Meet The Podcast Hosts!

The Divergent Conversations Podcast is hosted by Patrick Casale and Dr. Megan Anna Neff, two AuDHD mental health professionals and entrepreneurs, as well as features other well-known leaders in the mental health, neurodivergent, and neurodivergent-affirming community. Listeners know, like, and trust the content and professionals on this podcast, so when they hear a recommendation on the podcast, they take action.


Episode 59: ADHD Interest-Based Nervous Systems

Jun 20, 2024
Divergent Conversations Podcast

Show Notes

Navigating the world with ADHD can present unique challenges, particularly when it comes to motivation and productivity. Whether it's the difficulty of getting started on mundane tasks or the complexities of staying engaged over time, the rollercoaster of emotional ups and downs can be hard to manage.

In this episode, Patrick Casale and Dr. Megan Anna Neff, two AuDHD mental health professionals, discuss the intricacies of the ADHD interest-based nervous system, how it impacts daily life, and practical ways to enhance motivation and productivity.

Top 3 reasons to listen to the entire episode:

  1. Discover effective techniques to manage your interest-based nervous system, from creating engaging environments to the use of dopamine stacking.
  2. Gain insights into different approaches for handling mundane tasks like household chores, including the concept of body doubling and competition.
  3. Learn how the 5 motivators encapsulated in the acronym P.I.N.C.H. (Passion [discussed in terms of Play for this episode], Interest, Novelty, Competition/Collaboration/Connection, and Hurry Up) can influence your actions and help overcome procrastination and anxiety.

Try exploring ways to incorporate the 5 motivators for the ADHD system into your environment and approach to tasks. Understanding your unique nervous system is a step toward having more engagement and productivity, even when facing understimulating tasks.



🎙️Listen to more episodes of the Divergent Conversations Podcast here


🎙️YouTube Music
▶️ YouTube

A Thanks to Our Sponsors: D.Rowe Co., Freed, The Receptionist for iPad

 D.Rowe Co.:

I want to thank D.Rowe Co. for sponsoring this episode.

D.Rowe Co. (which includes D.Rowe Tax LLC and D.Rowe Law PLLC) offers tax, law, and accounting services designed for creative and personal support industries. With both academic and practical experience from well-established businesses to start-ups, they offer support through top-level expertise and a fresh approach to client service. Check out their free webinar on June 17th at noon ET by visiting Use code DC10 to get 10% off services at

✨ Freed:

I want to thank Freed for sponsoring this episode.

Being a clinician in today's medical or mental health care field can be so overstimulating. It can be so hard to focus on clients as well as take adequate notes. Freed.AI listens, transcribes, and writes medical documentation for you, written in your style and ready the moment the visit is over. No more overstimulation or letting things fall through the cracks. Freed is HIPAA compliant, secure, and takes less than 30 seconds to learn. More importantly, Freed supports your executive function skills, so you can get back to doing what you love — helping your clients. 

Go to and use code DCPOD for your first month free.

✨ The Receptionist for iPad:

I want to thank The Receptionist for iPad for sponsoring this episode.

The Receptionist offers an iPad list check-in option where clients can scan a QR code to check in, which negates the need for you to buy an iPad and stand. Go to and sign up for a free 14-day trial. When you do, you'll get your first month free. And don't forget to ask about our iPad list check-in option.



PATRICK CASALE: Hey, everyone. You are listening to the Divergent Conversations podcast. We are two neurodivergent mental health professionals in a neurotypical world. I'm Patrick Casale.

MEGAN NEFF: And I'm Dr. Neff.

PATRICK CASALE: And during these episodes, we do talk about sensitive subjects, mental health, and there are some conversations that can certainly feel a bit overwhelming. So, we do just want to use that disclosure and disclaimer before jumping in. And thanks for listening.

If you're looking to grow your business and get in front of a new audience, Divergent Conversations is accepting new sponsors for the 2024 seasons. We already have over 300,000 downloads and counting all over the world. And this podcast is growing all of the time.

The beauty of podcast sponsorship is that you can get live, pre-roll, or mid-roll opportunities where we will read your ad on air while recording, getting you in front of a new audience every single week. You have the opportunity to sponsor one month of episodes at a time where you'll get four episodes in total or you can sponsor an entire year and be the exclusive sponsor of Divergent Conversations.

This is a podcast that's being distributed all over the world. The analytics are fantastic. The podcast is growing. And it is a very captive audience. Reach out to us directly via the link in our website at or email us at [email protected], and we can get started on your sponsorship journey.

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to Divergent Conversations. We just wrapped up our ADHD 101 series that we've been recording. And we're kind of moving into some other topics related to ADHD.

