"You can always find a distraction if you're looking for one."
- Tom Kite
Isn't that the truth?
But getting distracted is perfectly normal. In fact, most of our minds spend almost half their time thinking about something other than what we should be doing.
And it's easy to see why.
Distractions can come from just about anywhere, whether it's the environment surrounding us or those thoughts that swirl around our heads.
That last-minute meeting, a noisy neighbour or another eye-catching notification; sometimes, there's just no getting away from them.
…what were we talking about again? Oh yeah.
The problem is, we lose around 2.1 hours a day from these types of intrusions. That means the average person can only stay focused on a task for about 11 minutes.
And after that? Well, it can take up to 25 minutes to get back on track.
But whether you're a parent juggling ten things at once or a fast-paced freelancer, sometimes you don't have this time to waste.
The good news? There are lots of tried-and-tested ways to drown out distractions and stay focused.
1. Set The Perfect SceneYou know what they say: "tidy desk, tidy mind".
But this doesn't just apply to your workspace; creating the right environment will help you stay focused - wherever you are, whatever you're doing. Just follow these simple tips to set the perfect scene:
Keep your space welcoming - start by making sure it's as clean, tidy and comfortable as possible. A chair that supports your back or a screen at the right height is a great place to start.
Set boundaries - let others know when you need time to focus. Workspaces like Slack allow you to go into "do not disturb" mode, but you could also time block in your calendar before sharing it with others. That should keep interruptions to a minimum.
Turn off notifications - place your phone into 'do not disturb' to avoid any eye-catching banners and badges from popping into view. You could even go one step further and delete apps that are a bit too easily accessible or put your phone out of reach for a while. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Control the volume - you can't change what's happening outside your workspace, but you can control what you listen to. Try using noise-cancelling headphones to block out any unwelcome distractions. Combine this with your favourite 'focus' music, and you should be good to go. If you need some inspiration, head over to the MindJournal Spotify -
Working at home and finding it difficult to focus? Try a change of scenery.
Over the last couple of years, we've become so comfortable working from home that we don't notice the number of potential distractions interrupting our working day.
Whether it's a cafe, co-working space or somewhere else, it's amazing what a new environment can do for productivity and focus. Just make sure you know exactly what you're aiming for before you go.
2. Define Your Goals And Priorities
We're big fans of goal-setting for productivity. By planning your objectives and setting achievable milestones, you'll make the first step towards achieving your goals.
There are many ways to do this, but with so many opportunities for distraction in your day, why not come offline with the Balance Planner? And with research showing that you're 42% more likely to achieve your aim when it's on paper, what are you waiting for?
3. Focus On The Present“When there are thoughts, it is distraction: when there are no thoughts, it is meditation,” said Ramana Maharshi.
Ok, so you’ve set up your workspace and have a clear idea of your goals for the day. But now you find yourself distracted by persistent thoughts that keep you unfocused and unable to find your flow.
Listening to thoughts and feelings is important, but adding some simple meditation into your day can help. Why not take a mindful run before work, or a 10-minute meditation after lunch, before returning to your workspace? Giving your mind the time it needs may make all the difference.
4. Feed your Mind
You get what you put in, right?
So make sure you’re properly fed and watered before taking on your task. “Smart snacking” fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein-rich foods, e.g. peanut butter or low-fat yoghurt, is a good idea. These types of foods can stabilise the body’s blood glucose, boost your energy levels and keep you focused for longer.
Stay on top of your water intake as well. Amazingly, it only takes 1% dehydration to affect cognitive performance. So go grab yourself a drink and take a break.
5. Work In Shorter Sprints
Taking a break to stop getting distracted might sound counterintuitive. But trust us, it works.
Instead of skipping your coffee break or working through lunch, try the Pomodoro Technique. Start by working in 25-minute intervals with five-minute breaks. After you've completed three or four cycles, take a longer half-hour break. Chris Winfield, an entrepreneur, writer and coach, cited the Pomodoro Technique as the reason he completed 40 hours of work in just 16.7 hours.
But this doesn't just work for entrepreneurs. More than one study found that taking short breaks keeps attention spans on track for longer.
At the end of the day, there's no getting away from distractions - we're only human. So make sure tuning out is one of your to-dos. You've earned it.