3 Research-Backed Strategies to Overcome Distractions Now

Guilty, as charged!

I have gone through the steps to narrow down what requires my attention during this season. You know, my one thing that will be my way of “showing up” this year. Then, I devised a plan of action to accomplish my goals.

I started working my plan. Things were progressing…moving ahead and…

BAM!

Distractions hit. Distractions (plural) because one seems to never arrives alone. They’re like an uninvited guest to the party who arrives with their equally unwelcome friends. 😒

I am not referring to daily distractions that have become a way of modern life, like social media, binge-worthy TV, etc. I am talking about the seemingly big, and many times important, items that have the potential to throw me off of my game. They try to take me away from what's most important. This time it was a faulty faucet leaking water, gallons per hour, requiring a plumber; my alarm system gone haywire; and a flat tire on the family car. All in the last twelve hours!

Omne trium perfectum, Latin translated, everything that comes in three is perfect. Well, this week, my distractions came as a trio. Not my idea of perfection!

I am guilty of initially reacting with annoyance, frustration, and weariness. I rehearsed in my mind, “What am I going to do? Oh, no…this is going to cost me extra time and money! I really don't have time for this! Why is this happening?” And so on…

I know you know the drill.

The truth is that it’s just LIFE.

I don’t know how I got this notion that if I plan and work my plan, all will be well, i.e. perfect, without issue, challenge or distraction.

That is simply not reality. And if nothing else, I am all about being authentic and embracing what is real and true. The truth is that all things eventually work together for good but not always as I planned nor as I expected.

So, how do I deal with the distractions in the interim? I really wasn't sure. So, I did what I do…I started sifting through some of my research.

I uncovered three proven strategies for processing and coping with distractions. 

FOCUS

I know. I know. That seems obvious but many do not really understand how to focus and how to strengthen it. Focus is like a muscle. It deepens and strengthens with use. That means I have to stick with one thing. I have to decide that when I will deal with the distraction, and move on with my agenda. I must also eliminate multitasking. It's a myth.

When I try to context switch, my productivity wanes. This is because my brain is still focusing on what I was doing before I decided to move on to doing something else. The key is to lock into one activity for a set timeframe, take a short break and then move into another activity. (Read how in my post on time blocking.) This process requires metacognition (thinking about my thinking) and sensitivity to it. 

RESPOND

When big distractions come up, take a moment to breathe.

And count to ten.

Then begin to strategize as to how to respond.

Write down the next steps.

This brings oxygen to the brain and helps me to think clearer. The act of writing actually frees up my neural circuits to think about other ideas and solutions. Then I can deal with the distractions from the place I choose, not as a reaction.

Try it. It works.

I have found that so many things that were initially large issues became manageable from a place of calm clarity.

SLEEP

Yes…you read that correctly! Sleep.

Rest is a strategy. It is essential to having the capacity to apply the above two tactics.

I used to think that I could burn the candle at both ends.

Well…not really…both ends.

I would just wake up insanely early and still maintain a bedtime after 10:30 at night. That works when you’re in your 20s. :^)

When I’m tired, my mental acuity is off, my mood is uneven, and my attitude is curt. The threshold for “stuff” gets short…and so am I. My husband cues into those moments and often encourages me to take a nap or break. To which, I often respond with an outline of my to-do list. (Sorry, honey.)

But I had to level with myself. If I want to make my mark on 2018, hit my landmark goals, I must take care of me. And that’s not limited to my diet and exercise program. It includes getting rest, and enough of it.

Since I cannot change the rhythm of my home life in the evenings to accommodate the ideal 9 o'clock bedtime, I recently decided to start sleeping in.

I reset my alarm to 5:45 AM. No more 4 AM. 

The point is that there will always be distractions in our lives. Our modern world has been dubbed an era of chronically overworked, inattentive, overbooked and disorganized people, suffering from “culturally generated ADD,” according to Harvard Medical School professor, Ed Hallowell. If we use the strategies of developing focus, responding rather than reacting, and getting enough rest, we can remain above the fray of confusion out there. We will hit the mark! And show up in 2018 like never before!

Who's with me?

Until next time…

XO,

R