The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

ADD

Bar Prep is Scrambling our Brains

One of my best friends is a fellow lawyer, and she’s pregnant with her first child. We had breakfast this week where we decide “pregnancy brain” and “bar brain” are remarkably similar.

Reminder: Rob-tastic and I teamed up with Barbri to document and share our stories from studying for the July 2017 California Bar Exam.

We still find reasons to smile.

Brain Cramps
Rob and I are so distracted with studying that we suck at remembering mundane things lately. This past Monday, Rob packed is lunch for the office, and promptly left it at home. Likewise, I went to the office and left my cell phone and the power cord for my laptop at home. Later that day, I was giving the senior litigator an update on an ongoing matter. I told him that we granted the opposition an extension to submit their response to our motion, and he asked when our reply would be due. My brain cramped and went completely blank. The only thing I could say was, “Ask Amiee.” (Amiee’s our paralegal who does all of our docketing and sends us weekly reports with due dates for all our pending cases.)

I’m grateful for alarms, email reminders, and Sharpie pens. They make it possible for me to remember anything lately. The night before I had breakfast with my friend, I wrote her name on the back of my hand so when I woke up, I wouldn’t forget our date. I told myself that when I become an adult, I’ll stop writing on my hand.

Every little bit helps.

Study Study Study
Most of our time is devoted to studying right now. We’re staying on top of our client work, but putting off everything that can wait until after the bar exam.

The rule about the bar exam, is you don’t have to get an A. We have to get at least a D-, and it’s a test that’s graded on a curve. All we have to do is pass. Right now, we’re doing what we have to do to pass.

Rob-tastic seems to be focused mostly on the MBE subjects and starting to circle back to the subjects he watched early on in his bar prep. My energy is going into making flash cards. Making and reviewing them are the best way I know to memorize all the rules and tests. I think I’ve made over 700 cards so far. By the time I turn every Barbri outline into flash cards, I suspect I’ll have close to 1,000.

I added an element for positive feedback to my flash card work. When I start working on a new subject, I count the number pages in the outline and put that many pennies on my desk. As I finish each page, I put a penny in a cup. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction each time I toss another penny in and it keeps me motivated to keep going when I’m tired.

Flashes of Creativity
I think my “bar brain” comes with a dash of ADHD. As I’m studying, I’m being hit with fantastic ideas I want to work on after the bar exam, and they’re clear, concrete, actionable thoughts. I don’t know where these ideas are coming from by they are all over the board – the house I’ve decided I’m going to build, a new CLE I want to teach, and a “field trip” un-networking group I want to start are just a few of them. By the time we leave for the bar exam, I’ll probably have a giant Post-it on my wall labeled “After the Bar Exam” to capture all these ideas. (Rob says he’s feeling ADDish too.)

Less than two weeks to go! We’re both looking forward to getting this test behind us. For anyone else who is taking the California Bar Exam, we’ll see you in Ontario.

Living ADD-esque

In the last year, thanks to the makers of my anti-depressant medication, my depression is more under control. What’s emerged as my depression subsided, is that I have significant attention deficit tendencies. I was tested for ADD/ADHD and I’m not ADD enough for a formal diagnosis, but without deliberate external forces, I am ADD-esque. My psych nurse calls it “ADD lite.”

Twirl by pixxxie_girl from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Twirl by pixxxie_girl from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Being ADD-esque can be problematic since I also have anxiety. I can be easily distracted and too much stimulation is overwhelming. I have a low threshold for large crowds, rush-hour traffic, and shopping malls. I mentally and emotionally short circuit if I’m in an environment with too much input.

I’ve noticed that I already employ several behavioral techniques recommended to people with ADD. Last year, Peter Shankman did a webinar called ADHD Superpower about how he uses his ADHD for professional and personal success. This was eye-opening to me towards acknowledging that I can be somewhat ADD when I don’t manage myself.

Peter compares ADHD to the engine in a sports car. It can be a lot of fun when you know how to use it. When your brain is faster than the average person’s, you have to harness that power to use it to your advantage or it will cause problems. Here ae some of the techniques I use to manage my ADD-esque life: Here are some of the tricks that work for me.

