ADHD & Programming (My Story With ADHD)

Written By John Sonmez

Technically, I have ADHD. I don’t even know what that means, really. I've suffered a long time with ADHD, but, somehow, I managed to turn it into my superpower and become a REALLY good programmer doing that.

Programming is not easy. It requires commitment, logic and, most of all, FOCUS.

How do you come about learning and becoming a programmer if you suffer from ADHD? #adhd #programming #programmer

This is what we're going to be talking about in this video.

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Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: Today we're going to be talking about ADHD and programming. I know a lot of programmers, a lot of you guys have ADHD. I've been diagnosed with ADHD, and I've written some articles about it. I'm going to give you some strategies for dealing with ADHD as a programmer, and tell you how you can utilize this to make the most of this.

I'm John from On this channel, we teach you personal development, we teach you soft skills, we teach you how to advance your career and to become a better developer to make more money, and the things that other people don't talk about in the tech industry. Click that subscribe button to join us and get a weekly video about your career.

I came across your article the other day about ADHD on your website. As a creative musician, photographer, and videographer, I had been involved in front web development for about 12 months now, with a bit of freelance on the side too, so I know enough to create projects, et cetera. In your experience, would you say that when put on the spot with the technical tasks to do with programming, you experience a much different mental state when compared to, say, being involved in a creative task?

Let me tell you guys first about my ADH story. As a kid, I was diagnosed with ADHD. As a kid, I basically got kicked out of preschool for climbing up the walls and pulling a girl's hair. I was medicated, right? I was given Ritalin. It calmed me down to some effect, right? I was still kind of a crazy kid. But looking back on it now, I was just a boy. I was just a kid, and kids act up and act out.

There's something going on, right? With me. I was a little bit different, okay? In the sense that I was very much exhibiting the behaviors of not being able to control my impulses, right? Of getting obsessed with things at the micro. Or being lazy and procrastinating, and not being able to will myself to do things that I wanted to do. I lacked the self-control. But again, it's the part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex that hasn't developed yet.

I struggled with this throughout school. In fact, what I did was at one point though, I didn't want to be medicated. I knew this from a young age. I think by the time I was like seven or eight, I basically refused to take the medication. I spit it out. I was not going to be medicated.

But finally, about the time I got to high school is when I started to develop some skills to manage this, right? I learned that what I could do… Because I was unorganized, so I could actually become meticulously organized. In fact, nowadays, people ask me to help organize their stuff because I'm so organized, because it's a skill that doesn't come naturally to me.

What I learned in life, and I think this is just a valuable thing, is that just because you're born with some kind of a disadvantage, doesn't mean that you can't turn that around and it could become your greatest strength. A lot of people say to work on your strength. I say to on your weaknesses. Why? Because your strengths you take for granted.

So what I would say with this is in general, right? If you're a programmer dealing with ADHD, that don't think of this as something that is going to hinder you, right? In fact, don't even think of the diagnosis. Don't classify yourself as ADHD. There's no such thing as ADHD, but ADHD is my superpower. Why do I have that conflicting viewpoint? Because I won't identify that as a drawback to myself. Just like maybe a disabled person would say, “I'm not disabled,” right? Because they don't want to be identified. They don't want to be classified by that. It's the same thing here.

The point is that there's some characteristics, some attributes that people are labeling as ADHD that I have that maybe you have. The way to deal with that, okay, is to focus, is to learn to focus, is to train yourself to put processes in place.

I have checklists. I have processes on my wall, on my board. I run a very tight ship in order to keep myself focused and keep myself on task in order to overcome some of these things. And I'm able to hone that energy, I'm able to use that. And I kind of think of it as like Cyclops with his visor, right? He's got this… It shoots everywhere, but he puts that visor on and he's able to focus it. So it's the same thing here.

As far as programming, as far as the difference between creative tasks and doing programming and technical tasks, one way I approach it is, and this is perhaps why I like clean code and writing good code is because I approach all programming as a creative task. To me, it's like writing, it's like an art form, because I'm doing the best I can, not just to solve this program or this problem technically, but to make it as expressive as possible, right? Try to express the intent within the code to name things right. To define the structure of the code where it feels like art. To me, good code is art, right?

I think that's really what I would recommend as a developer if you're struggling with ADHD, is make it into a creative thing. It already should be. I mean, it really is a creative discipline. But make it even more so, right? Realize that this is art, that this is a creative experience. And yes, sometimes you're going to bang your head against the technical and the focus part of it, but you have to develop the discipline.

As a person who is diagnosed with ADHD, the biggest skill that you're going to develop in life is discipline. I have gone from a completely lazy, procrastinating person to perhaps one of the most fucking disciplined people that you will ever meet in your life. I do crazy shit. I mean, I run fucking marathons, run 40 to 60 miles a week while going to the gym two hours a day, three times a week. Maintain my physique, eating one meal a day.

But I'm not using ADHD as a crutch. I'm not using it to hide behind. Instead, what I'm doing is I'm saying, “Okay, well, because of this, I have learned to become disciplined to a point where other people have not.” It has forced me. Because if I want to be successful and I want to operate in this life, I have to overcome these tendencies. So I have to develop the discipline that no one else has ever developed. That can really help you.

I will talk to you guys next time. Take care.