Managing the Distraction

It is no secret, or shocking revelation when I tell you that distraction is the enemy of our progress.  Robin Sharma, Canadian author of ‘The 5am Club’ writes:

“The addiction to Distraction is the death of creative production”. 

Robin Sharma

I have to laugh a little, as I’m spending a Saturday in Starbucks trying to write a new blog post and chapter in this book and find myself casually perusing Instagram while ironically thinking of analogies and creative ways to help those in business focus and manage the distractions of life while pursuing their goals and visions. 

Slightly hypocritical? 

Just a tad!  

So, what better way to start than to literally practice what I preach at the same time I compose the words to help others!  I’ll put my phone away now and focus!

Recently trying to get words out on paper, I made the mistake of listening to a new band and their new album I heard recommended in a podcast I enjoy biweekly.  Music is a necessity in my world.  It is like water, without it, I will likely have a cerebral meltdown and will resort to signing out loud and in public.  Let’s be honest, I am a drummer for a reason, face for behind a kit and voice farthest away from a mic!  Growing up as a musician with music influencing my very core existence, I have developed this issue where I cannot listen to new music without my mind and my attention being drawn to, and completely engaged in the content of the album.  Front to back and over again, I need to listen to an album to devour all the nuances that make it a creative work of art.  I become immersed in the sonic masterpiece displayed before me.  I have learned that this does not work well when trying to write a book!  You would think that I would have learned my lesson from many sleepless nights as a teenager growing up listening to music to fall asleep.  If it was a record that has previously been unheard by my young, impressionable ears, my mind and subconscious brain had to listen to every part of each song until I could send every song to the deeper regions of my psyche where it was a part of my vast collection of memorized musical content.  I’m beginning to find out that distraction is becoming a much more difficult element of my daily struggles to cope with and work through then I realized. 

In my journal for daily goals and chapter thoughts for this book, this was the section I dreaded writing the most.  This is a tough chapter to write, especially during the season of life I find myself in.  Not difficult content wise, but difficult to live out.  So many thoughts and reasons to be distracted away from completing this book in the desired time frame I set out for myself.  My phone is always on, my computer is dialed in and ripe with content that can turn time into a raging runaway jet.  There is some seriously educational and absolutely hilarious content on the vast world of the internet that can speed time up and question where the last few hours of the day have gone.  You know I’m not lying, we have ALL been there!!  However,  I would rather not be an author of a book that encourages the practice of What is Next, managing life’s distractions with a fresh outlook and focus on achieving your life goals, and also be the guy that would rather sit on the couch crushing a bag of Doritos wasting time binge watching Netflix while scrolling though my Instagram feed, watching hilarious fail videos wondering when my book will write itself!  Small disclaimer, I do believe that there is a time and a place to allow yourself the chance to veg out and recharge.  We need it, and we crave it, and it is okay.  As long as it does not become habitual and take away from the goals and dreams you are pursuing.  In the linear path towards our goals, “Netflix Binge Session” should not be a title of one of the daily steps in our journey.  Balance and an acceptance to realize that we require this down-time is important along the journey.    

This is one reason I do my writing at Starbucks (I say one reason, as I am also completely a slave to the addictive chemicals in a good cup of coffee).  Even though the establishment can be full of people, the incoherent drone of multiple voices blends together to create a blanket noise that actually seems to create an opaque filter that blocks all but my own thoughts.  When I am alone in my apartment, even with music blaring in my ears, the distraction of housework, Netflix, my guitar, are all too overwhelming and little to nothing will actually get done. 

There are a several studies conducted to determine the length of time one can focus their full attention on one particular task.  Times ranges from 30 minutes to 2 hours in length.   There doesn’t seem to be a definite time period that all brains can focus on a particular task.  It is very individual and subjective with multiple variables at play.   Giving full attention and dedication to one task is difficult in nature, especially for the entrepreneurial brain which seems to run a thousand RPM faster than most.  There are many time management solutions available that you can simply google and apply to your focused attention and your “What is Next” approach to fulfilling your goals.  The one I have found that works the best for my mind and time is the Pomodoro Technique.  Created by Francesco Cirillo in 1992, it involves breaking your time for your particular period of focused intent into four 25 minutes blocks with a short 5 – 10minute break in between each and a longer time after the fourth block of 25minutes[1].  In fact, as I write, I currently have my Pomodoro Timer app counting down, ensuring that I spend the next 25 minutes fully dedicated to the task at hand; this chapter.    This is one strategy I have implemented in my journey towards writing this book and focusing on What is Next, to get it done!  It also means that after 100 minutes of focus, I can reward myself with another infusion of caffeinated goodness!

Location, time management and recognized audio stimulation are primary methods for me that help to steer away from distractions.  With these firmly in place, I am able to focus on the What is Next, and begin to carve out chunks of productive creativity, leaving a sense of accomplishment and an increased word count that I can be proud of.   

As I previously suggested, this is very individualistic and subject to your particular habits, your interests and your goals.  Determining the ways which provide the optimal environment for you is essential in the development of your plan to succeed in your journey. 

Distraction is the killer of our goals and can be a beautifully packaged enemy to our productivity.  There will always be distraction if we allow it, when we are able to starve our distraction and feed our focus, we can strive for What is Next and take each step as it comes along the journey with clarity and intention, not allowing the distraction to take away our attention.     

[1] – The Pomodoro Technique

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