Finding Focus in this Age of Distraction

by Aileen

kaizen butterflyOften times, success appears to be elusive. Sometimes we have it and sometimes we don’t. When we’re hit or miss with our goals, it can wreak havoc on our self-belief and self-confidence.

When it comes to life, I really don’t want to let myself down. I’ve taken a serious look at the past, analyzing the times I’ve succeeded and the times I’ve failed, and one thing is crystal clear… During the times I’ve succeeded I had a laser focus, and the times I’ve failed, I had allowed distractions to interfere.

Distractions can have a positive and negative side. Sometimes distractions are the very thing we need, a little vacation away from our focus that allows us to see clearly and feel rejuvenated. When utilized conscientiously, they can provide a release from stress and offer up a breath of fresh air. If however, we are undisciplined and unconscious, they can be the very things that pull us away from our desired goal or focus.

Shouldn’t we just manage our distractions?

We can’t manage our distractions if we aren’t aware of them. One of the challenges is, really knowing what our distractions are. Maybe we’ve mastered using a timer so we’re not on Facebook all day, and  maybe we have the ringer off the phone while we work, and now we think we’re done – we’ve  mastered our distractions!  But, other things still take us away from completing our goals and ambitions.

Distraction has many faces, some are obvious and others are well disguised.

The Distractions:

1. Interruptions from other people – This might be in the form of phone calls, emails, text messages or quite literally people physically entering your work space, sometimes it’s a family member. Regardless of the form the interruption takes,  they are all interruptions and it’s important to have a way of handling them so they don’t derail you from your priority. If it is a mater of physical interruptions from others, then placing a Do Not Disturb sign on your door or outside of your office cubical may be an option for you. I had a co-worker who placed on sign outside of his cubical that read “Prospecting between 8am and 11am Please Do No Disturb during these hours.” It worked quite well for him.

2. Social networks – It’s great to keep in touch with friends and have conversations, but it can take over the precious time that was allocated for your priorities. It’s best to have a time allotment set in your schedule and then really honor your schedule by sticking to it.  Use a timer for keeping you aware of your planned quitting time.

3. Internet – Most of us know what it’s like to look something up online only to realize several hours have passed by. Yes, there are many worthy things to research and news to keep up with, and many of us have multiple areas of personal interest that we enjoy discovering online. Have this time slot scheduled in and use a timer to keep you on schedule. It may sound simplistic, but if you really want to stop having distractions devour your time, it’s a worthwhile option.

4. Television – Television is often thought of as a way to decompress, relax and unwind.  But, more often than not, they don’t actually help us unwind. The television may numb us a bit allowing a false feeling of decompressing and relaxing but notice how we don’t typically feel refreshed afterwards; it’s more a form of escapism. If there is a particular show you really want to watch then try recording it via DVR or try watching it online on their website when it fits into your schedule.  It takes some personal discipline, but you’ll have your life back. If the goal is to unwind, decompress or relax try taking a walk, playing a sport or meditating.

5. Housework and Errands – Yes it needs to be done, but we can run around picking up, organizing and doing errands all day every day. It may need to be done, but sticking to a schedule and using a timer will help us not use housework as a major distraction that keeps us from our goals.

6. Mind Wandering– Daydreams and mind chatter creep in and take us away from our focus. Often times they can change our moods and bring up a sense of longing, seeing our dreams as far away illusions. This can create sadness and self-doubt.  If we choose empowered daydreams and use them for powerful visualization, they can help our focus, but if we not careful, they can turn into a negative distraction that derails our momentum.

7. Schedule – Some never make a schedule and others make ones that aren’t realistic. We need to be open to tweaking our schedule as many times as needed until we find one that really works for us. Once we do, we must guard it. All too often I’ve changed plans, ignored my schedule,  only to feel awful afterwards about another wasted day,  another goal missed etc… There are so many great tools such as Google Calendar that you can access anywhere, a smart phone with it’s alarm. If you fall off schedule frequently, try some tools to help keep you on target.

8. Burnout and Stress - The funny part of distraction is… if we don’t have a certain amount of diversion we’re likely to feel burned out.  Once we reach this level, it’s easy to feel like we can’t get back up again. We lost the fuel, the momentum and we’re apt to stay in inertia for a while.  The best way to avoid burnout is to take time away and refresh. Have a mindful diversion, a break.

