You're Not ADD, You're Distracted

By Jendayi Harris


True story, a Take Back Your Life participant thought she was ADHD, so she went to the psychiatrist to get checked out. He told her to keep a clicker every time she was interrupted. After two weeks she had distractions in the thousands.

He said, “You’re not ADHD, you’re distracted.”

Harvard Health Publication reported: "An international survey in 10 countries (including the United States) estimated that 3.5% of employees have ADHD. In the workplace, symptoms manifest as disorganization, failure to meet deadlines, inability to manage workloads, problems following instructions from supervisors, and arguments with co-workers." Source

The thing that saddens me, is what if these reported ADHD folks were never challenged to keep a focused work time? What if they just needed a winning strategy on how to focus and time block?

To get anything worthwhile done, you need time to do it, and time to get deep into it. Author, Cal Newport, of Deep Work, believes that it's only in deep work - basically time blocking - that allows us to produce anything of value. He argues that social media, emailing, and various other distractions create endless wasted days, which we can all understand and agree with.

We need a simple check list to dominate focus:

1. Inform your usual interrupters. If it’s your new team member, spouse, partner, boss, or an admin that usually interrupts you, make sure you inform him or her of your focus mode plans. Request not to be interrupted unless it’s truly urgent and important. The benefit of this step is it holds you accountable. When you let others know what you’re doing, you’ll feel more obligated to do what you say.

2. Decide where to work. Figure out the best space for you to focus. It may not be your office. Reserve a conference room, work from your home office, kitchen table or a corner chair at Starbucks. Just make sure you’re clear on where your work space will be to finally gain progress.

3. Prepare and gather all data. You want everything you need to complete the task at hand. You may realize you need phone numbers for a call list, a snack, or reference documents for writing a case study. What all do you need ready to complete the task at hand?

4. Set your timer. Set your phone timer and put it in a drawer or somewhere you can hear it, but isn’t too easy to get to. A timer makes it fun to get into focused zone. When we know time isn't up until the bell rings, we stay present in our task completion.

5. Shut down all media. Shut down any unnecessary internet or software applications. Put your cell phone in the glove compartment, turn off your email, click out of social media. Keep only the screen that you need. If you’re addicted to distraction by internet, try an application like Freedom to help get the internet out of the way.

6. Post a visual sign. Something visual helps unsuspecting passerby’s know not to interrupt you. Post a red colored sign on the door or cube entry, “Please don’t interrupt unless emergency” or “Focused, Please send text or email.” Some of our clients use earphones to show focus. The point is, when others can see you’re busy, they're less likely to interrupt.

7. Focus with tenacity. It’s go time. The first 10-15 minutes of doing anything you - want to do but don't really feel like doing - are the hardest. Take working out for example, the first few minutes running you're moody and angry with the treadmill, then before you know it you've completed five miles. I speak from firsthand experience. Once you get past the initial start, you can get into the zone. You can do it!

Try the Time Blocking Checklist to get mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared to concentrate. Now, Go get er done!

What productivity challenges do you have? What blogs ideas or questions around productivity do you have?