Today, we are going to talk about interest-based nervous systems. And I think it's going to be a really fascinating conversation. And if you don't know what that means, Megan's going to talk about that in a second. But I think that'll be a good conversation.

And then, next episode, we're going to talk a little bit about the ADHD tax, and what that entails, and how that shows up, and how it impacts us. So, Megan, take it away.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, yeah. So, I think maybe it's helpful to zoom out and like conceptualize our conversations talking about, like, motivators for ADHDers. Like, what motivates us, which I think is the vein of a lot of our existence. I know I can test it out. I think you can, too.

So, I feel like I quote him all the time, but like, for good reason I really appreciate how much he's contributed to ADHD, like, research, and literature, and language. But psychiatrist William Dodson. As far as I'm aware, he's the one that brought forward this idea of an interest-based nervous system.

And he compares it or contrasts it to an importance-based system. So, that would be a system like a nervous system, a motivation system that is more responsive to, like, obligations and deadlines versus an interest-based nervous system that is more compelled by interest. And like, that's what activates our motivation and activates kind of our ability to engage and to motivate. So, bird's eye view, that's what we're talking about when we're talking about an interest-based nervous system.

PATRICK CASALE: Thanks for that. I always appreciate the way you kind of zoom out and give that perspective. I certainly relate to an interest-based nervous system. I think after knowing each other now for almost two years, I think, I know that you also have an interest-based nervous system. I also know how it impacts me in ways that are sometimes emotionally and physically exhausting, which I think will be part two kind of this episode.

But, yeah, I really relate to this. And I think it's a nice way to reconceptualize the way we look at nervous system regulation and motivation, in general.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, I mean, and because I think motivation really is at the heart of a lot of our, like, struggle, and pain, and self-deprecation because it confuses us. And it confuses the people around us. I'm like, "Well, how is it that, like, when you're motivated and locked in, you're able to accomplish X, Y, Z, and today, you're struggling to do this really basic thing."

And so, it's frustrating, not just for us, but for the people around us. I think for parents, it really confuses them with their ADHD children of like, yeah, the disconnect and the discrepancy because so much is about, like when we can get ourselves motivated a lot of us can accomplish a lot. But that's a really big win. Like, the ability to get ourselves motivated. That's kind of, if I was reading the text, that's the part I'd underline because that's the part that is challenging for a lot of us.

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, that's such a good point too, that kind of paradigm, or that paradox of like when you're really interested in something or when you're really energized, you're so locked in, you're so motivated, it's so easy to get going versus the complexity behind the whole, like, but you're really struggling to do the dishes today, you're really struggling to, like, get yourself off the couch and take a shower. Like, you're struggling to do these mundane tasks that are pretty important in some aspects of life, but like, ultimately, not that exciting. And typically, take a lot more energy to get going, and to get that motivation and momentum behind that process when it's something that you're like, "I'm not really that excited about this, I'm not really that into this. This is not really doing it for me."

MEGAN NEFF: That's why some of the, like, ADHD, when it comes to like self-care and stuff, some of the ADHD, like, you know, tricks and hacks that are out there that I'm like, "Oh, that's creative" are people who like, have collected like a shoebox full of small but exciting, like shampoos, or lotions, or… so that the self-care is always new and exciting.

For me that wouldn't work because my sensory stuff, like I can't do anything that's scented. But for a lot of ADHDers, especially, ones that are more ADHD dominant or not also autistic, like I notice more sensory craving.

So, I think it's really clever the way people, like there's a lot of approaches out there of like, how can I make showering exciting? Like, okay, I'm going to try different body scent today, or a different shampoo, or a different fragrance. Yeah, yeah.

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, I think it's a good technique, you know, especially, if that creates that little dopamine burst that you are looking for, that you need in order to get that task completed.

I also like the idea of like, immersing yourself in something enjoyable or stimulating before having to take on a task that doesn't excite you so that you can at least stimulate the brain and create a little bit of dopamine in order to like, I don't know, do something horribly boring like [CROSSTALK 00:07:11].

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, totally, yeah, dopamine stacking. And I do that a lot. And I talk people through that of… and I'll do that. So, I have like my work projects. I have like bucket A, bucket B, and then, bucket C.

And like, bucket B is, this is tedious, it's boring, and it doesn't require my cognitive. Like, it's not as complex as, you know, writing. So, I'll pair that because I really struggle to get myself motivated with bucket B. But a lot of my work is bucket B work.

