You stop to get coffee on the way to work. You get there — ok, maybe a little later than you planned. But you are ready to start the day!
You look at your calendar, see you have a 1:00 meeting and think, “Good, plenty of time to get ready for that.”
Then, if you haven’t already checked on your phone, you open your email, hoping there are no surprises. You scan it. “Great,” you think, “nothing urgent, yet.”
Now, among all of the millions of things on your to do list, what are you going to do today? For a lot of adults with ADHD this is a really challenging question.
What helps you focus on what is most important each day?
Not sure? Read on…
#1 Plan Before Diving In
Because you have so much to do you may be tempted to just start on the first thing that comes to mind. And, if you are like many, you may start with email. Makes sense. It is right in front of you, calling for your attention.
But it may not be your most important task.
And planning may not be your strong suit, yet. So, you may not have the hang of weekly planning or daily planning.
Don’t worry, really
You can still plan on a smaller scale by deciding the top 2-3 tasks you must get done each day.
Sure, there will interruptions and you will likely need to do a lot more than just the tasks you listed.
But, hopefully, listing your most important tasks will guide you throughout the day.
#2 Make Your Plan Visible
You can make a plan in the morning. But remembering your intentions is a whole other story, right?
So, knowing this, maybe you write it down — somewhere. And then, at the end of the day, you find the piece of paper and think, “Oh no, I forgot to do…!”
Out of sight out of mind.
Instead of trying to keep it in your head make your plan visible by writing it on your white board, a piece of paper or someplace else you will be sure to see it.
Sure one of your ADHD symptoms is a poor working memory. But this challenge doesn’t need to get in your way, if you have a way to remember what is important to you.
#3 Trust The Plan
It can be hard sometimes to trust that you chose the right tasks to work on each day.
If you tend to question your decisions, you might also jump from one task to another. And at the end of the day, while you’ve done a little bit of this and a little bit of that, it might feel like you didn’t get a lot done.
Sure there will be a lot distractions throughout your day, especially if you work in a busy office where you can’t necessarily control your time.
But, if you can keep coming back to the 2 -3 important tasks you identified at the beginning of the day, you will have a better chance of completing those.
Trust that, at least for today, you have the right plan.
Tomorrow? Well, you can write a new story.
#4 Take a Break
When you have a lot to do it definitely can feel like taking a break is impossible.
But what happens when you stay glued to your seat for hours on end?
Maybe you end up:
- surfing the web mindlessly.
- working on something that caught your attention, but wasn’t part of the plan.
- connecting with people on Facebook.
- reading the paper online.
- playing a game on your phone.
That is, you end up taking a break whether you intended to or not. Sure, it could be procrastination — a way to avoid doing you don’t want to do. But I bet sometimes you just really need a break. Your brain needs a rest….
So, while you inadvertently end up taking the break you need, you still tell yourself you don’t have time. And you continue sitting at your desk, maybe even beating yourself up for not being more productive.
But when you intentionally take a break you can be more productive when you get back to work.
Get up. Stretch. Go for a walk. Chat with a colleague. Get a coffee. Take a lunch break.
Then come back, hopefully a bit refreshed and better able to focus on what is important to you.
# 5 Create a Mantra
You made the plan. You see the plan. You really want to work the plan. But what about the million and one other things you need to do?!
You can really only do one thing at a time, if you want to do it well. But it can also be really hard to turn down the volume on the continuous loop playing in your head, telling you, “But I need to do…”
One way to turn this loop off is to tell yourself:
“I’m doing this and not that!”
“I’m doing this and not that!”
“I’m doing this and not that!”
Using internal self-talk to remind yourself of what you want to do in the moment of choice can yield powerful results.
And, if you don’t like this mantra, create your own. And use it.
#6 Resist One – More – Thingitis
“I’ll do _______ (fill in the blank), and then I’ll really be able to focus.” When is the last time you said this?
Take the example of physical clutter. Sure, physical clutter can contribute to your mental clutter, which, of course, makes it hard to focus. So, keeping your space organized enough is definitely a good thing.
But, if you choose to clean up when you have more pressing tasks to do, that is not such a great thing. So, the next time you’re tempted to clean up because you think, “If I did this, then I could really focus,” resist the urge.
Find another time. For now, instead clear a space or move to another space so you can work
What about the temptation to do another task as soon as it pops into your mind? The story you tell yourself may sound something like this, “I’ll just do this now. It will only take two minutes. Then I won’t be distracted and I can really focus.”
It could be:
- an errand
- a phone call
- an email
- an online transaction
Again, resist the urge. Not easy, I know.
Instead write it down on your task list so you won’t forget and find another time to do it.
Also, remember #5. Remind yourself, “I’m doing this and not that!”
#7 Eat and Drink
You know this one. But you may forget at times.
So, just a reminder… If you don’t have enough food and water, you just can’t focus.
Have a snack and water bottle handy.
What You Can Do Next
Take out a clean sheet of paper and write down the 2-3 tasks you must get done today or tomorrow, if you are reading this at the end of your day.
Then notice how it helps you focus during the day.