Help me think better!
January 12, 2014 9:01 PM   Subscribe

First off, this isn't a "what do I have?" question. I'm being treated for inattentive ADD and some depression and anxiety. Long story there. But one thing the meds haven't addressed yet is the ability to deeply analyze something and not just pop off the first thing that comes to my head.

I want to be able to read a book or an article, think about it, and soak it in so that I can retain its information. I want to be able to analyze an issue effectively, explore all possibilities, and come up with the best answer. Too often I'll respond to something and someone will think of something else much more comprehensive and meaningful. Too often I will be asked for a decision, and mine will ultimately be the wrong decision. It's like I'm too careless, not thinking through everything.

In college I would barely scratch the surface of an issue in a term paper; in fact, my first thesis draft was a whopping 25 pages (it ended up being 125 after my advisor kept after me).

I want to be able to more deeply understand something and go beyond. Write beautiful, meaningful poetry and lyrics. Are there books, exercises, cognitive therapy mechanisms that will help me in this area?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I hear meditation helps.
posted by aniola at 10:47 PM on January 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might start with writing notes.

For decisions, write down the problem and the requirements of a good solution.

For articles, print them out and underline key points and write questions or thiughts in the margins. Then chase those notes with investigation and elaboration.
posted by jander03 at 11:06 PM on January 12, 2014

Therapy can certainly help you learn those skills and exercise them. All the meds do is help you get out of your own way so that you can learn and practice, they can't teach you things.

If you're in a large enough area, you probably have a variety of therapists who are specifically oriented toward ADHD performance issues. If you're in a smaller area you may need to work with a CBT-type therapist toward some resources (hopefully some people here can suggest some) together, letting them bring their general tools to the table to apply the specific methodologies.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:49 PM on January 12, 2014

I can't speak to poetry and lyrics, but my job is basically reading and analysis, so here are some ideas on that front.

To follow on jander03's point, you can assign yourself to write a summary of the article or issue in question. I do this a lot at work when I have to figure something out and am struggling a bit. There are lots of ways to do this, but some ideas to try: 1) start a list of the knowns, background information, key points, and then move to unresolved issues. Try to have a one-liner intro for each entry, and then write out a paragraph getting into the details. 2) Force yourself into an arbitrary framework. What are the top 3 issues? Why? 3) Depending on the issue, you could try a SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats) analysis. In any case, don't let yourself off the hook. Keep writing until you've written full sentences that would make sense to a third party. 4) Depending on the context, I find it really helpful to work through some of this with a colleague, doing some real-time writing and then cleaning it up afterwards.

For me, I find that the act of writing, and then revising my writing, not only helps me think it through, but also I have the ideas more readily accessible in conversation. Good luck!
posted by chocotaco at 3:34 AM on January 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you have the funds (or if your insurance will cover it) look into working with a "ADD life coach". I did that when I was in graduate school and it made all the difference in the world. The most important thing I got from working with my ADD coach is that as much as you may want to give an Answer Right Now giving yourself a second to think it through and process everything will allow you to give the Right Answer Now.

It's still a struggle not to want to quickly fire off an answer that's not fully formed, but thanks to the drills we did (synthesizing paragraphs, analyzing song lyrics, word meaning drills, spatial analysis) I take a second to quickly parse through the information given before answering. Depending on how long you've been taking ADD medication (and the type) you may not have had a chance to retrain how you parse information yet, something that took me a good six months to a year to master.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 6:27 AM on January 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are a couple of books by a guy named Edward de Bono where he lays out different ways of thinking. One is called "De Bono's Thinking Course" or something like that. Basically he provides various techniques for looking at a situation or problem to analyze it a little more deeply. One example is the 5 hat technique, where you look at a problem with in a negative way (black hat), identifying problems, then in a positive way (white hat), looking at the benefits, etc. Another technique is the 5 whys, where you ask why the problem exists, then you ask why the reason for the problem exists, and so forth.

I'm not sure if this is exactly what you are looking for, but having specific step by step techniques to apply to things might help you. Good luck!
posted by natteringnabob at 9:06 AM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, one of the aims of mindfulness meditation is to be able to open up more of a space between stimulus and response. One technique in particular that might help is to begin by deciding to focus on your breath for a little while, say five or ten minutes, and then to practice noticing itches, pain, or other uncomfortable sensations in the body without immediately reacting to them. You can of course then make a conscious decision to change your posture, scratch the itch, etc., but the goal is to wait until after you've noticed it and focused on it a little - e.g., how exactly does this pain feel in my leg? Is it constant? Transient? Where is the pain exactly? - so that you have brought it into the realm of a conscious decision.

(I find this particularly hard, but it can be helpful to remember that as with all meditation exercises that I can think of, you're not "doing it wrong" if you don't succeed all the time or even very often or at all. In fact, just by practicing you're "doing it right.")

This is a book about applying mindfulness meditation practices to ADHD treatment that I thought was easy to read and had good suggestions.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:19 PM on January 13, 2014

One thing I've done before answering is attempting to predict what kind of responses (note: plural) I could expect from my statement, then planning a response for those. A lot of times, this inner dialog has saved me from jumping the gun and answering incompletely, or refining my initial statement to make it more clear. Deeply understanding something to me means thinking about the same thing over and over, not the first thing that pops up in your head.

Also, here's a thought that might have you look in a different direction: is part of the issue a lack of patience? The way you describe yourself, it sounds like you have a desire to speak out first and have the best answer, which is driving you to answer sooner. Do you feel that if you don't speak up first, someone might say what you are thinking and get the credit?
posted by jsmith77 at 5:59 PM on January 13, 2014

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