Dealing with Distractibility in the Workplace

Are you easily distracted? Do you find it difficult to stay on task? Do you feel “a little ADD” from time to time? In the book, ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, authors Kolberg and Nadeau offer practical techniques for ADD adults to get and stay organized.

Interestingly, many of the time management methods that work for ADD adults are the same things I recommend to non-ADD clients, particularly when they work in hectic environments. Distractibility is something that almost all of us have to overcome.


If distractions and distractibility plague you, some of the tips below may help.

  • Use a timer. Set a timer and then race the clock to clear clutter, process email, check basketball scores, tweet an article, grab a cup of coffee, or perform any other task on which you typically get distracted. ADD adults should check out the Time Timer clock or app. Otherwise, most smartphones (and many digital watches) have a timer function built in.
  • Block off time. If you procrastinate or forget to perform important but discretionary tasks, block off time on your calendar on a regular or ad hoc basis to perform these tasks. You will not “find” time; you must allocate it.
  • Break big tasks down. A project or complex task can seem overwhelming, thus making it more likely to be avoided in favor of more routine to-do items. List the steps needed to get from point A to point B and schedule them in your planner. Make sure each step is specific enough where you can get something accomplished in one sitting.
  • Limit workspace distractions. Where possible, face away from the door of your office to reduce visual distractions. To reduce auditory distractions, turn off notifications of incoming email in your mail program as well as on your smartphone and tablet. If needed, use noise-reducing headphones. Below is a picture of me that my husband took one day when I was writing my eBooks to insulate myself from the cacophony of roofers overhead.

ADD-Distractibility - Melissa Headphones Pic-small

  • Use a to-do list. If you don’t make a note of your planned actions, you will most likely forget some of them. Pick one to-do system and make sure you use it. It must be convenient and simple to function best amongst distractions. Overly complex or easily forgotten systems are not helpful.
  • Don’t rob yourself of sleep. Sleep deprivation increases distractibility. Distractibility causes stress. Stress increases forgetfulness. Forgetfulness makes you need to stay up later to get things done. Stop the cycle and get the right amount of sleep.
  • Stop saying “yes” so much. Being overcommitted is a key cause of distractibility. When asked to take on an additional personal commitment, it is appropriate to say that you must check your calendar, or that you need time to consider the request, or to just say, “No thank you. I cannot take on any more commitments at this time.” At work, it is good to ask how a new project impacts the responsibilities you already have and to discuss reprioritization where needed. If saying “No” is difficult for you, check out this video.


Distractibility, whether situational and temporary or chronic and pervasive, can be stressful and can limit your effectiveness. However, there are things you can do to address the issues. The time-honored tools – a calendar and to-do list – help you focus and direct your efforts. If you are an adult with diagnosed ADD, or simply feel “a little ADD” from time to time, please contact me. I can help you prioritize, reduce distractions, and increase your effectiveness.


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


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