17 Oct The power of focus – eliminate the stress of distractions
When was the last time you felt focused in what you were doing? Completely focused where nothing could interrupt you from the flow of concentration? What were you doing at the time and where were you?
Today, I want to talk about the power of focus because it’s the most incredible thing when you truly experience it. But how often does true focus happen? If it’s not often then you’ll know by how long you had to think about the opening question.
Distractions are everywhere
When you are in complete focus you seem to disappear into the task or activity. You achieve a great outcome and have the satisfaction of completing something important or enjoyable, but the challenge, quite often, is not to get interrupted!
Would it surprise you to know that according to research, on average, we get distracted every three minutes? There’s a serious problem with this fact, although you might not think it if you’re great at multi-tasking. When you get distracted it takes much longer to get back into what you were doing; to get your train of thought back and your head back into the game. Distractions make you less effective, way less efficient, take up more of your energy and can even make something that is normally fun, seem like a real chore because it drags on.
“Focus on growth rather than perfection.”
Why is it so hard to focus?
If you are similar to me it’ll be more like every minute that you get distracted. But surely it should be easy to focus? Well, sometimes if you don’t set yourself up to win or if you’re not in the mood then it can be a pointless exercise because you are fighting to be productive and the situation will never be productive.
I want to see if you can relate to this typical scenario. For me, this would be a project at work but for you it might be your homework.
You sit down at the computer or with your notebook ready to research or start a creative project and as soon as you’re seated you realise you’ve forgotten to put something away or turn something off and you must do it. Distraction number 1.
Item done, you are ready to start again, but hear a notification on your phone from Instagram, Snapchat or a similar social network. You check it because it might be something important and we all know how FOMO (the fear of missing out) is a killer diversion! Distraction number 2.
OK, message read, back to it but now you really fancy a drink. You’ll be quick but you’re thirsty and it’s essential that you grab one. Distraction number 3.
Ah that’s better, but just as you settle down, feeling focusing and sipping your drink, an email or text message from a friend pops up. You have to read and reply right? Distraction number 4.
Phew, now that’s all sorted, time to knuckle down. Mind you, maybe you should nip to the loo because you don’t want that sensation disturbing you later. Distraction number 5.
Great, now you’re refreshed and you manage to crack on for ten minutes until the phone rings. Distraction number 6.
Phone call dealt with and you’re back in focus for a further ten minutes, but your belly starts to groan and you feel peckish. Maybe it’s time for a snack. Distraction number 7.
You pop downstairs to make a snack and see a letter on the side that grabs your attention and you tear it open. Distraction number 8.
Nothing to worry about in the letter, it could have waited, but never mind, you’re back at the desk and ready to work. Darn it, you forgot your snack! Distraction number 9.
And so the process of distractions goes on and on with notifications, phone calls, people, wandering thoughts. Have you ever wanted to carry out research for a school project or perhaps find a song or a place to visit online? Before you know it you’ve lost yourself down a rabbit hole as headlines grab your attention, images catch your eye or sounds latch onto your curiosity. And it’s nonstop unless you do something proactive about it.
“Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.”
Shut out distractions and get stuff done
Interruptions can cause unwanted stress and anxiety, especially if you feel as though you can’t get anything done. You may even start to resent the things or people that cause your distraction. We like to see multi-tasking as a good trait but it isn’t because you barely concentrate on one or another task before you switch again. Ask yourself ‘are you really doing two things at one time or are you doing a few seconds of one and a few seconds of another and so on?’ Be honest with yourself. But you can take control of the situation and get your focus back.
This can be an unconscious action, but sometimes you deliberately don’t shut out distractions because you actually don’t want to do the task ahead. When you are in this state of mind you will see all interruptions as important and you will want to deal with them immediately even if they are trivial.
“Life is like a camera. Just focus on what’s important and capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out, just take another shot.”
Try this exercise
I’m hoping you’re up for a challenge this week because I’m going to set one for you – a power of focus challenge. It will require a little bit of thought in advance and some planning and preparation, although not too much for those of you who hate the thought of planning! Here goes…
- Decide upfront the task to do and when to do it – this can be homework, creative painting, learning how to play a new tune, practising sports or taking a walk outside
- When commencing your task be sure to turn off all notifications – take your Apple watch, Fitbit or other device and disable all notifications
- Turn your phone off or put it out of sight so you can’t see it if it’s on silent
- Make a drink, grab a snack and go to the loo before you start
- Get some paper, a pen, or Postit notes and place them next to you (or in your bag if you’re going outside) to allow thoughts to be captured for later
- And finally, if there are other people around ask them not to disturb you for a period of time. Pop a note on your door, add an auto-response to emails and a do not disturb to your messages
By going through all of these steps you will set yourself up to win, I guarantee it. You will be able to get stuck in and complete your task much quicker and you’ll feel more productive.
“Focus on your strengths.”
Choose the life you want to lead
I’m curious as to how much faster you will get stuff done. I’m quite excited myself because I am a serial multi-tasker and need to be more disciplined too. Let me know how you get on, email me here or connect with me on my social channels. But don’t message me while you’re part way through your task experiment! Wait till your finished J
Here’s to an undistracted week and getting stuff done!