How to Tame Your Over-Distracted Entrepreneurial Brain Student entrepreneur Lila Wilson on how her attention-deficit-disorder tendencies help her startup grow.

By Lila Wilson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


As a busy student entrepreneur, I'm forced to focus on so many things at once: My school work, my social life and, of course, my growing business. But also like other young-business owners, my attention span is extremely short.

While frustrating, those distracted tendencies do have a helpful counterpart: The ability to hyperfocus.

Since it can take a lifetime to learn how to ignite this incredible flow state, an attempt should be made to identify the triggers as early as possible. For me, I have found such triggers include insanely organized environments, regular internet deactivation periods (seriously try it) and semi-parasitically absorbing momentum from high-output people. In other words, become the in-house energy vampire at your university library or work with other student "treps.

Related: 8 Tips for Finding Focus and Nixing Distractions

While growing my fashion-tech startup, Modefy Labs, I've found that while annoying at times, my stimulus-seeking brain is a nice match for the demands of entrepreneurship. I have learned firsthand -- and from watching fellow student entrepreneurs -- that CEOs should be masters of rapid realignment and capable of multiple pivots to secure a niche in adapting markets. Plus, entrepreneurship is all about creative problem solving, right?

Related: How to Balance an Overwhelming Course Load With Starting Up

But even though you're likely built for this kind of intense regime, you'll be better served if you learn how to harness your distracted tendencies. Here are three tips that I've learned to help you along:

1. Orchestrate your life. Learn the art of creating an organized mess. It's important to bring a method to the madness so the many instruments you have playing do not amount to a complete cacophony. While fun, switching between 37 browser tabs will have to be overcome if you aspire to be more than a digital hoarder. I sometimes wonder about all of the great ideas conceived and lost in the minds of ADDers who can't stay focused.

2. Create concrete organization. No one needs the simplest organization tools like lists, strict calendars and reminders more than ADDers. Testing and adopting every method for organization I can get my hands on is a big help. For example, try using OneNote to organize your intense, crazy, amazing stream of scribbles and go through them regularly.

3. Generate positivity. Life is full of trade-offs and ADD turns out to be just another one on the list. Fortunately, the positive attributes are much more than being adept at finding things that are lost. Find all the places where the unique wiring of the ADD brain may be a competitive advantage and utilize your acute perception, strong empathy and multidimensional thinking to its full power.

Lila Wilson is a freelance writer, photographer and student entrepreneur in Washington D.C. She has worked in organizational development in Los Angeles, London and Kabul. She was a semi-finalist in Georgetown’s Hoya Challenge and is part of the inaugural Georgetown Summer Startup Program. She is currently spearheading Mōdefy Labs, aiming to democratize the fashion industry by expanding access points in the design, feedback and production phases.

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