Like many entrepreneurs, I too deal with ADD. In my case, it’s official.
Several years ago, my kids were diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. When the doctor talked to us and explained the test results, too many things “clicked” for me. It just sounded a lot like my own experiences.
So, I went ahead and took the tests myself. And guess what? I too have ADD! All those years of priding myself on my ability to multi-task? That was just my unique type of attention. I do very well with noticing a lot of interesting things around me. Focusing on a single – not so interesting – task? Now, there’s a challenge.
Having to deal with Attention Deficit Disorder all my life, I’ve come up with techniques and tools that help me improve my productivity and I’m going to share them in this post. I’m not saying these tips will necessarily work for you. Just sharing what works for me.
Originally published in 2016, this is an updated version.
1. Shutting out the world
Virginia Woolf knew what she was talking about when she wrote A Room Of Her Own. Man or woman, we all need our private little corner where we can work.
Working from home, I didn’t always have an office room of my own, but now I do. When an extra room wasn’t available, I created a working space in our bedroom. Either way, there is/was a space where I could shut the door and cut off the rest of the world.
2. Getting comfortable
When I need to focus, I have to be comfortable. Granted, when something is interesting enough for me, I can work through it no matter what. I lose track of physical sensations and can work for hours, realizing too late that I forgot to eat, drink or stretch.
In a way, that’s actually a benefit of ADD. The ability to hyper-focus on things that you find interesting.
But what when you have to work on something that’s too boring? Well, suddenly every little sensation comes in the way. I now anticipate that and can usually prepare ahead of time. When having to deal with a boring task, I make sure to eat, hydrate, and stretch before I begin. I keep a bottle of water on my desk so I can drink while working too.
3. Keeping the phone away
Whenever possible, I also leave my phone out of my office space. When expecting an important call, I place it on the dining room table, outside my office. That way, I can hear the phone ringing but I don’t have it next to me. Sometimes I even leave it with my husband or with one of the kids, asking them to monitor the phone for important incoming messages.
Facebook is my vice. I’m probably showing my age here, but Zuckerberg managed to get a hold of me with his dopamine trap. For a long while, I had to use a blocker to make sure I don’t stray into Facebook while working.
It does look like the spell has been broken for now. I still spend too much time on Facebook but I do that on my phone. So I no longer need the blocking software. However, it’s worth mentioning here. Social media – Facebook, Twitter, you name it – can be addictive and get in the way of work. Blocking these sites can help if you’re facing that particular issue.
5. Scheduling breaks
Breaks are important. For me, there are short breaks and long breaks.
I aim at taking a short one-minute break every 50 minutes to stretch and walk around.
To stick to that schedule, I use a little piece of software called WorkRave. Now, here’s the thing: I don’t always listen to it. Too often than I care to admit, I just click on “skip” and keep on working. That’s not always a good thing, but on the other hand, if I’m “in the zone” and it’s an important task, I don’t want to take a break. I just take 15 seconds to stretch while seated and carry on.
I also schedule a long break – 15-minute long – once every four hours. That doesn’t mean I don’t take more breaks. It’s just a way for me to make sure that I remember to take a long break, even on busy days.
Most days, I don’t need a reminder and I plan my breaks based on tasks – not on the clock. The idea is to make myself sit down, knowing that I’m getting the break later on, once I check the task off my list.
6. Using music (or worse)
For me, using upbeat music can work really well. It’s making me move in my chair – as an added bonus – and also helps me focus. I’m pretty sure that’s the effect of adrenaline. Here’s an interesting explanation of how that might work.
So, what’s “worse”? Don’t laugh, but I found that the soundtrack of shows like “Ghost Hunters” and others in the genre can help me focus. I can put them in the background, without viewing the screen. They’re pretty dumb, so I don’t have to pay attention to what they’re saying. The soundtrack is what I’m after. That silly scary music with “scare jumps” every now and again, and people screaming? Perfect for adrenaline jolts.
Keep in mind that English isn’t my first language. It might be easier for me to block the talking on these shows for that reason. Just thought I’d mention it all the same.
7. Outsourcing the boring tasks
Some things are just too boring for me to do. I can do them if I have to, but it’s going to take me a long while and I’m more likely to make mistakes along the way. The best solution I found for these is to outsource to the right people.
In my case, that means letting my husband take care of bookkeeping. If I had to do it myself, I would have hired a CPA. It’s just too much for my ADD brain, sorry.
I outsource other repetitive tasks to my trusted VA. I have an awesome Chief VA, who supervises a team of other VA’s. He definitely does not have ADD, which is great. He’s meticulous and has an eye for detail. Perfect for outsourcing some tasks.
8. Using a task list app
I live by my task lists. There’s no way I could keep track of everything in my head, and not for lack of trying.
These days, I use Clickup for everything. I blogged here about how I use Clickup to run my sites. I also use it for everything else. The first thing that I do every morning is open my Clickup Inbox. The first task is to go over emails and Clickup notifications. Next, I deal with the “small” post-related tasks, one by one. Finally, I have the “big tasks” to handle. These change from day to day.
Whenever I have a big project to tackle, I break it down into Clickup tasks. For example, I decided that I should review and update some of the posts on this blog. A couple of weeks ago, I had a task titled:
Review Yeys.com posts and decide which to update.
I created a list in the task, and then copied it and turned it into a number of tasks in the Yeys.com content plan list. Each item was assigned to me with a future date.
Today, a task popped up about updating this post. Without Clickup, it would have been much more difficult for me to keep track of these projects.
9. Considering medication
After my own diagnosis, the doctor suggested stimulants. He prescribed Ritalin first.
The drug worked like a charm. During “Ritalin days”, my productivity soared. I could focus on tasks for longer and get more done in a day than I would in 2-3 days without the medication.
Unfortunately, the side effects were too bad. I also tried Adderall and had to quit using that as well. In my forties, stimulants were clashing with some other medical issues that I have. It was a “no go” for the meds, in my case.
I thought I’d mention it here because if you are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, the right medication could be a game-changer. Talk to your doctor about it. See if you can get a diagnosis and treatment.
Please don’t self-medicate.
Don’t just go ask a friend for Ritalin pills. Finding the right medication can be challenging. I know people who popped in a Ritalin pill they got from a friend, felt awful with the side effects, and vowed to never try the meds again. That’s because they went about it the wrong way. Maybe Adderall would be better for them, or maybe they need a different dose. Or maybe they don’t really have ADHD. Some physical conditions can look like ADHD. That’s why a blood panel is needed before confirming an ADHD diagnosis.
Your doctor also needs to monitor your ongoing health when you’re taking stimulants. As with every other medication, they can have adverse effects. Not to mention, these are prescription drugs, so it’s illegal to just “borrow” them from your friends.
I hope this tip won’t upset readers too much. There’s a lot of misconceptions and prejudice against using pharmaceuticals to increase productivity. If you happen to be someone who can benefit from that – and not everyone is – then hopefully this post has at least made you consider the option. Of course, your life, your choice.
As always, leave a comment and let me know what you think! Any tips or tricks you can share about how you increase your own productivity? I’d love to hear them!