Tips for Creating with a Neurodivergent Brain

Do you find yourself stuck in a constant battle with your brain while you try to do what you love (or what pays the bills)? Whether you’re a diagnosed neurodivergent or just feeling overwhelmed by life, a group of creative folks—Bethany Brookshire, Catieosaurus, HeyGude, Sue Kisenwether, and Alex Smith—who know what that feels like gathered on Friday evening at 7PM in Hilton Galleria 6 to offer up some tips that may help you beat that brain fog.

Disclaimer: not everything works for everyone. You really just need to take the time to figure out why your brain processes events and tasks the way it does, and figure out a hack that works for you. The below is a great starting point, but your personal journey is unique.

  • Find a group that is open and understanding to the point where you can say “hey, I’m feeling low-energy. Can we push the deadline for this task?”
  • Calendar blocking is useful to some neurodivergent people. By creating a specific block of time for each individual task you have to do throughout the day, you’re able to a) visualize your tasks, b) see that they’re manageable, and c) give yourself a deadline incentive to complete all of your tasks. Find a calendar type that works for you: seeing it digitally is quick but writing all of your tasks in a physical planner can help take your tasks from a hypothetical thought to a physical action.
  • Learn how long things actually take. A lot of neurodivergent people find themselves unable to start a task because they’ve made the idea of doing the task into a lofty endeavor when, in reality, it could only take a few minutes. Hint: it doesn’t take 47 hours to vacuum your apartment.
  • If you’re able, hire help. An assistant can do wonders in managing tasks a neurodivergent brain can struggle with. If you’re not in the financial position to hire full-time help, there are plenty of online services that will provide help for a nominal fee (i.e. a $25/month charge for someone to manage your calendar).
  • Body Doubles are wonderful motivational tools that increase accountability. Find a friend to have in the room while you work on your individual tasks. If you’re working virtually, there’s plenty of online groups where you only need to log onto a virtual call, and everyone works on their tasks with the call in the background.
  • Use your neurodivergence to your advantage. Take the competitive nature of Gifted Kid Syndrome and gamify your tasks. Upskill your resume with your random hyper-focuses. Find creative solutions that neurotypical brains may not be able to see.
  • Give yourself smaller tasks that work towards completing your project, and a small amount of time to complete them to help yourself see the project is doable. If you need to vacuum (yeah, I’m bringing up vacuuming again, what of it?? Maybe I need to vacuum my apartment, and am trying to motivate myself), give yourself 15 seconds to pull out the vacuum. Great, you did that. Now you have 15 seconds to plug it in. Awesome, now you have 45 seconds to vacuum the rug in your living room. Oh, you’re in a groove and ready to vacuum your entire place? Mission: accomplished.
  • You’re not less professional for having a wiggly fidget toy. Get the fidget toy, use the fidget toy.
  • YOU’RE ALLOWED TO TAKE BREAKS!! It’s hard to say no and not overcommit, but taking care of yourself is imperative to showing up authentically in your projects. You don’t have to do all the things all the time – your brain is lying to you. No one is going to think less of you for taking the time to realign with your vision.

It’s important to remember how chaotic everything is all the time. Neurodivergents are living in a world that wasn’t built for them, and it’s gotten so grandiose that some neurotypicals are also finding it difficult to cope. Breathe, figure out what works for you, and know there are so many people who want to help you succeed (find them if they’re not already in your life—we’re out there)—you got this.

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