So, I'll pair it, typically, with like a show on in the background that I'm not even really watching, but just enough to give me dopamine. Or sometimes it'll be like a mocha because that's like my favorite drink, but I'll pair it with a dopamine task, or like what you're saying, do a dopamine, like, maybe I'll start with doing some design work, which gives me more dopamine, and then, I'll transition to the harder work.

But yeah, that's a really good approach because it's dopamine, like, wakes up our brains to where it's like, okay, now my neurons can talk well to each other, talk effectively. And so, that is a helpful, like, workaround of how can I get my… It's really like, how can I get my system engaged and activated, and then, maybe I can shift to some of the harder tasks or pair it.

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And it's not like, it makes the harder tasks less monotonous, or boring, or mentally challenging in some ways. But I think it allows you to at least be able to approach them more accessibly. And moving through them a little bit easier than like that constant drudgery of like, "Oh, my God, I have to do this thing that just really doesn't excite me."

MEGAN NEFF: Well, like the metaphor that's coming to my mind is like, in the winter, like, you don't just start your car and start driving. Like, that's hard on the engine. Like, you need to warm it up. And I kind of think of the same. Like, okay, you got to warm up the engine and then, we can hit the road. So, yeah, absolutely.

PATRICK CASALE: That's a good metaphor, actually. That's very true. And I can't tell you how many times in upstate New York in the freezing cold I just turned my car on and start driving and it was so-

MEGAN NEFF: I used to do that too, but then I like try and take long pauses at my first stoplight. I'm like, "Oh, I'll give you a little pause here engine."

PATRICK CASALE: And also, you're like, "Damn, the windshield really needs to defrost, but here we are." [INDISCERNIBLE 00:09:36]-

MEGAN NEFF: I never thought about that. So, unsafe driving and ADHD totally go together. But I've done so much, like, unsafe driving because yeah, I didn't think ahead to like defrost or I was too impatient. And I was like, "I can see out the sliver, this ice-coated window."

PATRICK CASALE: I actually picture myself, like, carving out that little sliver in your line of sight and you're, like, just driving as cautiously as you can. You're like, I think I've got this getting on the highway. It's horrifying to think about.

So, when we're talking about, like, this interest-based system, right? We talk about, you know, a lot of the interests that as ADHDers we get really hyper-focused on or we get really immersed in, and how does that impact the nervous system when we're doing things, like, that really bring us that joy, or that we're really hyper-focused in, or involved in at the time?

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, I mean, I think we touched on this briefly in our episode with Brett on creativity. But like, when we get into a flow state, I mean, that's really restorative for our brains and for all brains. Like, neurotypical brains, ADHD brains, it's just a really restorative place for the brain.

And I think that's why, like, it does feel so good when we're in our interest, in our flow, and we have that hyper-focus because we're in a sort of flow state that's, it's almost meditative, like, in kind of how it's impacting the brain. It's a really powerful experience.

And I think that's also why it can be so frustrating when we feel like a cold engine that's like stopping starting of like, it's like, but I know what that feels like, I can't force it.

PATRICK CASALE: And to like go a bit further with that of the, "I know what it feels like, I can't force it." You can sometimes like really chase that sensation to of trying, too, figure out like how do I get back to this place where I'm in this flow state, in this creative state, or I'm really feeling energized. Because I think we know how often we don't exist there and how challenging and rocky that can become when you're, like, trying to figure out all these tricks for your system and your brain to get started or to overcome procrastination, or inertia, or this sense of like, the intense burnout that we experience, too.

And I know for myself, I'm always like, "How can I get back into this creative place where I feel energized?" Like, where I don't feel slow, sluggish, worn down, exhausted, bored, understimulated, or overstimulated?

I saw your newsletter about the Goldilocks situation and I was thinking about that perfect setting too for this as well.

MEGAN NEFF: Yes. Gosh, okay, my brain is going in a lot of different directions. One part of me wants to unpack the Goldilocks thing. Part of me wants to, like, add to what you're saying. Well, I was having a lot of associations of like, oh, yeah, like, this is why a lot of us get into bad sleep cycles because if we aren't in one of those, like, "Oh, I'm in a heavy state of flow and creativity." It feels so terrible to leave it because, for one, it feels really good and restorative. And two, it's like, "I don't know when I'm going to get this back." Like, it's not like I can just like, hop back into this.

And so, I think this is one of the reasons why like, yeah, we'll then stay up late and our sleep cycle get up because it's like, "But I want to stay in this."

Or I was having a thought, I've always thought my demand avoidance around, so, I really try not to schedule things in my day. And then, when I do, like, I schedule everything on Tuesday so I can have some open days. And I realized it's because it feels so terrible when I'm in that deep flow state, and then, I have a meeting. I'm like, "Damn, why did I schedule this?"

