I work from home and find that my daily default, for the first half of my day, is sitting in front of a computer screen.  I putz around answering emails, then get absorbed in a Facebook or LinkedIn post, and the surfing flurry goes on from there.  Many days, I am totally unproductive. Something about passively staring at a screen saps my energy, but I often seem unable to pull myself away.  As a writer and program developer, creativity is my currency, and time on the computer often leaves me feeling bankrupt.

One antidote to my Internet Disorder has been proving increasingly effective: getting out of the computer chair and simply doing something else.  While this may sound simplistic, it’s not easy for me.  Honestly, I am writing this blog more for myself than anyone else.  If I leave a written record online of my intention to “stop the Internet insanity,” I am more likely to follow through, if for no other reason than my deep sense of guilt.   And let me tell you, it is deep, a jagged chasm in my soul created from twelve years of Catholic school!
When I get out and do something completely different, I often return to the computer ready to use it for constructive purposes, like finishing my book, writing a blog, working on video scripts, and dozens of other positive pursuits.

If you are at all like me, take a few minutes now and write down a list of things, at least twenty, you need to do, or things you’ve been longing to do.  Here is my list that I am making up right now, so that it’s authentically in the moment.  I try to make up a list like this every day (some items carry over).

  1. Go to the Polish Market.
  2. Go to the café at the Detroit Institute of Arts .
  3. Take a 20-minute walk through the neighborhood.
  4. Run down and throw in a load of laundry.
  5. Iron the shirts in the laundry room that have been sitting there for three weeks.
  6. Do twenty push-ups.
  7. Make up and send invoices I have been putting off.
  8. Go to the drug store and buy toothpaste (which I have been out of for a week!).
  9. Make a list of workshop topics for 2016.
  10. Set dates for workshops for 2016.
  11. Go to the tile store to pick out bathroom tile.
  12. Call contractor about bathroom tear-out.
  13. Call Martin and ask his advice on hiring an assistant.
  14. Plan winter vacation now so that I can get better rates than my usual planning at the last minute.
  15. Drive to Tim Horton’s and get a latte.
  16. Take notebook into the yard and brainstorm on book project.
  17. Take five minutes to stretch using yoga postures.
  18. Write a thank-you note to friends who had me up to their summer home, and gave me REAL HUMAN INTERACTION.
  19. Spend ten minutes working in the yard (I HATE YARD WORK AND AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE).
  20. Spend ten minutes cleaning out my car, which is an absolute pit.

For the record, after number 18, I zoned out and went back on Facebook for a while until I realized, perhaps five minutes later, what I had done.  Take a few minutes now and make out your own list and follow it.  Comment on this blog and become part of a community of people who are all in this together, all trying to use the Internet to expand their potential instead of wasting it.  I cannot seem to do it by myself.  If you are having trouble in this area, don’t try to do it alone.  Tell a friend what you are up to and see if he or she will support you.  You may just need someone to check in with once or twice a week.  Make no mistake, for many of us spending too much unproductive time online is a serious problem that requires commitment, focus, and plenty of support.  Do not try to do it alone, but DO get your butt out of that chair, NOW!

The ADHD brain is supremely tuned to respond well to novelty and excitement, but is an exceedingly poor performer when things get routine, predictable, and yes, boring. Our lives are like the movie, Ground Hog Day, and many of us have similarities to the character played by Bill Murray. When the same stimuli come at us day after day, we actually can persist in extraordinary ways, but only when we have something extraordinary, like Andy McDowell in the movie, to motivate us. I have had two books published and let me tell you, ADHD and finishing anything, let alone a full-length book, do not go well together. The only way I finish things is, first of all, to complain to lots of my friends about how horrible it is that I cannot finish anything. They yell at me and this helps temporarily keep me on track. Then I get embarrassed and ashamed the next time I fall into a funk, and often choose to suffer in silence, rather than get yelled at again. The cycle repeats. But I also have a big bag of tricks that, while they do not always work, sometimes have the power to pull me out of the apathetic funk I struggle with each and every day.

Trick #1: Back Away from the Computer.
This one is simple; even though I am in funkland, there is a voice inside of me that says, “You can get out of this.” The first step is to listen to that voice and leave the computer. The cyber world to an addiction-prone ADHDer like me is a sweet candy that when I overindulge puts me in a cyber-coma. When I am sitting in front of the screen, I can cyber-meld; my anxiety and frustration temporarily vanish. But I get nothing done, and end up feeling like crap later on. GET AWAY FROM THE SCREEN. NOW!

Trick #2: Move!
When I hear that voice, it’s time to move. I have to get up immediately and just interrupt the pattern. Here are a few activities I might do at that time: drive to Tim Horton’s and get a coffee; take a 20-minute, fast-paced walk, the whole time brainstorming ideas and taking notes on my phone (My brain seems to work better in motion); go to the food court at the local mall with a notebook and write down whatever comes to mind; drive to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Diego Rivera is an old reliable source of funk busting for me). JUST BREAK THE PATTERN AND MOVE.

Trick #3: Phone a Friend.
I am often at my worst when I am isolated and alone, yet for some reason, I resist reaching out. I am going to take this opportunity to admit that the old AT&T jingle, “Reach out, reach out and touch someone,” used to make me cry. I think I had such a strong emotional reaction because I have a hard time reaching out. I still struggle with this, but when I get over whatever it is that happens to be holding me back, calling a friend works because I often get my greatest creative developments when I am sharing my ideas with someone else (don’t share your ideas with people who bring you down, which is what I used to do). If you want to succeed with ADHD, you need support, and plenty of it. SUPPORT. SUPPORT. SUPPORT.

Trick #4: Use Your Anger.
People ask me how I, a highly distractible adult with serious problems of persistence, managed to complete two books and get them published. The answer is simple: anger. ADHD people, we have anger and frustration in overabundance. Those emotional experiences, however, represent energy. We have to learn to use that energy to our advantage. While I am willing to admit my shortcomings, I have become a master of channeling negative emotional states. My good friend, Doug, who I grew up with, said, “When you do dishes, clean your house, or any mundane job, it is as if the task is an enemy, someone you hate and who you can vanquish if you just put all of your energy into it.” Negative emotional states are opportunities. CHANNEL YOUR EMOTIONS TO GET THINGS DONE!

Trick #5: Stay on Target.
As I sit here now, trying to finish this blog post, here are some of the voices in my head:
• You’re almost done, why don’t you just play a video game and then you can come back to it.
• Five tricks might be too many for one blog post, maybe you should cut it to four.
• This is a great start, and you never finish anything the first run through. TAKE A BREAK.
• I wish I was in London right now.
• I hate cold coffee.

This is what happens to me. I call it “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” I have that saying posted on the wall and am looking at it right now. I have it there to remind me that this is what I have done time and again in my life. When I look at that saying, I am reminded of all the great ideas that I did not bring to fruition, which then irritates me. Right now, I am channeling that irritation back into this writing. STAY ON TARGET!

In the coming weeks, I will be elaborating on each of these points. My intention is that I will support you in your own productivity by honestly sharing the pitfalls in my own life. I am not a guru; I am a fellow traveler who likes to compare notes with others!

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