Tag Archives: Life

Life Hack: Working around ADHD-like Symptoms

For years, it has become more and more difficult for me to concentrate when I am trying to study. I try repeatedly to block everything out and just concentrate on reading a book/article/webcast, follow along with the examples, and get through the material. Each attempt fails miserably with my frustration that I got absolutely nothing done. I’ve attempted to integrate methodologies like Getting Things Done to my routine. However, all of this means nothing if I can’t even concentrate on the task GTD lays before me. I didn’t always have this problem. I stayed very focused and on task as a child. While I could easily get distracted from a task, I also had the ability to block everything out and focus like a laser on anything I wanted to. Things have changed. I’ve gotten older. My career has taken a different path. I’m in a different place. My personal life has changed drastically. I’m constantly worried about and distracted by politics. I need to make a change.

I’ve tried everything to correct my problem. People have given me recommendations41SSqGcuXbL._SL160_[1]. However there are so many issues at hand. When I’m studying, I need internet access to look up an occasional tidbit. However, internet is a huge distraction. If I open a browser, you can bet 30 minutes from the time I open it I’ll have about 10 browser sessions open with multiple tabs reading about topics I have no business reading about during my study time. I need my phone as I’m in constant contact with people I rely upon and who rely upon me. Silence is killer and the mere idea of realizing I’ve been in the same spot for an hour sends me into severe displeasure and I feel like I’m wasting the day. However, if I’m amongst people I know, I tend to want to talk to them. It’s all a disaster. I realized I needed to solve these problems so I attacked them one by one.

Desired Outcome

  1. I need internet access, but I don’t want the distraction of browsing.
  2. I need to stay in touch with people without having constant non-critical conversations interrupt me.
  3. I need to be around activity to prevent me from being stir crazy but I can’t sit around chatting with people I know all day.

Solution Proposed

  1. Go somewhere without free internet access. Use my phone to access the internet. The slower connection and smaller screen keep my browsing targeted at solutions when I need them.
  2. Turns out the iPhone is perfect for this. Since the iPhone is single-application-centric, it prevents me from getting interrupted by email and twitter. So I keep my phone with me, but I just keep my non-critical communication tools closed. Better still, I have moved all of my task-oriented applications like “Remember the Milk”, “Shopper”, “Evernote” and “Bing” on my main page of my cell phone. When I look at the phone, all the red “todo” circles showing up on the page remind me every time I open the phone that I’m on task.
  3. I go to Starbucks to study. Sounds crazy, I know, but it works for me. I have the non-specific white noise of people I don’t know chatting in the background without the temptation to join in a conversation. I’m not going stir crazy as I’m out of the house. Working on my laptop rather than my multi-screen monitor helps me stay focused on the software studying task at hand. Starbucks/AT&T charge for internet access through my laptop so I’m not distracted easily.


So far all of my proposals have worked. I find it very natural to stay focused. If I have to “think” about staying focused, that thought in and of itself will distract me. This method currently keeps me on task without having to think about what task it is I’m performing. Too much monitor real-estate leads me to distractions and a quickly responding system leaves me to run down multiple rabbit trails. I tend to think the large number of us who claim “ADD” or “ADHD” are not inflicted with anything other than reinforcing poor habits and living years of distracted lifestyles. That said, I think it should be possible to relearn to properly focus through some hard work.

Let me know what your life hack is. How do you stay on task?

What technology actually improves your life?

Nearly a year ago, I blogged about the fact that I had no “cool” technologies in my house.  I didn’t own a single gadget that anyone would consider to be “up to date” by any standard. I didn’t own a PDA, a laptop, or even a modern cell-phone.  I didn’t have flat-panel monitors or anything other than a standard 27″ television — with a broken power button at that.  I had several computers in the house, but all of them were at least a year and a half old. 

I decided after posting that complaint that things were going to change.  I released my death grip on my cash that I had been hording and sprung for a new, improved, gadget-savvy image.

Flash forward to today — 11 months after that post.  As I got ready to head into work, I closed up my 17″ widescreen HP media center ready laptop and turned off my HP printer/copier/fax.  I packed up my Gateway Tablet PC and shoved it into my Microsoft backpack along with my 60GB video iPod, assorted USB flashdrives, bluetooth adapters, folding headphones, and the like.  I strapped my 8.1 MegaPixel Nikon digital camera and Audiovox Smart Phone to my belt.  I put my Motorola bluetooth hands-free headset on my ear.  I walked into the living room and turned off my 50″ Plasma TV and shoved the wireless controllers for my Xbox 360 under the TV stand.  I walked out to my car and looked at the windshield cluttered with an XM SkyFi2 satelite radio, a Sirius satelite radio, and a Microsoft Streets and Trips GPS device.  Now, I say all of this to point out that I’ve gone from one extreme to another and at no small expense.  I sometimes wonder if I should have just hung onto my cash, but in other instances, I really enjoy my products.

I asked myself as I traveled to work this morning “Have I gotten my money’s worth out of these devices? Have they made my life better — or just more expensive?”  It seems that many of today’s top technological gadgets are great at overcoming technological problems, but do they really enrich our lives?  My Smartphone is one device that I just couldn’t live without.  I keep track of my appointments, birthdays, phone numbers and so much more on that little thing.  I also keep a copy of Microsoft Pocket Streets and Trips on there — which is a great little tool for getting around.  There is no question that this device makes my life easier in today’s society that requires that I know how to contact any number of people, keep track of appointments and schedules that change every hour, or keep me up to date with birthdays of family members all the way on the other side of the country.  My camera is great. Photos are so hard for me to keep track of.  I keep a few but they are usually buried in boxes that I have to dig for if I want to view them again.  I can snap pictures of the mountains out here in the Pacific Northwest and immediately send them to my parents.  The camera is a great addition to my “technical family.” That said — there are other devices that just seem to be excessive (Who needs XM and Sirius and an iPod?  Could I do without them? Most likely.)

I could go on and on talking about my devices.  Instead, I’d like to hear from you.  What technologies have made your life better?  These could be services, pieces of hardware, or even websites in general.  I want to know what technologies make a difference in your everyday life and what technologies have you invested your hard-earned money into that haven’t been worth it.