I used to be a mom to 6 chickens, and their ADHD-like behavior never ceased to amaze me on a daily basis. They would run around in a group, pecking at the ground one second, and then doing a full reversal to chase something airborne that caught their attention. Then, a quick zig to the left, more pecking, and a full on run to the right after a moment of freak-out by who knows what. Some days this is exactly how I feel (and probably look like) when trying to focus on my work and be productive.
Intelligence isn’t the problem. My one chicken, named Princess Sofia, didn’t like to get her feet wet. So she learned that if it rained, and she was out of her coop, she could sit on the back deck and someone would carry her back to her home. Now that is smart. But the rest of the time, she ran around appearing to have zero direction and purpose.
There are so many human distractions today. Social media, TV, Internet, phones, and loads of “inspiration” that overload your creative system. Ever notice how you go to research one thing on the Internet, and then an hour and 15 external links later, you are sucked into some You Tube video of a flash mob at Macy’s?
So how exactly does one tame the chicken mind so the important things actually get done?
Here are 5 tips:
1. Create a system.
I use Nozbe, but there are tons of other “Getting Things Done” type of platforms out there. David Allen wrote an entire book about getting things done and systems. A system tells me what to do and when. Nozbe is like my mother. It removes the “bug, bug, dirt, dirt” scatter brain-ness of it all by telling me what to do and when.
A system involves actually blocking off time in the calendar to complete a certain task. It can be electronic, or standard paper and day planner. But it is not a to-do list. To-do lists are too easy to ignore. Pretty, shiny, colorful blocks of time on your Google calendar and push reminders on your phone are not. And who doesn’t like pretty, shiny things?
2. Move your body.
My neighbors probably think I am some kind of home owners association stalker, as I routinely do laps around my block with a pad and paper. When I get scattered, I write my next ‘non-computer’ Nozbe task down on my pad and start walking. Yes, there is a lot of stopping to write (I’m not that coordinated), but the clarity I get when I am walking is pretty amazing. I suppose this is why treadmill desks were invented. (Damn, I wish I had that idea first!)
3. Meditate. Ok fine, call it “quiet me-time”.
This takes a lot of practice, to sit still, and try to think about nothing. I remember when I first started to do this during yoga class. I hated it. I would plan out my entire grocery list while lying on the floor waiting for the dude on the left to stop snoring and for the Zen flute music to stop. I used to think it was such a waste of time.
I now get that meditation quiets the mind so I can have moments of focus. It is also the time when my inner voice can actually be heard through the noise of the day, so I can connect with my own ideas and values. I started with one minute of ‘quiet time’ a day, and built on that. Fifteen minutes a day of listening to yourself can do wonders!
4. Be grateful.
When I am feeling overwhelmed, especially about the next thing or upcoming event, I sit down and write 5 things I am grateful for right in that moment. This forces me to focus on the immediate, the here and now, and completely changes my mindset. I can actually take a deep breath, and refocus myself.
It doesn’t really matter what you are grateful for, as long as you really feel it. This morning I was grateful for a smooth coffee canister save that prevented a coffee ground explosion all over my floor. I truly felt appreciation for my moment of dexterity, as this doesn’t happen too often.
5. Move your location.
As I write this, I am sitting at a Starbucks in one of their hard-ass chairs because the big squishy ones allow for too much daydreaming. I wish I lived in an area that supported a variety of cool wi-fi supported coffee shops for rotation purposes, but all I got is a Starbucks and car dealerships. I was going a little nutty in the home office, so out I went. No laundry to distract me here, and somehow, the brain knows this and lets me get to work.
I would love to hear from you! In the comments below tell me:
What is your best productivity secret?