A distraction is an unhealthy attraction that breaks your focus and hinders you. It claims your attention from the valuable task at hand and consumes it on something of lesser value or importance at that time.
Distractions are insidious by nature. They pull you away from your intentions, and the more we try to ignore them the more they lure us into an abyss of wasted time and potential. We get distracted primarily for two reasons, they protrude out of the ordinary (external), or they provide us with some form of pleasure (internal).
Psychologist calls this type of distraction bottom up thinking. This occurs when you try to focus on a particular task but something out of the ordinary happens that demands attention and overrides intention. It could be as extreme as a loud noise, or as subtle at a spot of blue on a red canvas. These external distractions fall into the pink elephant syndrome, no matter how hard you try to ignore it, it carries enough psychic weight to draw your attention.
These are much more insidious. They come from our subconscious mind and depending upon the root cause, they are often the tool of self sabotage.
Internal distractions bring us pleasure in the form of thoughts. These thoughts are generated from host of reasons. It could be because you don’t like the task at hand, you feel incompetent, you have emotional distress or euphoria in another area of life, etc…. Here is the deviousness of internal distractions; the thoughts that occur to distract us may have little to no resemblance of the root cause for the distraction.
For example, while writing this article I have had several distracting thoughts about relaxing to a good movie and writing this article latter. It may seem like lethargy is the problem, but the root cause is I am experiencing some heavy emotions for my son who just left for active duty military. It’s not that I don’t want to write the article, I do. It’s just that I am longing for my sons return and it has drained me emotionally.
How to Handle Distractions
The best way is to acknowledge them and not try to ignore them. When you try to censor attention getters, you empower them to get more attention. Besides, distractions become more insidious when we try to “un-think” the thought, “un-see” the sight, or “un-hear” the sound. Below are some tips that will help you deal with internal distractions while remaining productive, effective, and efficient:
Acknowledge a distraction for what it is – a distraction.
The only reason a distraction is so effective is because they work subconsciously, but when I know I am distracted then I can return back to my intentions quicker. To acknowledge the distraction you should follow the biblical guidelines that tell us to take every thought captive (2Corinthians 5:5). We take the thought captive by addressing our internal dialogue. The best way to address an internal dialogue is to bring the conversation out of your head so that your words can control it. It should sound something like this: ”I know I miss my son, but now I need to stay focused.”
Deal with distractions immediately.
If a distracting thought was important enough to get your attention deal with it immediately. Don’t ignore it and hope that it will resurface latter, because when it does it will probably come up at the most inopportune time. Besides, dealing with it now is a much more efficient use of your time and mental energy than having to ignore it again the next time it distracts you. So if your mind reminds you of an important task while you’re in the middle of something else, write it down or make a decision not to do the task, but don’t ignore it. Deciding not to do something is not the same as not deciding to do something.
Time boxing is a time management technique used to stay focused and maximizes the productivity of free or little time. There are many different variations of it, but the way it works best for me is when I set a certain amount of time to do a task and I set a reward at the end of that task. For example, I will work on writing an article for one hour then reward myself with a cup of coffee ~ I smell it already. My focus isn’t to finish an article, but to write for an hour. When I do this, I find I break inertia and create a focus that minimizes internal distractions. It is also a great way to overcome procrastination.
Address Root Causes
Often internal distractions are the symptoms of deeper issues on the inside. Having the ability to recognize and deal with those issues will go a long way in helping you to stay focused and productive.
Often times emotions are the biggest culprit so in order to get to the root cause you have to identify the cause of the emotion. For example, lack of confidence could generate fear or apathy while disdain for a task could generate frustration, irritation, and even anger. The distracters from these issues could be anything from daydreaming about your next Hawaii vacation to wondering why you didn’t get the iphone 5. The key is to read these emotions like sign post that would lead you to a cause. Once the cause is identified and well defined you become empowered to overcome the issue and the distractions that they cause.
I am Andrew Freed and you are an Overcomer In Christ.