Ever have one of those days where you’re distracted by everything? You know you have things to accomplish. You know you need to focus. Yet every shiny thought that flashes into your brain diverts you.
Social media, phone beeps and dings, a steady flow of email, interruptions, random thoughts…all compete for our attention. Distractions are everywhere, and they’re not going away any time soon.
As much as we we’d like to disconnect, that also isn’t feasible. So what are we to do?
Here are 5 ways I’ve found to help reduce the distraction in my life.
- Empty the trash. Not the wastebasket variety but the mental kind. Take a blank sheet of paper, set a timer for 5 minutes, and then just write down anything that pops into your brain. No censoring. Just rapid writing. At the end of the time period notice how you feel. If you’re like me, you’ll probably feel cleansed. I find that such a brain dump pulls all of the detritus out of my brain, leaving room for the thing I need to focus on. Oh, and throw away the paper you wrote on – the final adieu to the distractions.
- Clear physical desk clutter. Remove the piles from your desk and keep only the one thing you will be working on. I often put the extraneous files and papers on the floor behind me so that they are effectively out of sight.
- Clear digital clutter. Only have one application open on your computer at a time. Hide all other open windows. And turn off all digital notifications.
- Set a specific time to attend to notifications. Read email twice a day and deal with all incoming messages then. Determine how often you really need to check social media and stick to the plan.
- Stop multi-tasking. Recognize that you work much more productively when you focus on one thing at a time. So allocate a specific amount of time for that one thing. When the time is up, move on to the next one thing. The so-called advantages of multi-tasking are greatly overrated.
You and I both know that distractions will never go away. And the fast pace of our lives only adds to the madness. The good news is that we do have the power to manage it more effectively. We just have to make that choice!
Now It’s Your Turn
Choose one or more of the tips to implement this week. Then assess what changed in your ability to focus. How can you make these tips a habit?