I’ll admit it – warmer weather makes it hard for me to stay focused on work-related tasks. Sunshine, singing birds, frolicking squirrels, even rainstorms all serve as potential distractions to my getting work done when I’m in my office. I know many of you, especially those with ADHD, face a similar challenge – staying focused when there are dozens of things hollering for your attention. Here are some ideas to help you stay on course yet still have time for fun in the sun.
Plan around your peak mental energy time. What time of day are you the most alert? Use that time to work on difficult, unpleasant tasks that require a lot of mental calories – you'll be more likely to stay on task when your brainpower matches the complexity of the task at hand.
Remove physical distractions. Whether you’re working on a project at your desk or trying to get dinner on the table, remove things from view that might take you away from the task at hand. Put away papers and files you're not currently working on before you pull out a new project; clean up remnants of past meals before starting to prepare a new one. If you're working in a space that's particularly messy and items are hard to put away, cover the areas you won't be working on with a bed sheet to hide them from view.
Write it down. Establish a reliable place to jot down what you intend to be working on (e.g., on a sticky note) and put it where you can see it – next to your computer monitor, on your phone, on your hand – you get the idea. This visual reminder can rein you in when you're starting to stray.
Use a timer. Set a timer at periodic intervals to check in with yourself and see if you're working on what you intended. Depending on your susceptibility to distraction, the intervals can be short as 10 minutes or as long as an hour.
Turn it off. Checking email can seem productive, but it’s often simply a form of procrastination and distraction. If you find yourself constantly checking email throughout the day, turn off your audible and visible email notifications and only check it at specified times. Really, how often do you receive a message that can't wait an hour or two for you to respond?
Go with the flow. Let’s face it, sometimes you just need to take a break from what you're working on and indulge in whatever distraction is calling for your attention. Set a timer for whatever amount of time you're willing to step away, but be sure to honor yourself by getting back to work when the timer goes off.
Give yourself a break. Taking a break can re-energize your mind, body and spirit. It's been shown that taking a "green" break is particularly restorative, so go for a walk, or even look out the window at green grass and trees. If you're lucky enough to be able to do so, work outside at the park, at an outdoor table at your local coffee shop, or even in your own yard.
I'd love to hear how you manage to stay focused when the rest of the world is calling to you.