Garden Attention Distraction Syndrome - Do You Have It?

Garden Attention Distraction Syndrome (GADS) is a common affliction amongst gardeners. Whenever I post about it, I get a few comments from others saying they have it, too.

You might have GADS if you’ve ever gone out into your garden to do one thing, maybe something simple like dump a basket of plant trimmings into the compost bin, and you see something that needs attention, like a big weed that needs to be pulled, and you think, “Gads, I need to pull that weed.”

Then you pull that weed and see something else to be done, like maybe there are some zinnias that call out to be cut to be brought inside. “Gads, those are so pretty.” So you go get your pruners and cut the zinnias and bring them inside and find a vase for them. Then you see out of the corner of your eye that the house plants need some water. “Gads, I had better water those house plants.”

You find your watering can, fill it with water, water the house plants and some of the water gets on the floor. That leads you to decide to go ahead and clean up the entire floor. By then it is night time and there isn’t enough day light to go back out to the garden to do what you had started to do in the first place.

The next day you go outside and you see that the bushel basket of trimmings you were going to take out to the compost bin yesterday is still sitting right next to where you pulled that big weed. You think, “Gads, I need to dump that in the compost bin.”

You’ve come full circle through an attack of GADS.

I assure you that you can have attacks of GADS even in the winter when all your gardening is indoors. How do I know? See that picture above of the plastic tub of trimmings from the day I repotted the aloe plants? Let’s just say it took a few days for me to get back to it and take it out to the compost bin.


There are no cures that I know of but here are some suggestions to maintain focus in the garden.

Set aside time for puttering in your garden. Flit about from task to task and do whatever you think needs to be done, but don’t start any big projects. Yes, basically you are setting aside time to just enjoy a full-fledged GADS attack on your garden. Enjoy it! Set no expectations, just go for it.

Likewise, set aside time for the big projects in your garden. Put on the blinders and focus in on finishing the project. Easier said than done, but with some practice, you can do it.

Always take your pruners with you when you go out in the garden, or have them nearby in your sunroom in the winter time. This way, if you see something that needs to be snipped or cut back, you can do it right away. You won’t have to go back for your pruners and encounter three or four other distractions on your path to and from wherever your pruners are. It helps to have a holster to keep your pruners at your side.

Put tools away when you are done with them. If you don’t know where “home” is for the pruners, for example, you can spend a lot of time on negative GADS activities, like looking for them. “Gads, where did I put those pruners?” And while you are looking for whatever tool you need, you’ll encounter numerous other distractions to feed your GADS.

Carry around a little notebook and pencil with you when you are in the garden and write down new “gads, I need to do that” tasks when you think of them and then do them later. No, fellow garden bloggers and family members, I do not do this! This is for really obsessive compulsive people, who, come to think of it, probably don’t have GADS to begin with anyway.

But even if you don’t carry a little notebook into the garden with you, if you have an extreme case of GADS, you might find it useful to make a list of what you want to do before you go out into the garden. Then when you get distracted, and you know you will, you can refer back to the list to remind yourself about what you should have been doing in the first place.

My favorite way to overcome GADS? I don’t try to fight it anymore. I just go with the flow of GADS, and see where it leads me. Try it. It’s kind of fun to see where you end up!


  1. There is evidence of GADS in our side lot right now. A pile of sticks that need to be hauled away.

  2. I have GADS as a way of life some days.....

    Like, how did I get distracted from preparing dinner and find myself checking out your blog?

  3. Yep, sounds like an ailment I suffer from! So if gardeners have GADS, do garden bloggers have EGADS?

  4. Me too. It's funny there's a name to this incurable disease! I will be out in my garden for one simple thing and then find myself out there for a hour pulling weeds. We need help!

  5. Carol, this is too funny and by all rights should be published on the back page of Fine Gardening. I remember reading something along these lines in Henry Mitchell, but you have fleshed out the idea wonderfully.

    And Dave's tongue-in-cheek comment above, about egads for bloggers, drew me straight to his blog, where, yes, I see he's a list person too. Quite a lengthy garden to-do list in his sidebar indicates he is often stricken with gads while in the garden. ;-)

  6. Yes, sometimes the best way to overcome a character flaw is to indulge it for a little while and then rein it in. The first nice day in spring is definitely a GADS day.

