivered this. You bring me colour, when all I see is gray. Thank you very much for this post. I am proud and grateful to read your post and its discussion. I am definitely not a qualified expert in mental health, but I notice that it is not black or white, surely anyone and everyone can suffer in all sorts of levels. I am indebted to you, all i can reciprocate is a love heart. Let there be love in this discussion.

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naalaryea profile image
Dorcas Adjeley Laryea

Thank you so so much. Your comment is refreshing and heartwarming. Bless your heart <3

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sotenna profile image
Sotenna Max

Exact same challenges I'm having...I forget almost immediately

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naalaryea profile image
Dorcas Adjeley Laryea

Try these methods and see if they work for you.

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ahmmedrejowan profile image
K M Rejowan Ahmmed

Hi, hope you are having a good day. I have ADHD too and I can relate to your situations. I use to take notes as a regular habit now. I've a whiteboard beside my desk to write down my current goals to make it remember and keep focus all the time. I keep 3/4 types of sticky notes, small note pads to write down my objectives.

Like you I'm a self tought programmer(still learning a lot). I'm not lazy but it's hard to keep focus on the same thing for a long time. I keep 2/3 rubics cube on my desk, I play them after about half/an hour of works and then get back to work again. It's very hard to follow a routine, but I try to keep my focus under control.

It's good to see a lot of you start thinking about the mental health and support each other. Wish you all the best guys. ❤️

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naalaryea profile image
Dorcas Adjeley Laryea

Thank you so much for this. I have lotssss of sticky notes and notepads as well. You are definitely not lazy. For all you've shared, i can definitely tell that you are doing your best and I am proud of you.

I wish you the very best as well <3

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ahmmedrejowan profile image
K M Rejowan Ahmmed

Thank you so much. Best wishes for you too. 😊

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threeal profile image
Alfi Maulana

Nice article. I like your routine to commit everyday, i also start to doing that since this pandemic begin.

But i just saw your GitHub profile and haven't found any green square streak you mentioned in this post. I believe you must be committed on a private repository. If that's the case, you may turn on the option to show private contributions in your profile as in the setting page (github.com/settings/profile).

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naalaryea profile image
Dorcas Adjeley Laryea

Yes yes most of my commits are to a private repo. Thank you for teaching me this. I really appreciate this

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bdunn313 profile image
Brad Dunn

I appreciated hearing about your strategies and seeing how they overlapped with mine. I too have ADHD and sometimes I feel like a superhero, and other times I feel like a passive observer as I watch an entire week go by without any meaningful progress, despite my best efforts.

I too have to take notes to retain things, whether they be meetings etc. I find a good backlinking, second-brain setup to be awesome. Currently I use Roam, although I'm actively looking for an alternative. It can't require too much customization otherwise... I'll spend all day customizing it instead of using it as my stream-of-conscious anchor for discussions, meetings and tasks.

Again, thank you for being vulnerable and able to talk about this. I appreciate it, and I hope your developer journey continues to be fruitful!

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naalaryea profile image
Dorcas Adjeley Laryea

Thank you so much. Deeply appreciate. Glad to know we share similar strategies as we manoeuvre ADHD in our everyday lives. I appreciate your comment and I also wish you the very best <3

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imrj profile image
imrj

ADD (not same as ADHD) people can still be highly functional and very creative, ever more so than "normal" people......ADD is more common for adults, as many of us are past the "hyper" early teenage years.
But, the bottom line is, we age and there is cognitive decline, period.....dont let the media, or motivational speeches or doctors and meds fool you into thinking that aging cant affect you, it will, it can be slowed down, but is just a fact.....you wont be able to cope with as much as someone 20 or 30 years younger......so adjust your workload as you age (and your expectations).

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arroyoruy profile image
Dan Arroyo

Thank you for this. I relate to your feelings of "something wrong with me" and "I am lazy" until I realized it is not my direct fault. One thing I also do is listen to rhythmic type ADHD focus music... I found a lot in YouTube. It used to be DubStep until I found them. People would think I was crazy listening to dubstep while reading and coding, but it really helps.

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naalaryea profile image
Dorcas Adjeley Laryea

Thank you for sharing your music with me. I am so open to recommendations that help to make living with ADHD easier. I am going to listen to them and hopefully like them and find them helpful too.

Thank you so much

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dcmwong profile image
dcmwong

Thank you for writing this. I don't have ADHD myself but I have a colleague that does and understanding their process more is helpful and most times not surfaced. Please write more.

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naalaryea profile image
Dorcas Adjeley Laryea

Glad to hear. I definitely will. Thank you

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samuelfaure profile image
Samuel FAURE

Love to see more ADHD folks on dev.to

I wrote this article that might interest some about the topic

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sivaravindv profile image
Siva Aravind Velladurai

Thanks a lot for that insight. This has come timely to my notice!

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anitagraham profile image
Anita Graham

I was diagnosed with ADHD sometime after my 60th birthday.

Your mention of making notes is a winner. For many years I've had work journals for making notes on whatever I am doing, write plans for the day, or just note what is happening during a meeting. (People sometimes ask for me for the meeting minutes, and I have to explain that I'm not the secretary, but otoh I can tell them what I thought happened at a meeting).

Taking notes is good for so many things. Guidance, prioritising, memory amongst them.

Talking (to yourself, or someone else) is really helpful for getting over those moments when you are stuck in a problem. Even writing out a problem as a github issue, or a stackoverflow request for help can solve the problem - and you don't even have to save or send what you've written. (Done that many times).

thanks for such a useful article

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naalaryea profile image
Dorcas Adjeley Laryea

I'm so glad you found my article one worth sharing. I am always so elated when i meet people who got their diagnosis later/outside the normal known age group for diagnosing ADHD, because i had to struggle through getting a diagnosis, being told adults "cannot" get ADHD which is a lie.

I can see you also use some of the methods that work for me. I'm so pleased to know I am never alone in this. I appreciate your comment so much. I hope to keep writing more (hopefully something else doesn't steal my interest or cause me to give up on writing) <3

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imrj profile image
imrj

why at 60? just curious, because ADHD is life long, how did you cope before?

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anitagraham profile image
Anita Graham

I coped "well enough" I guess. I was fortunate that I was studying when computer science was introduced at my Uni, so I became a programmer.

I think that I would have done a lot better though, if I could finish projects, handle people better, and just be more normal. And I was diagnosed because I do have mental health issues (depression) and was having three different conversations with my psych at the same time.
Overall I would say that being intelligent brought enough positives to outweigh the negatives.

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mintii profile image
Brittney Braxton

Your experience fits a larger narrative of women diagnosis with ADHD where our gendered socialization outweighed the problematic behaviors we may have experienced. It was and still is a diagnosis skewed to boys and their raucous behavior.

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dabigin profile image
Brandon Dalton • Edited on

For almost 6 years now, I have tried many times and failed trying to learn web development. Like you, I have ADHD. I also suffer from Bipolar Disorder, and just a couple years ago found out that I'm Autistic. I find myself watch motivational videos and try to get myself to start another video, but I find myself just turning off the videos and going back to my daily routine, wishing I had done more. I applaud you in your efforts and would like to thank you for writing your story. Know that you aren't alone in the struggle. Thanks for having the courage of sharing your story with others.

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