How to Focus

Talk It Up for a Neater Home

Use “self-talk” to help pave the way to a more organized home.

We talk to ourselves all the time, a constant, internal conversation about to-do lists, worries, observations, and opinions. I teach my clients to use self-talk as a tool. Instead of saying things inside one’s head, self-talk is spoken aloud and takes the form of a question.

Self-Talk and Organization

Self-talk has the power to clarify what you need to be doing right now. It can help you re-focus when distractions pull you off-task. It can get you back on track when interruptions derail your efforts.

Say you’re getting your desk organized. There’s a full inbox, scattered documents, unopened snail mail, and a pile of reports. While you’re working, there are incoming e-mails, tweets, texts, and calls. You’re practically doomed before you start.

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Message 1
When you’re pulled in many directions, say out loud, “What do I need to be doing right now?” Externalizing this one thought clarifies your focus. Then say out loud: “I need to be organizing this desk.” This statement will steer you toward what you need to be doing, and away from what you shouldn’t be doing right now.

Message 2
So now you’re in the groove of organizing your desk. You get a notification about a video of you on Facebook at that 5K charity race. Say out loud, “Is what I’m doing now worth putting aside for this new thing?” Maybe. Maybe not. But if you don’t use self-talk, distractions will surely drag you off-task.

Message 3
People with ADHD don’t always call up from their memories what they’ve already learned. This is not your first time organizing your desk. Ask yourself out loud, “What have I learned about this before?” You know you’ll need your calendar and to-do list for scheduling action-oriented tasks. You know you’ll need a large trash bag and the recycling bin.

Most of us won’t memorize these three self-talk questions. Write them on an index card and take a picture of it with your phone. And don’t worry about talking out loud to yourself. Everybody’s on Bluetooth. You’ll fit right in!