In Friday’s post, I advocated for turning down the volume on anxiety by developing a mindful relationship with technology.
I’d like to broaden the conversation to discuss distractions at large. Those willy-nilly, pesky interruptions that compromise our focus, productivity, and sometimes, sanity.
Distractions appear in various forms, including thoughts, impulses, sounds, and external requests, to name a few. In other words, inner and outer chatter that is, in short, unavoidable. Trying to block distractions will end up an arduous, losing battle.
The good news is that even though we can’t rid our lives of distraction, we can choose how to respond to it.
For example, let’s say you’re diligently focusing on a time-sensitive project when all of a sudden you get an urge to check email. The urge gets louder and louder until you finally give in. As you sink knee-deep into your email, you come across a message from a client. It appears urgent, so you spend the next 45 minutes going back and forth between your project and email.
If you were to look objectively at how much you accomplished during that 45-minute timeframe, you might discover that you spent a lot of time and energy with little output to show. After extended periods of continuous partial attention, there’s also a good chance you’ll feel more fragmented, restless, and unaccomplished.
Key with distractions is to notice them and then consciously decide if they need to be acted on right now. In the case of distracting thoughts, remember what I said about having somewhere between 12,000-50,000 each day? Suffice to say, not all of these thoughts need to be acted on!
Mindfulness meditation is a fertile training ground for working with distractions. If you stop what you’re doing right now and choose to focus only on the breath, you’ll inevitably discover an array of distractions – from a thought about what’s for dinner to an impulse toward a recent Facebook post to a noise in the room next door. Rather than acting on the distractions, we simply notice them and return our focus to breath. Then, over time, we learn to apply this same approach to our life: Notice, take a breath, assess the importance of the distraction, and finally, return to (or forgo) the task at hand.
The intention of this post isn’t to chastise distractions – or you, if you’re easily distractible – it’s just to give you an option to not always whimsically and needlessly respond to distractions. Having a game plan such as the one above can give you more control over your focus, emotional state, and productivity.
Perhaps you rely on another strategy to maintain focus in the midst of vying distractions. Would you be willing to share with the community?
As always, thank you for reading, and giving some thought to these posts.