Overcome Distractions: Capture the Butterflies - Marks in the Sand



Do you ever find your attention flitting butterfly-style between projects or ideas? If so, there are strategies you can adopt to help you concentrate.

This is the second in a series of articles on overcoming distraction, the first having introduced some of the problems associated with becoming distracted.

Consider the Reasons You Get Distracted

When you understand the reasons why you get distracted, you can can develop habits that can help you overcome your tendency to lose focus.

Overcome the Distraction of Poor Prioritisation

If you haven’t decided what’s really important to you, it is hard to keep the main thing the main thing. There are some really good books on developing your personal mission statement and understanding your purpose in life.

Overcome the Distraction of the Unknown Path

As well as knowing where you want to go, you also need to know how to get there. Specifically, you need clarity over the very next step that you need to take on your most important project. A good way to do this is just to spend a few minutes each day mapping out the steps that you need to take to move your projects forward.

Overcome the Distraction of Isolation

It is hard to journey alone, so seek out people who can work with you. Ideally, these will be people who are local to you, but failing that the internet provides a wealth of resources that you can use to contact people who’re fighting the same battles as you.

Overcome the Distraction of Fatigue

It is hard to concentrate on one thing when you’re physically or emotionally exhausted. The various habits you can develop to overcome exhaustion include:

  • Take regular breaks
  • Get to bed early
  • Get regular exercise
  • Eat a health diet
  • Take vitamins
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Take holidays
  • Slow down and take smaller steps
  • Go out and get some fresh air
  • Do less, but do it better
  • Have a party!

Overcome the Distraction of the Pretty Flowers

Sometimes, there is simply too much stimulation in my environment. Every pretty thing is demanding my attention, and I just can’t focus on the things that I’m trying to achieve. Simple strategies to reduce the stimulation include:

  • Simplifying my workspace
  • De-cluttering
  • Listening to white noise or music while I work
  • Switching off the phone, email pop-ups etc.
  • Asking people not to disturb me for a period of time
  • Going somewhere else to work

Overcome the Distraction of the Buzzing in Your Head

At other times, I’ve got too much stuff going on in my own head, and the constant buzz of these things is preventing me from concentrating on the job at hand. The best way I’ve found to deal with this problem is just to write things down. By getting things out of my head and onto a page, I can let go of the fear that I might forget something important and get on with what I intend to do.

Overcome Distractions by Becoming Aware of Them

One of the best ways to overcome distraction is simply to practice awareness of the things that distract you. When you notice that you’re being distracted, just acknowledge that fact to yourself – it can help if you actually name out loud the thing that’s distracting you.

Overcome Distraction by Letting Distraction Overcome You

Finally, there are some things that are worth being distracted by. Truth be told, our precious projects aren’t always as important as we’d like to think, and a little distraction can go a long way to helping us get our priorities straight. In these cases, the best course is to intentionally embrace the distraction and see where it leads.

Here, for example, are 10 things that are worth getting distracted by:

  1. A sunset
  2. Nagging doubts
  3. Children’s laughter
  4. A friend in need
  5. That pain that won’t go away
  6. The fire alarm
  7. A good meal
  8. A stone in your shoe
  9. Time with the ones you love
  10. That still small voice that calls you home

Next Time

I hope these strategies are useful in helping you deal with the butterfly-style distractions that you encounter. Next time I’ll be discussing the moths.

Acknowledgements

Image courtesy Cécile Graat via Stack.Xchng.

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