I’ve struggled with maintaining an “organization of thought” for years, but when I discovered Roam a few months back, it just seemed to switch something on in my brain.
In the beginning, it was the bi-directional linking that eased the friction in my thinking. Soon though, I came to appreciate the minimalist design. If I see a too many options (constantly visible formatting menu) or unnecessary icons (Notion), my clarity goes right off the rails.
Roam has boosted my productivity exponentially and with it, my happiness.
I have ADHD and am loving Roam. I find it tremendously useful as a replacement for:
- Apple Notes
- Something else - slips my mind - I’ll come back and edit when I think of it
Anyway, not having to use all those apps and check so many different inboxes is a relief. Also, the fact that basically everything can go into Daily Notes and then link to other pages from there, is extremely helpful to me. I keep a Roam Daily Notes window open throughout the day as much as possible.
And, I’m still working on building out my graph, but making a habit of writing EVERYTHING down and then finding unexpected linkages, is what I’m looking forward to most as a new feature not previously available via other apps.
Admittedly, you do need some type of system with it. I found Anonym.s video tutorials very helpful in setting out a basic task management, project management, and goal management system. It’s a beautiful thing to have all those systems, working together, in one app.
whether this was an intentional joke or you actually forgot, this just made me laugh (coming from a fellow ADHD Roaman)
I was diagnosed with ADHD as a kid and was on medication for years. But I slowly started to realize that it just isn’t real. Yes, attention is real, having high energy is real, not being able to focus on a subject is real, but these things aren’t a medical problem. They are problems of the mind with solutions, not problems of the brain to be treated with medication. I stopped taking my medication because I felt just could not deal with the side effects and that I didn’t understand how a pill was going to give me any understanding of how to grow my knowledge. The loss of emotions, the loss of being able to feel like I had autonomy were all too much. It was like I was some kind of robot.
Roam can give you the insight that your attention wondering is not a bad thing that must be medicated, but in its place, it is celebrated as just adding to different parts of a network of thoughts that can later connect and compound. People are going to become less interested in topics at some point and people can always come back to them when the interest is there and the focus will follow.
And yes medication can be helpful, but it should not be seen as a long term solution or a final solution.
Haha Lindsey!! Not an intentional joke, but I also thought it was a little comical when I wrote it
I just explained this very thing to another friend though, and I know Roam replaces four apps for me … and then when I was writing this up, I could only think of three.
TBH, I never had a full soup-to-nuts workflow so clear in my mind that I had it diagrammed on paper, like some people I know do. Having Roam replace so many of the other apps in my workflow really helps me streamline things, and focus!!
I love this thread and absolutely see Roam as supporting my executive function and reducing stress/anxiety by allowing me to seamlessly info dump whenever needed.
For sure! It’s pretty easy right now when I can have Roam up on a separate monitor all day when working from home. Hoping for a slick mobile app for when I’m on the go, to effectively allow the same.
I need to push back on this–the genetic basis for decreased executive function in ADHD is widely and rigorously studied, see e.g.Identification of ADHD risk genes in extended pedigrees by combining linkage analysis and whole-exome sequencing and Discovery of the first genome-wide significant risk loci for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
As for how Roam works for me (I also have ADHD), I think the best part is that there’s no “right way” to take notes–I can just empty my brain into Roam, tag or link pages, and end up with a highly discoverable result.
What is a medical problem? For most of history, it has been thought as something with a physical or causal mechanism. Think of syphilis of the brain, Alzheimer’s disease, where the brain is injured, and we can test and see the damage and understand why it’s happening it terms of cause and effect. This is not the case with ADHD. Both those studies do not have any causal explanations as to why specific genes confer to anything to do with the mind. It is based on the assumption that a psychiatrist has diagnosed someone with an ADHD questionnaire and their subjective experience. No one can test for ADHD with a test of the brain, because it isn’t a medical problem. It is a problem on the mind. And any problem within the mind can be solved with a solution of the mind.
In my case, it was learning how to meditate, which gave me a kind of debugging software to notice when my focus was shifting. Roam also presents solutions to how to understand how to focus. When I want to shift my interest from one thing to another, I can indent a block and explore that thing and then return to the other thing I was focusing on earlier. And while there is no ‘right way’ to take notes, there are better ways to take notes, which is why Roam is rad.
