I’m surrounded by people who struggle with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
The men in my life – my husband of almost 26 years and my two grown sons, ages 23 and 20 – all have ADD to varying degrees. Each in his own way has had to work hard to prioritize, stay focused and not be overwhelmed by what to many of us, myself included, would be simple tasks.
In my business which revolves primarily around entrepreneurs, the landscape is much the same. The official stat is that over 30% of entrepreneurs have ADHD (that’s Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity) but my anecdotal experience says that it’s much higher. The impulse to get off track and be distracted by the next “bright shiny object” can take many entrepreneurs away from what’s important over the long haul – for themselves and their companies. A severe impediment to their potential for success too.
And – every day I talk and consult with more and more business people who tell me how hard it is in this age of the smart phone, constant Social buzz and way too much information to stay focused, on track and get things done.
That’s why I was ecstatic when I learned about Mary Solanto’s approach to dealing with ADD using mindfulness techniques and learnings from cognitive-behavioral therapy. Earlier this year, my eldest son learned about her framework at a workshop at the University of Pennsylvania . The three simple, straightforward principles she writes about have helped him approach his work much more systematically, and with greater success and confidence.
1) BREAK IT DOWN
When you have a task, set aside a few minutes to break down into parts.
If you’re still having trouble getting started, the parts may not be small enough. Break it down into even smaller parts.
Schedule each task in your planner; estimate how long it will take; prioritize.
TIP: If it’s not in your planner, it doesn’t exist. And if you don’t have a planner, check out the Panda Planner. Yes, it’s actually a paper Planner, combined in a Journal, but designed to take advantage of human brain science to help you, not bog you down.
Then, plan a pleasurable little reward for completing each task – a break for a cup of coffee, a stroll around the block, whatever will allow you to feel pleasure for completing the task.
Finally, time yourself as you complete each task. The Trick? Compare your actual time to your estimated time to hone your future judgement of how long things take. Most of us underestimate how long something will take and you’re working to improve your ability to estimate time and not beat yourself up for “taking too long”.
2) RECOGNIZE THAT GETTING STARTED IS THE HARDEST PART
Ease your way into the task by starting with the easiest parts.
If you’re still having trouble getting started, you’re planning to do too much. A warning: Never leave off a task at a difficult point; it will be harder to start again.
If you can’t decide what to do first, do the next priority item in your planner.
To narrow it down further:
- Do the thing you are least likely to do.
- Do the thing that’s most convenient at the moment.
- Do the thing that you would most enjoy doing right now.
Some suggestions to try:
- Turn off your phone, put it on Airplane Mode, OR put it where you won’t see it.
- Go where you don’t have interesting magazines or books around.
- Don’t have TV or people talking within earshot. Even better, designate a spot in your home or office where you can go that’s a “no distract zone”.
- Turn off any desktop notifications you may have and if you’re really trying to get work done, don’t check email until your task is completed.
3) GET ORGANIZED IN YOUR PHYSICAL SPACE
Choose a space to organize and break it down into “zones.”
If you’re still having trouble getting started, break down the zone into even smaller parts. Whatever seems “doable” even if it’s just a shelf in your room or office.
Have a plan of action for each zone.
Use the FAT system for decision making—File, Action, or Trash. When filing or storing things, subtract before you add. Use music.
HELPFUL TIP: This is a great activity to “partner with a friend on”. Do one person’s files first and then switch. Then go reward yourself!
Maintain the zone. Don’t let the task get daunting again!
And schedule time in your planner every week to “organize”.
REMEMBER: It’s easier to keep a rolling stone in motion than it is to move it for the first time.
Hope you find these tips helpful and productivity enhancing too. Improve your odds at implementing and enlist a friend in your efforts. Start small. Don’t get discouraged and let me know how you do!
And take advantage of our Early Bird Special for our Fall Strategy Workshop with Shannon Susko, serial entrepreneur and best-selling author.
Grab your team and join us on the morning of November 8th.
- Create a Three Year Strategy that positions your company for sustainable and predictable growth
- Develop a road map for your vision that’s “implementable” AND
- Get your team aligned and on board and pulling in the same direction.