I was reading a book called "Managing Humans" and one of the chapters was titled NADD (Nerd Attention Deficiency Disorder)
Folks, I'm a nerd. I need rapid-fire content delivered in short, clever, punchy phrases. I need this type of content because I'm horribly afflicted with NADD.
- Chapter 36, Managing Humans - Michael Lopp 2016
While reading this chapter, I had never read anything that described my life so perfectly. The chapter references an idea that those afflicted need to be over stimulated with content in order to function.
As I sit writing this post, I have a YouTube video playing of DJ Ravine. The music is very fast paced and I have good quality headphones on to really hear the quality of music. If you think that is all, you are gravely mistaken. On mute, I have Netflix open watching Season 8 of The Office. I'm not watching it, but I glance over a few times while writing this post to watch a few seconds.
I haven't even begun. I have Slack, Telegram, Discord, Keybase, Google Hangouts and GroupMe open. All these chat programs range from work to family to hobby chats. When they light up, they draw my focus and I respond within minutes. I feel naked without those chat programs open, but they don't distract me from my goal at hand - writing this post.
I still have plenty of other applications open - Thunderbird for my mail, more tabs than I can count in Chrome, Firefox is open for testing issues that require another Google account, PHPStorm for development and finally more terminal windows than I know - hidden behind windows and/or desktop screens.
I feel normal with these amount of applications and they aren't distractions to me.
You may think that core competency behind NADD is multitasking – and its true. NADD sufferers are amazing multitaskers – but that isn't their fundamental skill. It is the context switch.
Page 229 - Managing Humans
Just now while I was formatting that above quote, Slack went bold which indicated a notification. I am in 11 Slack teams on this computer and while 6 of them had a notification icon, only one had an alert - a direct ping. Slack popped up over this tab that I'm using to write this post and I answered the Slack message. It took about 20 seconds and I'm right back to writing this post.
I switch among tasks without thinking about it and my brain has been working to do that for longer than I can remember. My desktop may look messy, but there is organization to the digital madness. I know where things are and I frequently reorganize my digital desktop to leverage frequently used files & applications.
I love this style of work and I think my employer does as well. I power through a variety of tasks, because I have them all open. I don't think I have ADHD, because I chose to give my attention to something and hold it there. I just have so many things going at once that my focus jumps consistently.
With all those paragraphs above, I've seem to put NADD humans on a pedestal above others. That is not the case, because there are a bunch of downsides with this style of living.
Figuring out my own schedule is not easy. I left a piece of food in the microwave for 20 minutes yesterday morning, when it was done after 30 seconds. This is because I sat down at my computer and noticed I was being charged an extra $5.99 for something I did not agree with. In that 20 minutes, I did a support chat - argued with someone and then cancelled my business with that company.
Sometimes I come off as a know-it-all ass. This isn't intentional, but just this morning I've already read the 10am front page of Hacker News. I read the articles about Stephen Hawking’s final paper & the news that the Hubble is back in business. It may be today or next week that I enter a conversation about one of these topics but now that knowledge lies in my brain - until I forget it.
Finally, I suffer with patience for those who don't act in this aggressive consumption of content life style. It isn't fair to those who I lose patience with, but much like bad habits - its tough to break. I feed this NADD affliction daily which doesn't help when I cross path with someone who doesn't.
I've made a surprisingly embarrassing technique for this when I know I don't want to upset the other party. I just take a walk before whatever engagement is happening. This slow paced walk with no distractions slows down my body and allows me to focus in the upcoming situation.
I started writing this post at 1:06pm and the clock just struck 2:02pm. I'm not done writing yet, so probably a 3-10 minute buffer at the end. To summarize my thoughts - I think a healthy amount of NADD in everyone's life would be beneficial. The benefits of nearly instant context switching is a great help at work.
There are plenty of downsides though, which might explain why all my Tinder dates don't go well.
If any of this reminds you of your life - you might be NADD afflicted. There is nothing wrong with that.
Thanks to Michael Lopp for the "Managing Humans" book which gave the idea for this blog post.