I write every week, mostly when I am alone, because inevitably, I get interrupted. It could be a phone notification, the puppy in my lap wanting to get a drink, or noise from outside my office window. The distraction disrupts my train of thought, and sometimes I’m unable to get back on track.
When I was researching this article, it surprised me to learn that our brains are wired for distraction. Why? Because if something else is more enjoyable, interesting, or threatening, then our brains will respond, and we get a dopamine reward. During our evolution, this disturbance was an excellent tactic to notice the bear approaching or investigating a potential food source.
In today’s society, our ability to notice something for our survival isn’t essential. Now interruptions pull us away from being productive or concentrating on a task we are trying to accomplish.
Social media, emails popping into our inbox, or a cell phone notification is more likely to make us feel good quickly than finishing a chore on our to-do list. But we all still have tasks we must complete, despite the distractions that interrupt us. Good concentration requires discipline, and it’s a skill we can learn.
So, how can we quickly get back on track and accomplish the goals we have? Awareness of what’s causing us to get distracted helps us set up the right conditions to be productive and focused.
Our normal human tendencies are distraction and dissipation. We begin one task, then get seduced by some other option, and lose our focus. We drift away from what is difficult, and we know to be true, to what is comfortable and socially condoned. ~ Daniel Pinchbeck
Setting Up for Productivity
The best way to deal with distractions is to set ourselves up for success by creating an idyllic atmosphere for us to focus on the task at hand. Gather up the items for the project. Turn off notifications on the computer and cell phone. Don’t gasp. We’ll only be working in bursts of about forty or fifty minutes, so we won’t be out of touch for too long.
Now let’s visualize ourselves working. See the first step and envision ourselves completing it, and then the next until this item is finished. We’re working on one thing at a time. The act of visualization helps our minds concentrate on each step in the process that the body follows through to help us accomplish our goals.
If we start the day with meditation, focusing becomes easier for us. Why? Because contemplation through meditation is the act and practicing of focus. Another way to help us concentrate is to work on one task for a set amount of time, no more than forty or fifty minutes, and then take a five-minute break. This method allows the brain to rest, regroup for the next period of focused work.
Another way to trick our minds into concentrating on a job is to give ourselves a deadline. This urgency forces the brain to focus on accomplishing the task. The stress of a time limit causes people who procrastinate to complete the item before it’s too late.
If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. ~ C. S. Lewis
Knowing the Goal Keeps Distractions at Bay
We all have a lot we’d like to accomplish each day. We all get the same amount of time, and if we determine what the goals are for the day, we most likely can complete the items. What are the most important or time-sensitive items on our to-do list? Once we have this first aim lined up, we can either break down the goal into steps or tackle it straight on, depending on what it is.
For example, there are many steps in the overall process to write an article and record my show, Soul Solutions. If I look at the entire process, it can be very overwhelming. So, I take each step separately. Research is distinct from writing and revising. And the recording and editing is also a specific task before it finally all gets posted. These well-defined steps allow me to focus on one area until I complete it before the entire process consumes my mind.
When we have an intention, it helps us stay focused. Prioritizing what we want to accomplish allows our minds not to be exhausted just by looking at our to-do lists. Those items that aren’t as important can be later when we may not need to be focused entirely on the task.
If we get stuck on something for more than a few minutes, move on to the next item. This keeps us from getting distracted by the issue that arose. And maybe while we’re plugging along, a resolution may present itself.
Even worthwhile endeavors need evaluation in order to determine if they have become distractions from the best goals. ~ Quentin L. Cook
Are We Self-Sabotaging?
Many times we are distracting ourselves. We may unconsciously do it like chatting with others or getting up for a drink, which slows us down and disrupts our focus. Three issues arise which we don’t see as causing disruptions: perfectionism, procrastination, and negative self-talk.
Although we all strive to do our best work, when we look at perfecting our output, it becomes a distraction from accomplishing our overall goals. Perfecting each detail wastes time we could work on the next task.
Procrastination is the egoic mind determining something isn’t important of our time until it becomes a stressful thing we suddenly have to complete. Delaying for any reason is usually causes stress, loss of productivity, and a less than stellar result because we didn’t give the task the time it was due.
When our inner critic comes out and tells us the next item we need to accomplish is too complicated, so we don’t even try the task. Or we can put it off for another time. This type of thinking causes us to procrastinate. When our self-talk says we have to have everything just right, it leads to perfectionism.
