FOCUS is how you get everything that you want.
Your attention is being stolen from you. These devices, the news, the societal encouragement to outperform, multitask and hyper-achieve. We’re not built for this kind of stimulation. And we’re seeing the results of it.
How many of you could sit through a whole movie without looking at your phone or read several chapters of a book easily?
I bet not many of you.
Our brains are simply not wired for this kind of constant stimulation. Yet we lie to ourselves and think “I am just THIS way” or “I am a multitasker” or “I work well under pressure.”
I’m sorry to break it to you, but you don’t. You might have developed methods to handle your lack of focus but it doesn’t mean it’s healthy or sustainable. Multitasking? It actually isn’t really a thing.
When we’re multitasking we’re actually just switching our attention from one thing to another very quickly. It’s like we’re digging 10 holes at the same time but none of those holes ever get finished.
We do that with all of our daily tasks. We finish the day thinking “wow, I worked really hard today” but if we were to stop to look at the results of our multitasking we would often more likely find that we didn’t reap results. Results that look like a finished task, a finished product, sales made, money made, clients created. It’s often just busy work. It’s an un-dug hole.
We often choose the things that are mindless and easy to do to fill our day too. We choose the email box, the unanswered messages, the instagram posts. Things that we could casually do from our phone. Sure it might be related to work and productivity but it’s usually not the meat of our work. The thing that actually drives us forward.
But it sure keeps us busy! So we pat ourssleves on the back at the end of the day congratulating ourselves on our hard work but at the end of the workweek do we feel like we really moved forward? Did we finish things? Did we do those BIG things that we wanted to accomplish or have we been spinning on the hamster wheel all week long on the little things?
I have ADHD and have been working with a fantastic ADHD specific coach to develop strategies unique to how my brain works. You don’t have to have ADHD to benefit from these techniques either. I’m going to give you some examples of what can work for you but first…..
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder that affects how you pay attention, sit still, and control your behavior. It happens in children and teens and can continue into adulthood.
It can manifest as Inattentive, hyperactive or a combination of them both. It can look like hyperactivity, inability to pay attention, forgetfulness, tendencies to interrupt, organizational difficulties, poor time management, emotional dysregulation, and the list goes on.
Someone with ADHD can focus when they are really interested in something but have great difficulty concentrating when they are not (and as you can see this can also be a very regular human characteristic as well).
Undiagnosed and unmanaged ADHD can leave individuals feeling out of control, disempowered, impulsive, angry, bored, frustrated, and even low self esteem because of their constant forgetfulness.
Medication can be used and sometimes is necessary and would require psychiatric assessment to determine this. I always prefer purpose over pills, and lifestyle over pills whenever possible but if course if you need medicine, medicine can be lifesaving for certain individuals under the watch of a medical professional.
You may see yourself in a lot of these descriptions however it does not mean you have ADHD. People with ADHD have different brain mechanisms which is why medication works for them. The medication is a stimulant from the methamphetamine family (speed) and is not appropriate for those without this medical condition.
Also of interest to note is there is a study showing that our devices are causing certain individuals to develop adult onset ADHD.
Scary right? And it makes sense.
Our devices are designed to STEAL our attention. And it’s working. Our brain is a muscle and requires training to stay on task, be present and focused. Our devices work against us.
Bari Weiss did an excellent podcast with author Johann Hari called “Your Attention Didn’t Collapse. It was Stolen”
It’s worth a listen. Experts at google, twitter, facebook, instagram, they’ve all researched techniques to steal your attention to generate sales, keep your attention on the platform and on what they want you to look at.
Ever grab your phone for a second then the next thing you know it’s been 30-40 minutes and you’ve ended up in a scroll hole? Yup me too. It’s just that easy. The average adult spends a minimum of 3 hours a day on their phone. Teens? Much higher. Ever check your screen time on your phone? I won’t even tell you what mine is, it’s embarrassing is all I’ll say.
So what do we do about this? We need our phones don’t we? Isn’t this just an unavoidable consequence of living in this day and time?
Well, the first thing to check in with is getting really clear on cause and effect. Does this way of doing things actually serve you?
- Are you happy and at ease for most of the day?
- Are you actually productive? You know, the BIG things, not the little things?
- How are you actually spending your time vs how you would like to be spending your time?
If you’re feeling this:
- Brain fog
- Clarity of mind
It’s time to take a good hard look at your strategy. Because even WITH pills, you will need a strategy to improve your focus. Like anything, it will take consistency and practice. But you can do it.
What’s my strategy to handle the busyness of my brain and life?
- Systems and Strategy
You can’t concentrate if you’re stressed, period. High levels of cortisol will destroy anyone’s ability to focus, let alone someone with ADHD. Some of us are stressed and we know it. Most of us are stressed AND we don’t know it.
We don’t know it because we’ve normalized certain aspects of our lifestyle. We don’t know it because we’ve never really stopped to pay attention to our thoughts and physicality. I guarantee you, you’re more stressed than you know.
