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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?
Check out the Little Miss Lionheart Conquer Your To Do List Mini-Workbook! This personalized, step my step guide helps you
Plan and prioritize tasks without the overwhelm
Schedule your tasks in a way that works for your ADHD brain
And even break down tasks into manageable chunks that are easier to get started with!
It’s 9 no-fluff-all-practical-pages in total to help you get more done while feeling more productive and organized.
Find it here:
Get the workbook and get started Little Miss Lionheart style!
Connect with me
Tell me, what has worked for you? Where are you biggest struggles? Have you tried the workbook? Tell me how it worked for you! Let me know in the comments.
Susan Smylie says
I also find to-do lists helpful. I work on my computer all day, so I just keep a sticky note with the things I need to be working on on it. I am self-employed with a lot of clients and new stuff comes up daily. so this list helps me stay focused and regroup when I get pulled off task by an urgent issue. I just realized I have not been doing my lists lately and it shows. I often sit there spinning my wheels, trying to remember what I am supposed to be doing, then go to fix dinner or something and suddenly remember the 20 different things I could have been working on for the past 2 hours instead of what I was doing. Thanks for the reminder.
Tia Michelle says
Yes! I actually have a post that’s AALLLLL about the ADHD to-do list coming VERY soon!
Brenda Nicholson says
Really good ideas and insights here. I especially love challenging the science teacher! And thank you, thank you, thank you for flossing as a still picture so I don’t have to see it in action hopefully ever again!
Tia Michelle says
I’m so glad to be helpful! Ha, thankfully he never realized I was trying to entertain myself by challenging–he was excited that someone seemed interested. I feel slightly bad about that now but then I remind myself that what he never knew really didn’t hurt him. 😉
This was very helpful! I split my to-do list too or I’m so very overwhelmed. I do “morning” (before kids get on the bus), “house/day stuff”, “evening” and a “running to-do” of stuff I need to get done but don’t want to stress myself if I don’t get it done today.
Thank you for the think creatively idea as well!! I will be using this!
Tia Michelle says
Yay! So glad this is helpful 🙂 Let me know how it goes!
Great post with good info, though I couldn’t find the course due to all of the ads on the page. Can you post a link in the comments? Thanks!
Tia Cantrell says
Hi Kate! I actually realized looking at the article that I didn’t make it clear that you could click the picture and go directly to the course. My apologies! I’ve updated the article to point people where to go but here’s the link, too! You can find the course HERE
This site has SO many distractions — ads popping up, ads separating sentences, so many bright distractions — it’s an ADD nightmare.
Tia Cantrell says
I can understand not liking the ads. They aren’t my favorite either but when you spend 20 hours a week on giving good content you gotta find a way to pay the bills and currently ads are what allow my articles to be free. Giving articles without the ads would require people to have to pay for it. If you’d prefer to do that, feel free to let me know 🙂