And I hadn't thought about that before until you were talking like, "Oh, yeah, it's such a scarcity thing." And when I'm in it, it's like, you feel so protective of it.

PATRICK CASALE: So, true. Actually, I never thought about that until you just said it that way because I have realized for myself, like I try to tell myself, right, oh, if I spread everything out throughout the week, sprinkle in an appointment, or a meeting, or an obligation on Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday, but only two a day doesn't really feel like that much.

But then, if you are in that state where you're feeling really energized, and creative, and spontaneous, and you're really getting a lot accomplished, and it feels good, and you have to stop to do an 11:00 AM meeting for whatever, it becomes unbelievably frustrating.

MEGAN NEFF: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And on the flip side of that, so I've been in like a dry spell of creativity and I think my fatigue's just been really high. So, like, I have blocked off several days and I'm like… I'm working on finishing my manuscript for the Autistic Burnout book I'm working on with Simon and Schuster. And so, June 15th is the deadline. So, like all last week, I blocked out for deep focus. And I couldn't do it. Like, my brain was like, "No, we're not writing today."

And this week again, I've blocked it out because deadline coming up and my brain is like, "Nah, we're not going to do the deep focus thing."

So, on the flip side, it's like a ton of pressure, which is like, "I cleared my schedule brain for you to have a good day and you're not."

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah. Oh, man, I can so relate to that feeling too. And then, ultimately, it creates like, that intense last second, I've got to finish this all in like one spurt. And you almost have to force yourself to acknowledge like, this has to now happen in this small window of time, and create that intense pressure in order to accomplish some of this stuff.

MEGAN NEFF: Absolutely. Okay, there was another concept I wanted to bring in. And that's a good, this idea of like waiting for urgency. So, this comes from Dodson. He talks about there being kind of five motivators for the ADHD system. And not all of us have all of them. But these tend to be common ones for us.

He created an acronym like INCU, I-N-C-U. And so, someone added P to make it PINCH and added passion, which is pretty similar to interest in my mind. My brain changed it to play, I think, because I like play so much. And I think play could be added, but it's not how the acronym is actually used. P stands for passion. Doctor Neff's addition is play.

So, these are motivators for our system. So, that's creativity and humor. Like, if we can make it playful, we can more easily engage, I is interest which we've been talking about. N is novelty, that makes sense. C stands for a few things. It could be competition, collaboration, so like body doubling or connection. Also, that would be body doubling. And then, H is hurry up and urgency. And what a lot of us end up doing is waiting for the H to kick in. Like, I know, that's what I'm doing with my manuscript right now because I've got two chapters to write in like 11 days. That's, yeah.

So, the H is going to kick in here like today or tomorrow. And that's going to be helpful. But it's also like that's the most stressful way to motivate because then we're relying on that sympathetic, like, nervous system, the stress. And so, it's the most stressful thing on our system. But it's what a lot of us like resort to is waiting for the h, the hurry up. But these are kind of other ways that we can also motivate our system.

PATRICK CASALE: I love that that acronym and breaking it down that way. And it makes so much sense. And to, like, circle back to that point about the H point, the hurry up, if you get really immersed in that cycle of hurry up and acknowledging like this stage, or this state seems to always work out for me, or it leads to results, it does reinforce the whole mentality of like, wait until the last minute, and then you're going to tap into this like intense need to finish or complete or hurry up. And that can sometimes have some ramifications, too, because life happens and sometimes unexpected things get in the way.

MEGAN NEFF: I love that you said that. This has been kind of a new idea to me. Someone I've collaborated with a little bit this year is Dr. Dini, who is a psychiatrist out in Chicago, and has this really cool system that he calls the visitor-based approach versus the force-based approach. And he wrote an article that's up on our website, and we can link it in the show notes that kind of introduces this.

But this was the first time I'd realized this, what he talks about is when we rely on ADHD hacks, or hurry up, essentially, every time we do that we are chipping away at our sense of agency because we're saying I don't trust myself to do the thing until I am coming to this last minute. He says it much more eloquently than I'm repeating right now.

But this idea that a lot of the hacks we use end up A, being very forced-based, if I'm forcing myself to do that. And every time we use a force-based approach we are chipping away at our sense of self agency.

PATRICK CASALE: That's such an interesting, like, powerful reframe into that perspective. And I can so relate to that. And I've relied upon that for so long. And you know, that could be for like, when I was in grad school or school in general, when I've been like, "Oh, I have to create slides for this presentation that I'm doing." Guess I'm going to wait until the last minute and then it'll get done.

