People talk about ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder. My personal version of ADD is RADD: Radio Attention Deficit Disorder. Pandora is a great app because it introduces fresh music all the time. However, naturally curious, I listen to two-thirds of a cut and feel ready for the next one. Unfortunately, if you know Pandora, you know it allows you to pass on a few songs and then gently cuts you off because its license requires you to actually listen to each song in its entirety.
Once my RADD self-diagnosis was declared, I wondered if this attitude applied to other parts of my life. It does. I read most of a book, then flip to the end to see how it wraps up. At work, I can’t take my phone into meetings because I know that, two-thirds through the meeting, I will want to check my mail. I know the signs of ADD, and I don’t have it, so no meds for me. Instead, I’ve had to develop ways to stay focused med-free. I’ve learned from others that it isn’t hard to develop new habits intentionally designed to keep us focused and on track.
Phones are the world’s most obvious distraction. Every time you check your phone when you’re meeting with me, I think you have something more important on your mind than our business. I have seen a meeting leader ask someone to leave because he was not paying attention. Embarrassing in the moment, and tough to be reminded of during a performance review.
Leaving your phone outside is painful for most ladder climbing professionals. Instead, just turn it off. Turned off, checking it becomes more complicated and likely not worth the effort. No one complains about waiting thirty minutes for an email response. Unless you’re expecting a baby, it can wait.
Multiple deadlines can have you jumping frenetically between tasks. Organize your time to know when you will work on each task. Physically organize your space to separate projects. These two tricks are simple and require very little discipline. Your mind and desk will be clear of outside projects, leaving you more focused and effective.
My friend Grace often wanted to quit her spinning class partway through. She was committed to the benefits of the workout, and decided to trick herself into staying. She chose a bike near the front so leaving became conspicuous. She rewarded herself in a small way after class. Eventually, she developed the habit of not leaving, and no longer looked for excuses to cut out.
Boredom affects everyone occasionally. Early on, energy and curiosity is high, but interest wanes when an idea is no longer shiny. Can you pace your passion for the project? Commit to yourself to finish everything you start, and plan when and how you will finish. Constantly look for connections between what you are doing now how you will feel when you’re done. Sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than the last few notes of a song.