Multi-tasking and ADHD: Eventually the trains get where they need to go

Georgia NeSmith
3 min readApr 6, 2020
The ADHD Brain is like a train station with trains going every which direction, all with purpose & excitement

In conversation with 7 Modern Life Habits That Can Be Incredibly Bad For Your Brain Health, by Thomas Oppong. [Feb 12 2020 · 6 min read]

“You’ve likely heard that multitasking is bad for your productivity. It turns out, it’s a habit that also rewires the brain and makes you less effective.

…When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.” [Thomas Oppong]

…And while they are at it, people with ADHD brains on those multitasking trains have a lovely, interesting trip generating a pile of great new ideas.

I understand the issues that most people end up with while multi-tasking — even if what needs to be done gets done, very little of it will have the quality that long term concentration on one task would have.

But for an ADHD person, eschewing multi-tasking will take them down the merry path toward the dreaded status of “bored to tears” — a TOTAL attention killer for ADHD folk. And nothing gets done. Not even done badly.

Let’s be clear: multi-tasking for ADHD brains isn’t the same as it is for an ordinary brain. Multi-tasking isn’t about talking on the phone while reading an email & doing squats all at the same time. Instead we usually have multiple projects going at once. We may look back and forth at them for a while, doing a little here, a little there — but if we’re doing work that’s right for us, one of the projects will ultimately catch our eye, and the unstoppable hyperfocus train grabs us and won’t let go until we’re finished [tho we may have to stop to eat and sleep, it will always be with us, chugging ahead.]

We give it our undivided attention to for as long as we can. Then, when we’ve run the track as far as we can take it, boredom sets in, leaving us immobilized. But if we have several projects going at once, we can set that one aside for another that perks up our energy enough to get us moving again.

Georgia NeSmith

Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.