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.
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.