As a social scientist with ADHD, or the creative mind as I like to call it, I am often captivated by the idea of distraction.  You may even say that I get distracted by thinking of distraction.  How are others distracted?  Are they distracted as often as me?  Are they distracted by things that are interesting to them or by whatever is in front of them?  These questions puzzle me because I wonder how much motivation can be seen in distraction.

As an educator of students with ADHD, I find that they are often distracted by many things.  But if they find something they are interested in, then they can focus for an unending period of time.  (I have seen non-ADHD people capable of the same thing, but somehow they are not pulled away as often from uninteresting tasks as those of us with creative minds.)  This focus can bring amazing results.  For example, I once created a diorama of a prehistoric swamp with 13 clay dinosaurs and an assortment of plants in two days.  For reference, this project was done before the creation of the internet with just encyclopedias.  Another example, a friend of mine recreated the coding for the electronic video game Pong in just three hours.  This was all done by people with creative minds.

So my question, when we get distracted, do we get distracted by something that is motivating us to learn, or by things that are just – well, distractions?  Could we use distractions as motivators to learn or they just wastes of time?

An article by Judy Lombardi (2011)* on six motivation resources noted some external factors that could be viewed as distractions.  For example, Lombardi noted that one of Lavoie’s motivational forces found in his book The Motivation Breakthrough is external recognition.  The need for this external force to help motivate the learner can be seen in all of the six motivational styles and could also be labeled as a type of distraction.

Technology has helped us all, creative minds or not, to have distracted minds.  One Carnegie Mellon research project says that distractions costs us 25 minutes to return to our original task (  And with constant distractions from electronic gadgets, who knows how much work we are really getting done.  So what say you – do your distractions serve as a motivator or are they truly distractions from getting more productive work done?

*Lombardi, J.  ISSN: 8756-7555 print / 1930-8299 online

DOI: 10.1080/87567555.2011.591455

Got Motivation? Six Great Resources for Instructors at Every Level

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