Time & Productivity

Everyone Has a Productivity Zone. Here’s How to Find Yours.

Peace and quiet may not help your active ADHD brain focus and get things done. A place with just the right level of noise, or a “no-interruption zone,” will.

How to find your productivity zone with ADHD
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I am a big fan of interruption. A text may include you in a conversation you might otherwise have missed. A tweet can provide crucial, real-time information. One of my clients, a college professor, once received a tweet during class telling him to pull up his fly. Facebook and other social media messaging is sometimes the only way we engage with relatives who live far away from us — so bring it on!

The problem is that the timing of texts, calls, emails, and so on are disruptive, bumping your train-of-thought off the track. Most people bounce back from an interruption with ease, pick up where they left off, and finish whatever it was they were doing. But those of us with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD)? Not so much.

ADHD Brains Need No-Interruption Zones

Distraction-prone individuals with ADHD may need no-interruption zones in the following scenarios:

  1. When your current task or project is time-sensitive or has a firm due date.
  2. When your task is holding up someone else’s work.
  3. When the task is complex or requires a focused learning curve.
  4. When dividing your attention is hazardous or dangerous. Adults with ADHD are nearly 50 percent more likely to be in a serious car crash than drivers without ADHD. And that’s without Bluetooth calls, texts, and GPS. Program your phone to send a preset message that says, “Sorry. I can’t talk while I am driving. I’ll call you back when it’s safer to talk.”

[Free Handout: How to Focus (When Your Brain Says ‘No!’)]

Where Can ADHD Brains Be Most Productive?

In my early years as a professional organizer, I tried to find nice, small quiet spaces for my ADD clients to get stuff done, like study cubbies at the library. That worked, but most of my clients with ADD went mad. Too much quiet made the noise in their heads louder.

A good no-interruption zone is not necessarily a quiet place. It allows you to intentionally suspend texts, calls, emails, alerts, notifications, beeps, pings, and tweets by having a non-distracting level of background hubbub to block out media noise.

Here are a few places that make great productivity zones:

  • Hotel lobbies
  • Coffee shops
  • A car parked in a busy parking lot
  • Park benches
  • Food court at the mall

Even if you’re in your productivity zone, you will still have to suspend external interruptions temporarily to get your work done.

  • Put your phone in timeout: Set an alarm for 20-30 minutes on your phone. Now tuck it away in your pocketbook, glove compartment, or under your thigh. Now you have 20 minutes to ignore texts, calls, emails, alerts, notifications, and tweets. Keep resetting the alarm if you need more time to finish what you’re doing.
  • Wear noise-cancelling headphones. “I like to wear them, even without music or sound,” my client, Sandra, observes. “Just having them hug my ears gives me a soothing, tactile settling-in-to-work feeling.”
  • Use white noise. A white noise app, like simplynoise.com, plays showering rain, the babble of a brook, or the whir of a fan, all great sounds for blocking out internal noise.

Judith Kolberg is the co-author of ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, now available in a revised edition. See Judith’s other ADHD resources at squallpress.net and fileheads.net.

[Repeat After Me: I Can. And I Will.]

Updated on May 13, 2019

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