But like, I never account for the things that go wrong. Like, what if the internet goes out because there's a storm? What if like, the dog is sick? What if you're sick? What if your dishwasher decides to break the day before you're leaving for an international trip? Like, all of these things that you don't account for, but the more you successfully complete your tasks or finish these projects with this last-second intense energy outbursts, it really does reinforce this belief of like this is the only way I can get something done.

MEGAN NEFF: So, I'm going to say this, and then, I want to nuance it. This is where anxiety can sometimes help ADHD because anxiety asks what if? I love Dr. Dalton talks about how anxiety and creativity are the flip side of the same coin because they both ask what if? Creativity is like what is possible? Anxiety is like, what if? What if my dishwasher breaks? What if there's a power outage?

So, this is where anxiety can kind of be helpful for ADHD in the sense of it's always planning around the what ifs.

Now, huge nuance, like I actually don't think like, I don't how about like anxiety disorder, not adaptive anxiety, I don't actually think it's helpful. I think it's really hard to live with. But you do see, like, anxiety kind of offset some of the ADHD traits. It's also why ADHD is harder to diagnose when people also have an anxiety disorder because it does do some of that planning and that what if, and you're… but then it sends you down, like, now you're planning for 10 terrible scenarios. So, not actually helpful but helpful.

PATRICK CASALE: No, I mean, that makes sense. I think that both of those things can be true simultaneously, right? Like, and I think that's so true for me I'm a highly anxious human. And I am always planning for 10 things. And sometimes that anxiety is super motivating or super useful, in a sense, where it's like this is actually helping me get stuff done because if left to my own devices, without any of that experience, I honestly spend more time than I'd like to think about mindlessly doing something that really doesn't feel productive, whether it's like Netflixing, scrolling, watching something over and over like on repeat.

And some of that is soothing. But some of that is also not useful when I do have lots of parts of business ownership to run. And I notice how I get so much done in these small bursts of time. And I so wish that I could spread it out sometimes instead of like get some committing the next eight hours to this project, and then, I'm going to like, exist for two weeks, and regain this energy again.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, yeah. I almost want to, like, add a sixth motivator, which is like anxiety or also RSD. Although, maybe like collaboration would fall on that.

But I think it was in our conversation with Dr. Henderson. She brought up something about like, not wanting to let other people down was one of, like, a huge motivator. And so, those are probably, again, more of those kind of negative motivators. And by negative I mean, because we're trying to avoid a like, anxious thing that we're fearing.

But I think anxiety, and then, also, RSD, like fear of letting people down, fear of people rejecting us, those are also pretty big motivators for our systems.

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's spot on. I can count endlessly about, like, how often those have been intrinsic motivators for me to accomplish a thing, see something through, do something sometimes that I don't really want to do. And I think that, that is part of the ADHD tax conversation too that we'll get to in the next episode. But like, there is a part of the, I don't want to let someone down component that does lead to a lot of overextension as well.

MEGAN NEFF: Oh, for sure, for sure. Well, and as we're on overextension, I think this, and you and I have talked about this of like, maybe when an opportunity comes to us it's like, "Oh, that sounds so interesting." But the opportunity actually takes place a month later. And it's like, "Oh, wait, that's no longer interesting."

This is my thing with speaking events. I often, like, when someone first comes to me I'm like, "Oh, that sounds really interesting." But speaking, like, prepping, I mean, you know this, it takes so much time. And it's like the interest doesn't tend to carry through all that labor.

PATRICK CASALE: Now, the juice doesn't always feel worth the squeeze in that situation of like this-

MEGAN NEFF: Is that a phrase? Oh, my gosh-


MEGAN NEFF: I love that. [CROSSTALK 00:27:12]-

PATRICK CASALE: Like, you know, I actually said that to, well, doesn't matter. Yeah, it's a phrase. But I think about how often that feels like reality for me. And I'm trying to get a lot better about identifying that where there's like a ton of excitement at said opportunity, whether it's a speaking engagement, a collaboration, whatever. And trying so freaking hard to, like, somehow step back without impulsively reacting to something that feels exciting, to try to help my autistic part and side of my life get some rest because it is feeling like a constant.

And I think I've gotten better at it. But I still think I have a long way to go. Because, one, we're human, I think we like to be invited. And I think we would like to collaborate. And we want to be a part of. I think that it feels natural for a lot of us. And I think there is that quick dopamine burst where it's like, "Oh, stimulation, ooh, that's exciting, ooh, I should say yes." And then, you realize very quickly, like, even sometimes immediately after, like, 'I don't think I should have said yes to that."

