Tuesday, August 11, 2015

It's taken me three tries to write this post on distractions

At work, it is the constant ping from the office communication program, the new email message appearing in the right-hand corner of the screen and the random pop-ins into my cube as I try to write an email or work on a project.

At home, it is the faraway comments from family members in another room, the ever-growing list of stuff to do I keep in my head and all the open tabs in my browser window.

I am distracted. I am distracted to the point of helplessness: Where I am constantly working on a new task without finishing the previous one and nothing is getting done. I have even walked away from and returned to this post three times before tuning everything out to write it.

In this article on distractions, the New Yorker points out that we value attentiveness, but that is because we seem to have so little of it these days. We are supposed to give our spouses, children, family, work and passions in life our undivided attention; but attention has to be divided among that many things.

So maybe it's not possible to give everything in our lives our full attention: Some theorists say that distraction is good for the brain. If that is true, then we all suffer from a moderation problem - there are more distractions than times of focus.

So how do we increase focus and cut down on distractions to make time for the people/things/work we really need to be focusing on? Here is what I'm trying:
  • Cut out the noise. If that means turning off all those programs that alert you to new tasks, or putting yourself on do not disturb mode, then so be it.
  • Schedule your time to work on specific tasks. I have certain days/times when I work on this blog, and other times devoted to spending time with my family. Sure, I am not spontaneous, but I have always been a planner.
  • Schedule yourself time for distractions. Do you want to spend an hour or two catching up on social media? Go ahead and add that to your schedule, too, just as long as you set yourself a time limit for it and stop when the alarm goes off.
  • One task at a time. I know this one is hard - especially since we have all learned to function in a world where we have multiple tasks going on simultaneously. But there is something very satisfying about crossing things off a list, and we can't do that until we've completed our tasks.
What do you do to combat distraction in your life? Share your tips with me in the comments.

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