Do You Use Distraction as an Excuse?

How man ways can one person not accomplish a task? Recently, a client asked me to hold him accountable for his goals and the action steps he designs on a weekly basis to move toward accomplishing those goals. He wanted to make sure I took my role in this regard seriously because  he said he could “BS” himself with “excuses, rationalization and digression.”

Excuses and rationalizations can be concerns for anyone, including individuals with ADHD, but I digress – those have been addressed in prior blog posts: excuses, rationalization. This blog post addresses digression as a way of “BS”ing one’s self and failing to achieve one’s goals.

Digression, distraction – if you have ADHD, it happens!  At the same time, if you want to get things don, it’s very helpful to have some ways to manage these symptoms.

Consider the following strategies that my client and I are working on:


The more clarity you have about the reasons your goal matters to you, the easier it will  be to remind yourself of this purpose when you need to get started, keep yourself on track, and/or  get yourself back on track if need be. Any time you start to work on a step toward your goal, remind yourself of your intention: “I am working on  ______ (purpose of goal)  now” to keep your motivation in the front of your mind.

The more you notice about your distraction, the better! Pay attention, be a distraction detective:

  • What are your common distractors?
  • When are you more often distracted? 
  • How long into an activity or project before you typically get distracted?
  • What types of things are you typically distracted from?


Planning can help reduce distractions in a number of ways: 

  • Knowing your own concentration span, plan to do take action in small, manageable chunks so you don’t get derailed by fatigue or frustration.
  • With awareness of your common distractors, develop strategies to avoid or work around these factors.
  • Plan to do activities supporting your goal at your best, least distractable, time of day.
  • Use your planner or calendar to schedule each step toward your goal, or completion of your project.
  • Establish a time-frame for accomplishing your goal so that you can measure progress along the way.
  • Set up reminders – stickies on the wall, timers,  pre-planned texts (try Remember the Milk).
  • Consider the optimal supportive environment for what you want to get done.
  • Remember, life happens: have a plan B!

Big Stones

Big stones first! Have you heard this analogy before?

If you fill a glass with small stones, it will be difficult to fit any large stones. But, if you put the large stones in first, you can still fit many of the smaller stones around them. So, the small stones are not a good explanation for leaving out the large stones! What does this have to do with digression/distraction? We all have many “small stones” or activities that can fill up the “glass” of daily life. We can always be busy with these activities, but if we carefully choose the “big stones” that will support further progress on our goals, and prioritize these steps before other activities, we’ll be more likely to meet our goals.


So, my client and I are in the progress of clarifying his goals, and identifying why they are important to him. In the meantime, he’s beginning to pay attention to what distracts him from tasks as well as the factors and conditions supporting forward movement. This clarity and awareness will establish the foundation upon which we’ll get specific about planning – with a priority on the big stones – and then supporting follow-through, with as much accountability – through weekly appointments and frequent texts and emails in between – as my client finds useful.

Will my client digress as he pursues his goals? Of course, we all do! But we are putting in place a system and strategies to mimimize this tendency and to support getting back on track quickly. Digression or distraction won’t be an excuse for not achieving success!

Graphic credit: Stuart Miles,

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