I have this terrible ability to be easily distracted by things at almost any moment. I’m not talking about taking a break from work to deal with other things that are more important. For instance, when I have a day where I’m working from home, I don’t always consider it a distraction when one of my kids interrupts or wants to talk or even have me play or read a book. I consider those things opportunities to refocus my energy on something that’s more important than just work. No, what I’m talking about is my keen ability to lose focus.
I’m also a good procrastinator, in fact, I’m probably in the top 10%. But I’m wondering if I procrastinate in part because I get distracted. Let’s just take preparing a message. I start by reading and studying my Bible. No problem there….yet. But then I come across something that maybe I haven’t seen or noticed before and before you know it, I’m learning about things that have nothing in common with the topic or the Scripture passage I’m studying, except for the fact that they’re both in the Bible. Or maybe I am clearing out email messages, but I come across one that is linked to an article on better time management. I read the article, but it has other links, so in order to learn more, I explore other articles and before you know it, I spent 30 minutes on one email message!
It even happens when I’m out with my wife or kids sometimes. I can be in the middle of conversation, I’ll look around, notice the architecture or another couple and totally get distracted. Or, I’ll just be walking through the mall and I’ll notice a guy who looks like THIS, and all of a sudden I forget what I came to the stupid mall for in the first place. The thing that gets me is that I think I’ve got pretty good focus most of the time. I know what needs to get done, and will work hours or weeks to make sure it happens when I know it’s important. So, how do you overcome distractions? What’s the best approach to avoid them? Please feel free to add to my list (since it doesn’t seem to work that well for me)
- STOP multi-tasking. If I so easily move from one incomplete job/topic to another, doing one thing to completion may just solve that problem
- SCHEDULE TIME to be distracted. What I mean by that is it might help to set aside some specific time to chase rabbits and get off course (but stick to the schedule!)
- Keep a LIST. It’s easier to stay on task if you aren’t worried about forgetting some of those random thoughts that pop into your head. Write them down and you can revisit them later at a more appropriate time
- Control your ENVIRONMENT. This might mean changing the way things are set up, changing location, blocking things out (views, sound, etc) or even, if it’s possible, unplugging from the internet and “hiding” where distractions are less likely to find you (me personally, I like the bathroom – hard to get distracted in there)
- Use ALARMS. An odd side benefit of the 60-60 experiment we did at church is that every hour, my watch beeps. It gives me a reminder that I need to be doing the important stuff – not chasing rabbits.
So, I’d love to hear some of your tips to avoid and overcome distractions.