Ask anyone who works at an office, and they’ll tell you that interruptions and multitasking kill productivity. For professionals with ADHD, the problem is even bigger, as the lure of doing multiple things at once is ever more enticing. In this article, we ask experts on ADHD for their best tips to avoid multitasking and getting derailed by constant interruptions. On a related note, Priority Matrix also helps by keeping busy professionals focused on high-impact work, whether you live with ADHD, or not.
Just say no to multitasking
It’s simple: If you have a choice, don’t multitask. Finish a task before you move on to the next one, or at least be aware of when you’re multitasking so it doesn’t become a habit. Concierge coach Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D. encourages professionals with ADD or ADHD to avoid multitasking: “To finish a job, one must be focused and on target. Multitasking may become difficult for some now. Rather than focusing on one task, a person is distracted by many unfinished tasks, not making significant progress in any one of them. Work suffers when one’s attention is diverted, and many people work late or on weekends to make up for the lost time. So there’s more worry and less time for fun. It also disrupts family life and makes work-life balance difficult.”
There is ample support for this perspective. Aniko Dunn, a licensed Psy.D. with EZCare Clinic, says that it is important to “focus on the task at hand to get the job done. Some feel that this is when multitasking becomes a problem. Instead of focusing on one task, one person is distracted by many tasks, but nothing is accomplished. When one’s mind starts to wander and becomes distracted, in addition to not being able to finish work, many people have to go home late to work or catch up on work at night or on the weekend. This perhaps creates more stress and less time for entertainment. It disrupts home life and makes it even more difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance.” The next time you find yourself multitasking, consider the impact that this will have on your personal life.
Use your uniqueness to your benefit
Sometimes, it is possible to go the other way, and instead of fighting your limitations, you could embrace your unusual advantages. The following may seem controversial to some. Michael Peres, a Software Engineer, Journalist, Radio Host, and Founder of several start-up companies, has managed to create a system where he is in charge of his time and energy: “Work with ADHD to your favor by not fighting it but by building on the less noticed advantages.” For example, he continues: “Because I can’t focus on doing one thing at a time, I built on a more natural foundation by perfecting the art of multitasking. I could be coding two websites while listening to a documentary, monitoring the stock market, and responding to emails. This way, you can optimize your time and achieve even more than the average person in a day. Never force yourself into doing what an average person does but learn to understand how your mind works, so you can take advantage of it.” As they say, if you can’t beat them, join them.
Use time-boxing to train your brain to stay focused
Time boxing is a set of techniques that force you to stay focused on a given task for a predetermined amount of time. Over time, you can find your ideal Jacquelyn Tenaglia, LMHC, recommends time-boxing to avoid or reduce distractions: “Reduce or eliminate distractions, and rely on timers. Set a timer for 5, 10, 15 minutes, whatever feels manageable, and try not to stop working or engage with distractions until it goes off.”
Stop those notifications
Charles Leduc of Mold Busters once worked with a CEO who had distract-proofed his ADHD: “He had an extremely strict protocol to eliminate distractions. He turned off all notifications on his phone, and only answered missed communications first thing in the morning. After that he would review various reports and strategies we had planned, and only after all of this would he come out into the office and allow anyone to speak to him directly. It made him incredibly productive, but if something required his attention at the computer after he had come out for the day, he would lock his door and ignore any knocks, calls, or emails unless you made it apparent that it was an absolute emergency.”
Don’t get distracted, there’s more!
This article is part of a series that asks successful professionals living with ADHD for their best tips. We will continue sharing insightful ideas to help you stay focused on high-impact work.
If you haven’t tried Priority Matrix yet, take a look! We are confident you will find it useful.