9. False Productivity – Busyness is a tricky distraction because it often looks like we’re being productive and getting things done.  Plenty of research has been done to show us that we have certain periods of time when we’re maximally productive and after that, we slow down considerably.  This is where a priority list helps tremendously. Only target the items on your list for that day or that week. Using lists, schedules, calendars can help you get clear about which tasks, or actions, are essential to reaching your goals. There will always be a million things to do and chip away at, but choose your tasks wisely so they don’t take over your life.

10. Multiple Priorities – I know it can be really challenging to choose one priority at a time when there’s so much you want to do and so many wonderful projects to work on. Often what happens is we make a tiny dent of accomplishments in several priorities and nothing gets completed. Find a way to prioritize one at a time and see it through to the end.

11. Excuses – The excuses we create and use only serve to distract us from what we really want. If it’s something worth achieving and something you really want to accomplish you must commit to shattering excuses before they keep you permanently away from your dreams.

12 Procrastination – Procrastination has many forms just like distraction does and it’s a huge barrier to achieving our dreams. It may take the form of us tackling all the easy items first rather than tackling the ones that will yield the biggest result. The use of a prioritized task list, a schedule or calendar with a set date and time for each task, and a timer, all help you keep your focus and not get distracted by procrastination.

13 The Unexpected - Unexpected things such as car issues and home repairs happen and they can take us of course for a few hours, a day or even longer. They will happen from time to time, but they become a giant detour if we don’t exercise the discipline to bounce back into our schedule as soon as it’s taken care of. Yes, the unexpected happens but if we’re not careful it can be a bigger distraction then it needs to be.

We are all unique individuals with our own set of distractions and tendencies.

If we want to have a laser focus and achieve our goals, we must recognize what distracts us and takes off course. The fastest way to lose momentum is failure to experience success. The more we feel our little success and achieve our mile markers we get stronger, clearer and more motivated. The journey feels easier and our self-belief skyrockets - it’s as though we see the finish line and we know we’re almost there.

Life balance may feel elusive and we may feel that we have to sacrifice everything as we journey towards our goals and dreams. Perhaps you love a couple of your distractions, and you want to indulge a bit. Use your distractions wisely. Choose the ones you enjoy and benefit from and allow them into your schedule.

A well-rounded life provides downtime, allows us to decompress and rejuvenate us. We can enjoy time with friends and family, have adventures and have fun as we pursue our ambitions.

Sometimes distractions are there to pull us away so we can return with a fresh perspective and feel rejuvenated, and other times they are time wasters and energy zappers. Self-awareness will allow you to manage your ambitions, productivity and quality of life.  A life of distraction prevents you from having the laser focus needed to achieve your goals and live a full-bodied life.

 

Wishing you laser focus while you take small continuous steps toward living your vision.

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandra / Always Well Within May 4, 2011

Hi Aileen,

I love your focus on “mindful diversions.” We all need downtime and it truly is most effective to enjoy it consciously. I think it’s also very smart to consider how some diversion are “well disguised.” Thanks for this encyclopedia of diversions to watch out for. I know more than one is a danger in my life. Personally, I find meditation is a great way to help counter mind-wandering.
Sandra / Always Well Within´s last [type] ..“I Will Not Rejoice in the Death of One”

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Aileen May 4, 2011

Hi Sandra. Meditation is a great way to counter mind wandering, I wildly agree! It’s one of those daily practices that give so much greatness – focus, inspiration, intuition, serenity, clarity – ahhhh powerful indeed

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Angela Artemis May 4, 2011

Aileen,
This was excellent! Just what I needed to read as I try to stay focused and edit my book. (You can see just how focused I am not – as I am here!) All your tips were spot on too. I’m getting a bit tired of what I’m doing so I was taking a 5 minute break which became a half hour. Now that I read your post I intend to get back to work! Thank you!
Angela Artemis´s last [type] ..The Tenuous Nature of Self-Love

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Aileen May 4, 2011

Hi Angela, It often amazes me how 5 minutes turns into half hour so easily.
I’m excited that you’re editing your book! Soon it will be ready! That’s a massive accomplishment!

