21 Jan Combating Professional ADD
In the manufacturing economy, time was the currency. Systems were designed for maximum efficiency, and effectiveness was simply how much time could be dedicated to the process. The assembly line is a perfect example! In today’s information environment, directing our attention in the right places for the right amount of time and focus is the key to effectiveness.
Curious if you suffer from Professional ADD? If you have already been distracted at some point during the first paragraph, no assessment necessary!
- You are frequently distracted from your current activity, by others, or by your own lack of focus
- You finish your day and are surprised how little you actually accomplished despite the fact that you felt “busy” all day
- You have a to-do list of important items but always seem to be distracted with more “urgent” activities
- You find it difficult to fully focus on another person without thinking of other matters
- You check and respond to your email, text messages, instant messages, etc. constantly
- You feel a sense of “information overload” frequently
- You think you are a great multi-tasker
- You are addicted to urgency and pride yourself on being the best “fire fighter”
- You love being in the “zone” but are frustrated by how infrequently you truly find yourself in that place
If you checked the box to most of these, you may be suffering from Professional Attention Deficit Disorder. The good news is that it is curable and you can fill your own prescription!
Create Golden Hours
Establish certain times each day that no one can distract you or each other. The only distractions or interruptions should be emergencies; educate your environment when it is best to get with you by phone or in person for activities that are not both urgent and critical.
Loosen your Electronic Leash
At least four times per day, set 45-minute time blocks where email, instant messages, and any other electronic distractions are turned off. Each time block is dedicated to fully focusing on a specific activity that you have predetermined for that time. Very rarely is anything so urgent and critical that it cannot wait for a reply within an hour; you may even find that issues solve themselves without you having to!
Prioritize Long-Term Projects
Make a list of all your current important projects that are not urgent. Now, assign at least two one-hour slots a week to do them. Keep these appointments with yourself the same way that you would with a client; do not allow yourself to book anything during those times unless it is a true emergency. If you don’t begin to do some of the strategic work now, when will you? An attic is easier cleaned a few boxes a week rather than the entire attic in a weekend.
There are some times when multi-tasking and bouncing from one activity to the next is both unavoidable and necessary. However, the majority of times you find yourself busy, multi-tasking, and rushed are self-created and counter-productive in the long run. Practice being fully present and engage in one activity at a time. If someone stops by your office while you are typing an email, ask them to send you an email to schedule some time so that you can truly focus on their needs at a time that is mutually convenient.
Create Blocks of Similar Activities
A doctor does not check emails in the middle of surgery, and a lawyer is not accepting incoming calls while the opposing counsel is grilling his client. What makes the critical responsibilities of your role less deserving of your own concentration? We all like diversity and variety, but do your best to plan activities in such a way that complementary activities can be done in groups.
Find the Right Work/Life Balance
Just as your time at work should have focus and intensity in each activity; so should your time away from work. Being fully present in all your interactions includes those outside of work. When you find your mind drifting to work related activities while with friends or family, remind yourself to focus back on the people or activity at hand.