Do you find yourself constantly being distracted and wanting to get things done? Perhaps you start with the best intention in the world to get on with something but before you know it, half the day has gone and you haven’t even started?
Being Distracted By Ourselves
Sometimes we are distracted to protect ourselves, or because we see or hear something that offers more reward than what we had been previously focussing on.
Using distraction to protect yourself is a natural response to fear or something unpleasant. This is often tied up with procrastination. I don’t like cold calling (fear of rejection) or filing (boring and eventually overwhelming). I’ve conquered the latter, but not yet the former.
Being distracted may also be a symptom of lack of focus, brought about through lack of direction. Drifting through life, or being busy with life are classic behaviours that result in years passing and then suddenly waking one day to realise all those things you dreamt of have never happened. Having proper planned goals or projects helps avoid these internal distractions.
You may also find yourself being distracted internally due to incomplete projects or goals. This is known as the Zeigarnik effect, where our minds hang on to tasks that have been interrupted. This technique is used in books and TV to keep the suspense going, creating a cliff hanger that leaves you wanting to know the outcome.
If you have lots of little projects and outstanding tasks stopping you moving on then clear some time in your diary and tackle them. The to do list is a tool that can become a hindrance if it creates a distraction in your mind of a known list of many incomplete tasks. This is another reason to keep your daily to do list to three or four things only.
Sometimes you may find yourself being distracted by external demands – family, work colleagues or friends. If you have a lot of pressure on you (self-imposed or otherwise) and a myriad of things to do it is possible you will find yourself flitting between tasks or feeling plain overwhelmed and doing nothing or something trivial.
Unlike internal distractions that can be mastered, a lot of these external distractions will not go away and are beyond your control. You can manage some aspects though through good time management, communication, delegation and organisation.
Prepare and plan for what you need to do. Consider time, equipment, environment and even your best time of day. Make things easy for yourself, spend a little extra time organising your space and process if it is an activity that needs to be done often.
For me, I conquered the filing issue by regularly tackling a small pile of paperwork, clearing out space in my filing cabinet from time to time and not letting the task become to onerous or tedious. I don’t expect myself to finish it all in one go, so the pressure is off and I don’t feel overwhelmed.
Whatever cause you attribute to being distracted, with a little personal reorganisation and planning you make yourself more productive and get stuff done.