Fast Company - - Secrets Of The Most Productive People -

When Peter Shankwan was di­ag­nosed with at­ten­tion deficit hyper­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der (ADHD) in his thir­ties, he fi­nally un­der­stood why he’d been go­ing to such ex­treme lengths to achieve a height­ened fo­cus, in­clud­ing sky­div­ing and triathlons. In his pop­u­lar pod­cast, Faster Than Nor­mal, he in­ter­views ADHD ex­perts and dis­cusses how he’s learned to use his unique brain wiring to pro­fes­sional ad­van­tage as an en­tre­pre­neur, an­gel in­vestor, and au­thor of four books.

Some of his tac­tics may seem ex­treme: When Shankman was two weeks from a book dead­line in 2014, he bought a $5,000 round-trip busi­ness-class ticket to Tokyo, hopped on the flight the next day, and re­turned home 30 hours later with a fin­ished draft. But many of his ap­proaches can ap­ply to any­one, whether they have ADHD (and $5,000 to spare) or not. Here are Shankman’s tips for boost­ing your pro­duc­tiv­ity, from his most re­cent book, Faster Than Nor­mal: Tur­bocharge Your Fo­cus, Pro­duc­tiv­ity, and Suc­cess With the Se­crets of the ADHD Brain. —PM


Ban­ish desk chaos. “A clean en­vi­ron­ment keeps the mind clean and sharp,” Shankman says.


Ask for dead­lines. If your boss says it’s okay for you to turn in some­thing “when you can,” it may be tempt­ing to ac­cept that lee­way. But an open-ended as­sign­ment can be harder to pri­or­i­tize. “Pick a date for ev­ery­thing you want to ac­com­plish and set it in stone,” Shankman rec­om­mends.


Make a night-be­fore plan. Work back­ward to map out how you’ll pre­pare for an event or meet­ing. That can in­clude get­ting enough sleep the night be­fore and choos­ing an out­fit. Since Shankman wakes up at 3:45 a.m. to ex­er­cise, he sim­pli­fies his morn­ing rou­tine by sleep­ing in his work­out clothes.


Del­e­gate where you can. Hir­ing an as­sis­tant to man­age your cal­en­dar isn’t in every­one’s bud­get. Try a vir­tual as­sis­tant in­stead, or or­ga­nize your life with tools like Cal­endly and Wun­derlist. “There’s so much good help out there that doesn’t cost a lot of money,” Shankman says.


Com­part­men­tal­ize tasks. Carve out time for just one thing, and stick to that un­til you’re done.


Make ri­tu­als-not res­o­lu­tions. Most peo­ple strug­gle to keep res­o­lu­tions, so Shankman sug­gests mak­ing ri­tu­als, the holy grail for peo­ple with ADHD. “The trick is to con­stantly fo­cus on both how you feel when you do it and how you feel when you don’t,” he writes. If you want to wake up ear­lier, zero in on the feel­ing of hav­ing a more pro­duc­tive day.


Find your rou­tine. Sched­ule calls or field emails dur­ing the same block of time ev­ery day. “Change is great when you’re try­ing to be cre­ative, but not so much when you need to fo­cus,” Shankman says.


Plan for the un­ex­pected. Stay­ing pro­duc­tive dur­ing stretches of “deep work” isn’t typ­i­cally a prob­lem. It’s the 15 min­utes be­tween meet­ings— the “short-burst down­time”— that can throw a wrench into your day. Use that time to text a friend or med­i­tate.


Find your peo­ple. Sur­round your­self with folks who can sup­port you and hold you ac­count­able. “I don’t care how you find these peo­ple, but make sure that one or more of them are smarter than you, one or more are older, one or more are younger, and one or more are not as smart (so that you can give back),” Shankman says.


Re­mem­ber the fin­ish line. Ev­ery time you take on a new task, iden­tify the “es­sen­tial prob­lem.” Then “break it down into man­age­able pieces, em­ploy the strate­gies you’ve learned, and get it done.”

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