The Power of Focus: Keeping distraction at bay

With so much ‘stuff’ happening around us, distraction is the biggest obstacle towards getting things done. Too often we allow ourselves to be at the mercy of our phones, and those around us.

I’m currently sitting in the living room of my parent’s home with my niece (5) on her iPad, and my nephew (6) on his iPhone. Both have their volumes up so among the screeching of tyres fused with pinball-like sounds, I can hear the Frozen theme tune and just for added measure, Children’s TV is on in the background.

This is just in the living room. What happens out there in the ‘real world’ is even worse. We have people asking us for requests, emails going off, phones ringing – sometimes multiple phones, and then copious amounts of ads being fired towards us.

Is it then surprising that a lot of us are at the place of overwhelmed and cannot even think of tomorrow as so much of today tires us out?

However, it doesn’t have to be this way if we just take control. I’m no Luddite who thinks we should limit what technology does as I think it can only be a force for good and it can ease our daily burdens. But to be able to make use of it in this way requires discipline. Only you can take control of your life and this includes what you surround yourself with and most importantly, the things you think about.

More and more of us have relinquished our power to think. For starters, we don’t allow ourselves the time anymore to do this. We have plenty of downtime to think if we want, but we often fill it with other things like surfing the net on our phones. Here are 5 quick tips for keeping focused and keeping distractions at bay.

  1. Allow yourself some thinking time – If you aren’t that ‘lucky’ to have a bit of the day to yourself, how about making use of the time when you are on the train/bus home? Or sitting at the hairdresser?
  2. Find your quiet place – You don’t have to go far, maybe it could be your home. For too many of us noise has to be there. If it isn’t the TV in the background (even when there isn’t anything on), it is the radio that we use for the company. How about enjoying the silence and not feeling the need for things to be happening around us?
  3. Switch off your phone – I don’t have a watch as I refer to my phone so often and I suspect many of us are also constantly referencing our phones regularly. But does your phone really have to be on all the time? Can you not put it on silent for certain times of the day or just switch it off after 9pm?
  4. Plan ahead – There is a saying that if you don’t have your own agenda, then you are going to be working on somebody else’s. Planning allows us to fit in what we want in our time.
  5. Prioritise your time and activities – Does everything have to be done right now? Stephen Covey’s time management matrix is an age-old tool that has helped with this.

Keeping your focus on doing the things you want to do is much easier when you can stay focused on keeping the distractions out.