Over the past week, I’ve had people say that they struggle to stay focused on various tasks and wondering how they could avoid distractions. I’m sure anyone who’s reading this can relate in some way, no matter what you are getting up to this week. My offering for you today is a simple activity you can do to gently master your distractions and work more productively. All you will need is some paper and something to write with.
This activity is very simple at its core: all you need to do is mark your piece of paper any time you find yourself getting distracted.
That’s it! You can choose whatever symbol you want, but I find a short vertical line like an ‘l’ is enough. You can also space out your markings depending on how often you get distracted. For example, if you are only getting distracted once in a while, you may put:
l l l l
But, if you are getting distracted quite regularly, it may look like:
l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l
There are a few ways this simple practice can be effective that draw on elements of meditation. When you’re meditating, you attempt to be in a state where you are content doing nothing can let go of thoughts, obligations and stresses, focusing instead on yourself and your breathing to anchor yourself.
A good mediation guru will remind you that it’s ok to get distracted and think about other things, and that by gently acknowledging those thoughts, observing them with kind curiosity, you can let them run their course and then naturally return your attention to your breath.
That is what this exercise does. Rather than trying to ignore your distractions, and pretend they don’t exist, by gently acknowledging them, they no longer seem to hold so much power over us. Sometimes just realising you’re getting distracted is enough to rededicate your focus to the task in hand.
Other times, if you find yourself getting distracted more regularly, it could be worth considering taking a break. I try not to work longer than 45 minutes – 1 hour at a time on something. It could also be worth considering what it is you’re getting distracted by. Perhaps, there is something more important that requires your attention, be it another project, or simply prioritizing some self-care. If you’re having trouble choosing what to prioritise, why not check out these previous Takeaway about Dicey Decisions.
That’s all for now! Let me know in the comments if you found this useful and if there are any ideas you have for future Tall Hobbit Takeaways to help you tackle day to day challenges.