MEGAN NEFF: So, I really like what you're saying because it's, you know, often the interest-based nervous system often is talked about as like, how do we get the system activated to go do the thing? You're also talking about how do we put the brakes on the system when the interest is like, "Oh, look, shiny, new, exciting thing. Let's go after that, and that, and that."

Yeah, that's really interesting of like, it's not just about how to get started, but like, how do you build containers and brackets for our interest-based nervous system that's like a little puppy and wants to just like, you know, go everywhere.

PATRICK CASALE: You know how I know when you're feeling creative is when there's a lot of imagery involved in your…

MEGAN NEFF: Interesting. You know, I think what it means… first, I liked that you named that. I think it means I'm engaged because I think in images. So, you're right. When I'm really engaged in conversations a lot of metaphors and imagery start fluttering in my mind.

PATRICK CASALE: Which are helpful for me because then I can, like, play off of that and expand upon it because I so often don't think in images, which is really fascinating, right? We've talked about this, too, where it's so hard for me to access imagery a lot of the time, and then, you'll say this thing and I'm like, "That actually makes a lot of sense if I think about it that way."

I do think finding a way to put the brakes on, or at least slow the car down, or whatever we want to say about the interest-based nervous system is important, especially, for those of us who are autistic ADHD or have a lot of struggle in terms of energy management, and capacity, and limitations in those regards because I know if I'm to pursue the things that I'm unbelievably interested in, we can talk about this in the next episode, like I'm thinking of these retreats that I've been doing because the last one just came to an end a couple of days ago. But it's like, that's why I have to be so proactive for 2025 about like, "Okay, this is interesting to me, this is really something I'm passionate about right now, it feels really exciting. But I can't do it the way I did it this year because it's not sustainable."

And that's really challenging for the ADHD side to say, in an entire year from now we have to reconceptualize and reconfigure how we are going to live our lives. And that part is like, "What? No, of course, we're not going to do that." Like, jump in headfirst, say yes, the more opportunity, the better. And it's so hard to, like, acknowledge that, that is not a reality that I can sustainably exist in.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, yeah. And that comes back to, like, what we often talk about, which is that there is grief, and coming to understand how our brain works, understanding our limits.


MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Would it be helpful to kind of talk through some of these motivators and how people could build them into their life?

PATRICK CASALE: I was just going to ask you that same question. So, absolutely.

MEGAN NEFF: We're on sync today.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, so, and partly because the default often is hurry up. So, part of the thinking is if we can build scaffolding in with these other ones, especially, if you know what's really motivating for you, like as a person, then we can rely less on the one that really strains the nervous system.

So, like play creativity, and humor. I know for me, so we talk a lot about how work feels like play for us. And I would say, I feel like I've kind of gotten an off-balance there. I think now 20% of my work feels like play. But if I'm having a colder engine day, that's like when it all start with, okay, what's most playful that I can do? And maybe it's going and logging into my community and connecting with my community members. Or maybe it's redesigning something. It's typically either one of those. But I'm starting to kind of get engaged, I guess. Or humor is one, I think this works with kids if, you know, using humor to help kids move through, like, tasks that they're needing to do. I use that a lot with one of my children.

What about you, creativity and humor, is that something that you incorporate to get things done?

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, those are huge for me. I think if I can incorporate playfulness, incorporate humor, I can be more creative, I can feel more energized. So, I think they go hand in hand for me. So, just trying to figure out like, little things throughout the day that I can laugh at, little things throughout the day that I can kind of incorporate into conversations that helped me stay more engaged as well. And that goes for like group practice stuff or coaching stuff. So, really trying hard to tap into those resources in order to feel a little bit more creative in that way.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, I'm kind of drawing a blank here of how people could, like, build in play. But like, I'd actually love to hear people's thoughts about how to build in play into your kind of work. But I think there's probably some good ideas out there.

Interest, we've talked about that. Interest is hard because like you can't force interest. So, yeah, we talked about that.

Novelty. Yeah, that's obviously a big one if it's like new, and shiny, and exciting. And this goes back to like, you and I have talked a lot about it's so easy to commit to the new shiny thing, and then, maintaining the thing is hard.

So, I have a few ways that I try to make my maintenance of things more novel. Like, I'm redesigning a lot of my stuff constantly. Or for me, I do a lot. Like, when people learn how much of the back end of my business I do myself they're like, "Wait, how? You're the one, like, figuring out landing pages and email?"

But it's partly because those are new things for me to get to figure out how to do and if I don't have a new skill I'm trying to learn, I stop being able to engage as easily. So, that's one way I kind of lean into novelty. Is that a big one for you?

