In the hustle and bustle of entrepreneurship, distractions can present themselves in a variety of ways. For those of us with ADHD, these distractions can be unique, persistent and difficult to manage. But, victory over distractions is on the horizon. To get there, we must understand the nature of our ADHD, as well as the effective strategies that can help us manage distractions.
This article provides a comprehensive guide for ADHD entrepreneurs and founders to better manage distractions and enhance productivity.
The Difference Between Distractions and ADHD
Distractions are a reality for everyone, and it’s easy for people to downplay the type of distractions you have with ADHD. While regular distractions are changes in visual environment that bring someone’s mind from one thought to the other, ADHD distraction goes deeper than that.
ADHD is a neurological disorder that makes it hard to compartmentalise. At a resting state, your brain has trouble differentiating at all between tasks and thoughts, making your mind a frenzy of ideas and outcomes that are all occurring at the same time. This is why you need strategies to help manage it.
The Basics Of Managing Distractions
Embracing Mindfulness and Delay Tactics
Mindfulness is a positive tone that you can set for each day. Mindfulness can look a bunch of different ways, but the combining factor is focusing your attention on the present moment. In regard to your distractions, mindfulness grounds your mind into the here and now, reducing impulsiveness and improving concentration.
Introducing Delay Tactics
Delay tactics are an excellent strategy to couple with mindfulness. Delay tactics include waiting for a few days, or even months before making big decisions. This can help manage your distractions by helping you discern if a task is truly important. If it is, the need you feel to do it will persist after the delay.
Utilising Digital Organisation Tools
The digital age of our world provides us with a myriad of tools to aid in managing distractions. Things like Google Calendar, email reminders and accountability apps can provide alerts and reminders to keep you focused. These tools can bring you back to the task at hand when your mind goes down a rabbit trail.
Making Use of Handwritten Notes
Although digital tools can be helpful, handwritten notes can be just as powerful in mitigating distractions, especially when you use them in conjunction with digital tools. Researchers have found that students who write notes on paper learn better than students who type notes on a computer. This is because the action of writing things down makes it more difficult for you to be distracted by your surroundings or thoughts.
The use of pen, or pencil, and paper can help manage distractions by enhancing the focus that’s required to take notes. Even if you don’t think you need them, write things down during meetings and classes to keep yourself engaged.
Prioritising Quality Sleep
Even though it’s often overlooked, a good night’s sleep is absolutely imperative to your brain function throughout the day. Sleep is a huge player in your mind’s ability to focus on a single thought and remain unaffected by distractions. It’s difficult, but setting a sleep routine and reducing screen time before bed reduces your tiredness-related distractions the next morning.
In addition, getting good sleep includes making sure you have the right environment. This is why dedicating your bed for rest only is important. Try keeping active tasks and screen time exclusive to other rooms of the house.
Pets and People
The environment you create for work is extremely important in mitigating distractions. Your office or workplace should be a distraction-free zone where pets and people aren’t allowed during work time. If this doesn’t seem to be a reality for you, take the time to make sure the pets or people in your life are occupied separately during your focused work periods.
Food and Drink
Much of ADHD distractions come from a lack of focus, and an inability to see an “endpoint” to your work-related tasks. Taking breaks that involve hydration and snacks controls your distractions and ensures that you’re taking care of your physical needs.
Erasing Physical Discomfort
Physical discomfort is a huge distraction for everyone. Like you’ve read, taking the time to tailor to your work environment is a huge benefit in lessening distractions. This can’t happen if your work environment isn’t physically comfortable for you. Think about what your needs are to make your workspace as comfortable as possible, and prioritise that as part of your setup.
Managing Auditory Distractions
Background noise can be helpful for some, and a distraction for others, especially people with ADHD. If possible, work in a quiet environment where focus abounds. If your lifestyle doesn’t make this a possibility, noise-cancelling headphones is a good option. If you’re a person that needs some kind of noise to drown out other distracting sounds, listen to white noise or instrumental music.
Phones are a villain to your ability to avoid distractions and stay focused. The ringing or vibrating is a master at taking you away from the task at hand with ease. Put your phone on silent, turn it off, or keep it in a drawer while working. If it’s still difficult for you to limit screen time, there are apps you can download to help you manage that during work hours.
Managing Mental Distractions
Personal Worries or Thoughts
Stress and anxiety are huge mental distractions that can debilitate you from completing tasks. Techniques like mindfulness and meditation are important to give you the right attitude towards work and manage intrusive thoughts.
