If you ever worry that you have adult onset ADD, you're not alone. Maybe you do, or maybe your life is just filled with way too many distractions. Before you go running to the doctor for help, consider these tips for getting focused and staying that way.
Getting Focused Requires a Plan
One of the best ways to waste an entire day on minutiae is to start without a plan. You know those days. You start with high energy and big ideas, but by lunch you realize you've been doing nothing but email and trouble-shooting, and by the end of the day you're experiencing the bad sort of tired; the antsy, agitated, tired-with-nothing-to-show-for-it tired.
When you start the day with a plan, your efficient brain will help keep you on track all day long, even if that plan is just lurking somewhere in the back of your subconscious. The plan doesn't have to be some big Microsoft-Project-worthy thing either. All you need to do is start each day with writing down the one or two or three things you intend to accomplish that day. So simple, yet so profoundly effective. And if you get to lunchtime and realize you're totally off track, write your plan at lunch and rescue the rest of your day.
Getting Focused Means Managing Distractions
If your email is binging, sending a popup to your screen, or otherwise alerting you every time a new email comes in, then you have turned the management of your life over to Google, Microsoft, or Apple. This goes for your phone too! In fact, any app that alerts you about new information is being given an inappropriate amount of control. If you want to know what the temperature is outside, you can check it. Trust me - your phone really doesn't know specifically when you need to know these things - it only knows that something has changed and you have asked to be alerted.
I love technology and all the information and advantages it can provide. But the best way to get focused and stay focused each day is to take control of your devices. Turn off your notifications (OK, I leave on severe weather alerts), and check email, weather, Instagram, Facebook, etc. when it's the right time for you to check those things -- not when your devices tell you to.
How Your Brain Works
Your brain loves stimulation. When interesting things are cropping up all around you, your brain wants to take it all in. And different parts of your brain respond to different stimuli, so when there are lots of distractions, your brain looks like a little thunderstorm, with lightning in the back, then in the front, then on the side . . . you get my drift. And all that activity in the brain actually feels pretty good, so we let it happen.
But do you know what feels even better? Flow. When you get into a state of concentration - and manage to tune out the distractions for about 15 minutes - you settle into that ultra focused, high-quality, high-productivity thinking called flow. You can stay in a state of flow for hours if you're not disrupted. Not all tasks require hours of concentration, but think how effective you would be if every task or project that required more than 15 minutes of your attention benefited from your highest quality thinking!
So put your cell phone on silent and check voice mail later. Turn off the email, and turn it back on at a specified time. Tell your studio mates, employees and loved ones that you are unavailable for a few hours. Do this on a regular basis, and train your brain to love the feeling of focus more than it loves the feeling of multi-tasking.
And believe it or not . . . that's it. If you simply start each day with a conscious plan, eliminate unnecessary distractions, and allow yourself to get into a state of flow, you will become the most focused version of you that you have ever known.
Have fun getting focused!