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How To Focus and Think Creatively When Interruptions Are Everywhere

How To Focus and Think Creatively When Interruptions Are Everywhere

Do you ever feel so overwhelmed by a constant barrage of text messages, phone calls, and stressful thoughts that you don’t know what to do first? There’s no denying that it can be hard to concentrate in the information age, where there is an interruption waiting to disrupt your train of thought behind every corner. Boost your focus and think creatively in these four ways.

Act now (not later!).

“One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly, until he knows that every day is Doomsday.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most people are so caught up in stressful future things they can’t control that they don’t appreciate the things they can do right NOW to improve their life. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to complete what sounded like a complicated project in a REALLY short period of time? If so, I bet you were surprised by how much work you can get done quickly when you have no other options. With that in mind, below are some common stressful thoughts that make it difficult to focus on the present moment, and the actionable solutions you should swap in their place.

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“I don’t know how I’ll be ever able to afford (insert bill here).”

“I will save up some extra money by cutting all unnecessary expenses, working an extra shift, selling some clothes I never wear, offering to do yard-work or baby-sitting for my friends, or finding a side-hustle I can pursue on my own time.” 

“I wish I could stop worrying about that hurtful thing my friend or partner said earlier.”

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“I will confront them about this issue as soon as I get home, because I know things only get worse when I put off difficult conversations.”

“I don’t know if the person I like returns the feeling, and I can’t get them off my mind.”

“I will test the waters by inviting them to go play pool, see a movie, have a drink, (insert fun thing here). Even if they don’t like me, it would be better to find out sooner than later, because then I will be able to move on.” 

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Silence your phone.

“Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.” — Susan Sontag

It is amazing that we carry around devices capable of accessing all of the knowledge known to man, yet we use them in the least productive way possible. There is nothing wrong with communicating with your friends via text, but leaving your cell phone’s volume turned up all the time is an open invitation for procrastination to sneak in. If a person really needs something, then they will leave a voice-mail (and as an added bonus, they’ll probably be a lot more concise about it than they would have been in an actual conversation).

Keep a book with you.

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” — Walt Disney Company

Speaking of cell phones, stop pissing away every precious moment of silence you have by playing Angry Birds (or whatever silly game is popular these days). Keep a book in your car or purse to read during any unplanned down-time. You will engage your mind with an active learning experience that introduces you to new ideas, or in the case of fiction, be whisked away to a new world where you’ll be challenged to create a mental picture of characters that are only described in words. Consider keeping pen and paper with you at all times, too, because if you’re ever struck with a brilliant thought that you don’t want to risk forgetting, you’ll be able to write it down as soon as it occurs to you. 

Take a break to meditate.

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
― Zig Ziglar

Your brain can only focus on a task for 45 minutes at a time, so you might want to take a mini-break once per hour to improve your concentration. You could take a quick walk outside, look at the sky, identify cloud shapes, quiet your inner-chatter, and listen to bird songs. If you have a job that won’t allow you to escape your desk, you could simply stand up and stretch out the areas of your body that feel stiff. And before you get back to work, take a moment to meditate (it only takes a minute!).

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How do you think creatively despite the interruptions that surround you? Tell us in the comments, then click the share button to invite your friends to the conversation.

Featured photo credit: Bos Ross/Sip and Splash via sipandsplash.com

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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