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Joseph Ch'ng May 4, 2011

Aileen,
Thank you for a wonderful sharing.

The worst one for me is multiple priorities. I tend to have a long to-do list. I get pumped up when I create them, but overwhelmed when I want to start doing them, because all seemed equally important and interesting.

And when I am tired or overwhelmed, I could easily be preferring distraction, which breeds into procrastination.

The way I learn to handle my distractions now, is to make myself do 1 small task at a time. Once things get in motion, each small win I make, will breed into a bigger momentum that keeps me moving on and on.

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Aileen May 5, 2011

Great way of handling your distractions! Very kaizen :) “make myself do 1 small task at a time. Once things get in motion, each small win I make, will breed into a big­ger momen­tum that keeps me mov­ing on and on” There is great efficiency and power in taking one small task at a time. I’ve found that I tend not to get stuck that way.

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rob white May 5, 2011

I love your pragmatic wisdom, Aileen. As I like to say, if it ain’t practical, it ain’t spiritual. An evolved spiritual existence requires not only seeing the distractions and busyness of life but being able to find practical ways to rid ourselves of these habits.

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Aileen May 5, 2011

I do like your perspective on practical/spiritual – prac­ti­cal ways to freedom & fulfillment

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Clearly Composed May 5, 2011

Great post that really got me thinking here! As I read the list, I started to ponder the idea of distractions also being a signal that maybe what we should be focusing on isn’t something we really, truly want at all. For example, if I am 100% committed to something it is almost impossible for me to be led astray from it but, when I am wishy washy about something, almost anything can pull my focus from the task or goal. The lesson I will take from this is to be aware of when I am straying from the course when doing any of the above and to see if it connects the the desire level of what I should be focusing on and also to turn inwards and ask myself if I am pursuing something I dearly want or am I just going through the motions. :)
Clearly Composed´s last [type] .. Balanced Beauty- The 5 Minute 5 Product Makeup Session

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Aileen May 5, 2011

Emma, that’s brilliantly insightful! It always fascinates me how our bodies, our behavior, – tell us the truths that our mind (logical thinking) does not.

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Cristina | Positively Beauty May 5, 2011

This couldn’t have been more timely! Since last month I’ve been having trouble keeping focused…and I just realised that I didn’t make a schedule (which I usually do) but just went with whatever was urgent – basically, reacting instead of taking action! Thanks for all these great tips!
Cristina | Positively Beauty´s last [type] ..Healthy dessert is not an oxymoron- Coconut Carob Truffles

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Aileen May 5, 2011

Hi Cristina, I’ve found myself doing that many times. Sometimes life gets hectic and we’re doing our best to while urgent tasks come flying at us – it’s easy to get caught in reaction mode. Sometimes we just need to log-off and be “rebooted” :) I’m glad this post came at the right time!

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David | Listen Feel Breathe May 6, 2011

Hi Aileen,
nice to see our thoughts were in tune this week… being mindful and present in what I am doing is for me the best way to control the impact that distractions have and the time that they consume.
Great list of distractions to ponder about
David | Listen Feel Breathe´s last [type] ..Mindlessness is downright dangerous

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Aileen May 10, 2011

Hi David, mindful & present ahhhh if only I could always be that way :) I agree with you, being mindful and present really help the focus and keep the distractions from taking over. – We are on the same tune this week, Great post you wrote about distraction :)

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Tess The Bold Life May 6, 2011

Hi Aileen,
For me I take calls from my four daughters and know that sometimes I should not. I can’t seem to help myself, I love them so much;)
Tess The Bold Life´s last [type] ..I Feel Beautiful

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Living the Balanced Life May 7, 2011

My oldest daughter can talk to me forever and so I do sometimes have to ignore her call if I am in the middle of something otherwise I may never get back on track, lol! Many times I will just text her a question if I need to know something, or she will do the same!
Bernice
Living the Balanced Life´s last [type] ..What we REALLY want for Mother’s Day!

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Aileen May 10, 2011

Hi Bernice :) I’ve found texting to be a great way to have a short communication while being able to stay on track. I know that may sound cold, but it’s just too easy for me to get lost in a phone conversation and not be aware of how much time went by.