We need to have encouraging self-talk, so our productivity doesn’t suffer. We can do this by looking at the situation clearly and breaking down any complex steps. The first step in eliminating self-sabotage is to realize it so we can deal with our destructive behaviors.
You can always find a distraction if you’re looking for one. ~ Tom Kite
The Lie of Multitasking
I’ve been told that I am a high-performer because I can go through a to-do list quickly. I’ve worked in hectic office settings with many disruptions and can get tasks completed. My secret is I work on one item until it’s done. Now, I may have to stop to do an urgent thing for someone, but I go back to the task I was working on before I was interrupted.
Because I’ve stopped working on another job for someone and still completed my task list, people think I am great at multitasking. I’ve even put it on my resume. But the reality is that I give what I’m working on my full attention. And that is how I became a high-performer. I only focus on one thing at a time.
Our brain can only give so much attention to an undertaking. Therefore, multitasking is a lie the ego uses to keep us from being as productive as possible. To focus means that we are only working on one thing at a time.
How can we split our thinking over more than one task and think we will do our best? Suppose we are trying to process information and use it for the desired outcome. In that case, we need all of our brainpower to complete it correctly.
Multitasking is a subtle form of self-sabotage because we lie to ourselves and think we are doing more than we are. And the work completed is not our best.
Your results are the product of either personal focus or personal distractions. The choice is yours. ~ John Di Lemme
Removing External Distractions
On average, over 25% of our time in the office is spent trying to refocus from being disrupted. Clearly, we need to learn to cut out as many interruptions as possible if we want our productivity to increase.
My space at work is the grand-central station between upper management and other personnel. I am the hub of information and notification. I get most of the calls, most of the questions routed to me, and I am the one who picks up the slack to move a project forward.
If you have a door, shut it. If you’re like me and don’t, then learning to hold up a finger to let someone know we’ll be with them in a moment so that we can complete the train of thought. Yes, everyone thinks they have the most urgent need. Still, when we are interrupted, we’re responsible for asking when they need the item completed. Or to let them know we won’t be able to get to their task until the one we are working on is finished.
Electronics have helped and hindered our efficiency. These are tools, not crying babies, that need our immediate attention. To keep us focused, turn off notifications and alerts, or pause them for 40 to 50 minutes to get the work completed. Then take five minutes to look at the items/distractions that want our attention. Block time twice a day to respond to the emails and messages received and give them the focus they need.
Social media not only snatches your time, but it also teaches you attention deficiency. ~ Neeraj Agnihotri
The Ego Uses Distractions to Keep Us Stuck
The egoic mind knows how to keep us preoccupied with other things. It does this to keep us stuck and unaware. After I began the healing process from my childhood trauma, my ego kept me busy instead of working through the healing process. It used my desire to help others as a distraction from helping myself.
When we allow the egoic mind to divert our attention from ourselves, we stay unaware. And as we’ve seen, awareness is the first step in healing, growing, and changing. Since the ego wants to keep things as they are, it works hard at keeping us oblivious.
Since our ego knows us the best, it uses perfectionism, procrastination, and negative self-talk as mechanisms to keep us confused and diverted. And when we are sidetracked, we aren’t looking for those things that would improve our lives.
We must awaken to this lie of the ego and realize we can have the life we desire. We need to listen to the whispers of our hearts and move forward with awareness. When we do, we allow our authenticity to rise and become all we are meant to be.
In the midst of overwhelming noise and distraction, the voice of story is calling us to remember our true selves. ~ Christina Baldwin
Moving Forward By Learning Not To Get Distracted
We need to recognize there are distractions everywhere, and if we genuinely don’t want to work, we will find something else to give our time. All we have to do is wait a few moments for the next notification from our cell phone. The time it takes to look at the alert is time draining from our productivity.
Learning to focus is a crucial skill we all need. It requires conscious effort because we need to overcome our self-sabotaging, organize our actions, and put tools in place.
Eliminate all distractions and focus on things that add value to your life. ~ Sunday Adelaja
As we become more conscious of our distractions, we can learn to deal with them, so they don’t sidetrack our productivity.
Do you need support to help you deal with distractions? Do you want a strategy to help you overcome the ego’s limiting beliefs and live a successful life? If so, please reach out to me at TerriKozlowski.com, and we can put together an action plan for you to create the life you desire.