The Squirrel Effect

Mar. 21st, 2016

One of the lesser known symptoms of ADHD is that of interest. Or rather it's known by other terms. Ever see a dog be completely engrossed in something, like say a treat, then the very next second it's off after a squirrel? That's the big joke among ADHD individuals. We’re constantly off after squirrels.

It's not that whatever topic came before the ‘squirrel’ isn't interesting or important, it probably was, it's just that our brains are wired to respond to the newest interesting thing. It's one of the reasons many people are forming the theory ‘ADHD’ as we know it today may have developed as an evolutionary result of hunting. Because let's face it, we are terrible gatherers.

Like so many things, this symptom has two sides. A lot has been said and written about the impairments caused by ADHD and those people aren't wrong. There is another side, however, that often goes overlooked.

If something really new and interesting comes across our desk, an ADHD person can put in an incredible amount of time and effort and get the project done really well. This is why it's important to harness the power of the squirrel effect.

For a long time after I realized that the new and interesting took priority in my brain, often at the expense of other things, I avoided leaping on anything right away. I forced myself to only work on the next thing on my to do list.

The problem with this is it's once again looking only at the bad side and not at the good side. Those new and interesting things still needed to get done, but by the time I got back to them they were old hat and boring. They took twice the effort because I'd intentionally left them to later.

The moral of this anecdote, as I took it, was this: when a squirrel runs across in front of you, always pause to see if you're about to run into traffic, but if you're in an open field, you go get ‘em.