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Make distraction a thing of the past

How much do you have on your to do list for this week?  How likely is it that you’ll achieve it all?

If the answer is somewhat likely, not likely or absolutely no way, the chances are you are at the mercy of distractions.  Some of them external but a lot of them self generated.   If you’ve got a lot on this week, would it be useful for you to find a way to manage distractions?

Well, it’s simple…….distraction is simply a matter of choice.  A choice about where you place attention in each moment.  distraction2

Simple in theory perhaps, but in reality……a whole different ball game!  Even for those of us who are pretty disciplined and good at doing what they plan to do.

Here is one reason why – the human brain LOVES novelty, so it gets bored easily.  It is constantly on the look out for something new to get involved in and next thing we know we are paying more attention to the latest news headlines on our phone, status updates on social media or simply daydreaming than the task in front of us.  Research suggests that we do this for up to 47% of our day!

The problem with becoming distacted is not just that we might not finish the tasks we have on our to do list, it actually takes a whole lot more energy for the brain to switch from one thing to another and back again.  It is far more efficient from an energy point of view to focus on just one thing.  In doing so, you allow your brain to get into a flow and to open up all of the mental resources you might need for that particular task.

It takes a bit of patience however because, as I said before, the human brain is constantly on the look out for new stuff to stimulate it.

So, here’s the thing.  You first need to get better at noticing when your mind has wandered and then you need to work on bringing it back to sit.  A bit like training a puppy.  At first, you might find that you have been distracted by something for a good chunk of time before you notice but that’s ok.  Once you do notice, mentally make a note of what had distracted you and then simply re-focus on what you were doing before.  You might find in the space of 1 hour you have to do this tens (or even hundreds) of times!  But that’s ok.  If you’ve ever tried to train a puppy to sit and stay you’ll know that it take patience and repetition.

That’s the second thing, it’s about repetition.  The more often you do this – notice, acknowledge and come back – the easier it becomes because you strengthen the muscle of attention in the brain.  That’s a bit like doing lots of squats in the gym to build your glutes.

The choice part lies in that moment when you know you have become distracted.  You can choose to stay there, in your place of distraction, or you can choose to come back to the task in hand.  Ironically, choice two ultimately gives you more time to do the stuff that’s distracting you because you’re likely to get your to do list done more quickly and effectively!


Found this blog useful and want to know more?  You might also like these:

Getting More Focused

The Simple Solution to Time Management

The Myth about Multi-tasking


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