A lot of people seem to think that the always-on Internet has a detrimental effect for those of us who suffer Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). I was officially diagnosed with ADD at the age of 49 but I had it all my life.
Wellllll . . ., maybe not ALL my life, since ADD was not a thing when I was a kid. I was extremely fidgety, easily distracted, and had difficulty sitting still. I would have had ADHD, but that didn’t exist back then, either. Man, were we ignorant! I managed to shed the H (hyperactive) piece before my diagnosis, but never could shake the ADD.
ADD + Business Analysis = ???
So, what does this have to do with Business Analysis? I was practicing and teaching Business Analysis when I was diagnosed with ADD. I tried Adderall for a while and focused a whole lot better. In 3 weeks, I developed an entire 2-day course on how to identify testing strategies from requirements while working on 4 different requirements documents.
But in the process, I started to miss something. There were no more “Squirrels” in my life (for anyone familiar with the 2009 movie “Up”). I was productive, but I wasn’t getting nearly as much enjoyment out of life. I missed the laughter, the excitement, and sometimes the pure silliness of following that new shiny object.
Not long after that, I decided to drop the med (gradually, just like the Doctor ordered) and returned to my wild side (considerably safer than the “dark side”, believe me!) That’s when I realized that there were significant advantages to ADD for BAs. I could be more productive, just in different ways.
A Day in the Life of a Practicing Business Analyst
As a practicing Business Analyst, you face a plethora of different and distinct situations every day. Each situation calls for an entirely different set of skills.
In the morning, you listen in on a daily scrum session with an Agile team, followed by a 45-minute “3-amigos” conversation with 7 attendees (never could figure out how the math worked on that).
On your way to a 3-minute coffee break, you are ambushed by a Quality Assurance analyst (read “Tester”) who wants to know how to interpret one of the scenarios you developed the day before.
After extracting yourself from his clutches, you head back to the seclusion of your desk where you overhear a neighbor trying to defend the use of Trello over ZenHub for Kanban Board Management. Since you helped define the requirements for the corporate initiative that ended up going with Blossom, the discussion sounds like a moot point but you cannot stop yourself from enjoying the one-sided argument.
You finally sit down and flip on your monitor, noting that it is already 8:30 am and you haven’t even started developing the business case for the priority project your boss assigned to you last night at 7.
Life in the Business Analysis Lane
45 IMs and 53 emails scream for your attention, so you do the only intelligent thing you can think of. You open WhatsApp to see whether your buds have an opening in their Saturday tee-time for you. That settled, you have something to look forward to for the weekend.
Returning your attention to your messages and emails sends your mind off in a thousand different directions because it seems like each message is a fire threatening to consume entire projects if not addressed immediately.
As you go through them one by one, you learn that 95% extinguished themselves without your intervention and the remaining 5% can easily wait until next week. You set reminders to nag you on Monday then you decide it’s time to tackle that business case. Glancing at the clock, it’s closing in on 9:20 and you’re only on your 4th cup of coffee. Time to produce.
Multi-Tasking is Highly Underrated for Business Analysts
I could go on and on about your day, but I’m sure you get the gist of it. I don’t know how I could survive days like that without ADD. Every distraction almost feels like a piece of a mosaic that only makes sense after the fact. A day without distraction is a day wasted (or something like that).
In retrospect, it feels like ADD should be a prerequisite for the position of business analyst. Sometimes, you should just follow that next shiny object, that squirrel, to see where it might lead you. Could be the clue to solving life’s greatest mystery, or at least give you an innovative idea on how to write your next User Story or Given-When-Then scenario. Then, again, maybe not – but you’ll never know until you go there.
The least I can say in defense of my ADD affliction is that I never get bored. There is always something going on in the world around me worth getting distracted for. I would miss all that if I could only focus on a single task. I think I’ll go get another cup of coffee.