Business Owners with ADD: Tips for Handling Distractions During the Workday
Copyright © 2007 Jennifer Koretsky
"Not now." "I'm not there yet." "I can't think about that right now."
These are some of the most popular phrases that come out of my mouth during the business day. Like most adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), I measure time in one of two ways: Now, and Not Now.
This can be an effective strategy when dealing with crises, but it can also hold an ADDer back in their business. When you have ADD, there is always something grabbing your attention. You can spend way too much time allowing distractions to take over in the Now, and important things without deadlines attached can easily become the Not Now.
Here's a great example: Cash flow is slow and you know that you're going to be in trouble in a couple of weeks if you don't come up with a solution to solve the temporary problem. You start off your Monday morning thinking that this problem will be the first one you deal with...
...but when you sit down at your desk and find your email Inbox overflowing. It feels more important in the moment and answering email becomes your Now, while the cash flow problem becomes your Not Now.
I see it over and over and over again: the biggest obstacle in the lives of ADD business owners is email! It never stops, and it never slows down. Emails are probably the number one distraction for us in our businesses. While email distracts, interrupts, and annoys just about everyone with a job, it's actually worse for the adult with ADD. Because of our attention inconsistencies, we're more likely to have our concentration broken by the knowledge of a new email, prompting us to read the email, and often making us feel pressured to respond right away. All this time on email leaves little time to get in the flow and get some real work done. However, there is a way to break this cycle: shutting email down and eliminating the distraction.
For me, the best course of action is to start out my day answering emails for one hour. I get through what I can, and then I shut it down. First I answer team emails, then client emails, vendor emails, and so on. Emails that aren't important--those that don't affect client servicing or the bottom line--don't get answered quickly. I will often check email once again at the end of the day but, for the most part, just read and not respond.
Contrary to what you may think, this isn't a difficult habit to cultivate. There are a few steps you may need to take to get there:
1. Make the decision to eliminate the continuous distraction of email.
2. Inform the people who email you that you'll only be responding to email once a day, and that it may take a day or two for you to respond.
3. Get help answering emails that don't need to be answered by you. You'll be amazed by how much more you can actually get done when your email isn't open all day long!
If email was your only distraction, you might be okay. But when you have adult ADD, a busted copier, a lost phone number, or a great article can easily occupy your Now, perpetually knocking the important stuff into Not Now.
Prioritizing and planning your day certainly help, but there's a strategy for this challenge that is often overlooked. It involves a form of "time" other than Now and Not Now: the Business Development Day.
Business Development Days are scheduled work days--preferably once a week on the same day--in which you shut out all the distractions and allow the bigger, long-term issues to become Nows before it's too late.
When you employ this strategy, you not only ensure that your business grows and prospers, you also reduce a great deal of stress!
Jennifer Koretsky is the Founder of the ADD Management Group, Inc. and the author of Odd One Out: The Maverick's Guide to Adult ADD. Jennifer and her team work with ADD adults who are overwhelmed with everyday life in order to help them simplify, focus, and succeed. For free resources and information on adult ADD, visit http://www.ADDmanagement.com .
Jennifer Koretsky may be contacted at http://www.addmanagement.com or firstname.lastname@example.org