While I’ve been sharing quite a bit about my ADHD this week between Monday’s post and the podcast, I haven’t really gotten specific about how I manage it. With that in mind, I wanted to share some of what I’ve been focusing on for those who struggle with focus or feel they lack it entirely.
Focus on process
Knowing how we plan to do our work is essential. We constantly look for excuses and not having a process serves as a great one. For years we’ve lacked a method. We thought desire would be enough to get things done. We hoped that passion would be enough, but it wasn’t. Taking a step back from our ambitions and beginning to build a foundation to accomplish the kind of work we aspire to helps to eliminate our excuses. Finding the right mix of tools, tactics and tricks gives us less of a reason to fall short and offers us a support structure.
Focus on deadlines
Knowing when our work needs to be done can be an essential part of getting it done. Those of us who have ADHD tend to procrastinate and procrastinators tend to strive on one thing: deadlines. Giving ourselves deadlines and taking them seriously can go a long way toward scratching things off our list. We have to use them sparingly, we have to treat them as immovable once set, but, when done right, they can go a long way to help move us in the right direction. Deciding when our work begins can be just as important. We tend to take on too much, so using start dates to keep other projects out of our line of site helps to keep our focus on what matters most in the moment.
Focus on projects
Knowing what we’re working on and having a way to see it all is probably the single most important addition to an unfocused world. When opportunities are presented, we want to say yes. When something interesting is put in front of our face, we want to follow it and see where it leads. When we try to keep all of the projects on our plate in our heads, we tend to conveniently forget just how much we are doing. Having it all in one place (in my case, OmniFocus) constantly forces us to look how much is on the plate and make difficult decisions about what we will and will not do.
Focus on purpose
Knowing why we do the things we do must play a major role in our lives. Passion goes a long way toward helping us overcome that everyday struggle to keep our attention on what matters. It certainly won’t solve all of our problems, but without it, all of the steps above are useless. Everything is pulling at our attention, so aligning our passion with our work helps us from straying too far. Building our world around our interests can make everything else seem slightly less interesting and thus slightly (but only slightly) less distracting. There will always be things that we have to do, but tying them to the things we want to accomplish can make a massive difference.
The keen-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I not so subtly hit on the who, what, when and why, but avoided the where. Trying to do my work anywhere has always been a problem, so rather than trying to create some unrealistic pristine environment, I’ve been trying to develop an ability to work everywhere. Part of what I’ve been focusing on is learning to work under any conditions. It hasn’t always been easy, but, like anything, it’s gotten simpler with time. Allowing myself to work anywhere and creating a structure that helps me do this has helped me channel my natural distractibility toward more productive pursuits.
What are you really focusing on?
I know that focus has always been elusive for us, but starting here can go a long way toward making it a bigger part of our lives. Take a step back and force yourself to look at each one of these areas and see where you might want to improve. And let’s face it, it’s not just us. There are plenty of people out there who don’t inherently struggle with things like ADD and ADHD who could do a lot more with the natural focus they’ve already been blessed with.
How about you? How do you make the most out of focus?