Eliminate Choice
I’ve always struggled with indecisiveness. In high school, I burst into tears on two occasions buying sneakers because of the internal pressure around picking shoes. Now I eliminate choice whenever possible. In regards to my clothes, I decide what I’m going to wear that day before I get out of the shower. That way, I can walk into my closet, grab what I need, and get on with my day.

When it comes to what I eat, I cook on the weekend and that’s what makes up the bulk of my meals throughout the week. My meals are redundant, and I don’t care. Many nights, I pre-pack my lunch so everything is portioned out before I go to bed. If I’m going to a restaurant, I look at the menu online and decide what I’m going to eat in advance. Otherwise, there’s a high probability that I’ll hem and haw over choices, and it’s agonizing for me as well as my dining companion.

Mandatory Exercise
For me, not exercising is not an option. I shouldn’t skip a workout unless I’m sick, injured, or too tired to the point of exhaustion where working out will cause more harm than good. I suspect my years of being a gymnast, training three hours a night plus my perfectionistic nature, kept my ADD tendencies under control throughout high school. I’ve seen a running shirt that says, “I run to keep the crazy away” and I get that. If I go more than two days without doing cardio, I start to feel “off.” It helps burn off the excess energy so I can sit down and focus.

I don’t always like going for a run, but I see it as important as taking my medication.

Lists
I wouldn’t get half as much work as I do done if I didn’t have lists. I have a goal list for the month that breaks down into to-do lists for each week and each day ends with me writing my list for the next day. Lists give me a visual reminder of my goals, they help me break down big projects into manageable chunks (or else I’ll freeze up with anxiety), and I get the validation of crossing the item off when it’s done. Lists are a big part of what keeps me productive – it’s not that I don’t have goals, but I need reminders to keep myself on task.

Peter Shankman started a podcast called Faster Than Normal where he interviews all types of successful people who have ADD or ADHD. They talk about their stories and the tips and tricks they use to unlock the secrets of the ADD/ADHD brain. I listen to it during my workouts and I love it. Every episode has useful suggestions and validates my ADD experience. I recommend it if you have ADD/ADHD or want to understand it.

And definitely check out the ADHD Superpower webinar if you want to hear what Peter does to make his ADHD work for him.

 

Learning to Live with Less

As a minimalist, I’ve removed a lot of the physical clutter from my life. My new challenge is learning to not take on so many commitments and becoming more of a mental minimalist . . . and being ok with it.

Day 162: Country Swing by Loren Kerns from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Day 162: Country Swing by Loren Kerns from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

In the last few years as I’ve gotten my depression and anxiety under more control, it’s become apparent that I have some ADD tendencies. When you pair that with my perfectionism, it can be quite a challenge. I often find myself thinking that I can and should take on more because it will lead to positive attention and/or I could be badass at it.

Being ADD sucks – easily distracted by “shiny objects.” It’s hard to stay focused on projects for more than 15 minutes, and too frequently I find myself saying “Who am I; where am I; what’s going on?” That’s when I know my brain is being pulled in too many directions. One of my friends who is much more ADD than I am has a prescription for PRN medication that helps him. I saw my psych nurse recently and I asked her if I was a candidate for this medication too, and she told me I wasn’t a candidate and that I need to stop doing so many things.

Fine. Don’t let me take the easier softer way.

It’s probably a good thing that she said, “No.” When I asked my friend what it feels like to take ADD medication, his first response was, “Have you ever done blow?” I don’t think he was insinuating that his meds make him feel like he’s on uppers, but it that the rest of the world falls away and he can focus on the task at hand. Knowing me, it’s too likely that I’d take this medication daily and use it as a reason to do even more – just because I could.

My life is managed with to-do lists – color-coded annotated to-do lists. It’s what I need to do to manage my life. I don’t get things done without them.

Looking ahead to 2016, one of my goals is to be more ok with doing less. I am certain I will be working as hard as ever, but the scope of my work and my total commitments will hopefully to drop significantly. I plan to travel less, take on fewer speaking engagements, and probably not take on any more community activities then I’ve already committed to.

On the flip side, I hope this will give me more – more energy, more sleep, more time with friends, more non-work adventurers, and more time just to think. I definitely don’t give myself enough time to mull over ideas with no expectation of a final product. The biggest challenges with this plan is to let myself be okay with doing less, knowing that I could take on more.

I think this is the next step in the don’t-have-a-heart-attack, be-more-balanced plan.