Dealing with Distractions
May 25 by Paul Dickinson | Productivity
We each have many distractions that keep us from getting things done. I noticed a few prominent distractions in my life this week (Twitter and Digg are taking over!) and I felt that it was time to address the problem! I know that I am capable of getting things done and achieving things but I’ve noticed that distractions can get the better of me. When I’ve planned to research a topic for a new article, sometimes I “wake up” and realise that I’ve been browsing Digg for the past 30 minutes. Not only does this cut down the time I have in a day, but more than anything it hinders my ability to concentrate on the task.
I see concentration as being split into three different levels.
The first level is acknowledging that I have work to do. I can sit down and make a start, but I’m vulnerable to distractions and they can easily get the better of me. At this stage it sometimes feels like I’m looking for an excuse not to work. My mind can easily wander onto other things, and I often think about what is happening on Twitter, and that 5 minutes checking it won’t hurt!
The second stage delves a little deeper, as I’m starting to understand the task and my mind starts to figure out what is going on. At this point some distractions die down as I start to get more involved with the task at hand, but there are a few that can still break my concentration. If I got a phone call at this point, I would probably find my way onto the Internet after that, and blame the person who called for distracting me!
The final level of concentration is when I’m totally immersed in the work, I’m 100% focused and in the flow. At this point I’ve developed some form of “armor” against distractions and it takes a lot to pull me away from the task. We all produce our best work when we’re concentrating fully on the task, and it is this stage that is the most useful to us is any line of work.
Getting to the final stage of concentration is not always easy, and avoiding the minefield of distractions can be overwhelming at first, but if we sit down and just think about the distractions, it is usually simple enough to remove them. If we’re fully aware of what distracts us, and we consciously remove them, we can then start to concentrate on our work. The important point is to make sure that we get rid of them before we start anything, otherwise we’ll wake up from a daze and realise we’ve been doing something else for some time!
Before I start writing an article, the first thing I do is disconnect from the Internet. The majority of my life seems to revolve around cyberspace and cutting off is the only way I can get anything done. When writing I use a program called PyRoom for Ubuntu (the equivalent of WriteRoom for Mac 0r Dark Room for Windows) which is a full screen text editor. I see nothing but a black screen with green text (like The Matrix) so I don’t get distracted by the formatting options and also the spell checker. When I make a spelling mistake in a word processor, the fact that it is underlined in red makes me want to click it right away and change it, and I lose my train of thought. I type up the draft in PyRoom and then copy and paste it to a word processor so that I can proofread it. I also have been experimenting with setting a specific time that I can browse Digg or check my Twitter updates. When I keep the distractions separated from the work, I don’t find myself thinking about what else I could be doing mid-paragraph.
Taking care of my distractions before I start any work allows me to concentrate on the task at hand as I don’t have any battles with an urge to check any social media updates because I’ve already disconnected myself from cyberspace.
If we deal with distractions from the start, getting the work done becomes so much easier!
Photo courtesy of tomsaint11