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5 Tips to Increase Productivity for People Who Are Easily Distracted

photo credit: Crowd Control via photopin (license)

photo credit: Crowd Control via photopin (license)

Being someone who is creative and passionate, but easily distracted has it’s challenges. Completing important tasks is difficult. People often see you as absent minded or spacey. Sometimes there is so much going on in your mind that you have a hard time finishing things that others would consider easy. You may have earned a reputation for showing up late to events or for forgetting to pay bills on time. Goals you have in mind may be forgotten as quickly as they appeared. There’s just so much exciting stuff in this world!

Does any of this sound familiar?

For someone like me, every day there are countless opportunities to lose track of focus. The image above is a great visual example of how it feels – shiny (or brightly colored) object syndrome!

I’ve spent most of my life as an easily distracted person so I understand how going through life like this (with or without an ADD / ADHD diagnosis) can be stressful and frustrating, both for the person going through it and for those closest to them. With a lot of trial and error, I’ve found several things that help me stay on the ball. The obvious payoff is being more productive, but it’s also made me a happier, less stressed person, which is just as valuable.

Here are 5 things you can try to increase your productivity if you’re an easily distracted type:

1. Do the thing you want to do the least, first, then let everything else follow.

We all have long to do lists and these lists can seem even longer if you are easily distracted! Making a list and focusing on getting your least favorite task done before distraction sets in can set a positive tone for the rest of the day. You’ll feel good about being able to check off something that weighed heavily on you and the next thing on your list will feel like a breeze.

2. Schedule important tasks in a calendar for specific times.

If you have 5 things you want to accomplish today, estimate how much time you’ll need for each one and then schedule a specific slot in your calendar for that task. If you aren’t finished with a task when it’s time for the next activity, stop what you are doing anyway and move on but schedule some additional time to complete those tasks later (#3 can help with that).

This seems counterintuitive but after you get into the habit of doing this, you will know how long certain tasks take you to do and you’ll be able to more accurately plan your time and won’t have to rely on scheduling additional time. Knowing what you are planning to work on each day can make a big difference when you do get distracted. When you finally come back and are ready to work again, you’ll know exactly where to put your focus.

3. Schedule in a small amount of “buffer” time towards the end of your work time.

In anticipation of distractions occurring, schedule a “buffer” time each day. If you are someone who knows you’ll get side tracked at some point, having a 30 minute to an hour block to catch up on activities that you lost your focus on can help you finish up. This is great for when you are in the early days of scheduling tasks (as in #2) and need more time to finish when time is up. It’s also helpful for creative types who need to work when inspired. That buffer at the end will ensure you get the less glamorous jobs done.

4. Take a break.

Preferably a technology break! It’s important to give your brain some down time even during the busiest days. I used to think taking a break was a bad idea since it was so difficult to regain focus after I walked away from what I was doing, but sticking to #1-3 has really made it much easier! Those of us who are easily distracted need breaks that are invigorating but not too stimulating. Go for a walk, chat with a friend, meditate. Do something to center your energy before coming back to your work. Even just 10 minutes can make a big difference in your productivity.

5. Be thoughtful about your food and drink choices.

When you have a lot to do, sometimes it seems like caffeine is the only way to get through it, but for those of us who find focus difficult, sipping on coffee or soda can sometimes make it harder to sit still and do what needs to be done. Instead sip on water with lemon or herbal tea. It will refresh you and won’t leave you buzzing. As far as food goes, try to keep sugar to a minimum and eat meals that are balanced with fiber, protein and fat. You want to choose food that will give you sustained energy so that you don’t have the added challenge of being distracted by feelings of hunger or discomfort.

Do you have any tried and true strategies for getting stuff done? What’s been your biggest challenge with productivity? Share in the comments!