5 Attention Retention Hacks for the ADHD Entrepreneur

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ADHDers have an uncanny knack for finding ways where there are none, unleash sheer, raw creativity and come up with the most ingenious solutions to pressing problems making entrepreneurship a very ideal career path.

That being said, while there are many advantages the perpetually scanning brain of the ADHD persuasion presents its wielder with; caution is advised. Most ADHD entrepreneurs also discover their superpowers only work when they are performing an activity they really enjoy.

Unfortunately, such indulgences are rare when their business is in bootstrap mode as days are punctuated with dull, yet unavoidable chores which are boring as sin.

So, how can you navigate thru that minefield of irritating errands, waiting to blow your attention sky-high? Here are 5 strategies that can put you back in charge in no time!

#1 Make a list of activities you don’t like...

ADHDers often have trouble consciously acknowledging things they can’t do because of all the possibilities they can envision. Such tendencies can also return false positives where tasks seem easy and accomplishable, but really are not.

The moment you find yourself zoning out, note down the activity and when it occurred. This will prepare you for the “drift” when it happens next time. As you are going through the day, keep tracking what you are doing and how it feels to get a better sense of how your attention operates.

The Solve-It Grid by Tamara Rosier can be very helpful here. The grid distributes tasks across 4 quadrants - red, yellow, blue and green depending on whether they are emotionally stimulating or not and whether they are fun or not.

The objective here is to group tasks based on how you perceive them. Essentially, red and yellow tasks are perceived as boring or uninteresting, while blue and green tasks are fun to do. Once you have a good idea about what to expect, different strategies can be affected to anticipate and tackle the work.

#2 Delegate, whenever possible

Whether it’s innate perfectionism, or the need to prove oneself to others, ADHDers are driven to do things themselves. Unfortunately, this often leads to a lot of stress, burnouts and tasks being executed poorly.

Take a look at the jobs in your log you do not enjoy; then hire people with expertise in them. Tasks in the red and yellow quadrant in your solve-it grid can be outsourced, so that you can spend more time in the green and blue quadrants.

Invest in an assistant to help you through the day. Virtual assistants on sites like Fiverr, Freelancer and Upwork are very affordable and can manage most tasks such as spreadsheets, reminders and other chores for you.

#3 Become better at tracking time

Time management is every ADHDer’s Achilles’ heel. We now have scientific evidence pointing out that people with ADHD have a dopamine (our reward hormone) deficit that inhibits them from doing things they don’t like. These issues only exasperate when you’re dealing with deadlines.

Fortunately, there are ways around this. For starters, have an external and an internal deadline for each task. The external deadline should be what you present to your client, while the internal deadline (a few days behind the external one), is what you must achieve.

The Pomodoro Technique developed by Francesco Cirillio in the 1980s can be of use as well. The technique utilizes a kitchen timer to break down tasks into intervals of 25 minutes. Essentially, you use the timer to work for 25 minutes, followed by a 5 minute break.

Repeat the process 2-3 times to get 1-1.5 hours of solid productivity. Besides, having a timer ticking like a time-bomb right in front of you has a way of stopping your attention from wandering.

While the original technique recommends 25 minute duration, you can always break them into even smaller intervals. This ADHD mom figured out a way to modify the technique to suit her attention span and take her productivity to new heights!

#4 Listen to ambient music while working

Certain music can inspire a state of mind more suited to productivity. Background music from movies and video games for instance is designed to either help us relate with the situation, or complete an objective in a game without turning into a distraction.

Such music aligns our mood with the content. Since ADHD adults usually have a hard time controlling their mood, background music can be used to trigger and maintain the right mindset.

For example, this OST from the movie Ironman has a distinctive “don’t disturb, working on a secret project” vibe to it and just might up your productivity a few notches (most of the comments there agree). Likewise, this theme from the game Caesar 3 has a very calming, optimistic effect.

There are numerous similar soundtracks out there. You might also already know which music is best suited to you. Are there any soundtracks that made you feel elated or motivated? Many people have reported music from Simcity 2000 really helped them focus better.

That being said, music can easily turn into a distraction as well. Loud or lyric intensive music is best avoided. “Ambient music,” that is instrumental and soft is designed to enhance the mood without overpowering it, making it a great choice for aiding concentration.

#5 Focus on creating habits

If you are just starting out, then now will be a good time to start working on productive habits. Habits and rituals can help us overcome that internal resistance and do what we must every day.

There is a persistent belief that it takes 21 days to form a new habit to the point where it no longer requires conscious coaxing; this is simply not true. A study by University College, London found it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit. Set your expectations accordingly and don’t get discouraged if you still have to motivate yourself at the end of the first month. These habits are to serve you for life, after all.

Some ideas to consider making a habit out of:

a. Write down your goals: Dr. Gail Mathews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California conducted a study of 267 participants and found that those who wrote their goals down were 42% more likely to achieve them.

By writing down your goals, you are giving yourself a roadmap to follow. It helps you to both set a target and remind yourself what you need to be working on every day.

b. Plan your day the night before: For most of us, mornings are chaotic as we try to gear up for the day ahead, which leaves little room for planning. Before we realize, we are scrambling to complete one task after another with no clear objective. Planning everything in the night is a great way to ensure the next day begins with a clear goal.

c. Set realistic expectations: It is important that your goals be the product of an honest self-appraisal. There are plenty of articles and blog posts telling people the best way to set and achieve targets.

Fact is, your capacity may either fall short of, or even exceed the assumptions made in all that information floating online. If there is similar work you have done before, you can use it to gauge how much time is required and set more achievable targets.

d. Sleep as much as you require: Adequate sleep is extremely important for productivity. Adults are recommended they get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Even so, you should find out what number works for you. Some people can work just fine with 6 hours of sleep behind them, others may need as many as 10 hours of shuteye to function properly.

Also, there is some evidence that ADHD and sleep disorders are related. If you have sleep apnea, wake up frequently during the night, or have a low quality of sleep, then you might want to consult with a psychiatrist.

Conclusion

There are many aspects of ADHD that are ideally suited for the challenges of entrepreneurship. ADHDers have the mental faculties to get a bird’s eye view of any situation and spot subtle, fleeting opportunities which may not be visible to others. Their ability to hyper-focus on things they enjoy can also yield deeper insight.

Such skills offer immense value in business where early movers enjoy huge competitive advantage. By learning skills that can mitigate some of the undesirable effects of ADHD, you can create situations more conducive to your strengths, and set yourself up for success!