No matter what we do, we all have some kind of job. Whether you’re a doctor, nurse, business manager, student, stay-at-home parent, or something else, we all have a job we have to do. Many of us have several!
Many of us also feel at the end of our long “work” days that we just haven’t accomplished as much as we set out to. Our lists of must-do tasks are long, and they seem to grow exponentially. I have said many times that I think my to-do list reproduces while I’m asleep! We’ve all been there from time to time.
But when distractibility is contributing to your feelings of lack of accomplishment, it can be a very difficult struggle every day. If you are exhausted at the end of your day, but feel like you have little to show for all the energy expended, you probably know what I’m talking about! I used to say that I felt like I spent my day spinning around in circles with one shoe nailed to the ground. Many of my clients use the “hamster-on-a-wheel” analogy.
Whether or not your struggle with distractions is due to ADHD or ADD, life is absolutely full of distractions for all of us, every day. These days, we live our lives at a near frantic pace much of the time, and it seems like life’s demands keep getting more and more. Even things that are designed to help our productivity can be a distraction–smart phones and email and the internet are sometimes more of a distraction than a help!
For those of us with ADHD/ADD, the struggle against distraction can be a huge challenge that is exacerbated by our difficulty judging the passage of time. Losing track of time, for instance, is a really common challenge among adults with ADD/ADHD. We often find ourselves distracted by something (something else that needs to be done, email, the internet, the thoughts in our own minds), and when we lose track of time, we find ourselves way behind in our work on a regular basis. Of course, this causes great inefficiency as well as great stress. We call these things “time sinks.”
You can significantly reduce the impact of life’s distractions by using some readily available tools to improve your sense of time. Timers, alarms, and analog clocks can be really simple and helpful tools to allow us to be more aware of the passage of time, and can reduce the impact of distractions considerably. I often set multiple timers when I check email in the morning or embark on a web search, as those are areas where I tend to lose track of time. Analog clocks actually seem to allow our brains to register the passage of time more quickly (less processing, perhaps), so I keep analog clocks in my office and throughout my house—even in my bathroom. (I have had many times when I lollygagged getting ready to go somewhere only to realize, when it’s too late, that I’d fallen way behind schedule!)
At work, minimizing the effect of distractions can be difficult as well. It may help to think through your time sinks and change the way you do certain things (making what I call non-negotiable “policy” changes to your work). Turning off message notifications and setting certain times of day when you check and return messages can help minimize time lost there. It can also be helpful to pay attention to your work rhythms and try to do your most taxing work when you’re naturally most productive, alert, and motivated, and save things like email for your less productive times.
It can also help to find some ways again to remind yourself of the passage of time at those times that you are most likely to get distracted. A watch, phone, or computer alarm that beeps, chimes, or vibrates every so many minutes can be a great reminder and help you become more aware of the passage of time. It might help, for example, to set a vibrating timer on your phone or watch before you socialize, for example, to limit how much time you spend chatting.
These are just a few simple, really general suggestions that have worked for many of my clients in their efforts to improve productivity. This is a really common area of challenge for so many of my clients, and something I hear about every single day!
I hope something here is helpful to you! What works best for you, of course, will be completely individual to you. If you are struggling to reach your potential in your work or your personal life, feel free to contact me if you’re ready to make some lasting changes.
I’m here to help!