Category: Focus

“Focus…Means Saying No” — Steve Jobs

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.

— Steve Jobs, Apple CEO (Apple Worldwide Developers’ Conference, 1997)

Steering first. Gas second.

“If I have a clear set of tasks to do, a big cup of coffee in the morning is a great productivity-enhancer. I get straight to work and stay focused for hours. But if I don’t have a clear set of tasks in mind before I have the coffee, I’m just wired and rudderless.”
— Anonymous Reader

There’s often an order to doing things. We ADHDexecs have spent many years ignoring the steps and sometimes that’s fine. But sometimes we really need to know the 1, 2, 3…

Assembling “a clear set of tasks” can be hard if you’re working on a big, complex project. In fact, it’s impossible to write your whole list of tasks! So break it down. A day’s worth if you can do it. Or a half-day’s worth. Or half-hour‘s worth. Whatever you can do — as long as it’s steering first, gas second.


Let Other People Stop You

Give your colleagues the power of No!
They’ll keep you in line.

“Don’t let me go to lunch with you!” 

Tell your favorite lunch-mate that you can’t go out because you have to finish a task. Later, have them tell you how awesome it was, so next time you’ll plan ahead.

“Don’t let me sign up for anything at today’s project meeting.”

Tell your colleague to poke you if you start to accept any new tasks or responsibilities. They’ll probably poke you harder than you like, but it will be worth it.

“Don’t let me leave my office unless I’ve handed off the mailing list.”

Tell your assistant to block the door unless you’ve finished the task. Let them tackle you if you try to escape.


Photo by Planetbene, Creative Commons License

Do The Thing You’re Doing

Do the thing you’re doing.

If you start to write a quick email, WRITE THE QUICK EMAIL.

Are you sending a note to Ted? Between the time you click “start” and the time you hit “send”, a dozen things might try to grab you (e.g., check other email! clear recycling off your desk! get up and grab a snack! read the memo that’s on your desk!). Don’t do them. WRITE THE EMAIL TO TED.

Self-talk helps:

I’m writing an email to Ted.
I’m writing sentence one.
I’m writing sentence two

I’m writing the last sentence.
I’m clicking send.

Self-talk as much as you need. At every urge to do something different, talk yourself through the next sentence. You might need to self-talk through the end of the email. Or your mind might latch onto the task after one or two sentences, and you’ll finish without distraction.

Either way, guess what happens by the end?

You sent your email to Ted! Done. Finished. Off your list and out of your brain. Yay! Now pick the next thing to do, and Do It.


Editor’s note: I’m pleased to say that I finished this whole post without writing any other post, dumping my recycling, getting a snack, or reading anything else on my desk. Self-talk!