Understand the Dangers of Distraction
We all know that distractions are a major causes of road accidents. Any activity that diverts a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving puts endangers driver, passenger, and bystander safety. Responsible drivers take precautions against distraction, avoiding certain activities whilst behind the wheel: using mobile phones, eating and drinking, map-reading, grooming and so on.
What seems less obvious – at least in my experience – is the damaging effect that distraction can have as we travel through life. The truth, however, is that our response to distraction is one of the chief influences on whether or not we achieve our potential.
One of the traits of high-achievers is their ability to focus. They have developed the habit of rejecting distractions, leaving them single-minded in their pursuit of their goals. They have discovered that they can’t do everything, so have chosen instead to dedicate themselves to the one thing that they consider most worthwhile in their lives.
To follow, without halt, one aim: There’s the secret of success.Anna Pavlona (renowned classical ballerina)
Unfortunately, however, some of us find ourselves easily distracted. As a result, our efforts become diluted and our achievements are limited:
One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.Anthony Robbins
I’ve written previously about how we can be more productive if we eliminate waste from our lives. One of the major categories of waste that needs to be eliminated is distraction. Distraction results in wasted effort, reducing my capacity to achieve the things that really matter to me. By finding ways to eliminate the waste of distraction, I can focus my energy where it is most valuable.
Understand the Types of Distraction
In my experience, there are two basic types of distraction, and these need to be dealt with in slightly different ways.
See the Butterflies
For some of us, the problem is that we can’t maintain focus. Like a butterfly in a flowerbed, our attention flits from one thing to another. As a result, we have unproductive days.
If we let our attention jump from one thing to another, we will have a busy, fractured and probably unproductive day.Leo Babauta
All too often – at least for me – these days become weeks and months and… eventually we’ve achieved little of value with our lives.
See the Moths
For others, our problem is not so much our wandering attention, but the things we focus on. Like moths that are drawn to artificial light, we seem to be able to spend hours at a time focused on trivia – watching TV or playing video games or indulging our hobbies – but relatively little on the things that we really consider worthwhile.
If we focus on being tired and wanting to veg out in front of the TV, we will get a lot of television watching done…Leo Babauta
Again, we find that – over time – we achieve little of value.
Develop Strategies to Overcome Distraction
The good news is that, once we become aware of distractions, we can develop strategies to overcome our tendency to be distracted. These strategies can involve either changing our environment or changing our habits, but will differ between butterflies and moths. I’ll talk about some of them next time.