The number of distractions we face each day seems endless. When we get mired in the larger web of distractions, including the internet, busywork, errands, e-mail, and shopping, we can lose sight of the activities, people, and actions that will bring us happiness, satisfaction, and contentment. We get sucked into short-term distractions and quickly forget what really makes us feel good.
What is the cost of being overly distracted? The costs of giving in to distractions are many. We may lose:
- our sense of self-efficacy
- our free time
- our sleep
- our money (think shopping sites)
- our safety while driving
- our connectedness with others, including our children and our friends
- our way (literally)
- our time to plan our projects mindfully
- our time away from various digital devices
- our organized self (because we don’t have time to put things where they belong)
- our grade point averages
- our learning opportunities
- our time to exercise
- our time to create new things and experiences
- our sense of calm
- our time to be relaxed
What keeps us in a distracted mode? It seems there is more pulling us away from our work and focus than pulling us towards it. We can be stuck in distraction zone because:
- we don’t feel confident about moving forward
- we are too tired to concentrate well
- we are afraid of missing out
- we think we have to cover all of our bases all of the time
- we have never been very good at maintaining good focus
- we are addicted to the streams of information that social media and services like Netflix provide
- we have difficulty stopping ourselves once we start something
- we have become accustomed to not getting things done efficiently, so we don’t clearly see the time wasted when we’re distracted
If you’re currently struggling to separate from social media, clutter, minor matters, or other distractions, I have a few suggestions for you to consider. If you implement these 5 simple steps on a consistent basis, your difficulties should start to wane.
The Simple 5-Step Plan to Avoid Distractions
1. Make sure you have one priority focus.
Get real with why you are where you are. If you are a student, remind yourself of your purpose. If you are an employee, remind yourself of your aim at work. If you are an entrepreneur or a freelancer, decide how you want to maximize your productivity. I have found this to be a particularly hard trick to master, as I like to flit and float among several different ideas and projects all at once. When I’m honest with myself, I know I get my most meaningful work done when I know what my priority goal is.
2. Write your plan down.
There is something magical that happens when you write things down. Use that magic to connect with your purpose, to focus your attention, and to get the distracting, unformed thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Writing your plans down will do you a world of good.
3. Be brave in the face of your lack of understanding.
So often, we become stymied by what we don’t know. Instead of freaking out about not knowing what to do, decide to see the moment as just one part of the entire experience of getting something done. When we accept that there will be gaps in what we know, we will be able to stay the course better while working. We can steel ourselves against the sudden impulse to flee the discomfort of not knowing what we are doing.
4. Separate work from play/distraction.
Being able to separate work from play is one of the great keys to beating Procrastination.
When we allow distractions like Facebook into our workspace, we instantly mix work and play. When we do this, both work and play get diluted. We no longer get the bang out of our work, and we no longer get the pure joy out of our play. And we find ourselves adrift in the distractibility zone.
Practice isolating work from play, even if the work and play times are very brief. Work single-mindedly for 15 minutes. Play for ten minutes. Rotate these periods if you like. Expand them as you like. But don’t mix them together. Train yourself to resist being distracted.
5. Have a sense of gratitude for your work.
Although the distractions these days tend to be enjoyable, light-hearted, or connecting us with friends and family, deep down inside we are aware that our greatest feelings of satisfaction come when our intentions match our behaviors. When we let ourselves drift away from our focus, we lose control of our sense of purpose and our sense of agency.
Let’s get a handle on the distractions in our lives.
There is no need to eliminate distractions. We need them to pass the day, to make things light, and to enjoy ourselves when things get rough or stressful. That said, many of us natural-born Procrastinators will benefit from sharpening our ability to focus and to manage distractions more effectively. Find the clearest, cleanest, most efficient way to move through the day. The payoffs will be worth the effort.