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Working with Distractions

My ADD has ADD: How to get focused in a distracting world when you need to get stuff done

There is way too much information out there.

Facebook generates 4 new petabytes of data per day.   That is 1 million gigabytes per day! You think you go over your data with 8 gigs or whatever your cell carrier gives you?

60 hours of video are uploaded every minute to YouTube and 4 billion videos are viewed per day. 

There are about 2.5 billion snaps per day on Snap(chat).

That is not including Twitter, Instagram, blog posts, news and all other social media.  Google alone has 30 trillion pages indexed.  
Everybody is fighting for a piece of your attention and if you have ADD like me, you have almost zero chance of survival.
There are marketers who spend most of their days trying to figure out how to cut through the noise and distract you (guilty as charged). There are platforms such as Facebook that not only give these marketers the tools to do it, but on a deeper level, they are using all of these marketers and others, including your closest family and friends, to keep you away from what you should really be doing.
Here are a few ways that you can tame your ADD (or ADHD in my case) so that you can get things done:

Clean up your space

Messy Office
Clean up! I know I am not your mother but take it from me, it is good advice. Clean your room, clean your house, clean your office. Every single little thing that is out of place is a distraction.
Oh look, an old gift card from Amazon. I wonder if it has any money on it. It will only take a minute to go check it out. www.amazon.com – type in gift card number… oh wait, there’s the book that I was thinking about getting. I wonder what the reviews have to say. Some of the reviews say it’s like some other book… I should check out that book, lots of people buy both of them together.
Three hours later (no exaggeration… or maybe a little exaggeration) you have ordered 2 books, added others to your wish list, noticed that notification that someone posted something on your wall, spent 30 minutes scrolling through your feed, had a few ideas, pondered them and we’re back. Mentally drained from all of that jumping around and now we are ready for work… actually I am hungry. I can’t do my best work on an empty stomach…

Turn off notifications

Turn them all off. Yes, email too. It doesn’t matter if a fire breaks out and you are the only one that can put it out. Notifications kill your productivity. You may think that you can handle them but trust me, they eat away at your mental energy one drop at a time and before you know it, you are drained and done for the day.

Turn on Airplane mode

People nag me that I am always on my phone. “What did you do before phones?” I always respond the same thing. People used to read the newspaper, carry a camera to take picture, call people from a landline, read physical books, carry a calculator (or have one on your watch if your were cool), use a flashlight, listed to radio to learn about the latest news, traffic and weather, go to a bank to pay their bills, go to a course to learn something new, ask everyone they saw when they needed to know who that person was that played that part in the movie that came out 2 years ago… and on and on and on… I do all of that and more from one little palm sized piece of hardware.
Phones (why do we even call them that? The phone app is only the 6th most used app) are extremely useful. A little too useful when you need to concentrate. They have every possible distraction known to man all rolled up into one.

Set up a work zone

When I say “zone”, I mean it. You need to make it yours so that you can be in the zone getting shit done. Make it a quiet place with no distraction.

Wear headphones

It doesn’t matter what you are listening to, if anything at all (white noise is great), but just having the headphones on helps keep you in the zone. It also discourages (some) people from coming over to chat (read distract). One thing that I have found very successful is playing one song that you know really well, on repeat.

Designate specific times for work, only work and nothing but work

These times can be any length that work for you.  I suggest experimenting to see what works best for you. You can start with 30-45 minutes and work your way up.  Don’t push the limits though because you don’t want to burn yourself out and kill the rest of the day.  In between each of these work periods, take a break.  Go for a walk, go to the bathroom, exercise, scroll through your favourite social account, read a book…

Many people have found success with 42 minutes on and 18 minutes off.  You can adjust based on your preference and ability.  Just remember, when you are in your zone, you need to be distraction free.

Don’t multitask

So many companies try and hire employees that can multitask.  Someone who can juggle multiple projects at a time.  That’s probably not the best skill to look for.  Very few people can multitask well and each task usually suffers because of the others.  I can’t remember who says this but I like it and will use it anyway:

It’s better to whole ass one thing than to half ass two.

Determine the most important thing you can do today

Write it down.  Place the note in front of you.  Then do whatever it takes to get it done.  If you need the Internet and other potential distractions to complete the task, find ways to get around it until it is no longer possible.  For example, I am writing this article without Internet.  At the top, I made notes for myself such as “(find out and fill in how many social posts are created each day on each network)”.  I also left finding an image for this article to the end.

Whatever you do, make sure to get it done.  With only one thing on your mind, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Make a list of 3 more things that you want to get done

Write down three more things and put them on a different list that you only look at when you are finished your first item.  To do lists and task lists can pile up quickly.  It’s not hard to create a list of 20 things that you want to get done today.  Once again, too many things will distract you.  One is very doable.  Three will give you more tasks without overwhelming you.

It’s been years but I once heard a story of a guy who went over to a very wealthy man and told him that he will sell him the best piece of advice that he will change his life.  He asked for $20,000 which took the wealthy man off guard but he didn’t get wealthy by throwing away thousands of dollars on advice so he negotiated.  “first give me the advice and if I think it is worth it, I’ll pay you the money.”  The guy gave him the following advice “each day, write down 5 things that need to get done today”.  The wealthy man laughed and walked away.  A week later, he came back with a check for the full $20,000.

Keep a list of all your ideas and things you want to do

Only write the items down. Don’t browse through your list except at the end of your day when preparing for the next day or work period.    If you are like me, you have millions, no billions (had to exaggerate for effect) of ideas every day.  Business ideas, blog post ideas, fun ideas, parenting ideas… You also get curious.  Very curious and curiousity kills your productivity as much as the distractions above in your messy space.  A quick Google search can suck you in to hours of brain drain.

Take time off

Regularly take time off.  You need it.  I’m not saying take weekly vacations, unless you can and that would be awesome.  I’m saying take time off between work periods.  Take enough time off to enjoy your evenings with friends, family or a good book.  Take enough time off each weekend.  The point is, you need time off in order to recharge and be able to use your next work period to your full capacity.  Thing of yourself as a battery.  If you don’t recharge fully, you won’t be able to last as long during your next work period.  You will be slower. You won’t be able to think as well and basically, you’ll just end up wasting a lot of time.

If you have anything to add to the list, leave me a note in the comments. Then go get some work done!

Messy Office Pic Credit

About the Author Amir Lehrer

I am a typical person more or less that has always tried to get away with doing the absolute minimum to get by. In school, I did my assignments last minute, I barely passes some of my tests, I crammed for everything and didn't care about retaining any information. I always wanted to be successful and get lucky but my problem was that I thought that luck and chance were synonymous. One day, all that changed when i found out that there was more to "Luck". I learned that it was possible to make your own luck and that people that were "lucky", all had very similar characteristics. I made a conscious decision to become one of those lucky people and the world started to open up. It didn't happen overnight and I'm still not there yet but at least I know what to look for and what to do. Recognizing the opportunities to get lucky is only the beginning of the battle. Now I have to train myself to jump on every opportunity and one day be truly "lucky".

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