Ever feel like it takes you forever to get things done? You’re working hard, but you easily spend all day working on something that you could’ve gotten done in a couple hours. I mean, you know that other people would have done it much faster than you.
Sooooo frustrating, right?
What the heck is going on?
I started keeping notes from my clients sessions and found the ONE thing that slooowwws them down is not being able to get “unstuck” when they hit a roadblock.
Couple that with the ability to hyperfocus and you are stuck for a looooong time.
Hyperfocus refers to an intense fixation on an interest or activity for an extended period of time. People who experience hyperfocus often become so engrossed they block out the world around them. If you have ADHD you’ve probably experienced hyperfocus when working intently on things that interest you.
At its best, hyperfocus is what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow” — a state of mind in which you are so immersed in a task that you become (not to sound too far out) one with it. PET scans have shown that the hyperfocusing brain literally “lights up” with activity and pleasure.
At its worst, hyperfocus becomes a trance-like state in which you do the same pointless act over and over again. A student who creates flash cards for an upcoming test, for instance, may spend hours decorating them instead of studying. With hyperfocus, you can easily lose all sense of time and perspective.
Staying stuck has its consequences.
Physically you may experience your muscles tightening or getting a headache.
It stresses you out. You become frustrated.
This all zaps your confidence and you tell yourself you’ll never be able to get anything done. And we know where that leads. In the future, you use this as the reason to not even bother getting started. Yikes!
The trick is to have a system in place for when you get stuck. Ahhh, but you cannot get unstuck if you are hyper-focused on a problem.
Two things that will speed up your productivity:
- Know how to keep yourself out of hyperfocus and break it if you go there.
- Have a doable plan to problem solve and get unstuck.
Here we go.
Let’s manage your hyperfocus.
- Set a timer for 20 minutes. Before you sit down to do your work, set that timer. If you get into hyperfocus, this will help break the spell. If after 20 minutes, you are not stuck yet, set it for another 20 minutes. Keep this pattern going until you are done with your work.
- Take short 5 minute breaks between your 20 minute sprints.
- Take inventory of your progress at the end of each 20 minute sprint. Have you moved forward? Are you closer to being done? If not, what’s the problem? You’re most likely stuck.
Now let’s make and use a plan to problem solve and get unstuck.
- Take a break. Get up, stretch, go to another room, go outside. So many times, when we go back to the problem, we can see what we need to do because we are seeing it with fresh eyes.
- Ask for help. Who knows something about what you’re working on? A colleague? Tech support? Call them!
- Don’t know that expert? Call someone to talk it through. When you talk through the problem the solution is likely to pop up.
- If you’re still stuck and your deadline isn’t looming too close, sleep on it.
Ever hear of shower thoughts? It’s when we give our brains a break that we have the ability to come up with our most creative solutions.
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