Distractions of All Kinds
It is the Age of Information, but it can be easily called as the Age of Distraction too. Although the human world has always been full of activity and distractions, they have never been as incessant as they are now. Aside from busy phones, people have to contend with email and social media notifications, open browser tabs, and beeping mobile phones. Even if access to information is beneficial, it also means dividing your attention among several things, forcing you to multitask to deal with everything. At work, with all the emails flooding in, requiring immediate response, the desk on the phone ringing nonstop from clients and partners alike, the reading materials from gadgets and paper sources. When you get home, you’ll have to scan through 500 channels on TV, with 500,000 million ads screaming for your attention. The computer is on, where additional work is waiting, social networks are busy with notifications, people are texting or calling, and kids or partners are seeking your attention.
Although it’s a good thing that the Internet is growing and that everyone seems connected, everyone seems to be running out of free time too fast. Engaging in online activities seems to have become addictive because of the instant positive feedback that it brings. It makes you feel good to receive an email, get Facebook likes, or see retweets. But these things only end up eating a lot of your time. Being connected also seems to be naturally growing as a part of a lifestyle. You have to be connected anytime, anywhere, at home, in the car, at work, and on the train. But everyone needs to control this new sense of connection to avoid excessive distractions. And when you do decide to disconnect, the society might not allow it. Yes, some people might applaud you for doing something different, but more people will likely feel indignant or offended, thinking that you’ve become too arrogant or that you don’t like what they’re doing for staying connected. To test your tendency to be distracted, how many times did you stop reading this portion of the book to do other things? to check an email? to give in to a visual or audio distraction? to talk to other people?
In a world free of distractions, you would have answered “zero” to all these questions, but the real world really is full of distractions of all kinds.
Why Seek Focus
If you’re pursuing life as a creative person, such as an artist, designer, writer, musician, photographer, and similar professions, you need the power to focus. Distractions can ruin creativity in a snap. You can’t create anything if you keep replying to emails, posting on Facebook, or reading a blog. And even when you can switch between tasks, will you be able to do something effective? It will surely waste your creative time and attention, hence ruining your creative process. All the time spent on communicating with other people or entertaining other distractions is time spent away from your creative process. Being connected does help in encouraging your creative power, as you learn new ideas from other people and listen to their feedback, but you need to spend time on creating and creating alone. You can do that by making time for each process – for communicating and for creating. When you separate these processes, you can focus each time on a specific process. Your time for creating will be spent actually creating something, making you more productive. Separate your interests and savor the time spent for each one of them. Aside from spending time for your creating process, you also need free time for the sake of your happiness, stress levels, and peace of mind. It’s important that you be completely disconnected and experience real solitude. You can nap, write, run, read, listen, watch, or engage in quiet conversation with loved ones.
Benefits of Disconnection
You can do a lot of things when you’re disconnected. It will allow you to enjoy the following things:
- It will give you the chance to focus on your creating process.
- It will help you regain your focus on work and on other important things in life.
- It will reconnect you with people without any distractions.
- It will help you rest from the distractions of email, Facebook, Twitter, news, blog, IM, and more.
- It will increase your productivity and your sense of satisfaction.
- It will allow you to read books.
- It will help you de-stress.
- It will give you peace of mind.
- It will give you time to reflect on life.
These are only a few of the things that you can achieve when you disconnect. So, how do you do it?
- Unplug everything. Unplug your router, or disable your Internet connection.
- Follow a scheduled disconnection time daily. Set it at a certain time, for one to two hours minimum, and tell people about those times.
- Find a place without an Internet connection. You could go to coffee shops or public libraries without a wireless connection.
- Go outside. Run, jog or walk without a phone and enjoy nature better with your partner, child or friend.
- Shut off mobile devices. Do this when you drive or when you meet with someone to avoid interruptions.
- Activate blocking software. This will help you avoid distractions from the Internet, so you can’t always access Twitter, Facebook, blogs, or other sites.
- Connect and disconnect in intervals. Disconnect for 45 minutes, connect for 15, and such. You can connect to the Internet as a reward for focusing on what you’re doing.
- Don’t bring your work home. Once you have logged out of work, make sure to focus on matters outside of work. Focus on yourself or your family instead.
The unfortunate thing is that staying connected seems to have become an addiction. But you can beat that using these tips:
- Determine your triggers. List these things down.
- Look for positive habits that can replace the old ones that served as triggers. If you quit smoking, you can take up running instead.
- Change the triggers, one at a time. Instead of opening your browser in the morning, you can get to writing right away.
- Find positive feedback for all the good habits you’ve practiced. This should motivate you to pursue more positive changes.
- Find negative feedback for all your negative habits. Tell someone about failing to make the change and get negative feedback to discourage you from doing it again.
- Focus more on the positive feedback to reinforce your good habits.
How to Reinforce Focus
Aside from making a habit out of disconnecting, you need to learn about focus rituals. These refer to a series of actions that you need to do habitually until you feel physically compelled to do them. They become special actions that you need to do.
So when you have to follow a ritual, you can focus better and become more creative. Some of the rituals that you can try include the following:
- Spend your mornings quietly. Wake up before the other household members. Don’t turn on the computer and don’t go online. Enjoy your breakfast and morning newspaper. Run around the block or meditate. Do nothing. Focus.
- Prepare a to-do list. Start with the three biggest tasks of the day, or the one major thing that you want to finish before the day ends. This should you focus on the things that matter.
- Learn to refocus. During the course of the day, you might get distracted. So refocus on the important tasks at hand every two hours or so. Close your browser, go for a walk, and clear your head, then look at your to-do list again.
- Focus, then rest. Do this alternating exercise to make sure that you stay focused. Focus for 10 minutes, rest for 2; focus for another 25, then rest for 5, and so on.
- Focus on two things. You can do this when you have two major tasks at hand, but don’t make the switch rapidly. Focus on the first task for 10 minutes, then the next 10 on the next project, or focus on one until you lose interest in it before switching to the other.
- Connect, then focus. Set a certain time to check your email or go social, then disconnect to focus on your creative projects. Reconnect for another period of time, then focus. Repeat this cycle.
- End your day right. Enjoy your evening by disconnecting.
- Perform weekly focus rituals. Review your week, look at your projects, edit your to-do list, change your focus rituals to include only those that work, and review the rest of your professional and domestic life to see what needs changing.