Your 7-Step Anti-Distraction Daily Plan

This is a transcript of the podcast Distraction, your survival guide to our crazy-busy, ever-connected modern world hosted by Dr. Edward Hallowell, ADHD expert. Dr. Hallowell gives you a 7-step anti-distraction plan to help you use your time more wisely and be more productive.

Mini Episode 9: Your Anti-Distraction Daily Plan

DR. HALLOWELL: Hi, this is Dr. Ned Hallowell. Thank you for joining us for this mini distraction. Like our full length show, these minis will be different every time, only shorter. It’s a busy world and you don’t have a lot of time, we get it. These episodes are for you.

Okay, I want to give you a few practical ways you can use your time more wisely and avoid distractions. I call it logically enough the anti-distraction daily plan. Here’s a countdown of the seven things you can do every day to help you reach your goals and be a happier person overall and avoid the trap, the frustrating trap of underachieving in spite of having all the intelligence you possibly could want.


7 – Prioritize

All right. Number seven, prioritize. This has always been important, but in today’s world where there are so many options, it’s more important than ever. Ask yourself at the start of each day, I do it in the shower. What are the three things I want to get done today? Not thirty-three, three. That forces yourself to submit to the discipline of prioritizing and it has got to be specific.

It can’t be get rich, get famous, be happy. It’s got to be, have the meeting with that person that I need to meet with, make that doctor’s appointment I’ve been avoiding, whatever it might happen to be, but three specific things that you want to get done today. Prioritize, and that will keep you from being side tracked. You see, if you don’t have priorities the next thing you know you’re going to be zigzagging your way through the day and not getting done what you need to get done.

6 – Cultivate Lilies and Avoid Leaches

Number six, cultivate lilies and avoid leaches. What do I mean by that? Lilies are people or projects that are worth it. They may be very time consuming, they may be difficult, they may at times be frustrating, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it in the long run. The lilies are really what give meaning and satisfaction to my life. On the other hand, avoid leaches. Leaches is my term for people or projects that just aren’t worth it. For whatever reason you’re involved with them, but they bring you nothing but heartache, disappointment, frustration. Avoid leaches.

5 – Pattern Planning

Number five, pattern planning. Pattern planning simply means setting up a pattern to your week, your month, your year, where you know what you’re going to do without thinking about it. It may be going to the dry cleaner on Thursday afternoon, something as humdrum as that or it may be going to church or synagogue on the Sabbath. It may be going to the gym every Monday and Thursday at 8am, whatever the pattern might be. Once it’s plugged into your schedule, once you know that you’re going to be doing it, you don’t have to wonder to yourself when am I going to the dry cleaner. Pattern planning makes sure that you will attend to the things you really need to attend to regularly because once it’s in a pattern, it’s on automatic.

4 – Turn it Off (TIO)

Number four, one of the most important ones, to de-distract your life and give you more time for doing what you really want to do. TIO, three of the most important initials in modern life. TIO, think to yourself. What does that stand for? Turn it off. Your cellphone, your laptop, the television screen that’s always there in front of you, turn it off. Now, I’m not saying turn it off forever. Electronics are wonderful tools we have and used properly they make us much more productive, but if you’re not careful they become an addiction or at least a bad habit. You’re just wasting time screen sucking and it really is … It does take on addictive qualities. Beware of this, you want to be in charge of your electronics and don’t have your electronics in charge of you.

3 – E-Y-E-S

Number three, I summarize with the acronym eyes, E-Y-E-S and are first four physical factors that are tremendously important. The first E stands for exercise. Physical exercise is one of the best tonics we have for the brain. My friend John Ratey wrote a wonderful book called Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. In that book he calls together all the evidence, the tremendous amount of evidence we have that proves how beneficial exercise is for your brain. We’ve always known that exercise was really good for your heart, really good for your bones, really good for your physical health. We haven’t appreciated how essential it is and what a tonic it is for your mental health. Not only for your mood, but for your acuity, for your concentration, for your focus. One of the best ways you can refocus is to exercise.

