A distraction is something that stops or interrupts our focus and concentration.

ADHD and 10 Tips to Combat Internal Distractions and Boost Your Focus and Productivity.

ADHD and 10 Tips to Combat Internal Distractions and Boost Your Focus and Productivity.

When you get distracted, it takes longer to finish a task, or it is difficult to finish a task.

When I asked members of the free Untapped Brilliance Facebook group whether internal or external distractions were their biggest challenge, the overwhelming response was internal distractions. This inspired me to write this article!

Types of Distractions

There are two main types of distractions: internal and external.

External Distractions

External distractions enter your brain through your five senses.

Visual Distractions

Are things that capture your attention through sight and can be either stationary or moving.

Stationary distractions are things in your line of vision like a cluttered desk or multiple tabs open on your laptop.

Moving Distractions are things that move and catch your eye! Like a cute dog walking outside your window or your co-worker getting a coffee.

Sound Distractions

Sound distractions are noises that interrupt your concentration and enter your brain through your sense of hearing. They can be:

Loud Noises: Examples include your neighbor’s music playing loudly or your phone ringing.

Subtle Sounds: Quieter noises, like a door rattling or a fly buzzing around.

Touch Distractions

Touch distractions are physical sensations that get your attention through your sense of touch. Examples include:

Uncomfortable Clothing: Wearing a scratchy sweater, a tight waist band, or a tag in your T shirt can irritate your skin and keep you from focusing.

Taste Distractions

Taste distractions occur through your taste buds. They can be:

Lingering Tastes: Perhaps after drinking coffee or eating garlic.

Cravings: Cravings for certain foods, such as something sweet (chocolate) or salty (chips), can interrupt your concentration.

Smell Distractions

Smell distractions are odors that catch your attention through your sense of smell. Examples include:

Strong Odors: Strong smells, like cooking food or powerful perfume/aftershave, can be very distracting. I recently sat next to someone on a flight who had liberally applied aftershave before boarding; it was a long 7 hours because it was hard to focus even on fun things, like a movie or a good book.

Unpleasant Smells: Odors like garbage or something burning can be highly distracting.

Pleasant Aromas: Even pleasant smells, like fresh coffee or baked bread, can be distracting as they make you want to get a snack. Also, scents that are ‘supposed’ to be pleasant but aren’t to you, such as air fresheners or scented candles, can also be distracting.

Internal Distractions

Internal distractions occur when our thoughts and feelings distract us from the task at hand.

ADHD and 10 Tips to Combat Internal Distractions and Boost Your Focus and Productivity.

Internal Distractions

These can include:

Daydreaming: Getting lost in thoughts about past events, future aspirations, and everything in between.

Thoughts and ideas that require action: Tasks you want to accomplish, research on topics like your future holidays, or curiosity-driven questions you need answered immediately, such as “How long did the oldest whale live?”

Emotional Distractions: This includes feeling anxious, stressed, excited, or ruminating on a perceived rejection from your neighbor (RSD).  These emotions fill your mind and make it difficult to concentrate on a task.

Here are 10 helpful tips to help you combat internal distractions and stay focused and productivity

10 Tips to Combat Internal Distractions ADHD and Boost Your Focus and Productivity.

1. Break it down:

Break your task into small, doable actions.

This makes the task feel less overwhelming and gives you clear mini-goals to focus on. Because there is a defined endpoint that is always near, it’s easier to stay focused and immersed in the task, reducing the chances of getting distracted.

2. Add Time Urgency:

Create a fun challenge for yourself. For each small doable step, estimate how long it will take, and then time yourself to see if you can complete the task in that time.

For example, challenge yourself to tidy your desk in 15 minutes. Racing against the clock in this fun way makes it less likely that you’ll get distracted.

3. Focus on Task Completion:

It’s easy to get lost in the details of the task, and if it’s dull, it’s easy to get distracted.

Instead of thinking, ‘I will declutter for 15 minutes’, which is, let’s face a boring proposition, focus instead on completing a small task.

‘By the end of 15 minutes, I will have decluttered the top shelf of my bookcase.’

This is much more compelling and helps you stay focused.

Then, after those 15 minutes, pick your next small task to complete.

4. Declare Your Task:

Before you start your task, announce out loud what you are going to do

For example,  “I am now going to organize the shoe rack in my closet.”

To announce what you will be working on to the world, you have to be clear about the task, which is good because the ADHD brain likes specifics. 

Another benefit is that clearly stating your task helps you remember what you’re working on and reduces the likelihood of getting distracted.

5. Set a Timer:

Use a countdown timer for each task. This creates a positive sense of urgency (see No 2) and helps you stay on task without being distracted by other things. Be sure to use a timer separate from your phone, as your phone is an excellent source of external distractions.

6. Talk to Yourself:

For physical tasks, try providing a running commentary as you work. While this might feel strange at first, it helps keep you mentally present (similar to mindfulness) and prevents your mind from wandering. For example, narrate what you’re doing as you clean your kitchen: “Let’s turn on the hot water so I can wash these dishes. Oh, that’s too hot; I’ll add some cold water.” Talking like this can also reduce any anxiety you have about the task, as it can feel comforting.

7. Listen to Music:

If it helps you focus, listen to music. Experiment with different genres to find what works best for you. You might discover that different types of music suit different tasks—for example, upbeat dance music for housework and classical music for working on your laptop.

8. Write Down Other Tasks:

If other tasks pop into your mind while you’re working, jot them down in a notebook. This will reassure you that you won’t forget them and help you resist the temptation to jump and do them right away ‘while you remember.’

A notebook is better than a scrap piece of paper that is easy to misplace or an app on your phone, which could sidetrack you once the phone is in your hand.

9. Take Mini Breaks:

 After 30 minutes of focused work, take a mini break. Step away from your task, drink some water, have a bathroom break, and then return to your task. These mini-breaks help you recharge your focus and maintain your concentration for longer.

10. Clear Your Mind:

Try the morning pages technique created by author Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. The morning pages involve writing three longhand, stream-of-consciousness to help clear mental clutter and create a clear headspace for creativity and focus. 

You could develop the habit of writing like this every morning or use the technique as a three-page brain dump whenever you’re having a hard time focusing.

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