Tips & Tricks for the Chronically Distracted

Dear Whoever Reads This,

There are days when I have so much to do that I can’t even read a paragraph without feeling  distracted. I’ve learned to keep those days simple. In the spirit of simplicity and also because I am deeply into alliteration, I created this Handy Piktochart (click here, pls)  with what I call “The 3 S’s for Combating Distraction.”

I’ve also provided two very good sources at the end of this chart. I hope you refer to those at some point because they’re helpful.



Strength-Based To-Do Lists

Do you ever wonder why you aren’t getting stuff done? If you do, please read on and see if you identify with this…

My to-do lists are more like delusional wish lists. Lately there has been an added element to that, too:

My delusional wish lists are ruining my morale.

I write down tasks and then immediately feel the desire to flee far, far away. This impulse quite understandably curbs progress.

This time, however, I have a plan, and it’s based on my strengths.

For me to even begin this plan, I had to spend time recognizing my strengths and weaknesses. Once I did that, I saw why certain tasks were remaining on my list for an embarrassing amount of time. I’ve illustrated this exercise below. (more…)

Reflections on a Particularly Distracted Day

Today was a whirlwind of inefficiency.  It’s 5 p.m. and I’m exhausted. There is paperwork everywhere. I must do an autopsy on today’s productivity.  Here are the issues I see and, so I don’t get depressed listing out my problems without possible solutions, I’ve add those, too…

Problem: I didn’t start out with a focus for my day.

When I simply wake up with the goal of doing all the things all at once, I fail. Not only do I fail, but it’s a sort of across-the-board failure that leaves me wanting to hide under my desk. I start and stop many different projects. I get into what I call my “little spinny place” and I whirl around in circles until I’m exhausted. I pay attention to urgent tasks and forget all sense of purpose to my day. It’s really an awful place to be.


What To Do When Your Time Management Techniques Fall Apart

What To Do When Your Time Management Techniques Fall Apart

Have you ever felt crazed by all the stuff you have to do?

Is the stuff you have to do managing you?

Do you have so much stuff to do that you want to go home and hide not only under the covers but under the mattress?

If so, maybe you are managing the wrong thing. I recently read a Harvard Business Review article by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy titled Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.  I talk to people about time management nearly every day, so this article really hit home with me.

Here a few pointers I derived from the article:

  • Working longer hours is not time management.
  • Time is a fixed resource. Although you can work longer hours if you like, you will eventually run out of time.
  • Energy, however, is renewable. Pay attention to the four main sources of energy in humans — body, emotions, mind, and spirit — and reap the rewards.

“Yeh, right!” you may say. “But I’m too busy for that!”

“But there are payoffs,” I’ll argue. “Read about the Wachovia study that Schwartz and McCarthy refer to in their article if you need more convincing. I’ve cited the source below so you can access the article. You’ll find out that you actually cannot afford NOT to renew your energy!

If you just want the bullet points, stick with me. I’ve got you covered: (more…)

Productivity amidst Chaos: Simplifying Your Approach for the Purposes of Time Management and Sanity

I’ve got a stack of papers on my desk that just toppled over because the pile got a bit too high. It’s like a tower ready to collapse, ominously leaning one off to the side. I’ve got a million things to do today and all of them are important. I feel scattered. I’m exhausted, and the coffee I drank in hopes of waking me up only served to give me a case of the jitters. It’s only 11 a.m. and I am wondering just exactly how I am going to get through the day.

If anything in the above paragraph sounds familiar, read on. I’m talking myself off a ledge here with a few techniques that have worked for me in the past. Come along on my journey towards a simpler, easier, more productive day!
There are three things I can do today to simplify my approach and get more done: 1) Obey the Rule of Three, 2) Can the Perfectionism; and 3) Eliminate Electronic Distractions. Allow me to explain…

Obey the Rule of Three
I have a business coach friend who admonishes me constantly because I try to do too much all at once. I could go into great depth about the history of why I do this (societal approval, family patterns, and overall neuroses, to name a few) but really, who has time for that? My friend’s Rule of Three plays out like this:
You only get to pick three things you are going to work on right now. If you want to get even simpler and narrow it down to one, that’s great. But just pick three things and make them your focus.
I can hear protesting voices even as I write.
“SURE!” you may be saying. “That’s great for you, honey, but I have more than THREE THINGS to do today!”

I hear you. I still believe in the rule of three, however, for this reason: Maybe you’re different, but personally, there is no way I can do ten things at once. Actually, I can’t even do THREE things at a time. I can, however, work in chunks of time. In one chunk of time, I work on one thing. In the next bit of time, I work on the next thing. And so on.
I feel a little bit calmer when I do this and I am calmer, I tend to produce higher quality work. Would you like to this, too? If so, do this — take a breath, focus, and decide what the next hour will look like. What is one specific task you can do to advance on one specific project?


Procrastination Soup

Procrastination Soup: When Putting Stuff Off Feels Like a Virtue

The aroma of homemade vegetable soup wafts from the kitchen to the office as I sit here and write. It’s a cold winter day, and I set time aside this morning to make something nutritious and wholesome. Good of me, wasn’t it? Not really.

Procrastination can take many forms, and it’s important to watch for that.

When you say yes to something, you automatically say no to something else. This morning, as I chopped all the vegetables to make this wonderful soup, I chose not to do other work that is admittedly much more pressing.

Virtuous procrastination has taken a very strange form for me lately. (more…)

My New Pessimism Control Gauge

I can be a regular Eeyore.

My natural tendency towards all things pessimistic could make me a poster child for the latest antidepressant. No one who knows me on a superficial level ever sees that side of me. They either see my optimistic side or nothing at all. The reason for that is simple, however: When my outlook is better, people see me because I leave the house. When I’m feeling particularly gloomy, however, I isolate. I stay here and ruminate.

I’ve recently discovered a new tool, however, that I’ve come to call my Pessimism Control Gauge. It’s very simple. It’s FOCUS.

Every moment is a new chance for me to shift my focus. When I notice what I’m noticing, this observation becomes very important. For example, when I’m feeling particularly out of sorts, I’ve learned to stop, look, and listen. Here’s how it goes: (more…)

Celebrating Imperfection

What would happen if imperfection were the goal rather than the thing to be avoided?

Perfectionism comes at a cost, and far too often, the cost is self-sabotage. Imperfection, on the other hand, can help us move toward goals in a celebratory fashion. We can actually have fun along the way!

Can you relate to this little story, below?

A former client of mine whom I’ll call Caron was paralyzed by perfectionism. She was enrolled in school at the time, and she would work at a frenzied pace and then sabotage herself. Caron would do one very mortifying thing: She would write a paper, complete it, and then in a fit of anxiety, she would delete the paper and start all over again.

Have you ever done anything similar to that? (more…)