7 Tips to Avoid the Productivity-Killing “While I am At It” Habit

Have you ever set out to complete a task and instead of actually finishing the task, gotten sidetracked by things that you did “while you were at it?”

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This “while I am at it” phenomenon happens all the time to entrepreneurs with ADHD. You have a lot of responsibilities and an abundance of attention. You also struggle to immediately recognize the significance of different tasks–they all seem equally important. So, everywhere you look something needs to be done, and as a person with ADHD, you want to do it right now.

Unfortunately, this habit of doing things “while I am at it” fragments your best efforts so you don’t get traction toward what you originally set out to do. Even if you do get several things done, your most important tasks still do not get done.

Everything we know from productivity suggests that doing even a very few “most important tasks” can far outweigh doing a million inconsequential tasks. (I talk more about that in my course Cut Through the Noise.)

To get your best results in a distracting world, you want to stay focused on what matters most and be sure to get those precious few things done. But how?

Here are seven things you can do to help your brain focus and achieve what matters most.

  1. Know where you are going. The first thing you want to do is begin with a vision of the ultimate result you want to see. (Key word: WANT.) The ADHD brain is more highly motivated by goals that are internally derived–not externally “forced.” So, find out what compels you and craft a clear picture of where you want to go. Beginning with the end you desire in mind will add a lot of clarity to your week and help you prioritize.
  2. Clarify your most important priorities. Before you go into a day, week, month, or a year, clarify what three things you most want to accomplish during that time frame. One of the significant aspects of the ADHD mind is that many tasks seem equally compelling. Don’t get sidetracked from an important task simply because you have not clarified that it is a priority. Take some think-time to identify which high results actions will get you quickly to the vision of what you want most.
  3. Write it down. Research shows that simply writing your goals can boost chances within the general population of completing tasks up to 42%. For people with ADHD, it is especially important to externalize your goals–making them concrete and visible. With your Think Time Planner, you can record your most important tasks on your Rosebush Tool and break them down into actionable steps with your To Do Concept Cloud.
  4. Know your why. When you get clear on your motivation for completing a task, you are more likely to recognize and overcome the obstacles that get in your way. Help your brain process and fall in love with your inner motivation for completing your priorities by drawing a picture of your “why” in the “Motivation” column of your Prioritized To Do List in your Think Time Planner.
  5. Address the obstacles. Did you know that positive thinking alone can actually decrease your chances of achieving your goals? That’s right! Recent research out of NYU on goal achievement shows that you must also address the obstacles within yourself and create a clear plan around them. So, don’t just reach for the stars. Create a plan to overcome your real life obstacles. With your Think Time Planner, you can address the obstacles with your Rosebush Tool, your Concept Clouds, and your Routine Worksheet.
  6. Time slot and highlight your tasks. Decide when you will do these things. Estimate the time these priority tasks will take. Add more time because people with ADHD often underestimate how long things will take. Then, whether it takes three minutes or three hours, schedule time on your Calendar Tool in your Think Time Planner. To help your brain process that these are critical tasks requiring action, color them red or bright orange.
  7. Celebrate your success by checking it off! In the busyness of life it is easy to work really hard and simply keep going to the next thing. However, when you just keep moving forward, your brain misses out on the opportunity to recognize that you have completed the task you set out to do that is connected to your larger goal. Engage your brain’s reward system by checking the task off your list, coloring in a box, or enjoying a bite of dark chocolate. Taking time to celebrate your achievement of important tasks can boost your focus and energy for the next step.

Opportunities to achieve your dreams and goals abound in your day to day life, yet it is easy to get pulled off track by lesser things. Don’t let distractions steal what matters most. Apply these seven ADHD productivity hacks with your Think Time Planner so you can avoid the “While I am At It” Trap and achieve what matters most—even in a distracting world.

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