I'm not owing you my hyperfocus!

Author Christian Reading time 6 minutes

Photo by Tara Winstead https://www.pexels.com/photo/motivational-phrases-for-mental-health-8378735/

Recently, I had a conversation with a recruiter on LinkedIn. It started pretty normal, but for some reason I mentioned I have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder (Wikipedia)). The recruiter replied that this could be used as an advantage. "How so?" I asked.
And immediately after stating my question, the recruiter said something that made me angry in a rather rapid way.

The recruiter elaborated that I can be presented as way more productive due to my hyperfocus (Wikipedia), and that this has the potential to give my future employer a huge benefit.

I was speechless. I didn't reply for 2 minutes. Only thinking: "WHAT!?"
It certainly didn't help that the way in which my hyperfocus was portrayed reminded me of how slaves were marketed in human history. Pointing out the benefits of their bodily features for the profit of their future masters. Nope. Definitely not helping.
But the main reason for my anger stirred from the fact that my hyperfocus is not some kind of fancy addon. Not some kind of trait I voluntarily learned.
My brain works differently. The chemicals that my brain produces are produced in different amounts than in people without ADD. Science has proved this again and again. This is directly tied to different behavioral patterns. Which can cause problems with people who are not on the neurodiversity spectrum of brains.
Many of us ADD'ers only learn of this in our late 30s or even later. After decades of struggling. Trying to find out, "What is wrong with me? Why am I so different than anybody else?" After all, diagnosis was bad in the previous decades. Going even so far as: "ADD is only present in children. It will go away with time." That those children simply learned to hide their ADD and suffered silently as adults? That many adults with undiagnosed ADD develop a depression because of this? Yeah.. This is only understood since a mere decade or two.
I would happily trade my hyperfocus for a normal brain. Don't get me wrong. I don't hate myself for having ADD. It's just the way that I am. And since I got my diagnosis, I have learned more and more about myself and how to deal with all that accompanies ADD.
Fortunately, diagnosis, help, and treatment get better and better, especially for children. Well, at least here in Europe.
But if you are already an adult? It kind of sucks.

(TL;DR: Money. Here in Germany, doctors can send bills to healthcare providers if the ADD patient is a child. But NOT if the patient is already an adult. Yes, a flaw in the law. But an annoying one. This effectively means: Trainings, Coaches, behavioral therapy, medicaments.. All paid for if you are a child. As an adult? Here, take your pills with Methylphenidate (Wikipedia) (like: Elvanse, Medikinet, Ritalin, Concerta, etc.) and that's it. If you want more, search and pay for it yourself.)

But utilizing my hyperfocus in a way to improve my chances of getting hired?
That's NOT the way it's going to work. That's not the way it should be E-V-E-R. That's just a twisted and perverted way of exploiting oneself.
Personally, I have the following approach: If it kicks, it kicks. Sometimes I enjoy it. Using it to deep-dive fast into the topic and learn so much in so little time. Sometimes it's annoying as hell, as I know I can't give in to the hyperfocus as there are other pressing matters more relevant to me or the lives of others.
Most importantly: My hyperfocus is not something I can control.
Yes, there are situations/techniques, etc. that can help. And I've read my fair share of ADD'ers saying they are able to control it.
I always immediately question myself: "Can they, though? If they can, should they?"
While being hyperfocused, I feel great. Time feels stopped, yet I can see how rapidly I advance. Which is an awesome feeling for someone with ADD who, more often than not, feels things are too slow to be enjoyable.
But right after the rush of hyperfocus ends? Yeah, better spend some quality leisure time to recharge those internal batteries of yours. If not. Or you simply can't? Things tend to get messy. Missed appointments, forgotten tasks, household chores being left undone, and so on.
And now I imagine ADD'ers who constantly push themselves into that rush just to "prove their worth to their employer." After all, they were sold with that advantage, right?
Why not just hand out free cocaine to non-ADD employees then? Sounds stupid? Dangerous? Yep, now you understand my point.

Back to the recruiter. I told the person all this. That my hyperfocus is a part of me. And it's not a reliable one. Or rather: One on which I wouldn't rely on to get the job done. That I just want to be treated normally. And not be "our newest hyperfocus hire.".
The answer I got was: Well, sadly, not much at all. The recruiter got that I wasn't interested in a job. Well, I said so before. It's just that our conversation switched to this topic then. And therefore, the recruiter seemed to not bother answering any of the ethical questions I imposed.
I mean, I get it. What the recruiter said was, most likely, only meant to uplift me. To make me feel good. To give me the impression that I have good chances of being hired.

But still: I'm not owing you my hyperfocus!


Some days have passed since I published this post and there is something which I want to add. It's about the whole topic: "Due to your hyperfocus you are more productive!"

Personally I think this is not true. All imponderabilities aside: You need to recover after a hyperfocus. You cannot be constantly in hyperfocus. Like you can't constantly be in a state of flow, something which everyone of us has experienced at one time or another. But hyperfocus, in my personal experience, is way more intense. And I can't say how long it will last.

Likewise I can't tell how long I need to properly recover, but here the logic comes in. Do I need longer to recover (and are maybe less productive during this period) and therefore eliminate the benefits of the time spent in hyperfocus? Or not?

Do hyperfocus and recovery-time always cancel themselves out? Or not? Or like in 70% of all cases? What is the right number here? Is there any at all?

I don't really want answers to these questions. They are simply not needed.

And is there a guarantee that someone in hyperfocus won't make mistakes? Of course not! My advise to employeers would be: "Be happy and thankful when an employee does way more work in a considerable short amount of time. But don't make it the new standard or take it for granted. That won't neither last nor help."