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Adapting To ADHD Through Improvisation – Benefits & Consequences Of Creative Attention

Written by: Daniel Van der Pluym, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Daniel Van der Pluym

Professionals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have often found themselves navigating the world in unique ways, relying on novel methods to overcome challenges and build creative solutions. However, this approach can also be a double-edged sword for people living with ADHD. Without proper management of time, energy, and attention, too much focus may be directed into many different areas leading to incomplete tasks and a lack of progress. In this article, we will explore the consequences of having too much attention spread across multiple tasks for ADHD professionals, as well as strategies they can use to streamline their efforts and achieve positive outcomes.

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The challenges of unmanaged improvisation


There is no doubt that improvisation can be utilised as a strength and unique gift, particularly for those with ADHD. The question is, what happens when this same skill is applied without proper guidance? What are the implications if one’s prevalent tendency towards doing things differently leads them down paths that may not lead anywhere? How does one manage such an unpredictable yet powerful force? These are questions that need answers if those affected by ADHD wish to make full use of their improvisational strengths.


When it comes to task management, having an improvising mind can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it can lead to creative solutions that may not have been possible with linear thinking alone. But on the other hand, there is always the risk of going off in too many directions at once. Various research has found that one of the biggest challenges of ADHD is having too much-uncontrolled attention, which leads to unproductive mind wandering. This means that tasks remain incomplete, goals are never achieved and progress is constantly stalling due to the lack of focus. For ADHD professionals, this can be incredibly frustrating and disheartening as all the effort they have put in, appears to have gone for nothing.


Neural correlates of mind wandering


Several neuroimaging studies have found that the neurological challenges associated with ADHD, lead to too much attention in the wrong areas and mind wandering. Specifically, the default mode network (DMN) is a brain network that connects frontal lobe regions associated with concentration and self-reflection. Hyperactivity in the default mode network can lead to too much attention directed in the wrong areas. In ADHD, overactivity in the DMN can lead to a lack of progress in various tasks due to too much attention being directed to non-productive areas.

The strengths of improvisation


Throughout their lives, many successful professionals with ADHD have had to improvise, to overcome challenges with regulating attention. Improvisation is the ability to think quickly, problem-solve in real-time, and find the most efficient route to a successful outcome. Improvisation allows individuals who possess it to think outside the box when faced with overstimulating situations, or seemingly impossible hurdles. This skill has been used by countless creatives throughout history to produce amazing works of artistry and innovation alike. A recent article reported that the ability to improvise is linked with the ability to successfully create new concepts and projects, for creative professionals and entrepreneurs.


Success stories


Some examples of business success stories that utilised improvisation effectively include Steve Jobs and the Apple company, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, and Elon Musk and Tesla Motors. All of these entrepreneurs had something in common; they understood the value of improvisation and used it regularly to innovate, problem-solve, and make creative leaps. These groundbreakers could think outside the square, to do things differently, and as a result, created product outcomes that changed the world.


Improvisation and cognitive strengths in ADHD


According to research, the ability to improvise is strongly linked with divergent thinking in a sample of adults with ADHD. Divergent thinking is the process of coming up with many different solutions to a particular problem. Being able to identify many different, creative solutions to problems, is particularly advantageous in the business world. Improvisation allows for the accumulation of knowledge through trial and error, such that one can learn from their mistakes and use these as an opportunity to further enhance their skillset. It allows entrepreneurs and creative professionals to develop innovative solutions to problems, which may have previously been deemed impossible.


Cognitive flexibility


Improvisation is a part of cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility allows creative professionals to try multiple approaches, to find the most effective way to orient themselves towards important tasks. Furthermore, research has found that those with ADHD can generate more unusual ideas compared to their non-ADHD counterparts; indicating that they possess a cognitive strength when it comes to the ability to think creatively.


