I have Attention Deficit Disorder, while some people don’t believe it actually exists I think that we can all agree that we can all agree that everyone displays varying degrees of its symptoms from time to time. I am wired to be distracted. When my medication wears off I am off the wall, impulsive, fidgety, and show a complete lack of focus. During the day, it’s not so bad, but as you can imagine on occasion there things in the workplace that make it difficult to get things done.
How do you become productive when you’re wired to be distracted? Become aware of yourself & have a
plan thing that plays to your strengths.
Having a plan is good, planning to be flexible is better – Keep lists of what has to be done, prioritize your tasks by day (I’ve never been good at that), and then be prepared for things to change because as much as we love to think that things go according to plan, they seldom do.
Find your time of day – I work best in the mornings so I focus on my difficult or longer tasks in the morning and work on lighter tasks after lunch and toward the end of the day. It helps me from getting stressed and allows me to remain consistent in the amount of effort required to exert the same level of focus.
Some of my colleagues love to work at night while that is something I simply cannot do, but it works so well for them. Find your time and focus your more difficult tasks during those times.
Identify your major distractors – Between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM I hate my cellphone. It’s like Facebook Messenger, my Gmail, Outlook, and text messages all decide to blow up at the same time. It drove me nuts for months. When I’m at work I have to mute my messenger and other email accounts. Since I am a chronic worrier however, I leave my text messages and phone calls on vibrate just in case something happens.
Younger students regularly will stop by for advice which I am happy to provide but can set me back for hours. This is one distractor I’m willing to accept. I would rather have an open door for younger researchers and students so I can serve as an effective mentor than get a few extra things knocked off my list.
Know how stress affects you and how to deal with it – Stress in small does makes me superhuman. I get a massive amount of stuff done in no time, but if this stress is consistent over a prolonged period of time, I shut down. I fall into a deep depression and panic regularly. I have difficulty getting out of bed and going to work, so what do I do on those days? Those days I email my supervisor and attempt to work from home surrounded by kittens. Limiting social interactions helps tremendously, plus working from home is great because there are fewer distractions than at my office. I am aware that this is not possible for everyone. I am very fortunate to work in an environment where my supervisors are so lax about where we get our work done so long as it’s getting done.
Being able to overcome the distraction is a challenge but we can do it! It takes time, practice, and determination.
A post for another day considers how medication may impact your mood and ability to be productive. One post I really enjoyed reading about Adderall and medication to assist with attention deficit disorder can be found here.