5 Things I Wish I Knew: Neurodiverse Freelancer

This article was written in collaboration with Teamway society member Charles Clapshaw.

Hi there, my name is Charles Clapshaw. I'm a New Zealand born painter, connecting creativity with technology for over 25 years – from CD-ROMS and projections, to Augmented Reality and AI, and then back to painting.

Being Autistic with ADHD, there have been some challenges in my professional and personal life, but I have got through and succeeded thanks to the systems I developed to get by.  And so in the New Year, where many make promises and goals, I thought I would share some tools and tips for Autists and Neurodiverses.

Most of this is about working/thinking. In a way of an explanation, I think of my brain as a processor, a lot like the GPU charts I have permanently on my toolbar.

For many autists, there are many background tasks, such as background noise, light sensitivity or touch that can launch a DOS attack and lead to a crash without realising.

And so the tips below in this article are to help review and reduce the background threads, so that you can have maximum ram to live and work.

1. Big Data

Sounds like an IBM ad pre webBubble v1.0 (yes I am that old and used WebSphere), but if you have a smart watch that can measure your heart rate intervals (and most do), then I strongly recommend measuring each morning with an aggregator app such as Welltory (iOS).

Why? Well for me, my autism means that I can not identify how I am feeling, and so I used to have to really investigate myself, or in the past I just pushed through and wondered why I felt terrible.

Now I just take a measurement each morning when I wake up, and after I take a shower I review to see where my mind is at.  

If my sympathetic nervous system is balanced, I go for it.  

Or if my parasympathetic nervous system is low, I'm probably stressed - which means my mind has too many background tasks and I focus on self care, admin and non thinking tasks.

Otherwise I tend to hack around code, changing variables and breaking everything...

2. Getting Things Done

GTD and inbox zero are friends I made in 2008 and have been the best positive change to my ability to succeed.  This involves building systems on how you work, prioritise tasks based on their importance and context, and putting them down in paper or software.

It’s about having a ‘mind like water’ that can react and recover rather than being bogged down with all the reminders you alternatively hold in your head.


3. Schedules and Habits

Being Autistic means I need a schedule, but ADHD means if it isn’t in front of me, it doesn’t exist and I’ll follow the closest distraction. Fortunately, I can prepare for this because it’s all written down, tagged by context and in the cloud.

Thats not a new thing, but for me it really started working when I have a set schedule everyday.  Following on from thinking from James Clear’s atomic habits and Daily Rituals stolen from Mason Currey, the problem of what to do is removed, and the how is given in the context of how I am feeling and what needs to be done.

4. Communication

Depending on what you are doing, it can be a distraction.

For me, its really stressful as well.  To combat this, I don’t do communication until after 12pm.  This means I get a good flow on my project in the morning and also I have set consistent expectations with my team on when I will be available.

5. Walk The Dog

And finally, the last tip works if you have a dog or not!

I’m not great at code and often learning specific pieces to put something together.  Sometimes this gets a bit obsessive and I start becoming overwhelmed.

Fortunately for me my dog knows this and starts to drag me out for a walk. Her persistence pays off (she never gives up) and 30mins later I often find myself back in front of the computer and solve the problem with a single line.

Taking a step back and allowing your subconscious to absorb the problem for you saves days of frustration as well as makes a happy dog - win win!

Charle's dog - Ellie

Final Thoughts

I hope you find the above tips useful, if you are Neurodiverse or someone who wants to learn more about how our minds work, I would love to hear from you!

Please reach out to me at https://www.charlesclapshaw.com and let me know what you think, or maybe you have some tips to share?

I am so glad to be part of the diverse community at Teamway, and thank you for your time to read my article.


This article was written in collaboration with Teamway and society member Charles Clapshaw.

Teamway is committed to building a society where everyone is welcome and has the opportunity to showcase their talents. We believe that diversity and inclusion are key to creating a truly successful and innovative society.

One of the ways we are working towards this goal is by actively seeking out and including Neurodiverse individuals in our community. We believe that Neurodiversity brings unique perspectives and skills that can greatly benefit our society and the companies we work with. By fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment, we are creating a space where everyone can thrive and reach their full potential.

We look forward to continuing to build a society that is representative of the world we live in, and to making a positive impact on the lives of our builders, customers, and partners.