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Dealing with Daily Distractions

distractionsScript: 5 minutes of your life.

You are sitting at your desk trying to concentrate on your project.

“I really need to get it done by the end of the day… Let’s see… What are the numbers for the last month?… Hold on. Is that a new email? It might be from Terry.”

You open the email box…
“No that’s just spam. Why would I want to buy a Rolex watch?! … Where was I? Numbers for the last month… God, who is writing to me on Facebook? I’ll just say I’m busy… Finally!… Numbers for the last month should be right here… Great!”

Janice from her desk: “Oh my God! Look at that! Hold on! I’ll send it to you!”

You accepting an image file… waiting for it to download… opening it. It is a picture of a KITTEN!

You to Janice, “It’s cute!” while thinking, “Why in the world would she send me a picture of a cat?! I really don’t have time for this! Where was I? Right… Numbers for the past month…”

Distractions can be very annoying, especially when you are trying to get some work done. They are like thousands of midges swarming around you and following you everywhere you go, making it impossible for you to focus on important tasks.

Just by eliminating those daily distractions alone you will instantly improve your focus, double your productivity and avoid unnecessary stress.

Here is how to do it:

1. Block out the noise. Our brain actually starts to deal with distractions the day we are born. A large portion of the incoming information is blocked to prevent us from feeling overwhelmed. The two main senses that we rely on the most are vision and hearing.

The results of much psychological research show us that we mainly get distracted by visual stimuli as well as unwanted acoustic information. The solution to the distraction problem is genial, because it is so simple – get ear plugs or put on a pair of headphones without listening to any music. When you block one of the senses, the other senses become heightened. But it also helps to improve your focus.

2. Avoid visual stimulation. It has been shown that we only block out about 20% of what comes in through our eyes. This is why we need to keep all visual distractions to a minimum. Most of us do not even notice that our eyes are repeatedly turning to email pop-ups, flashing banners, clutter around our desk, tens of icons on our desktop or the person sitting in front of us.

Therefore, turn off your IM, Twitter, Facebook, email notifications. Remove all the clutter from your desk and your desktop. If you work in an open-plan office, find a spot where you will not be directly facing someone. At home just close the door (lock it if you can) and inform your family members that you will be busy working for about an hour.

3. Look busy and be strong. Frequently we feel that it is not polite to ignore another person or ask them not to disturb you. This is counter-productive, because when you try to “be nice” and respond to people, who are disturbing you, your irritation and anxiety will show in your tone of voice and your body language. You actually give people the impression that you do not enjoy talking to them or that they annoy you.

Do not be shy, let people know from the start that you are busy and you need time to concentrate. In general, other people are very respectful of another person’s time and do not want to disturb someone who they know is busy working. Therefore, look busy and ignore all distractions. If your colleague starts to talk to you, pretend you do not hear them and just bob your head in response.

4. Eliminate “snooze” effect. Often when we know that we have a lot to do, we feel tempted to work for hours and ignore the signals that our body sends us, like “I’m hungry”, “I’m tired” or “I need to go to the bathroom”. If you are hungry, your thoughts will continue to come back to the half chicken salad sandwich that has been lying in your fridge since this morning. Trying to suppress our body’s signals or your curiosity is similar to hitting “snooze” on your alarm clock. It will continue to ring again  every few minutes, distracting you over and over again.

If you are hungry, your back hurts, or you are wondering how your spouse’s job interview went – just get up and eat that sandwich, make yourself a cup of coffee, call your spouse and then satisfied get back to your project.

5. Calm your mind. We often blame others for distracting us, but in reality we can be our own biggest distraction. Do you know those tiresome thoughts that buzz in your head when you are trying to concentrate? “I forgot to call my mom”, “I must remember to buy salt, otherwise I won’t be able to make pasta tonight”, “I wonder what John is doing this weekend”. Our mind is like a wild monkey randomly jumping from one thought to another, making it impossible to stay focused on the task at hand.

Meditation is a great way to calm your thoughts and improve your concentration. Whenever you feel overwhelmed close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, relax your body and concentrate for a few minutes on your breathing. Feel the sensation of air enter you nostrils, feel your lungs widen, your diaphragm lowering. Imagine how with every breath you take you breathe in relaxation and breathe out tension and anxiety.

Let your thoughts flow naturally. If you feel that your mind is starting to wander, gently bring your attention back to the breathing pattern. It takes a little practice, but it is a great way to restore your energy, improve concentration and boost your productivity.

34 Comments
  • Craig Mcintosh
    January 22, 2010 at 1:29 am

    How true. How we deal with distractions is a test of our committment to our projects.

  • KRUPA
    January 22, 2010 at 7:15 am

    its very specific.short and sweet

  • Krupa Panchal
    January 22, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    the above person had said and framed very perfectly for this article!i appreciate

  • Ravi Teja
    January 22, 2010 at 9:47 am

    wow! Now that i’ve read this article, you’ve created a great zeal and i fear that i can’t stay calm without reading this article

  • Luyi Armstrong A
    January 22, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Wao! This is highly toughtful and interesting. I love it.

  • Salley Armstrong
    January 22, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    thats perfectly good.

  • John
    January 22, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Good sensible advice in a hectic world!

  • John Issosickofthisshit
    January 23, 2010 at 2:06 am

    I go through this everyday. THANK YOU very much for putting this up I needed it!

  • John Scott
    January 23, 2010 at 8:06 am

    I go through this everyday. THANK YOU very much for putting this up I needed it!

  • John Huynh
    January 23, 2010 at 8:06 am

    I go through this everyday. THANK YOU very much for putting this up I needed it!

  • tom rivera
    January 23, 2010 at 7:23 am

    very good idea.now i have a tool to calm my mind.thank you very much ARINA.

  • biju
    January 25, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    wonderful! ARINA its very intersting to read your message and hope it
    would bring a bench mark in my life

  • Mom T
    January 26, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Wow ,this is just like being disturbed by your small kid,
    and she would realy hate it if you don’t pay attention to
    what she/he said.Just think about it by doing the right thing.

  • Akuma
    January 27, 2010 at 5:01 am

    The article is very good Arina! I really need those tips…;)

  • Ankrapp2077@gmail.com
    March 12, 2010 at 1:32 pm

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  • PrintingGuy
    March 17, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Thank you for that information! I always try to look EXTRA busy so that people don’t ask me any favors or distract me.. and it really works. and hey! the snooze effect is very interesting I’m already applying what I learned.

  • nanangriyanto
    April 10, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Hi, before i found your website, i was founded the secret movie. I like your article, thanks.

  • Street Magic Revealed
    May 22, 2010 at 4:04 am

    Sweet article, I just ran across it on Propeller. You wont’t mind if I add your page link to my web page?

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