    And I agree with Pam, this should be published somewhere. Unfortunately a lot of magazines don't want already published material, and that's what they would consider this. But I bet GreenPrints would be glad to have it.

  7. GADS is half the reason I garden! I love puttering around the garden but because my life is so unfairly focused (my kids usually alow me 4.25 minutes to do things in the garden before whining or trying to kill themselves or something), I usually have extreme focus and productivity in the garden which sounds a lot more fun than it is. It is far more fun to just walk the garden path. Afterall, mine is spiral for a reason, out and in, like breathing, watching the cycles of the garden and on and on, ahh...

  8. Good advice, all of it. Although the things I end up getting distracted by are also things that needed doing, sometimes even more than the thing I started out to do. Ah, but there's always tomorrow.

  9. Carol - you delight me with you humor. I am most definitely afflicted with GADS. I walk around the pond garden pulling this and that and make a pile. Then I see birds. Raise my camera, which is always around my neck. I forgot what I was doing. Oh, get a bag for the weed pile...

    Yes, I know...Gads.

  10. Great advice, which I'd be well-served in taking.

    Rachel at In Bloom


  11. Guilty, I'm guilty.

    No Cures? Well good. Another excuse to be out in the garden too long.

    The notebook idea sounds good for getting certain chores done or maybe more reasons to stay in the garden with a chair, writing things down.

  12. Are you sure it's an affliction? Maybe it's just a unique gene found in anyone with a green (or semi-green, like me) thumbs.
    Great post!

  13. I have GLADS -General Life Attention Distraction Syndrome

  14. GADS is certainly not restricted to the garden. I have frequent attacks when doing housework of any sort, and even when on the computer, ie. I begin answering one email, then stop and go to another, or even look at a blog or two. I often sit down at the computer with intention of culling photos or emails, but that gets boring very quickly and I move onto something else. That's why my computer still has more than 8000 photos on it.

    Cheers - 'Alice'

  15. I most certainly have GADS ... not just in the garden, but in the house as well. I go to do one thing, forget why I went there, but find something else to do. Eventually I do remember what I went for in the first place. I'm beginning to think I need to carry a notepad with me and jot down my job list. But then i would probably put the list down somewhere and forget where it is.

  16. Thanks for giving us a chuckle. Like the EGADS comment also. Your writing is always entertaining and intelligent.

  17. Carol every serious gardener suffers from GADS!! More so in summer months I think! :)NG

  18. Lisa at Greenbow, And when you go out there to haul away those sticks, I bet you do two or three other things first!

    Sherry, The lure of my blog is just to great for you, isn't it, baby sister! How did you know I would post early in the evening?

    Dave, Yes, we do! Or is that eGADS?

    Gardening for Fun, Yes we do need help, or maybe not. Maybe it is just okay to be like this.

    Pam/digging, What a nice thing to say. Thank you and I take it you are a list person as well?

    Kathy, A little indulgence is good for the garden and the gardener, I agree. And if I thought for one minute a magazine would actually publish this, I'd delete it from this blog and swear you all to secrecy. But maybe I will check out Green Prints...

    Ottawa Gardener, Sounds like you had an attack of GADS writing your comment as you trailed off into thoughts of your garden.

    Molly, So true, I do a lot of gardening "tomorrow".

    Mary, When you add feeding birds and taking pictures of them to your gardening, I'm sure it has some kind of compounding effect on your GADS. But we do love all your bird pictures. My camera is small enough to keep in my pocket...

    Rachel, Thank you. GADS does seem to be something we can mostly just be aware of. Why fight it or even cure it?

    Curtis, As if a gardener would sit for long in a chair in their own garden. Look over there, a weed, and over there a flower to cut... and on and on.

    Sarah, True enough, GADS might just be an endearing trait of all gardeners!

    Alice, How true, there are other forms, like CADS for computer work, and HADS for housework.

    Crafty Gardener, Right, a list does you no good if you put it down someplace and then forget where it is.

    Frances, Thanks, I also liked the EGADS comment. I liked all the comments.

    Naturegirl, I think you are right!

    Thanks for all the nice comments, and now I see that my houseplants need watering!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  19. What a wonderful post you've written, Carol - and thank heavens there is no cure. I like your advice to go with the flow, acting less like ants glued to a task and a trail, and more like bumblebees among the hollyhocks, appreciating every blossom.

