Dealing with distractions

With so many things pulling your time and attention in different directions, it is easy to feel like a stretched-out piece of taffy. The key to keeping it together is certainly prioritizing and scheduling (see previous post on scheduling here). But what happens when your best-laid plans go awry because that taffy-like sensation reappears in the form of a distraction?

 

We have some tips below on dealing with the times you’re mid-sentence, then suddenly turn and shout “squirrel!”  

squirrel

People

Coworkers can be distracting, when they ask if you ‘have a second’ that turns into 25 minutes, or by having conversations in the space where you’re working. Family can demand attention, in person or via texts or phone calls. Dating requires keeping up on relationships that can prove distracting especially when they’re good. The best thing to do with the people who are distracting you is be up front with them and tell them you need some time to concentrate.

 

Life things aka “adulting”

Self care is a big term these days, and usually means buying a bath bomb or face mask. Actually, taking care of yourself is just ensuring you have food to eat, clothes to wear, money to pay your bills - the stuff that can be stressful if you’re not on top of it. When these distractions creep in, try to remember they’re important but not altogether too time consuming. Do some tidying each night before bed so you start your day clean. Meal prep. Don’t let being alive become a distraction.

 

Consuming culture

Especially as an artist, it is so important to be constantly consuming art and culture. But if you’re not doing it mindfully, all of a sudden your 16 hours into Black Mirror and you don’t know what day it is. Make sure you’re being honest with your intentions when you start a TV show or start scrolling through an artist’s Instagram. Are you here to learn or just to tune out? Don’t get distracted.

 

Your phone

Yeah yeah, we’ve all heard it - phones are the devil incarnate. Well they’re not, actually, and can be hugely important tools and resources in our modern age. But the distraction comes when you become a slave to it. We recommend turning off notifications, so you’re not jumping to attention every time you hear it ding. It’ll take some getting used to, but checking when you want eliminates the Pavlov effect. Another tip? When you’re done with something, disconnect. After you’ve checked email, don’t do it again for a few hours. It can wait.

 

Your environment

Do you have a massive pile of things that need to be done, sitting right in your eye line, torturing you? Maybe your music isn’t conducive to concentration? You’re hot? Cold? Uncomfortable? Take five minutes to clear your space and settle in for a long haul of focused work.

 

Other work/projects/classes

You simply cannot multitask. Those are the rules. So decide what comes first, and do that until it is finished or you reach a logical stopping point. Then move on to the next thing. If you do want to switch back and forth, experts recommend 90-minute chunks of dedicated work time, with 15-minute breaks in between.

 

And finally, a catch-all trick: If you find mind drifting to something else that needs to be done, stick it on a to-do list. When you’ve finished your top priority task, you can then consult that list and start from the beginning by prioritizing the next most important thing.

 

Let’s get into that flow!