Taming the Squirrel – Entrepreneurial ADD

How to deal with ADD and stress while self employed.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!)


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6 Comments on Taming the Squirrel – Entrepreneurial ADD

  1. Andrea Kotula
    April 17, 2014 at 12:01 am (8 years ago)

    This was helpful because I’ve been having difficulty staying focused lately. I do a lot of it already, but it was a good reminder, and I like the idea of using an app and changing locations. I noticed that you take longish breaks after each work segment, although Pomodoro suggests 5 minutes and then 15 only after 4 segments. I think that 15 will work better. Five minutes would not be enough of a break! Which app do you use? Some of them program in the shorter breaks. Thanks!

    • Hannah
      April 17, 2014 at 2:00 am (8 years ago)

      Oddly, I get distracted if I have a break for more than 5 minutes. (Imagine that!) ;). I use Pomodoro Timer for droid as my free app – it’s awesome!

  2. Andrea Kotula
    April 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm (8 years ago)

    Thanks, but now I’m confused. Your wrote in your blog that you take 15-minute breaks between your 30-minute work periods. Do you mean that you only take 5-minute breaks?

    I just tried this with a timer on my phone–no app yet–and although I found myself checking the timer after 15 minutes, I stuck it out for 30, and it worked! My biggest problem has been the desire to check Facebook all day, but the timer really helps. Who knew?

    • Hannah
      April 17, 2014 at 2:59 pm (8 years ago)

      I meant 5 – thank you! I may have been distracted 😉 And yes, Facebook is my worst distraction… you may have noticed!

  3. Amy
    April 19, 2014 at 4:19 pm (8 years ago)

    Thanks for the lead on this app, Hannah. I use this technique some, but easily get off track when I rely on resetting my timer. This should help a lot.

    • Hannah
      April 19, 2014 at 4:37 pm (8 years ago)

      You’re very welcome! It’s helped me tremendously.