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Inattention. It’s the antithesis of being productive. It’s hard to get things done when you’re scattered and all over the place inside.
Overwhelm comes from having 50,000 mental tabs that keep opening randomly. That makes it hard to be productive. You can’t pay attention or stay focused! So how are you going to get things done?
Such a joy (I hope you can feel the sarcasm). When your computer has that many tabs open it’s way more likely to crash. Pretty good analogy for the overstimulated brain!
Thankfully, I’ve found some helpful strategies to manage the overwhelm, reduce the open tabs, and get sh*t done.
Basic ADHD Strategies to Get Set Up Right
These physical interventions are necessary to improve your mental flexibility and function. Think of them like the foundation of your house, because without them, you’ll crumble.
Your Mental Foundation is made up of:
Make SURE you are good here. I’ve included the links to my articles dealing with these foundations. I promise, you don’t want to ignore these if you want to learn to be productive.
Say NO to Multitasking!
To organize your mind, we need to start by taking a look at the things that will interfere with your focus. We’ve got to manage those.
Multitasking and Distractions are your greatest foes on your quest to be productive. We’ll tackle them both.
Multitasking is basically a synonym for mindLESSness.
As a society we seem to value the ability to multitask but we really shouldn’t. It’s a required skill in nearly every job application. It shouldn’t be. Human’s can’t give 100% to more than one activity. None of us.
It makes us struggle to be productive when our attention is divided.
We think multitasking means to multiply our attention but it isn’t. It means to divide our attention between two things. And we are only able to give time, energy, and attention halfheartedly at best.
Sometimes you attention has to be divided. Being a mom who does anything in addition to making sure her kids stay alive means you have to do a certain amount of multitasking.
Just remember, the more intense the task, the more focus you need to be productive. Cutting your attention in half is counterproductive. Say no to multitasking.
You have to have a plan for distractions.
You can’t plan for every distraction that could come your way, but you can plan for the most likely culprits. For most people, that needs to start with social media.
I can’t be the only one who has 500 things to do but gets caught up on Facebook for way too long. If you want to be productive, you’ll need to have a plan.
Prevent Notifications from Distracting You
Most of us do social media on our phone. Especially when we’re getting distracted by it while trying to be productive.
- Put your phone on silent so you don’t get notifications.
- Change your settings to prevent notifications from coming through.
- Use Airplane mode while you need to concentrate.
- Use an App that helps you stay on task.
Do what works for you.
Block out Noises if they distract you.
It is absolutely impossible for me to get a challenging task done if there is noise around me. If you struggle to concentrate with the buzz, you’ll need a way to block it out.
- Use a sound machine: This is the one I use
- Use Noise Cancelling Headphones. These are GREAT but also expensive; and these are good but also MUCH cheaper.
Identify your most common distractions and create a plan to minimize their reach.
Strategies to Help You Stay Focused and Be Productive
Somehow I keep finding new things that I need to be doing. You, too?
I learned a while back that I have to keep a to do list (and had to engage my creative problem solving to figure out how to remember the to do list). But when you keep adding and adding and adding to the list, it gets overwhelming.
That can be paralyzing. Where do I start? I have to do all of this and I don’t want to do any of it! It’s so much! How do people do all of this? Sound familiar?
I realized that my to do list wasn’t enough mental organization for me. I started planning out my day.
If you’re like me, your planning still has to be flexible. How many times do you plan to accomplish something and get hit with 5 other things that take precedence?
To be productive, it’s not enough to have a to do list. It needs to be organized and planned, too. That starts with prioritizing.
Ask the Right Questions to Help You Prioritize
Here are some examples of questions that can help you prioritize, in case.you’re like me and need a little help with it.
- has a deadline that’s running up on me?
- has the biggest impact if it doesn’t get done soon?
- am I the most interested or excited about doing?
- is going to take me the most amount of time?
- requires a crazy amount of concentration and what can be done while I’m watching TV?