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Aileen May 10, 2011

Ahhh Tess, how beautiful! That type of distraction is love and being there for another person :) such a blessing they have you!

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Joy May 8, 2011

Hi Aileen,
A “full bodied life”..Lovely!!
I completely understand what you are sharing..and also your readers.
I tend to think all of life is a “distraction” then..because I am busy doing one thing, then the sunset happens, so I stop to take it in; or one of my children asks for attention, so I stop to give it to them..or we are on our way to point A, but see point B along the way and stop and enjoy ourselves there. I do have the ability to focus, and my ‘tasks’ are completed, just not always in the timeframe as others around me..
My general energy investment is into/with love, and all else is created from that space..so overall I focus on love and my life unfolds naturally…
Joy´s last [type] ..Celebrating Mother’s Day in a New Way

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Aileen May 10, 2011

“so over­all I focus on love and my life unfolds nat­u­rally.” Joy, you are true Goddess who follows her inner compass. I admire you. :)

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farouk May 10, 2011

that’s a nice read Aileen
i solve this problem by locking myself up as long as a i am working and i only get out of the room when am done :)

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Aileen May 10, 2011

Hi Farouk, thank you for visiting and thank you for your comment. Pretty good choice to lock yourself up in a room and just focus until done. :)

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Louise May 10, 2011

“Laser Focus” – it seems you just about covered everything and I think it is truly amazing how you focus. Finding Focus in this Age of Distraction – I have applied many of the suggestions throughout my life – which I had taken the time to apply more. Keep your articles coming please, they are a beautiful gift for all of us.

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Aileen May 10, 2011

Thank you! :)

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Evelyn Lim May 10, 2011

This is a great article on distractions, Aileen. I like how you’ve laid it out clearly so that we know where the sources of distractions are. I find this a very important topic because we are inundated nowadays with so many things. Keeping focus is not an easy thing. I have shared your post and tweeted as more people needs to be aware on what’s keeping them away from accomplishing their goals.
Evelyn Lim´s last [type] ..Self Love Series- 101 Loving Yourself Quotes

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Aileen May 10, 2011

Hi Evelyn. I’m glad this resonated with you :) It truly is far too easy to get inundated and loose focus – yet it’s the thing we need in order to move ahead in achive our goals and dreams. It’s worth the discipline :) Thank you for sharing this post

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marquita herald May 11, 2011

Well, there aren’t many things I can say this about, but I believe I’ve at least come close to mastering the problem of distractions, at least for me. I’m a writer and I work at home so I can control my environment. As a morning person I’m naturally up and about by 4am at the latest so I work until maybe 2pm and then shut off the job. Most days I don’t even turn on the TV … after work I either read or am out the door to spend time with friends. Works for me :-)
marquita herald´s last [type] ..Master Delegation- Let Go and Trust Other People

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Aileen May 22, 2011

Hi Marquita :) it’s a beautiful thing to be in control of distraction. Someday I may find my way there :)

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Ajen May 12, 2011

Aileen! I am so glad that you have included “the unexpected” in your list. It is amazing how much this can take up loads of time. Over the past years, I have learned that unexpected events are great opportunities to put my laser-beam focus to the test and in circumstances it is a way for me to reevaluate my priorities.
Ajen´s last [type] ..Friends of Benefit

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Aileen May 22, 2011

Hi Ajen, it’s true that the unexpected can be a wild card. I like your thought about how “unexpected events are great oppor­tu­ni­ties to put my laser-beam focus” so true!

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Sean Cox May 12, 2011

I love your article Aileen. Focus is exactly what I’ve been “focusing” on this last week, as I’ve identified it as somewhat of a stuck-point lately. I can get to the point where I have so much going on that I’m all over the map! Ahhh! I really like your observation that the fastest way to lose momentum is failure to experience success. No doubt. That can suck the positive energy right out of us. So I guess if we can muster up enough focus to begin creating some small successes–anything–then we can gain a little momentun, ie, “fuel”, and get moving again!

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Aileen May 22, 2011

Hi Sean, love what you said, ” if we can muster up enough focus to begin cre­at­ing some small successes–anything–then we can gain a lit­tle momen­tun, ie, “fuel”, and get mov­ing again!” Absolutely!!!!