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, I've noticed more and more how figuring certain things out in like businesses. So, today I was messing around with like landing pages for retreats for next year, and like doing some redesign, and navigating a lot of the flow, and trying to tap into that piece that feels novel, and exciting, and like the romanticized component of all this. And then, I realized, like, very quickly, those feelings then led to me feeling more creative in sales page copy. So, I noticed there's that, like, synchronicity there. So, I'm really trying harder to go to a coffee shop that I enjoy, get a coffee that I really, like, sit in a space that feels really comfortable for me, that doesn't have my dogs barking, or whatever else happening in my house. And it does allow me to really immerse myself more into that experience. And it feels a lot more engaging for me.

MEGAN NEFF: I love that. Yeah, that's a lot of, like, really good dopamine stacking you're doing. You're going to a pleasurable place, and you're like, your brain is pairing neurons with like, "Coffee shop, I do creative work here." I like that.

Let's see, okay, this is such a big one for me, probably the biggest, besides interest. C, competition, collaboration, and connection. So, my spouse, actually, like, for years, we don't understand this because I would try to turn everything into a competition. And he has a very intense importance-based system. And he'd just be like, "That's not interesting to like, I don't want to turn this into a competition."

But my whole life, if there's something that I want to do, but I'm struggling to get myself to do it, I try to find someone who will agree to, like, compete with me to do the thing.

PATRICK CASALE: Give me an example of that, like, that comes to mind.

MEGAN NEFF: Like you and I have talked about we both want to make courses. I have had so much, like, procrastination that comes with that. So, trying to find someone to, like, make a competition out of it. Like, let's both make a course of 90 days, I don't know, that'd be an example of something.

PATRICK CASALE: I actually love that example, though. That like let's do this thing in 90 days because I'm the same way where, like, it feels like a parallel play process in a way. It also feels like some accountability measure there. And then, the connection piece. And I'm also a very competitive human being.

So, like, if I can turn it into a game, then I think it's much more realistic for me to access it and to be engaged with it. Whereas opposed to the mentality where I'm like, "I don't really care that much about this."

I would say that my wife is the same way to your husband. Like, she's like, "Dude, no, Like, all of these things do not have to be competitive. Like, I don't want to be competitive with you. It's not fun to do this stuff with you sometimes." I'm like, "Okay, I need to find the people where, you know, there's more of that, like intensity seeking in that regard."

MEGAN NEFF: That's exactly Luke's response. Like, "Why would we be competitive with each other?" "Because I need motivation." Okay, well, we should find some competitions to do because we're both wired that way.

And then, collaboration and connection, I like that those are there too. You know, body doubling, maybe not everyone knows what body doubling is. But basically, it's when you're with another person, and it could be IRL or it could be like over Zoom. And you're doing similar tasks. But that just tends to really help us get engaged, especially, if it's a hard task. So, I love this.

In my community, we run a couple body double sessions a month. And what people have intuitively started doing, I've started doing this too, is they'll save up the stuff that's really hard, either hard from an executive functioning standpoint, or from an emotional. Like, this is a hard phone call to make or this is… And then, they'll do that during the body double session. And we're all, obviously, muted.

But there's something really powerful about doing tasks with other people, I think, especially, with other ADHD people. So, I get a lot done during those. And I always am more efficient. It's weird. It's like I don't know how I just cranked through all of that. That would typically take me two hours, but body doubling and connection that can be really powerful for us.

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, 100%. I know a lot of my group practice clinicians will body double to get notes done. And again, just sitting and not even talking to each other just because it's so much easier to do it around other people.

And I think that's honestly why I enjoy going to coffee shops. I enjoy being around like other people's energy without actually having to interact with them or engage with them. And it helps me stay accountable to what I'm doing and focus.

So, yeah, I like that quite a bit. And I think it's unbelievably useful to start implementing for those of you listening who are like, so here are all these tedious tasks that I need to do, that are a struggle for whatever reason, body double sessions over Zoom or in person, or whatever feels accessible is a really helpful and easy way to do it.

MEGAN NEFF: And there's a few platforms, I can't think of the name right now. I'm sure it'll come to me once we hit start. But there's a few platforms that have, like, body double, like, you sign up for a subscription, and then, you can join. I think some of them might even be free for a limit. I don't think this would be as impactful for me, but I know for some people like watching recordings, like on YouTube of people just doing, like, studying, and then, you do it with them. So, yeah, I think this is because of like the web… not the website, because of online internet, like this is so accessible to us now. And so, it's a great way to get those tedious tasks done.