First, it’s up to the individual how they interpret their ADHD diagnosis. If you don’t classify ADHD as a problem for yourself then more power to you. A strengths-based perspective can be empowering. Personally, I would prefer to understand the ways in which my executive functioning is deficient so that I can work around them with prosthetics (e.g. externalizing memory by note-taking).
Second, we’re at the very beginning stages of being able to accurately describe which genes influence executive function:
Our GWAS meta-analysis of ADHD identified the first genome-wide significant risk loci and indicates an important role for common variants in the polygenic architecture of ADHD. Several of the loci are located in or near genes that implicate neurodevelopmental processes that are likely to be relevant to ADHD, including FOXP2, SORCS3 and DUSP6. Future work might focus on refining the source of the strong association in each locus, especially the lead locus on chromosome 1, which is complicated by broad LD and substantial heterogeneity between the main meta- analysis of ADHD and the analysis of self-reported ADHD status in 23andMe.
It’s not really debatable that ADHD is highly heritable, though (studies place it between 74%-88% heritability) and thus it’s not debatable that there are genetic processes at play (for example the candidate genes above) that modulate executive function.
ADHD is highly polygenic and symptoms often differ between individuals because of this. Because of this I think it should be described as a syndrome rather than a disorder.
Thank you for the response. I think this line of thinking is very important so I’ll continue as long as you care to.
But what about kids? I can’t even remember when I was diagnosed with ADHD. My dad is an MD, and I couldn’t even consent. This is huge problem. And they couldn’t persuade me as to why I should be taking these little blue pills every day before school so I refused. Then one day, when I must have been around 7 years old, they were fed up and they tried to put an Adderhal pill in a brownie, which I found and was really confused and my family was all laughing. But I think I got how serious they were about how important the pill was so I started taking them. I guess I rationalized it by telling myself it was cool because family really wanted me to, and it was going to make me ‘better’ in school.
It is empowering. I think the alternative is a defeatist mentality. From what I can glean from your work, it seems you are quite the technologist. Technology is part of the solution to so many of these problems of the mind, in my opinion. Technology often gives people the insight that problems are solvable and many ways to combat the defeatism and pessimism that is in many parts of the world. From these meditation apps and retreat centers, the self-paced mastery-learning and the project-based learning e.g. Khan Academy, as well as in the growing online education space, and the fact that people who have been diagnosed with ADHD gravitate towards tech like Roam. It all points towards that what we know about the mind and the ability to focus and how to deal with energy is highly misunderstood, especially in the context of something like compulsory education.
What I’m trying to think about with you here is that however you classify it, you can unpack that thing into distinct problems that are solvable when you learn certain things about how to mind works. By thinking of problems like, how do I manage my attention? How do I manage my focus when I have a lot of energy? Is this thing I’m trying to focus on actually something I think should hold my attention or is there a conflict like, “I have to learn this thing because I’m getting paid for it.” Or like, “I have to learn this thing because of status.” Or the million other conflicts one can get into when they set bad goals or wants erroneous things.
I have pretty severe ADHD, and I’ve tried every productivity app or website there is trying to find one that works for me and is actually easy to use. When I want to enter something into a specific list, going into an app, finding the list and then entering the thing in is way too many steps, and Roams bidirectional links are the first thing that actually made sense in my brain. I still use other apps for other, specific things (I use Click up for tracking assignments and classes, and I’ve loved TickTick for a todo app for years) but it’s actually not complicated now. I use Roam for the bulk of my note taking, random thoughts, brain dumps, lists, etc. And with the mobile app now, it’s even better because I can easily share things to Roam now, like articles I want to check out later, etc. It’s honestly perfect, and it’s definitely because of the bidirectional links, the simplicity and the ease of use. It fits into my workflow perfectly and makes me feel like I’m losing my mind way less now. I know if I’m looking for something, it’s going to be in Roam, and even if I didn’t tag it, it’s so easy to search for things that it doesn’t matter.
