Computer Cacophony - Finding Focus in Isolation

January 21, 2010 Douglas Cootey

One of the ways I've learned to manage my ADHD is to utilize the beeping & booping power of gadgets. Between my iPhone and my severely packed iCal appointment calendar, I have more alarms going off than a fire station during fireworks season. I even change the alarm sounds periodically to keep them fresh to my ears. Otherwise, I’d tune them out. ToDo lists and sticky notes are also used in abundance to help me remember to do the important things. I have them all over my Dashboard and Desktop, as well as on the dashboards and desktops of the real world.

clutter-chaos-170x1061When you combine those tools with my tendency to run several dozen apps at the same time, and my apparent need to have a few thousand tabs open in my browser, you have a cacophony—usually, a sweet, blissful cacophony of busy-ness that is perfect for my fragmented attention span.

Unless I want to get something done.

There are times when two Twitter clients and a backlog of juicy, unread browser tabs is all wrong for productivity. Who would have thought? That’s where I found myself the other day. I had been given an assignment for a national magazine, but the article just wasn’t there yet for the editor. He gave me some suggestions for revision and there it sat. Oh, I knew I would get paid if I finished the silly thing. I knew an editor was waiting for me. I knew that I love the feeling of accomplishment when an article of mine ends up in a magazine. None of that mattered. I just couldn’t bring myself to work on it. There was so much else to explore on my computer.

I finally came up with an idea that I thought might be the best solution: I would create a no frills user on my computer. No alarms, no pop-up Twitter clients, no browsers, and no fun. Immediately, I set out to create a user who could only run writing apps. Everything else was locked down with an administrator password. It was going to be perfect!

[caption id="attachment_44" align="alignleft" width="170" caption="My Very Own Isolation Room"]My Very Own Isolation Room[/caption]

The end result was a computer user with a desktop so barren that my mind recoiled from the sheer boredom of it. I opened up the article, though, and began to write. Eventually, I set the desktop background to change colors periodically just to keep myself sane, but the overall quiet and lack of distraction worked its magic on me:

I finished the article.

Apps like CopyWrite, Scrivener, and WriteRoom for the Mac, and DarkRoom (.Net) and JDarkRoom for the PC offer full screen writing modes to minimize distraction when writing anything from your great Internet novel to homework. They provide an easy alternative to creating an isolated user account as I did. The important lesson to learn from this is that sometimes we have to go to extremes to offset the “attention deficit” in ADHD, even if it means living for a while in isolation.

Ever find yourself distracted by your computer but you need to get work done on the computer? Here's a few ways I've found that help get the work done.

APA Reference
Cootey, D. (2010, January 21). Computer Cacophony - Finding Focus in Isolation, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Douglas Cootey

January, 27 2010 at 7:26 pm

I, as a non-ADHD person, have also found a hge distraction on the internet( FACEBOOK!). I am up until 1 or 2 in the morning nightly because I spend so much time on facbook, I don't get my work done.
I also use alarms on my Blackberry in order to make sure I remember the things I need to do! These are great tools. MDH, the ADHD one, has twelve or more alarms daily to get himself and the kids to work/school on time.
Great article. Perhaps I'll be able to tame the facebook addiction soon!

January, 23 2010 at 2:47 am

I use the alarms on my iPhone in order to wake up in th morning. 1st one to take my meds, 2nd to turn on the news (the noise gets my brain thinking and moving), 3rd is where I take my night mask off and greet the sun (or curse it as the case is so many days), and the final alarm is to get my butt out of bed. It helps that the dogs know my routine so by the last alarm they are licking me and making me stick to the routine. LOL!
Thanks for the idea of creating a non-fun user on the computer. Will be worth trying while studying for my CPA exams. :o)

Douglas Cootey
January, 22 2010 at 12:04 pm

I well remember the day Newtons and Palm Pilots were new and exciting. I picked up a used Palm Pilot in the early 90s and my world was changed. Unlike paper planners, the Palm Pilot beeped at me, interrupting whatever reverie I was in at the time. Suddenly I could "remember" to be on time. Now, I have a wee bit too many alarms going off. Haha! Need to unplug from time to time.

January, 22 2010 at 2:56 am

I too use alarms on my phone, timers and post-its to keep me on track! I call my appointment book or date book the "ADHD bible". Glad to hear I am not the only one!

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