PATRICK CASALE: I even like the idea of, like, doing household chores in your home that you really struggled to do. Like, say laundry, or dishes, or putting stuff away in your kitchen feels really challenging, and it keeps building up, and you keep shaming that shit out of yourself because you're like, "I just can't do these things."

Getting on Zoom, muting yourself, having someone else who's doing whatever. Maybe they're folding laundry, you're folding laundry vice versa. Yeah, I think the idea of, like, body doubling and that reciprocity with stuff that feels really tedious, really monotonous, the stuff that bogs you down, because those are the things that I often like question myself, like, why can't I do this? That comes to mind a lot.

MEGAN NEFF: For sure, for sure. Yeah, that'd be a really interesting podcast. Like, I know, a lot of us who listen to podcasts will do like a body double podcast where it's like, "Right now I'm folding my laundry." I don't think I'd actually listen to that, but…

PATRICK CASALE: I can't say that I would listen to that either. But it would be a very interesting experience to see what was coming out of like, both sides of the mic.

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah. And if people would actually like do it, and then, body double. Yeah, yeah.


MEGAN NEFF: That's funny, yeah.

PATRICK CASALE: So, I'm like going through those acronyms that way. And I think, you know, that's a useful practice to break things down like that, to see if you can make this more digestible, these smaller chunks of information and skill sets to implement it makes a lot of this stuff become a little bit more manageable.

MEGAN NEFF: Totally, totally. Yeah, I've started using this when I'm, like, struggling to engage, I'll kind of run through, like, okay, is there any way I can make this playful? Competition, oh, self-competition, that is what… because I can always be like, "Hey, you want to compete to see who can get to inbox zero first?

So, I'll use, like, timers. So, like Toggl timer is the one I use. It has a free version. And I'll put on my timer be like, how many emails can I get done in 20 minutes. So, that would be an example of creating a competition, like self-competition and gamifying it.

So yeah, I think this is a helpful lens of like, okay, I want to get my laundry done, I'm struggling to get my laundry done. Is there a way I can build one of these things into it?

PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, like, let's see how much of it I can get done in these 15 minutes before the timer goes off, stuff like that. And then, you create that urgency, you almost create that pressure. And, you know, that can be really, really useful. So, I like all this stuff, super [CROSSTALK 00:42:58]-

MEGAN NEFF: Or if you want a more gentle approach, you can do the visit-based approach, which is what Dr. Dini talks about, which is like, I'm going to show up to this thing because it's important to me, and I'm going to stay long enough to take, like, a full breath. And I'm going to, like, this is my intention, I'm going to start it, and I get to leave at any point. So, it's like, I'm going to visit this task. And then, again, he articulates it much more better.

But it's a gentler approach than relying on, like, gamifying and force, which is, again, that's what builds that urgency. And I've been doing that a lot too, like my newsletter is always hard to write on the weekend. So, every time it's like, "I'm going to visit it, I'm going to see how long I want to stay, and I'm going to work on it, but I can leave at any point."

PATRICK CASALE: I like that. And like I told you before, I love the way you format your newsletter. It's just easy to navigate and like flow through. So, I don't read a lot of newsletters, but yours is one of the ones that I actually do because oh my God, this is super useful, like easy, short, little, like, components to it. So, makes it a lot more manageable.

MEGAN NEFF: Thank you.

PATRICK CASALE: And you're like, I don't want to accept that, so…

MEGAN NEFF: Maybe not.

PATRICK CASALE: Let me run from that. Let's wrap this episode up. All right, well, I think this is useful. Something to revisit, something for everyone to be curious about, start paying attention to what parts of interest-based nervous systems are really applicable for you and how you notice it shows up, and how you notice you manage and navigate a lot of the tasks that you have or the interests that you have, and the goals that you're working on. So, really cool conversation. And hope it was useful. We're done?

MEGAN NEFF: I think so, yeah.

PATRICK CASALE: I don't know. I was reading it that way [CROSSTALK 00:44:48]-

MEGAN NEFF: Yeah, I know. And looking at the time, it's a contented shift.

PATRICK CASALE: Cool. So, thanks for listening today to Divergent Conversations. Episodes are out on Fridays on all major platforms and YouTube. Like, download, subscribe, and share. Thanks, bye.

Join Patrick & Dr. Neff's Newsletters

Get more valuable resources and stay up to date on offers.

We will not spam you and you and unsubscribe at any time.

Join the Neurodivergent Insights Newsletter by Dr. Megan Anna Neff.

Learn More

Join the All Things Private Practice Newsletter by Patrick Casale.

Learn More