Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of our core conversations on Charlie’s book Start Finishing. In our last conversation, Nailah Blades talked about how to maximize your Recovery blocks. In today’s conversation, Jenn Labin talks about some practices to help you work through distractions. Below is a transcription of her video.
Hi, everyone. My name is Jenn Labin and I’m here to share with you an insight that I gained from reading Charlie Gilkey’s book, Start Finishing.
The work that I do is in social learning relationships — so things like mentoring and coaching. And like many of you Creative Giants out there, that means that my work requires some intense periods of focus time for writing, for research, for developing concepts and ideas.
And over my career journey, I’ve come to realize that my particular gifts and skills really are in the ideation, collaboration, and connection spheres. But that also means that when it comes to execution, deep thought, and extended project completion, well, that’s a little bit more of a challenge for me.
I certainly have been able to accomplish things and write my books and ship my projects, but it’s always seemed a little bit harder for me than others when it comes to that project execution of finishing projects.
The latest step of my personal journey has included a diagnosis of ADHD and beginning to understand how my specific wiring impacts my work. This discovery coincided with reading Charlie Gilkey’s book, Start Finishing, and I had this amazing moment when I was reading the book and it combined my work in social learning with this step on my personal journey as I’m considering my mental well-being. It was this perfect intersection, and it really happens in chapter nine when Charlie was discussing the idea of interruptions and disruptions, and I really felt like he was writing for me.
I am the queen of allowing interruptions, like accepting calls with my family during my work day, or responding to an emergency matter that comes up on email all of a sudden. And distractions, well, I am definitely a common consumer of which Charlie calls “the loop,” especially when it comes to consuming digital media for distraction.
Now the ADHD explains why I work the way I do or why it’s so easy for me to fall into these traps of interruptions and distractions, and my personal career and the work I do there helps me understand a little bit more about the form that those distractions have taken. But what the Start Finishing content has allowed me to do is understand what I can do about that. And so coming from the book, I put into place three new practices to help me start finishing my best work.
- The first is to be more mindful about my environment. And I looked at the seven factors that Charlie talks about in that book in chapter eight, and I looked at what I needed to do to set my environment up for success and minimize those distractions that might be coming from my physical working environment.
- Another practice that I’ve put into place is around my work warmup routine to make sure that my brain habits are there so that those interruptions are reduced and those distractions are minimized. And so I use that work around warm up routine to get back into work, either for the first time in the morning or if I happen to get pulled out in the middle of the day, I might use that work warmup routine to get back into it.
- And finally, I committed to going dark. As Charlie talks about in the book, during certain focus blocks, meaning that I’ve turned off my WiFi on my laptop. If I can, I work offline. I make sure I don’t have my device in my workspace with me so that I can really focus on the work that has to be done.
Obviously nothing is perfect and humans are not necessarily totally consistent because we’re so complex, and ADHD or other mental health challenges can make that especially hard. But these three actions have really helped me set myself up for success, and I’ve started to see value from them.
The work I accomplish, and the progress against my work has increased and I feel like everyday I’m making more consistent progress towards success, rather than sort of the halt and start motion that was there before. Even better, I started implementing these same tactics and adjustments for my daughter, who is also learning her way forward with ADHD, and she’s seeing results, too.
So here’s what I hope you take away:
Interruptions and distractions are not a given. And if you’re like me and you end up in those distraction loops, it doesn’t mean you’re uniquely defective. (Tweet this.)
You don’t need to be on call 24/7, 365. Take one or two steps to increase the effectiveness of your focus blocks, whether that’s looking at your environment, setting up a routine, or even going dark and sort of turning off access to other apps.
I hope that’s helpful. It certainly was for me. And thanks to Charlie for putting this content out.
Want more information? Start Finishing, the book that kicked off all of these Core Conversations, is your deeper dive into all aspects of how to turn your ideas into projects, and how to start finishing your best work.