ADHD | Getting Things Done | Productivity | Creativity | Burnout

On the Days When I Do More, I Do A Lot More

ADHD means my productivity is one extreme or the other

Alan (AJ) Autistic Widower
3 min readOct 2, 2022


Bar chart of productivity vs time, showing rapidly fluctuating productivity
Author’s own image

I want to talk about one of the ways ADHD affects me:

My highly unpredictable productivity

It’s not exactly an ideal thing for the workplace. I might appear almost genius-like one day, and a candidate for getting fired the next.

When I had proper jobs in the past, I was lucky because most of my managers just left me to get on with things, and didn’t micromanage me. That meant I could disguise my ‘spiky productivity’.

You could say I have two modes. These can last hours, days, or sometimes longer.

1. Active Mode

  • My mind is highly focused
  • I feel alive and in a state of flow, like “today is the day”
  • I’m highly organised and keen to work through “To Do” lists, typically written on paper
  • I go through the tasks and get them done

By the end of the day, there might still be one or two items remaining. But in general, a very significant number have been checked off.

2. Idle Mode

  • I struggle to focus
  • My mind is full of ideas and keeps going round in circles
  • I soon become tired
  • I feel overwhelmed and find it hard to prioritise
  • I waste hours deciding what to do
  • I’m indecisive and second-guess my choices, wondering how best to use my time

As the hours go by, I feel increasingly frustrated and annoyed with myself about all the wasted time.

Learning to Cope

Although employers would love me to be running at 100% permanently, that’s not how my mind works. And even if I could, there is a major risk of burnout.

Experience tells me to avoid pushing myself during idle periods because it simply does not work. Those are the times when my mind needs downtime. It’s a bit like



Alan (AJ) Autistic Widower

Former electronics engineer & programmer in England, 50-something with a dry sense of humour. Sharing stories & opinions. Tip jar: