In our distraction economy the best kind of currency in finding success is in building a skill in focus. Our self-awareness is tested. Demands from co-workers, family expectations, yes even technology. Many would say technology has made it so we can’t be focused and that is the main cause of our distracted natures. Technology has moved in on our personal lives, kept us connected to the office when we’re away, and directs us from what we really want. But, technology is not the root problem, we are. The technology we love is a symptom, not the cause.
We need to start with understanding better our triggers that get us distracted in the first place. These tiny things are what really puts us in motion or a call to become distracted. There really are two main types to understand: external and internal. Think of external ones as notifications on your phone, the email ping you hear when a new email hits your inbox, or the sound of TV in another room. Think of internal ones as stress, boredom, anxiety, or anything that comes from within. These triggers can either create traction towards our goals or distraction away from our goals.
Distraction is all about moving away from something or escaping something that makes us uncomfortable. Our evolutionary make up unfortunately makes us hardwired for discomfort. Understanding that discomfort a little better or more keeps us in traction or distraction modes. Understanding the tendencies of distraction, even when technology is around, is something we can get better at or learn. We are vulnerable to distraction with our negative feelings. But, the good news is we can harness the feelings to tell a different story.
It starts by us assessing our internal triggers. I’ve mentioned in previous IBtP posts an exercise in which you record your work for a couple of weeks. Every hour spent and what it was spent on. No matter how silly it seems, record it. Once you’ve done this for a while you begin to see where you have used your time effectively. Then you can be empowered to do something different once you’re armed with that awareness.
The same exercise can be applied to your internal triggers. Write down when they happen. What you felt in that moment when the trigger was created. Then what you did with that trigger after it came. You’ll learn to identify your triggers, the kind of action they created in you unconsciously, and how they move you. You can then begin to let go of the bad ones that move you to distraction. You’ll be better informed what triggers cause the movement to distraction and escape your evolutionary make up for flight into the rabbit hole of YouTube.
We will begin to recognize the best parts or times of the day we are less distracted. You need to find a space to spend time with yourself. If you’re not giving yourself time to reflect on your work or life, it’s incredibly hard to tell what distraction is actually preventing you from achieving the best version of yourself. How you choose to use your time ensures how much you will be able to focus. Guarantee success by ensuring you’ve set time aside for yourself, relationships, and work.
The work on external triggers I felt was a little easier. Once I learned to plan time for myself, relationships, and work I was able to see what parts of my day where most important for focus. I have a 5:30AM- 7:00AM timeframe that is super productive because I can typically be uninterrupted by everyone else that is still in bed. I get a lot of personal and professional work done during that time because it’s the lowest in potential external distractions like email, texts, or calls. I save the tasks that need the most focus for that power hour during the weekdays. I have my phone set to stay in “Do Not Disturb” until 7:30AM which helps too.
Our tech is often being held as our main reason for feeling distracted, but it’s really not hijacking our brains and turning us into the walking dead. If we really want to understand and combat distraction we need to understand more the psychology of distraction. Once you can get a working understanding of why it happens, you can start to counteract it.
Hope this week you find yourself a little less distracted. Go deep and understand your triggers more. You can become indistractible! You can find traction on your best goals and focuses.