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Beverley May 16, 2011

Thanks for the list of diversions Aileen. Its good to be reminded of them as they can be sneaky little buggers at times. I especially know the false productivity one – looking busy isnt the same as being busy ;-)
Beverley´s last [type] ..Are you utilising this moment

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Aileen May 22, 2011

Busyness is such a challenging thing – we can get addicted to a state of busyness, get lost in habits of busyness and still not be productive, effective or efficient. False productivity used to be a big one for me. I like your words “sneaky lit­tle bug­gers”

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John Sherry May 18, 2011

Interesting Aileen, 13 on the list – unlucky for some! I believe most distractions are the ones where we choose to ‘fit in’ or not be left out of, joining the masses in what they do like social networking, the internet, and TV to mention but a few. What distractions are truly our own?
Then there’s another one to be careful about. Last week I went on holiday and cut back all my activities to fully enjoy the break, re-charge my batteries, and enjoy some down time. Despite announcing it on the blog at the start of the week other bloggers still e-mailed me to ask for information asap and others said they’d not heard from me that week or so. They plain missed or ignored my holiday comments. So your main distraction could be other people who always work to their agenda and needs and rarely your own rest and quality time with those in your life. Beware and be firm but fair.
John Sherry´s last [type] ..You’re Not Meant To Live Life Alone

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Aileen May 22, 2011

Wow John, fascinating – but great point, ” So your main dis­trac­tion could be other peo­ple who always work to their agenda and needs” I hope you fully enjoyed your Holiday!!!

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John Sherry May 27, 2011

Thank you Aileen, my holiday rocked the Casbah!
John Sherry´s last [type] ..Where Are You Gold

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Zengirl @ Heart and Mind May 21, 2011

I go through with so many distractions that you wrote about here, I am surprise that I am able to achieve anything at all. One of the thing I did was to take time off from blogging when things in life got overwhelmed. I am slowly getting back in to it.

Taking time to find focus or refresh is always a good idea, otherwise we would burned out.

Take care

Preeti
Zengirl @ Heart and Mind´s last [type] ..6 Surprising Ways to Boost Your Happiness

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Aileen May 22, 2011

So true Preeti, “Tak­ing time to find focus or refresh is always a good idea, oth­er­wise we would burned out.” Better to prevent burn out than have to recover from it.

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Tia May 28, 2011

Thanks for this, Aileen! I am easily distracted and am the type of person who uses housework as a distraction, too. With a three year old, there is no shortage of it. But I don’t plan it, as you suggested here. Perhaps I ought to start planning different types of housework on different days, so that I know it will always get done and use it less to avoid taking small steps to build my business.

Thanks again! Great meeting you at Blogworld.

Cheers,
Tia
Tia´s last [type] ..A Few Highlights from My Trip to BlogWorld Expo NYC

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Aileen May 31, 2011

Hi Tia, thank you for sharing your comment :)
So happy to have met you at BlogWorld!!

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Pete Michaud May 30, 2011

I love loading myself up with too many things to do. The number one thing that always helps me consistently?

Take things off my list.

It’s tough, but possible 8)
Pete Michaud´s last [type] ..Breakthrough Session June Tour

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Aileen May 31, 2011

Taking things off of the list can be a brilliant choice! Thank you for sharing the tip :)

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Jeffrey Willius July 11, 2011

Aileen — I know I’m commenting on an older post, but this was where I found my first point of connection with you and your great site.
Your ideas are wonderful; I would only add that I find my focus — or more accurately, restore my ability to focus — in Nature. There my senses, my heart, my spirit are opened to all of possibility, and I’m reminded how to center myself in the only space that really ever matters — the present moment.
When you’re fully present, it’s not that distractions don’t pop up; you’re just able to separate yourself from them and move on. Do you know what I mean?

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Aileen July 12, 2011

Hi Jeffrey. Such a wonderful insight you share. I do find nature works “magic” or as you said ” There my senses, my heart, my spirit are opened to all of pos­si­bil­ity, and I’m reminded how to cen­ter myself in the only space that really ever mat­ters — the present moment.” That’s the magic :)

So true, when we are present our distractions don’t appear.

Thank you for your insightful comment :)

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