I ask myself all of these questions in order to decide when to plan on doing the tasks. I generally have several drafts because the first one looks like chicken scratch with random ideas written everywhere.
Once I have a clearer idea, I re-write it to make it easier for me to read and refer to. Here’s an example; it was my plan for today (which I wrote last night):
Ignore the scratches. My favorite toddler was having fun with my notebook. She was just making it more fun!?
Make an Organized Rough Draft
I don’t always accomplish everything on the list, and most days that’s ok. I’ll just add it to the next plan that I create. I often find it helpful to get a rough idea of when I plan to do other tasks that are likely try to distract me.
I do a rough draft plan of my week that looks like this:
Doing this has been helpful so when my brain starts panicking about getting taxes or courses done while I’m working on notes for work, I remind myself that it’s already on the schedule and I can relax.
It helps me continue to be productive with what I’m working on without getting side tracked by something else that’s also important.
If you think of other things you need to do but forget to put on your list, add them. Start with the questions to help you prioritize it, then add it to your plan.
Do Some Creative Problem Solving
Did you know that Creative Problem Solving is a synonym for productivity?
We may struggle with attention and, by extension, productivity, but one thing ADHDers tend to me good as is creativity and problem solving. Put that superpower to good use.
Ask yourself, “What can I add to my situation/environment, etc… to help me make this more interesting to me?” Because when it’s interesting, we are much more engaged.
I did this in middle school without realizing it was a coping skill. 8th grade science was horribly boring. The teacher’s voice was monotonous, the topics weren’t as interesting as they could have been, and I had mastered the art of looking like I was paying attention…but I was bored.
So I decided that I’d start trying to think of a question that my teacher wouldn’t be able to answer (related to whatever he was teaching on). That required me to listen more carefully and look for things he wasn’t teaching as thoroughly.
I was suddenly more interested because I had a goal and I listened.
The added bonus was he was very excited that someone seemed to be showing enthusiasm for the lessons. I had to ask a lot of questions to find the one that finally stumped him.
That’s an example of creative problem solving in action. For more on the subject, read this.
Do the Brain Dump.
That sounds like some crazy new dance the childrens have thought up. It sounds every bit as good as “the floss” doesn’t it?? If you are out of the loop, yeah that’s a new dance move. The Brain Dump sounds better.
If you haven’t heard of the brain dump, it’s a great strategy for when you are feeling overwhelmed.
Don’t worry about how it looks, how it’s organized, if everything is spelled correctly in full sentences, or grammatically correct. Write everything swirling through your head on a piece of paper “stream of consciousness style.” Don’t stop until it’s all out on paper.
After it’s out in front of you and you’re feeling a little calmer, start to organize it. The first page in my pictures above are like a baby brain dump. It can be a huge help in the fight to be productive.
For better focus, get your butt outside.
Keeping with the strategies that help, research has shown that nature improves concentration and focus.
Take a walk on your lunch break, see if you can do something productive outside, whatever you can do to get some sunshine. Your brain will thank you with a little extra focus to be more productive.
Even if you can’t get outside, you may find it helpful to just look out the window. There’s some evidence that it may be helpful, too. (But let’s be real, going outside is better).
These are the beginning. There is so much more to be said about improving attention.
But start here. These are some of my all time favorite strategies for being more productive and feeling more mentally organized (hear less emotionally overwhelmed here).
For productivity tools to minimize distraction at work, you’ll wanna read this.
Try these out and tell me how it goes? Anything you’d add to help some fellow ADHDers out?
Want More Help to Be Productive?
I took this course through Udemy and found it incredibly helpful. It’s by a mental health clinician who has both Autism and ADHD.
It’s specifically for people with ADHD but will be helpful to anyone who struggles with getting motivated or being productive. The course is super informative and the strategies work.
As always, Let me know how you like the course if you decide to take it.
Tell me, what has worked for you? Where are you biggest struggles? Let me know in the comments!