Updated: Nov 9
Do you have attention issues that make it difficult to work? Is staying on task and seeing projects to their completion difficult for you? You are not alone.
I am a professional with this struggle, and I have had to get creative with ways to stay on task, complete projects, and manage the overabundance of energy and ideas that are a part of my landscape.
Check out this 3-part blog post for my top strategies to stay with it and tame that excess energy.
Part 1 – The Rules
For years, I spent too much time attempting to ignore, sidestep and outwork attention issues. I did everything possible on the healthy side, from daily exercise to getting enough sleep and even changing my diet. On the dark side, I drank too much coffee, made thousands of to-do lists, and tried every productivity app I could find.
Nothing helped. I was always exhausted and frustrated, and neither of those states was helpful to being productive or creative.
I was venting to a friend one day, and they suggested I needed an entirely different approach that worked with me instead of against me. The key, they said, was to try and accept the reality of excessive thoughts and energy and think of ways to make that work for you! I spotted the old Jungian concept of “What you resist, persists” in my friend’s suggestion.
It gave me pause. It was time to try something radically different!
I had to break the problem down to see how I could make it work for me. Too many thoughts? I needed to find a way to acknowledge them instead of ignoring them. Of course, while floating around in my brain, competing for attention, every thought seemed extremely important and fabulous. Statistically speaking, that was highly unlikely.
The core task with thoughts was to get them out of the unstructured realm of my brain and into the physical plane. So, I created a couple of rules.
The first rule was to go about my regular work of content creation, and anytime a competing or random thought popped into my head, I would jot it down on a sticky note and move on. There would be no attempt at filtering, and all non-related thoughts had to be written down when they occurred.
Rule number two was to stack up all sticky notes and save them until the end of the day. At that time, I could go through them, note any worth keeping, and put them on a to-do or other appropriate list. Or, if I preferred, I could toss them in the trash.
Problem number two: what about the excess energy that makes it hard to sit still long enough to accomplish anything? Like with the competing, endless thoughts, I needed to work with my energy level and not against it. This was a bit trickier. I needed to determine my current tolerance for sitting still. How long could I do it successfully in one stretch?
I tested myself. I sat down (no sticky notes yet) to begin a writing task and started the stopwatch on my phone. I persisted with the job until I could not stand it any longer. With much struggle, I made it 10 minutes. As much as I wanted to laugh, judge or run from that number, I had to look at it as data. Now I knew, with effort, how far I could go.
I made two rules. First, when I sit down for any task, I am to set a timer for 10 minutes. While the timer is running, I am to stay on task, regardless of how slowly I may be working. No other task may be undertaken during this time, including texts, emails, calls, social media, games, or changing tasks.
Second, once the timer goes off, I can jump on social, text, stand up, dance, eat a cookie, or do whatever I feel like doing for 5 minutes. At the end of 5 minutes, I am to return to the original task. This cycle would repeat until I finished the task or the day ended.
I felt good about my plan and that combining the 4 rules would significantly increase the odds of my success. The next day it was time to put my rules to the test.
Join me for Part 2: The Test and Results.