And our lifestyles don’t help (we’ll get back to that later). We must prioritize our minds. Prioritize mental clarity and stress reduction above all else. Yes pills and potions can help ease stress hormones, but mostly it’s how you live your life.
How I help my mind:
I try not to look at my phone until about 10am ( I say “try” because you know….it happens). Waking up and immediately looking at your phone hijacks your attention for the REST OF THE DAY. It starts you off on a bad note. It’s not just the bad news of the day, it’s the scroll itself. The apps themselves. They’re horrible for your brain.
So I wake and write, wake and walk, or wake and read instead. I start slow. I start my day off relaxed. I do things that are GOOD for my brain (reading or writing) or good for my stress levels (walks and meditating).
Meditating in the morning absolutely sets the tone for a clearer head the rest of the day. I’m not going to try to convince you to meditate, and if this isn’t for you, breath work, walking in nature (without your phone), is good for your soul and your head.
How I help my body:
The body is ground zero for anything that you do. If your body is unhealthy, it will be stressed. Those stress hormones will affect you. I do vigorous physical activity (power yoga, weight lifting, spin) every single day in the morning. I have energy to burn and it needs to be burned in the am.
I also make sure I’m getting the right macro and micronutrients. I eat mostly whole organic foods and hunted wild meat. I eat every single food group, I eat plenty and often and I eat lots of fat, fiber, carbs and protein. I drink more water than coffee and I limit sugar.
Skipping meals, drinking too much caffeine, eating junk food or sugary food will hurt your mental capacity. It will amp up your cortisol (the stress hormone again) and will sabotage your hard work.
I take nutraceuticals that elevate my health and brain capacity. I take b vitamins, superfood greens, omega 3s, stress reducing supplements like ashwagandha and reishi and I drink a delicious green bean coffee supplement instead of coffee for a clean caffeine without jitters.
I don’t take medication but I take a natural supplement called FOCUS as well as a homeopathic instead. It helps me a lot.
You can find my favourite supplements here:
Greens, detoxing and superfood nutrition
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How I change my lifestyle and systems:
- My morning routine is king. How I start my day determines the rest of my day.
Like I mentioned before, I do not wake, caffeine and scroll. I might as well just end my day right there if I self-sabotage with that. I wake, water, write my morning pages (which is a great strategy for creatives) and write my plan for the day (I am most clear in the morning).
- People with ADHD have poor concepts of time. I used to write 50 things down on my to-do list then get irritated daily because I didn’t accomplish my list. I now plan for my top three things now instead. My top 3 is NEVER my email list. Never.
My top 3 are the 3 most productive things that will move me FORWARD in business. I have multiple businesses so work is a priority. I have no problem getting all the health things done, it’s the work that requires I really sit down and focus otherwise I’ll end up in “busy tasks” that get me nowhere but feel like work all day. Busy tasks like checking emails, instagram posts, answering messages.
- I create a flexible plan for the week. As an entrepreneur I need an admin day, a podcasting a day, filming days, writing content days, marketing days. I also need a day or two to myself because it’s exhausting for someone with ADHD to organize themselves and focus. I schedule days where I don’t have to do anything.
I also don’t push it. If my brain is not able to handle an admin day on that particular day I don’t do it. I don’t work after 4pm because my brain can’t but I can wake early and work so I do that.
- I make sure to take a ton of breaks. I go outside with my dogs every single day.
- I do “PQ reps” or mini 2 minute meditations at least 3x a day.
- I listen to ADHD music while I work.
- I turn off every single notification on my phone – always – not just when I’m working.
- I do not participate in group texts or group messages very often because they are highly distracting for people like me.
- I do not do well with online systems unless they are very simple and easy to see. I get overwhelmed with systems and when there are lots of different tabs I suffer. I like old school pen and paper, phone reminders and email. Occasionally I will use apps like Trello or Asana but only if I have to for a team.
- The only thing that I multitask is cleaning and podcasts. Work doesn’t pair well with other work or other listening at the same time
- I am working on (but not good at) distancing myself from my phone and using timers for social media. Using your phone for more than 2 hours seriously hampers your brain’s ability to focus.
- I use blue light glasses and will not look at a screen after 7pm so I can sleep. I read before bed and try to aim for a 10pm bedtime because sleep is pivotal to being able to focus.
There are a lot of strategies, there are a lot of pills and vitamins you can take. Overall it amounts to having some sort of plan, some awareness of your weaknesses and strengths and a willingness to set boundaries for yourself. Your mental health, your body and your strategy all play a significant role in your ability to focus. This world is designed to STEAL your focus.
The first step in leading your life is fine tuning your focus. It’s not just about your productivity at work. It affects your mood, your goals, your health, your relationships……everything.
What’s possible when you’re focused? Everything.
With grace and grit,
Karla Joy Treadway