I think it’s really interesting how the ages we were diagnosed has impacted how we think about ADHD–I was diagnosed at 25 (but as a kid I alway assumed I had it). I regret not advocating for a diagnosis as a kid, I think my life would be very different, but who actually knows–it could be that I would have disliked whatever medication I would have ended up on as a kid as much as you did. I agree that with kids it’s more important to focus on concepts, prosthetics, externalization, teacher education, affordances, accommodations, etc.
I think I do have some bias towards the type of thinking you outline here, though I am currently reading “Nihilism and Technology” and trying to deprogram myself
While I tend to think about most things in my life from a strengths-based perspective I tend to think of my own ADHD experience as being neutral–my brain works differently, and I’m interested in knowing how it works so that I can have success at the things I want to do.
Yes, this resonates with me. Many conflicts, many differing motivations (work, money, not wanting to disappoint people, curiosity, etc.) and balancing them all is very hard. Happy to continue talking but we should probably not entirely hijack the thread! Zoom sometime?
I think the “no single cause, therefore it’s not a disease”, is an illogical argument.
Many diseases are syndromes - multifactorial convergences of multiple synergistic pathways.
ADHD is a syndrome - pathways include genetic predisposition, childhood developmental factors, disordered sleep (surprisingly common), environmental factors, nutritional factors, cultural, and intrapsychological factors.
Treat all those things, yes; but it is still an identifiable syndrome - even if there is no single universal root cause, and no single magic treatment.
Where Roam fits in my puzzle, the classic pattern I’ve always fallen into with all hierarchical note-taking tools is that things just get lost all the time, and the system starts to cause a sense of dread because I have such a huge backlog of things to organize. After a while, my brain learns this and I just stop writing, because I can’t handle the cognitive burden of knowing where to place things.
This isn’t an issue anymore with Roam, because Roam doesn’t need me to babysit it.
I am so sorry to hear that this was your experience with medication. One key aspect of managing ADHD is finding solutions that works for oneself, and that experience was taken from you when you literally were dosed without your consent like that.
Stimulants do not fix ADHD, much like insulin doesn’t fix diabetes. However, for a lot of people, it really helps managing the executive dysfunction. Knowing how my brain works both on and off medication, has been tremendous for increasing self-awareness and understanding that the anxiety/procrastination/apathy etc is a function of neurochemistry, and not a harbinger of doom or destruction.
I am enjoying Roam for the daily note, linking structure etc. I have been using OneNote since release and Windows Journal (inking with an HP T1000 stylus circa 2001). I (pur)chased everything with ink since, but never actually written notes. The last while I’ve been playing with Notion, Workflow, Onyx Boox and Roam, as well trying PARA through OneNote, Microsoft To-do, Instapaper.
Roam though is providing the device ubiquity I loved about OneNote, but I’m actually taking notes. I’ve always aspired to be like those people who turn up to meetings with a day-planner and have every action and important detail noted (I have the unused Moleskines still).
The challenge as I have been ramping up my Roam usage and how-to reading/watching is to use Roam purposely and not spending a couple of hours playing with CSS themes from a standing start.
I’ve been diagnosed for around 8 years now, was diagnosed as an adult, and while I don’t really have an opinion about how ADHD is framed by the medical community, I did find that a lot of the material developed develop strategies for folks with ADHD pretty insufficient. The books that I’d read by medical professionals didn’t really land for me aside from attempting to address the guilt that I grew up with.
What’s different, I think, is there are now communities of people with ADHD who talk about the affective or experiential aspects of it, and it’s those communities that have helped me understand the purpose of organizational systems. Trying and (from my perspective, failing) to implement stricter systems like GTD put me off of note taking and organizational strategies, but Roam’s looser set of associative tools gives me enough structure to find and read notes (which I didn’t do before, note-taking for me kept my hands busy while I tried to listen, and I eventually abandoned note-taking in school in favor of active listening save for math class, I can’t just remember proofs).
Org-mode set me up to understand that I could build and change a system at need, but the maintenance burden of writing features or tweaking views for my system kept me from really branching out very much. Roam gave me search and a few other ways to organize, and if I want to change how notes are organized I can just change it with very little overhead.
My path to being a somewhat organized person wasn’t one that used treatment to mold me to my environment, but one that allowed me to acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses and build an environment around them. Roam’s loose structure allows me to frame note-taking and research in a way that doesn’t just slide off my brain.