I was born with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or otherwise known as ADHD. Growing up with ADHD was really tough. I had difficulty in school. I had trouble keeping a conversation with adults. Staying seated for an entire meal was tough. Spellchecking (even to this day) was my worst enemy.  And to my Mom’s testimony, I rarely finished a task (be it cleaning, reading a book, starting a project, finding a hobby, a job, etc). I couldn’t seem to figure out the secret to overcoming distractions.

Today, ADHD has been the single greatest gift God has given me (but that’s another post for another day). Though I can’t say I’ve mastered or overcome the disease (as I still have my fair share of squirrel moments in a given day), I have learned a few things that help me in overcoming distractions and allow me to gain back focus in my day.

It happens to all of us, ADHD or not, we go onto Facebook to post something about work and we see the cute video of a baby laughing and it sends us down a wormhole; distraction.
Or a co-worker mentions something that causes us to begin a story that connects with something they mentioned, and the stories just continue to flow; distraction.
You open twitter because someone mentioned us, and 20 minutes later you realize you’re reading article number six; once again you’re distracted.

Focus is tough, and I’ve found the larger the team you work with, overcoming distractions becomes more and more of an art. So here are a few ways of overcoming distractions, from someone who’s an expert at being distracted:

1. All You Need is... Priority.

First and foremost, remember that you are most creative when you’re most focused. One of the most common reasons I am not able to create is that I schedule “creativity” in moments where I am most often interrupted.

For example, I had a goal in 2015 to write more and I heard that if you schedule creativity, you’ll have more time to be creative. So every Thursday afternoon, I would block four hours of un-interrupted writing time. It was awesome, except that in the 52 weeks of the year, I may have actually be un-interrupted three or four times.

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I learned that Thursday afternoons is typically when everyone is needing something from me. My team has deadlines, it’s the last day of the week most of our customers work (we serve a lot of church staff) or they’re rushed to get something to me before a weekend event. So my Thursdays were always held ransom by good intentions and genuine reasons.

In 2016, I’m not writing on Thursday afternoons, but rather Friday mornings is the new home to my four hour block. If I want more time, or more un-interrupted time, I just get up earlier. But it’s a window that’s rarely been interrupted. Scheduling creativity isn’t enough, prioritizing creativity is required to overcome distractions. If you don’t set the priority and agenda for your day, someone or something else will.

Scheduling creativity isn’t enough, prioritizing creativity is required to overcome distractions.

2. No More Good Vibrations.

If you want to become a master of overcoming distractions, then you have to kill the distraction at it’s source. It may be a text message alert, an email ding, an iPad notification or the vibration of a phone call; do yourself a favor and turn it off. Mute your notification center, set your phone or devices to do-not-disturb and turn the vibration of your phone OFF.

Get rid of the alerts, dings and the sounds/vibrations that naturally invite you into a distraction pit. Once you’ve prioritized creativity, this will help you avoid the distraction once you’re in your priority slot.

3. Is It Too Late Now to Email Sorry?

My single greatest distraction is my email inbox. It’s never empty. And like many of you, I can’t seem to get rid of that stupid red circle with a number in it. Since I don’t like that red circle, I just quit the program a lot! If we don’t turn off our email notifications, we let other people’s priorities rob our opportunities.

For the most part, those who email you need or want something from you. I hate when people need something from me. I don’t want people waiting on me, so I let it debilitate my desire to do something. So I respond to that simple request, or attach the presentation a co-worker can’t find on dropbox. I mean, if my team is getting stuff done faster, that means we’re all getting stuff done faster right? Be careful with this train of thought, because your team is there to do their job, so you can do more of your job… You’re job isn’t to be available to them 24/7.

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Studies have shown that it takes an average of 25 minutes and 15 seconds to get back into the groove you were once in. So lets not let other’s priorities steal our opportunities; shut off your email from time to time. 

Scheduling creativity isn’t enough, prioritizing creativity is required to overcome distractions.