If you’re started to get glazed over and glassy-eyed, just stand up from your desk and do twenty-five jumping jacks or run up and down stairs a few times. If you have access to a set of stairs, just run up and down the stairs two or three times. It will instantly, instantly change your blood chemistry. It’s like pushing the reset button on your brain. The minute you have a quick burst of exercise, your entire brain chemistry changes.

The second one, the Y stands for Yoga or some other form of meditation. It may be prayer, whatever meditative practice fits in your life, in your belief system, in your tradition, very, very good. Meditative practices have been around for thousands of years and we skipped over them because we’re always in such a hurry, but meditation more than pays you back for the time you invest in it in terms of mental equanimity, tranquility, and focus.

The second E in eyes is what you eat. What you eat really matters. The old saying you are what you eat is really true. What you ingest makes a big difference in terms of how you’re going to function. Diets are so many different diets and nutritional practices. Basic rule of thumb, try to eat whole foods, avoid junk food, try not to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, try not to eat anything after 8:00 or 9:00 at night, try to have breakfast and make sure your breakfast has some protein in it so your blood sugar doesn’t abruptly drop, and try to eat small portions so you don’t over eat. Those are some basic principles that will pay off really well.

The S in eyes is sleep. Due to electronics and the ready availability of them, people are staying up too late not doing anything terribly productive. Go back to the previous tip to turn it off. Turn it off and get enough sleep. You will not be at your best if you don’t have enough sleep and that’s for sure.

2 – Refuse to Rush

The number two suggestion I have to help you stay focused is refuse to rush. Today’s world there seems to be a mandate for speed. No matter what you’re doing, you’ve got to hurry up. You know what the most frequently changed part on an elevator is? It’s the door close button. People get onto the elevator, they start pounding door close, whether they’re in a hurry or not.

The internal mandate, I’ve got to hurry, I’ve got to hurry, I’ve got to hurry, the minute the traffic light turns green, jerk grab the start, you blot out like you’re in a race out of the starting block, even though it’s really bad for your car to do that. The fact of the matter is, what you do fast, you probably won’t do very well. Most of the time, whatever the task might be, it doesn’t have to be done fast and often doing it fast reduces the quality. Don’t give in to that, take your time. One of the first rules of modern life that I’ve developed is, if you don’t take your time, it will be taken from you.


1 – Protect and Use Your Morning Burst

Okay, here the number one thing you can do every day to help you stay focused and accomplish your goals. It sounds simple, but it’s profoundly effective. Number one, protect and use your morning burst. Now what do I mean by your morning burst? Your morning burst is that part of the day when you are at your absolute freshest and best. For most of us it’s in the morning and be careful of squandering that.

A lot of people show up for work and the first thing they do is check their email. Well, that’s a waste of your morning burst because your email’s going to flood you and you’re going to get frustrated, the next thing you know you’ll be in a bad mood. Instead, create some boundaries when you show up for work or show up in your home office, wherever you might happen to be and do important task during that freshest time, when you’re not preoccupied with anything else.

Pick one or two tasks that are challenging, that you can apply your absolute best, freshest mental focus onto. Tackle a difficult problem, have a difficult conversation, whatever it might happen to be, where you can use your brain at its absolute best.

Okay, that’s the top seven for avoiding under achievement and avoiding distraction. To recap, number seven, prioritize. Number six, cultivate lilies and avoid leaches. Number five, develop pattern planning. Number four, TIO turn it off. Number three, EYES, exercise, Yoga or meditation, eating, and sleeping. Number two, refuse to rush and then number one, protect and use your morning burst. Thank you.

That’s it. If you have an issue or question or a suggestion, call us toll free at 844-55 connect or email at [email protected] or go to our website at To hear more many and full length episodes, subscribe to Distraction on iTunes and thanks so much for listening.

This is a transcript of the podcast Distraction, “Your Anti-Distraction Daily Plan“. Distraction is available on iTunes.


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