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Disengaging From Distractions to Help You Stay Focused

​Would you believe that a recent paper published in Science journal reports that subjects in a bare room elected to give themselves electric shocks as opposed to sitting quietly with their thoughts for fifteen minutes.  25 percent of women and 67 percent of men to be precise chose the shocks.

Shocking, right?  Would you be able to make it fifteen minutes without a shock?  Without your phone or email access? 

If you have read this far without checking your text messages or weeping over an elephant romping with a Labrador on YouTube, congratulations!  By current standards you have the laser like focus of Mr. Spock.  The rest of us have all moved onto something else, like Facebook or some form of dreaded multi-tasking and thus doing everything poorly. 

What would you think if I told you that it is not your fault that our brains have evolved to seek out distraction?  Early humans who were able stop what they were doing and tend to a new experience were more likely to survive, but today so many things occur simultaneously that our brains haven't evolved enough to sufficiently separate the useful from the useless.  In order to be productive and present for the people we love and respect, we have to somehow evolve faster, adapt more quickly. 

Hold on, wait!  What on earth does this have to do with getting organized? 

Everything!  It is the distractions that cause incomplete projects to hang around to the point of suffocating us.  The piles of paper to never be filed.  Piles of laundry...trails of insignificant little things...and decisions left unmade...Everything.

Now, how can you disengage from your distractions?  Everyone loves tips, so here are some ideas for you.

Try them on for size and run with what works for you.

  • Identify when you operate at your best: morning, mid-day, night?  Plan (yes plan!) your brain work (making decisions) for that time and do it in a way that best suits you.  I create better to piano music without lyrics, my husband likes his Southern Rock.  What works for you is what is best.

  • Schedule time away from computers and devices, this is a great time to have quality time with people that you love - make it for at least one hour.

  • Stay engaged in meetings by taking (or appear to be taking) notes.  It doesn't matter what you are writing, just write something. Researchers say that the very act of putting a pen to paper forces you to be at least somewhat focused.  I have personally been known to count “ums” while appearing to be taking notes.  Not a nice thing to do but at least I am listening.   Make your grocery list, tomorrow's to do list, whatever keeps you focused.

  • When people go on and on about something (and you wish they would just hush already), remind yourself that listening is the best use of your time and if you don't feel that way at least acknowledge it is important to the person speaking.  Challenge yourself to come up with thoughtful questions to stay engaged and mildly entertained.

  • Try polychromic working, which is switching between discrete tasks in sequence but not doing them at the same time.  (Death by multi-tasking!)  Another way to say this is to do a little work during the commercial break then come back to your show.  Keep doing this with your commercials until your task is finished.  If you use your DVR, you are going to have to hit the pause button.  Researchers also say that binge watching shows on Netflix is bad for our health, but that's for another day.
  • Wear headphones.  This eliminates distractions you can hear.

  • Put up a sign that says “Do Not Bother Me!” or “Distraction Free Zone” if that will help.  I have one with a crown and one with a skull and crossbones, my people get my point.

These are some tips to get you started.  If you have some strategies that work for you, or success stories at overcoming distractions, I would love to hear them.  You can post to the Neat as a Pin Organizing Experts Facebook page. Now on to YouTube...

Jennifer Snyder  

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About the Author

Jennifer Snyder

Jennifer Snyder

My name is Jennifer Snyder CPO, Chief Executive Organizer of Neat as a Pin Organizing Experts, a Waco-based company of Professional Organizers that is not only focused on organizing the clutter in your home or office but also clutter of the heart and mind. 

I am happy that you are taking an interest in the benefits of getting your home and life organized.  Living an organized life is for everyone!

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