How to Tame Your Distractible Mind

How to focus when you're tempted by distraction is as easy as picking up a pencil.

Stever Robbins,
Episode #495

Notice & triage your distraction

The hardest part of dealing with distractions is realizing you’ve just been distracted. There’s no perfect way to do this. I just keep the sheet with my focus area clearly in view, and when I glance at it, it shocks me into realizing whether or not I’m off course. When you realize you’re off course, the distraction list comes into play. When a distraction beckons, triage it. Decide if this is a real distraction that’s worthy of time and attention, or whether it’s a fake distraction that really doesn’t matter right now.

Schedule distraction time blocks in your calendar.

There are many reasons something might not matter. It could be genuinely useless. Europa has no actual need to browse Zooborns at the moment. She was intending that solely as an idle exercise while waiting for her mind-mapping software to download.

Other things might be important. If you have a cybernetic teenager who’s due for his first prom even as his body introduces him to hormones for the first time, you want to make sure his tuxedo is ordered on time.

So jot your distraction down on your Distraction To-Do list, with a star next to the ones that are truly important. “Browse Zooborns.com” (no star). “Order Thomas’s tuxedo” (star). Then take a deep breath, and get back to what you were doing. If you were waiting for something, like a software update to load, now’s a perfect time to close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and do a mindfulness exercise. Just don’t follow the distraction.

Establish a distraction time block

It can help to schedule a distraction time block in your calendar, just as you might do with interruptions. Four 4 p.m. works nicely. Then when four o’clock rolls around, you can pull out your distraction to-do list and review the starred items.

Free from the seductive impulses of the moment, you can consider your distractions dispassionately and take action only on the ones that really are important. 

Europa tried the distraction to-do list with great success. Her focused strategic planning complete, she was all set to call Cambridge Analytica to for some advice on the 2020 elections. And when she combed through her distraction list, she discarded the emails, eliminated the Facebook discussions, postponed Pirates versus Ninjas, and decided that ten minutes on a single Zooborn website was enough to restore her sanity. And of course, being a child of the '80s, she ordered Thomas his junior prom tuxedo in sky blue with pink trim. I suspect she’s going to discover that fashions have changed.

I’m Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. I'm developing accountability groups to help self-employed people finish unfinished initiatives and develop the habits to do the stuff they normally put off. Find me at http://SteverRobbins.com or join my personal mailing list by texting GETITDONE to 33444. You’ll also get a free copy of my secret book chapter on how to build relationships that help you succeed. 

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