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5 Best Ways On How To Avoid Distractions & Be Productive Instead

by | Sep 24, 2020 | Essential Ingredients for Success, Essentialist Approach To Success

We live in a fast-paced world where everything shouts at you, trying to grab your attention by the neck. From marketing messages to social media posts of your friends, almost everything demands your time. But if you want to remain productive, you must focus. This article will go a deep dive on the best ways on how to avoid distractions.

What Are The Causes Of Distraction?

Distractions have become a part of our life. It used to be that when we go to the bathroom, we sit there doing nothing but think. But now, we take our phones with us and scroll through Facebook, Instagram, or other social networking apps. And this happens many times a day, in different ways, shape, or form.

Distraction happens because we avoid an emotion as if it’s an epidemic. And that is the feeling of “boredom.” 

Think about it: you take a look at our phones when stuck in traffic because you don’t want to be bored. When working, you try to multitask because it feels like you can do more on any given time. In social interactions, people pull out their phones and scroll even in the middle of a conversation.

It feels like there’s something better to do other than do nothing. We’re always “on the go” and there’s a constant need to be up-to-date with whatever’s happening.

Now, it’s not your fault for feeling this way. Why? Because your brain is wired to be distracted. The primary goal of your brain is to survive. To do that, it must notice and react to external stimuli around you. When you’re focused on one task and something different happens around you, your brain automatically shifts attention.

But as you and I both know, what makes us survive rarely helps us thrive. That’s why you must make a conscious decision to focus on the present. To always choose to focus on the essential few, instead of the many distractions.

The #1 Secret To Avoid Distractions

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.” – Paulo Coelho, Author of The Alchemist

The best way to avoid distractions is by keeping your eye on the ball. This might be a simplistic solution to a complicated problem. However, it isn’t easy to do. One of the main reasons why is because our lives tend to move from clarity to obscurity. And it takes conscious effort to stay clear on what we want to accomplish.

Practically speaking, the experience goes something like this:

  • You identify what you want to do and you go do it;
  • Then you experience some sort of progress and success;
  • Because of this progress, you get exposed to a lot of other options;
  • These options flood you and turns into mental clutter faster than you can handle them;
  • You get overwhelmed and distracted.

The real trick is that you must have a system to consistently remind yourself of what you need to do and why. 

How To Stop Getting Distracted By Your Thoughts

In this section, we’ll explore different strategies on how to manage (or even stop) distractions. You may not control what’s around you, but you sure can control what to do about it. Here are some.

Write It Down

When you’re in the middle of an activity and some ideas pop into your head, write it down. Especially if it isn’t connected with what you’re doing currently. These things might be good ideas, but it will distract you from focusing on the task at hand. The best way to deal with that is by putting it out of your head and into something you can return to later.

The brain is a mysterious thing. Often when you’re in the middle of working, great ideas come to mind. And as you already know, the default response is to attend to that idea which leads to distraction.

This happens to me a lot, especially when I’m creating articles for this blog. And I’m the first to admit that I’m not always successful in brushing off “great ideas.” But I’m getting better. And so will you once you decide to practice this.

Also, if you have multiple activities you need to accomplish on any given day, it’s best to jot them down. Then choose what’s your priority. Notice how I said priority, not “priorities”? Because technically speaking, a priority is something that goes above any list; and there can only be one.

Now, you might be thinking, “So, what’s in it for me when I decide to write things down?”

A lot. But for starters, it declutters your mind. Isn’t it true that when you have a lingering distraction at the back of your head, you can’t give your optimal performance to the task at hand? Once you jot things down, you can give your 100% attention to the task at hand.

Stop Feeding Your Worry

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”- Mark Twain

It’s normal for you to worry about things that might happen in the future. But to live there isn’t.

Most of the time, your worries start small. But as you give it time, add a little dose of unhealthy care for it, it grows. Keep on doing that and you’ll soon find yourself paralyzed, unable to move from where you are right now.

This is what I call The Spiral of Doom and it will keep on sucking you down. Unless you stop it.

mental clutter - the spiral of doom

Now, worrying is a mental habit. And like all habits, it can be broken and changed. And the first step is the awareness that you’re getting worried about something. After that, evaluate if you can do something about it or not. This reminds me of the Serenity Prayer that goes something like this:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Fear Setting

Fear takes away our attention and snowballs it into worry. You might be starting to see a pattern in what we’re discussing here. As you may have observed, all distractions start with the mind (or at least how we interpret things that happen around us). Then it compels us to act on these things.

One such thing is fear. When we’re afraid, we find it hard to focus on the matters at hand. Fear is real, and sometimes, when you’re captured by its sharp claws, no amount of relaxation works. Not unless you confront it.

Which brings me to my point: the only way to solve fear-causing distractions is by facing it head on. And the best way to do that is by identifying what you’re afraid of in the first place.

Here’s Tim Ferriss’s TED Talk where discussed the Fear Setting System he created:

You can download the template I created following Tim Ferriss’s Fear Setting by clicking the button below. No registration needed.

Take Mental Breaks

Your brain can only handle so much activity. Too much mental activity can sometimes cause mental fatigue. When the mind is tired and in a state of fatigue, it’ll have a hard time concentrating.

This is why it’s important that you take mental breaks every once in a while. This is especially critical when you’re doing activities that require mental prowess.

Most people who crash and burn after being super productive experience a case of mental fatigue. Soon as projects (or even activities) are done, they are too.

Aside from the fact that taking mental breaks increases your endurance for projects, it does wonders, too! It helps your eyes rest from all the focusing it needs to do, especially when you’re sitting in front of a computer all day.

One strategy that I know works well for a lot of people that practices taking mental breaks is the Pomodoro Technique. It’s about setting a specific number of minutes to work on something. Then after that time passes, you take on a break. Here’s an instructional video on how you can learn to incorporate the Pomodoro in your daily life:

Final Thoughts On How To Avoid Distractions

Distraction is an integral part of our everyday lives. It’s perfectly normal to get distracted, so don’t kick yourself in the butt when you do. However, if you want to be more productive, it’s critical that you learn how to avoid distractions. It’s a skill that can be enhanced as you do it often.

And when you can focus on the little things, it builds your skill to focus on the few things that matter.

To a life of essence,

Jeric Timbang

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