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Slay Your Time Bandits!

Nobel-prize winning psychologist and economist Herbert Simon once said, “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

How true is that of this world today? And, in case you’re not familiar with his work, Simon actually said that in 1971.


I was 6 in 1971. We had three channels on our TV set, one land-line telephone in our house for a family of 6, and an 8-track tape player in the family stereo. This was pre mobile phone. Pre-internet. Heck… this was pre-VCR!

And look at where we are now. It’s no wonder so many of us are struggling with productivity.

Inc Magazine asserts that more than 269 billion email messages are sent every day. That’s more than 11 Billion emails every hour. Almost 190 million emails every minute. That’s more than 3 million emails every second. Every second!

And it feels like most of those emails are landing in my inbox some days.

What to pay attention to next? What’s more important? What’s more urgent? Where do I focus? What do I do first?

And when you at ADD to the equation, this battle for your attention and focus takes on a whole new meaning!

It all feels out of our control, I know, but the truth is, we have more control than we realize!

If you don’t Take Control of Your Focus, something else will!

It starts with self-awareness.

  • What kinds of activities do you do that aren’t significantly impacted by interruptions and distractions?
  • When do you need to protect your focus and your attention?
  • What are Your Time Bandits?
  • When do you Need to Address Them?
  • How Will You Address Them?

Time Bandits (aka Time Vampires) are things that steal your focus and your time. They come in many different forms, but they all steal your time and destroy your productivity.

You start every day with good intentions, and the hours slip away with very little to show for it!

So, start to pay attention to what tasks/activities are taking you much longer than you want? What’s the challenge? What are your time bandits? What kinds of things steal your focus and take control of your attention and your time?

Here are a few common examples and simple solutions for slaying them:

“Multi-Tasking”: Research shows us that the human brain can actually only focus on one thing at a time. You can’t do two things at once that require your attention. It’s impossible! Stop wearing your ability to “multi-task” like a badge of honor. You’re not actually multi-tasking, you’re…

Task Switching: Any time you switch from one activity to the next without completion and full closure on the first activity, your brain holds onto the thing you were doing first for a while. This “Attention Residue” impedes our ability to focus fully and deeply on the second task. Task Switching is inefficient and an energy drain! Batch similar tasks together every time you can.

Interruptions: Interruptions also create attention residue. Whether it’s a person, your email notifications, an instant message, etc., every interruption is a task switch. And when you have ADHD, the cost of all this switching accumulates by the end of the day! Turn off those notifications (yes, the world will survive if you don’t check email, IMs, SMS for an hour or two). Close your door if you have one. Put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode. Put some headphones on (even if there’s nothing playing) or find a quiet place to focus. You’ll be amazed at the improvement!

Internet/Social Media: It’s way to easy to get sucked into anything on the internet, especially when you have ADHD! Close those browser windows when you don’t need them for what you’re doing. If you’re doing something online, set a timer or a meditation chime to ding every few minutes so that you can check in on yourself to see if you’re focused where you intend to be (and if you need to, put a post-it in front of you to remind you where you intend to be focused). Schedule your time on social media. Plan for it. But make sure you find a way to set some limits for yourself!

People: Yep. Some people are time bandits. You know who they are! Give some thought in advance to how you’ll set limits with those people. I have one in my family who I adore, but I know that if I answer my phone when she calls, I will have my work cut out for me to end that call. Think about how to politely, but firmly extricate yourself. Have conversations about when you’re available. Text when they call to tell them you’re busy and will call later, but make sure everything is Ok. The truth is, if they call you once and they get your voicemail, they’ll keep calling if it’s an emergency.

What other things steal your time, energy and focus?

The world is filled with Time Bandits! And sometimes, we create them ourselves.

What can you do to declare your independence and take back control?

Share your ideas and tips with others here . Who knows… your idea may be just what someone else needs!

Lynne Edris



Lynne Edris, ACG
Productivity & ADHD Coach

P.S. If you need help breaking the chains of Procrastination and Overwhelm, check out my upcoming group program to help you do just that: 

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