We all have cases of it – and entrepreneurs are especially prone to it. The productivity killer named “The Squirrel” – aka Entrepreneurial ADD.
Psychology Today talks about why ADHD and ADD are actually positives when it comes to entrepreneurship, but some days that positive trait can be a barrier to actually putting plans and ideas in action (and that is putting it mildly!).
I do not say this completely in jest. Having ADD has made me a better entrepreneur – and more creative, resilient, and understanding. Because of ADD, I have created systems in my life that have helped me attempt to keep focus even on my worst days.
Certain times of the year, and in certain situations (such as grief, depression, stress, etc) symptoms are much worse than others. After Jim died, I had a VERY hard time (understandably) keeping focus. Depression worsened my symptoms, but thankfully I had some of these habits to mindlessly fall back on. I could at least get a little work done.
If you are feeling stuck right now and can’t seem to get anything done – these are my top tips for controlling the productivity killing Squirrel:
- Set a timer – 30 minutes seems to be the perfect limit for me. I then allow myself 5 minutes to do something else, and then reset the timer. I do NOT check email or any other messages during those 5 minutes (see #5). I have discovered the Pomodoro method for segmenting my time, and it is amazing! I have an app on my phone that I use to keep track of it, but there is also a desktop version if you don’t want to be tied to your phone.
- Make list. Not a list of every single thing you have to do, but the top three. Take as many 30 minute chunks as needed to get those things done.
- Listen to music. For me, it tunes out the noise, or even the deafening silence, around me. It stops me from thinking about all the other things that are on my plate, and new projects that I could work on.
- Go somewhere new. If I seem to hit a wall, and I cannot seem to focus in the slightest, just changing the scenery sometimes helps. I spend some days working from my couch, then the library, and then the coffee shop.
- Schedule email time and social media time. I answer emails from 10-11, and I attempt to do Facebook from 9-10. Facebook is honestly my worst squirrel. Ever since my John & Schoep photo has gone viral, its been a constant battle for me not to get sucked into Facebook. My latest goal is to spend less of my life on there (we’ll see how that works out ;)).
Most important: Don’t get discouraged! It will be ok – focus will eventually return. When in doubt, go for a walk and start over again. Walks (or runs!) solve just about every issue ;).
(By the way, I am presenting on this topic and creativity at the NW Wisconsin Business Conference in May. Register here: NWBC – if you are in the area!)