How to Stay Focused in an Age of Distraction

focusedThe age of distraction is here. It gets bigger and better with each day. There are more games, social media, apps. and so on. The internet is growing by the minute. Staying focused is rare when distraction is a click away.

Why?

A interesting study shows that we can trick ourselves into believing we have accomplished something. John Bargh said that our minds will try and label meaningless distraction as an important task (real tasks we have to do). These distractions involve: checking twitter, watching a video, logging onto facebook or streaming the internet can stimulate the feeling that you have accomplished something. When in reality you have just been distracting yourself.

We are given freedom to access anything at anytime. So why not? Why not check out your e-mail, hop on facebook, watch a new t.v show, or stumble through the internet? Why not if we have all this freedom?

Because we pay with our time. We give up a part of ourselves in exchange for a distraction.

I’ve decided it’s not worth it anymore.

I still fall victim to distraction. It’s everywhere. This makes it hard to not become trapped inside a loop of meaningless distractions.

I’m still experimenting with what works. At first I was able to focus for about 15-20 minutes before my mind would wander into distraction-land. I would visit Facebook, watch some videos and check out some new pictures. My distractions would gain momentum. The next distraction was right there. It would take hours to come back to my first task and re-apply my focus.

I have come to a simple method of staying focused. It’s based on 4 little habits. It’s what works for me when I need to focus on what is important.

Anyone can do it.

4 little habits that will keep you focused.

  1. One. Choose one task to focus on. No more. Just one. The more tasks you have, the less you can focus on. When we choose one, we can apply all of our focus into one task. Multitasking will divide your attention and ability to focus. This will eventually lead to distraction.
  2. Time limit. Once you pick a task to focus on, set a time limit for yourself. By giving yourself a limit, you have to work within that time. This will increase your focus and make you choose what is important.  Set a limit that you can work in. That might be 20 minutes, or 1 hour. I would be given 2 weeks to complete a project that would approximately take 3 days of focus. I would always take the full time given for completion. I would prolong the project until the end date. With a limit set yourself to focus for “X” amount of time. Prolonged periods of focus have been shown to not be as effective as shorter bursts of focus. This means focusing for a shorter time such as: 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 1 hour. However long you can focus for. You are not a machine. Enjoy the process and do it in shorter periods where you can just focus in.
  3. Remove everything. Remove everything that is not related to the task you have chosen. Save what you need, and close the rest. This means removing all possibly distractions which are not necessary for what you are doing. If you are writing, then just write. If you are painting, then just paint. Only have what is mandatory to your current task.
  4. Wait and vocalize. Urges will come. Take a pause before you leave your task. Wait; take a breath and vocalize what you are doing. Urges to check your facebook, go watch a video or stumble through the internet will arise. Wait and take a pause. Take in a deep breath. Vocalize what you are doing so you can become aware of it. “I am now stopping my writing so I can log into facebook and look at random posts.” When I say this out loud to myself it makes me stop and think. I realize that I don’t want to stop my writing and check on facebook

Once the time limit is finished, give yourself a break. Take a mental reset. Step back and see how much you accomplished. Reward yourself for your victory.  Give yourself a few minutes, but no longer. Then come back to what you are doing.

Some little tips to remember.

  • Remove sound. Unwanted noise makes it difficult to focus. If there is too much noise where you are, plug in your headphones. Play some quiet music. I prefer classical music. Not too loud, but loud enough that you can shut out the distractions around you.
  • Practice daily. Keep practicing. No single methodology works for mastering focus and productivity. Add or remove what can help you focus. Go at your own pace and find out what works for you. The more you practice the more focused you will remain.

 

How do you stay focused? What tips have you found to work? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

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