Have you ever found yourself standing in the doorway of a perfectly good plane with your brain screaming “HE’S JUMPING AGAIN!”?
In his book “Faster than Normal,” Shankman shares what he imagines his ADHD brain must be thinking as he steps into the open sky (after over 400 previous skydiving jumps). His dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin all kick in to make sure he isn’t distracted by the shiny sun and heaven forbid, forgets to open his parachute.
ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) affects millions world-wide. Though diagnosed early in life, Shankman shares that the book, Delivered from Distraction, by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and John J. Ratey, M.D. was his first true awakening after reading scenarios that resonated with his own super highs and soul-crushing lows. One minute you are on top of the world and the next, you feel trampled by a single negative comment.
Shankman challenges ADHD individuals to see their diagnosis as a gift, a superpower to make positive choices and use one’s “faster brain” to channel all that hyper-focused energy to do amazing things. Shankman shares his rules for life for those with and even without ADHD, to be more productive, avoid burnout and truly thrive.
Eliminate choice whenever possible
Keep your choices simple. Anything you agonize over, consider reducing your choices. Shankman decided morning exercise would be a priority so he’s ready for little (BIG) events like the Ironman Triathlon, which he has now done twice. He wears his gym clothes to bed and times his lights so there’s no choice but to get up and exercise in the morning. No need to think about it. Lights are on. Time to go.
Take pointless decisions — and distractions — out of your day
Shankman keeps two sides to his closet. The left side is labeled “office/travel” and has t-shirts and jeans. The right side is labeled “speaking/TV” and has button-down shirts, blazers, and jeans. That’s it. His suits, sweaters, vests, all sit in another closet in another room. Consulting his calendar, he either picks from the left or the right. The lack of decision-making prevents him from getting lost down memory lane over a long lost sweater from an ex-girlfriend.
Never miss a chance for dopamine
ADHD limits the amount of dopamine your body produces, and dopamine helps you focus. Exercise boosts that dopamine back up again. Think “runner’s high.”
“If I have a meeting, I make sure to do something physical right before it. It can be as simple as walking up a few flights of stairs, or dropping for 20 pushups in my office. But I do something to fundamentally change the chemistry in my brain, and give me the ‘attention chemicals’ I need to focus.”
Meetings: One day a week, and primarily standing
Limiting meetings to one day a week allows you to focus on getting work done the other four days. Shankman’s meetings are almost all standing up, or “Aaron-Sorkin style” walk-and-talks.
Embrace the early
Getting up, exercising, checking email, and having coffee long before the rest of the world has even woken up is, hands down, the No. 1 way Shankman has found success. You might think going to bed early and missing opportunities to network at night would have affected him negatively but quite the opposite has been true. He starts his day at 3:45 am!
Avoid the triggers
Most people with ADHD only have two speeds: “sleeping,” and “1000% on.” Because of that, when they are on, they have a tendency to go a lot faster than normal, and if they are not careful, this can cause issues. Avoid the triggers which can cause you to derail. Know thyself.
Identify your Zone of Focus (ZOF)
Some people can be productive in the office, not others. For Shankman, his ZOF is on an airplane. His last three books have been written on flights to and from Asia, because that’s where he can sit down and do nothing but write. No internet, no distractions, just his computer, his headphones, and his brain. Find where your Zone of Focus is and embrace it.
Finally, don’t apologize for who you are
All the things Shankman does that others think are crazy (skydiving, Ironman triathlons, public speaking in front of thousands), he started doing as a way to self-medicate. Now, he does what works for him and encourages others to create their own rules for life and stick with them. You do you and do it well.
Peter Shankman is a 5x best-selling author, entrepreneur and corporate keynote speaker, focusing on customer service and the new and emerging customer and neurotatypical economy. He is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about the customer experience, social media, PR, marketing, advertising, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and the new Neurodiverse Economy. www.Shankman.com