    Embrace the GADS!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  20. you nailed us gardeners on the head! even hubby had to admit there is something to my distraction when he hears of others having the same problem.

    i was wondering where garden bloggers bloom day came from and am glad i finally found out. what a great idea. i will try to join in next month. i post a plant of the month so i can just post it on the 15th? it is such a neat idea.

  21. Carol: Suffering from GADS right here also! LOL! I am going to have my pruner holster surgically implanted on my right hip! Clothes don't fit anymore anyway so I might as well have the pruners always at the ready! Just the other day I was out in the garden without the pruners! I am suffering from NDD which is Nature Deficit Disorder! I am going to take a walk outside!

  22. Were you aware that GADS has given rise to a related malady? GWS - Garden Widower's/Widow's Syndrome. My husband complains of this when I let GADS take me over for too long on Saturday mornings.

  23. Annie in Austin, You have such a way of adding icing to the cake with your comments. I love what you wrote about ants and bumblebees. Too often we are like the ants, we need time to be like bumblebees. Yes, Embrace the GADS. Let's make up some bumberstickers.

    Tina, Please do join us for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. The more the merrier, and it is nice to know that nearly every gardener has GADS.

    Layanee, Out without your pruners? I bet you regretted that.

    Mr. McGregor's Daugher, I had not heard of that one, but it makes sense. And how many children are "garden orphans", waiting for their mother or father to come out of the garden.

    Thanks all for the wonderful comments,
    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  24. yep, I have it too. Even though I don't post about my gardening, I still have the syndrome.

  25. Carol, I have tried several of those cures, but it doesn’t help. I am always moving from one job to another and never finishing one. Every new day brings another job that needs my attention. It never ends.

  26. Oh, yes, I know it well. Like Sherry, I have it elsewhere, too. In my case it works well in my work because I work on half a dozen articles all at the same time--well, during a given day, I'll have that many or more that I work at. Amazingly, I get a lot done, and even in the garden...most of the time. Unless of course I simply flop in the clover and watch the butterflies! And then I'm observing nature, and destressing, right?

  27. Carol - your post inspired me to write one on GADS, too.

    I didn't get to the bumblersticker yet.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  28. Yes, I know this syndrome very well. It is good to know it finally has a name. I wonder if this is covered by health insurance?

  29. Hi Carol,

    When outside I'm in a constant state of GADS. It hasn't posed too much of a problem so far, although there have been times when after receiving strange looks from neighbors and passersby, I will look down and say, GADS, I'm still in my pj's! Sometimes I just can't get out there fast enough - stopping to put real clothes on can take up a lot of time.


  30. Very entertaining and delightful post, Carol.

    I must admit that I was born with GADS ( my folks claim I had a shovel in one hand and a hoe in the other - okay, maybe a slight exaggeration ) and have been afflicted with it ever since. There's no cure and I'm like you, I'm not seeking one.

    Many is the time that I've passed by a house when people were gardening, ended up spending the day helping them with their design. All at no cost to them and all due to GADS.

    I can imagine just going to a meeting for GADS, getting up and saying, " Hi, my name is Carolyn and I've got GADS. Fifty per cent of the attendees get up and clap, shake their heads and murmur : We've got GADS too !

  31. We're just a bunch of 'GAD-abouts', aren't we? I like your advise (and Annie's) of going with the flow, and buzzing around like bumblebees for a while. There's a time to be ants too, but I think the bees have more fun :) I sometimes get very frustrated with my distractions when I'm out in the garden, but the main job usually gets done eventually. And I do carry my pruners with me. Good advise :)

  32. Well, seems like there is a name to my way of gardening, and I never knew it! I use the GADS method of gardening almost all the time. And no worries, I'll eventually get whatever needs doing, done.. when I happen to notice.
    Great post!

  33. I definitely have GADS - although it extends to most areas of my life! This is a fun read.

  34. Gads,is it a disease? Oh, I thought that this was the normal way of how to garden. There's no hope for me then, is there?

    Fun post Carol!

  35. Yippie, thanks for the hyper-link back...I had no idea there was a name for it...eeeGADS, I got it too! Guess it's not the drinky-winkies...teeheee.

  36. Here's one: Gads! I need to make a list so I don't keep getting distracted. So you make a list and think Gads! I should do one for the whole week, so you start it and then realize Gads! I don't know how to do this one thing, I better look it up on the internet where you find Gads! So many fascinating informative garden blogs-- I better read a few...

    etc. etc.



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