If you find yourself distracted by personal worries or thoughts during work time, keep a notepad nearby and jot them down. This will help give your mind the ability to delete that thought for the time being. If a particular worry or thought keeps coming up, take a few minutes to address it – make a plan, or decide on a specific time to think about it later.
Mental Fatigue or Burnout
When your brain is tired, the hopefulness of completing a task distraction-free goes out the window. With ADHD, it’s characteristic for us to overwork ourselves to the point where we’re completely burnt out. Take regular breaks using techniques like the Pomodoro Technique (25 minutes of focused work followed by a 5-minute break) to manage your energy levels. Allow yourself permission to take breaks and tend to your mental needs.
Lack of Interest or Motivation in the Task
Because of our lack of long-term thinking, sometimes it’s hard for us to see the importance of tasks, losing any type of interest or motivation towards completing it. As a result, we might make our own distractions for ourselves to avoid it.
This is why it’s important to remind yourself of the long-term goals that you’ve set for yourself and your business. As an additional option, your brain loves a task that’s interesting, so try turning the seemingly “boring” task into one that’s a game or challenge with a reward at the end.
Unresolved Tasks or Problems
A popular mental distraction is the anxiety that’s induced from other tasks that have gone unfinished or unaddressed. This includes those tasks that you’re reluctant to start because of the commitment and prolonged focus they require to complete. Having the mental security of a task management system can be helpful, as it eases your mind to know that you aren’t going to forget about it later. Another way to calm this anxiety is to break down larger tasks or problems into smaller, manageable parts.
No matter how many people try to tell you that multitasking is an amazing, task-tackling superpower, they’re wrong. Multitasking often does more harm than good when you try to accomplish it. By trying to switch back and forth between two or more tasks, you’re creating a comfy home for distractions to abound. Try to focus on one task at a time, using time-blocking to assign specific times for different tasks or types of work.
Excitement About a New Idea
For ADHD entrepreneurs, a superpower we have is our passion towards new adventures and ideas. Although this is a benefit, it can also distract us from the necessary tasks at hand. Keep a notebook or digital note-taking app handy to jot down new ideas as they come to you, so that you can explore them later without getting completely sidetracked from your current task.
Lack of a Clear Plan or Direction
It may seem counter-intuitive, but your ADHD brain needs structure to work at its best. Before starting work, make for yourself a clear plan of action for the day ahead. Write down what you need to do, and more importantly, why you need to do it. A clear plan can help keep you focused and motivated.
Managing Visual Distractions
Now that you understand the mental distractions that can lead you away from your work, it’s also essential to manage potential visual distractions that can hinder your productivity.
Physical Clutter on Your Desk
Physical clutter can be the very first thing that keeps you distracted while you’re working. Your brain needs as little visual distractions as possible, so keep your workspace clean and organised. Assign a place for everything and keep only what you need for the current task on your desk. Now, if you’re more of a messy person, this will be hard to keep up with at first, but it’s worth it for your productivity.
Notifications on Your Computer
While you may have overcome the distractions of your phone, your computer is a whole other battle, especially when you need it to work. Those pesky email notifications or pop-up ads never fail at enticing your impulsivity and lack of focus. Blocking non-essential notifications is an easy way to keep your mind focused on the task at hand. Consider setting specific times for checking your email or other non-urgent notifications to prevent constant interruptions.
Open Tabs or Applications
The curse of too many tabs is one to which many of us fall victim. When we do fall victim to distractions, we open window after window until it’s so overwhelming that we can’t think straight. Close any tabs or applications that aren’t absolutely essential to the task you’re trying to complete in the moment. If it’s difficult to do this, use a browser extension that limits the number of tabs you can have open at once.
This is one that may seem harmless, but a beautiful view out the window can completely ruin all your hard work towards a distraction-free zone. The breeze blowing or the prospect of people watching can sneak up on you during your precious work time. Position your desk so that it faces away from the window. If this isn’t a possibility, you can use blinds or curtains during your most focused work periods.
Managing distractions is a crucial part of being successful as an entrepreneur or founder, especially for those with ADHD. It’s all about taking steps to minimise the thousands of floating thoughts that try to invade your brain at the same time.
Remember, it’s not about eliminating all distractions or changing who you are, but instead about learning how to manage them effectively.