“What’s it like having a secret superpower that’s invisible, misunderstood, and sometimes way too powerful?”
When many people hear that someone has Attention Deficit Disorder/ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, otherwise known as ADD/ADHD, there’s an overwhelming stigma that paints a picture of what it’s supposed to look like in a person. The stereotype is an overly talkative child who is lazy because they can’t do their work. J. S. “Trip” Gilmore III ‘16
is an advocate for those who struggle with the condition, especially the approximately 5% of adults who have ADHD, which represents over 11,000,000 people in the US. He’s learned and honed in on some mental tools to help use the disorder to one’s advantage.
First, what is ADD/ADHD? According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association
, it’s a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors. There’s more than just one type of ADHD, but the most recognizable symptoms are lack of attention to details, an inability to follow or remember instructions, getting easily distracted, fidgeting, and/or talking too much. More than 1 in 10 children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD, many of whom will have symptoms that persist into adulthood.
As someone who was one of the 6.4 million kids aged 4-17 with ADHD, Trip had to learn how to manage being overwhelmed and overstimulated, especially in new environments such as private school. Often people with ADHD will have an overabundance of ideas they are eager to explore, but have a hard time organizing their thoughts to get directly to the finish line.
Trip, who studied Physics and Business Economics at Hampden Sydney College and is currently a Data Analyst at Virginia Green, has always loved learning about how things work. His most recent project has been developing their new dashboard system and helping the company become more efficient with data usage. His desire to work with dashboards and other data analytics systems gives him the energy to directly focus on those projects. “Hyperfocus”, when used to one’s advantage, can arguably be one of the best aspects of ADHD. Sometimes one becomes so fascinated by a subject/task that full focus is directed entirely on it. For many to “activate” this hyperfocus, they must be interested in the topic. One technique Trip uses for learning is to find ways to make it interesting to him. If the subject is not particularly stimulating, he will think about the results of learning the subject. That often helps him stay motivated and focused.
One of Trip’s best pieces of advice is to start using your smartphone smarter. When your brain is trying to focus on juggling tasks, you forget that chore you’ve been meaning to do, that doctor's appointment, or even what day you’re hanging out with your friends. To combat that, use your phone’s calendar to schedule and categorize all events ahead of time so it will remember for you. Routines and structure are also very helpful. One of Trip’s responsibilities at work is to build data collection sheets every two weeks. He sets a calendar reminder to do this every other Friday so that it helps keep tasks organized. This can be used for other tasks at home as well, like laundry, dishes, and grocery shopping.
On the other hand, our brains tend to wander on social media, playing games or browsing the internet. By checking the “Screen Time” section in your phone’s settings, you can learn exactly what your habits are. To prevent extraneous time on distractions, the downtime function will limit how long you can use an app during the day. If that fails, Trip says biting the bullet works as well. He deleted the social media short video app, TikTok
, for this very reason, as he noticed himself becoming absorbed in it because the videos are the perfect length to satisfy his brain.
Unstructured projects tend to be difficult for people with ADHD. While at HRA, he learned to be bold, to take more risks and never be afraid to try something new. So, it’s no wonder why Trip wants to be a pathfinder and discover methods to make an unstructured project easier and more productive. Having ADHD can make life a bit frustrating, but Trip likes to view it as a challenge. Using these tools, he says his work performance has accelerated, his confidence has grown, and his lifestyle has improved. Going forward, Trip plans to lead a team of data professionals in the coming years, wants to keep on learning and bettering himself. He hopes to help more people who have ADD/ADHD learn how to use it to their advantage and would love to connect via email, email@example.com
, with anyone in the HRA community who's also interested, especially alumni.