How to cultivate the ability to improvise


While the cognitive strengths associated with improvisation can be an immense benefit to those living with ADHD, they must learn to effectively regulate their attention to make full use of it. To make the most of this skill, those with ADHD need to ensure that they are properly managing their time and energy. Proper task management allows individuals to identify which areas require more focus, as well as which areas can be used for creative experimentation. By being mindful of how much attention one dedicates to each task, individuals can maintain focus and direction, without allowing themselves to become side-tracked.


Habits and routines


To make the most out of this skill, individuals need to develop activities, habits, and routines that cultivate creative improvisation. This can be done by setting aside time for creative explorations, where one can explore different solutions without the pressure of having to come up with a concrete outcome. Additionally, it is important to have someone or something that will help keep you accountable and motivated in your effort to manage your attention and energy more effectively.


Time management tools


Time management tools such as calendars and task lists can also help keep individuals on track, ensuring that they don’t become overwhelmed with the sheer amount of tasks at hand. This allows enough energy and space for ADHD professionals to harness their creative spark. and improvise.


Task management strategies


One such strategy is to break down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. This will allow professionals to focus their attention on one task at a time, rather than feeling overwhelmed by the bigger picture. Furthermore, scheduling work ahead of time and blocking out predetermined periods for specific tasks will ensure that goals are met and progress is made efficiently.


Setting goals and clear direction


Another important strategy is to have clearly defined goals and objectives. This will help keep professionals on track, as it allows them to focus their attention on the single task at hand. Clearly defined goals broken down into smaller steps can help make the task manageable and can help professionals stay motivated.


Accountability


Additionally, having a strong support network of family, friends and colleagues who understand and are aware of their condition can also be extremely beneficial in terms of providing accountability, motivation, and emotional support. Having regular personal contact with a personal assistant, coach or mentor can help to keep individuals on track and ensure they are staying focused.


ADHD Coaching to channel improvisation


ADHD Coaching is a unique form of support that helps individuals to work through the challenges associated with ADHD while helping them to cultivate and channel their creative improvisation. It can help professionals manage their time more effectively, as well as guide how to better manage tasks to achieve goals. Deeper Potential Coaching is a coaching service that helps entrepreneurs with ADHD better manage their time, energy, and attention to streamline their creative drive towards meaningful objectives, to be more effective.


Medication to help manage attention


Finally, it is important to note that medication can be extremely helpful in managing attention and concentration levels. This means that entrepreneurs with ADHD can better focus their attention on tasks and maintain it for longer periods. Types of medication to regulate attention include stimulants, non-stimulants, and antidepressants. These medications work by improving the flow of certain chemicals in the brain, which increase the activity within the logical processing part of the brain, to help manage the overactivity of the DMN.


Conclusion


In conclusion, creative professionals with ADHD possess unique cognitive strengths that allow them to think outside the box and explore different solutions through improvisation. With proper task management strategies in place, such as goal setting, time management tools, and personal accountability systems, they can channel their creativity effectively towards


Ultimately, managing improvisation is a balancing act for anyone living with ADHD. However, through the proper use of strategies and tools, creative professionals can learn to streamline their efforts and make full use of their cognitive strengths to achieve success. With the right guidance and support network in place, those affected by ADHD can tap into their unique potential and excel in their creative endeavors. By doing this, they can make meaningful progress while living life to the fullest of their abilities. It is only through understanding the unique differences that we can truly embrace and creatively use them toward a positive outcome. This is the essence of improvisation.


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Daniel Van der Pluym Brainz Magazine
 

Daniel Van der Pluym, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Daniel Van der Pluym is the founder of Deeper Potential Coaching and part founder of ADHD Ambition. He is a psychotherapist, certified Life Coach and mindfulness teacher. Through his work, he focuses on helping people overcome their life challenges to create a new story of meaning and fulfilment. His work as a psychotherapist coach and part developer of ADHD Ambition is geared towards helping people overcome uncertainty and rumination, so they can live with more clarity and fulfillment.

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