By Jackie Lapin
Have you ever tried to complete a project, but found yourself drawn into half a dozen other activities along the way? You just get waylaid by LIFE! There is always something else vying for your attention. Now you start another project with good intentions, but it, too, gets put aside for more immediate demands on your time.
OK, so now that immediate thing gets shunted aside by another MORE immediate thing. And before you know it, you have three half-finished projects, a sense of unease or downright failure and a major feeling of powerlessness or overwhelm…
If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. In today’s overstimulated, over-committed world, we often find ourselves drowning in our responsibilities, losing site of our original goals, and just grabbing at the most immediate matter that needs our attention. The results are that we never achieve our intentions, people are frustrated or downright angry with us for “failing them,” and we lose faith in ourselves. Life can’t just be a series of broken promises to ourselves and others.
We can do better.
One of the most invasive contributing factors is our recent addiction to our technology devices. I have seen this change in myself. I used to be able to sit down at the computer and simply write an article like this without any interruption. But today, when the little pop up Outlook messages appear on my lower screen, I have a raging compulsion to check and open the email. I have to fight that urge because I’ve become so addicted to instantly responding— at the risk of not doing so and having my messages pile up. Were I to follow that distraction, who knows how long it would be before getting back to this article? I’m sure there will be four other emails I attend to when I get drawn away. And before you know, an article that previously would take an hour, requires three or four. It’s even now challenging for me to sit through a speaker at a seminar without checking my email and texts on my smartphone. This attention deficit disorder can and must be fought if we are to complete our intended tasks, re-establish our reputations and burnish our own self-esteem.
So here are some suggestions on how to Defeat Distractions—or in the parlance of football “Make It to the End Zone” without getting tackled:
1. Set An Intention
Set your intention to accomplish this. Take a moment to meditate and energetically clear out any roadblocks. Ask the Universe to clear a period of uninterrupted time for you to achieve your goal.
2. Dedicate Your Time
Create dedicated time in your schedule for this task and don’t allow yourself to schedule anything else. Block it on your calendar. Don’t even let social interactions creep into this period.
If this is something that isn’t a one-time thing… that requires regular attention or updating, then create a specific time in the schedule to deal with it (Monday afternoons from 3-5 p.m. for instance,) and then don’t violate that time.
4. Lock Yourself Away
If this is a solitary activity, lock yourself away. Tell all of your regular distractions (spouse, kids, staff –and maybe even clients) that you are offline for a day or so. Ask them NOT to bother you unless it’s an emergency—and make it clear what constitutes and emergency.
5. Assemble the Team
If this is a something that involves others, pre-arrange for their undivided attention for that day or time of the task. Let them know that this is a technology-free period.
6. Turn it Off, Tune it Out
When you initiate your task, turn off your smartphone and any digital alerts. Or commit to ignoring them until a certain time when you will have accomplished your task. Resist the temptation, and retrain yourself not to engage in a Pavlovian response to your devices.
7. When You Hit a Challenge or Creative Block
One of the fastest ways to get off track is to hit a stumbling block or creative block and then SEEK a distraction so that you don’t have to focus. It’s an insidious self-sabotaging technique. Maybe take a walk or meditate to get the problem-solving, creative juices flowing, but stay open and focused and come right back. Don’t go off and to the laundry instead.
8. When the Distractions Come
Take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “Do I really need to do this RIGHT NOW? Or can I take care of it later.” Better yet—“Can I delegate it to someone else?” When people call, instead of getting into their stuff now, ask if you can call them back when you are done with your task. Now breathe some more to let the tension float away and then refocus on your task.
9. Keep a List
Keep a list of all your unfinished tasks and commit to ticking them off one day at a time, or one every week. Until that list is virtually empty and you are as current as you can get.
10. Celebrate Your Completions
When you get a long-standing task off your list, do a little celebration. It doesn’t have to be indulging in a box of chocolate, but it might be a walk on the beach, a mani/pedi, a massage, a dinner with your best friend, read a book you’ve been dying to read. But reward yourself for getting another big one off the list!
11. Learn When to Say No
One way not to get overwhelmed with tasks that you don’t really have the time for is to say “NO” from the get-go. Don’t let people talk you into things that aren’t in your highest good or that you don’t have time for. You can decline gracefully, but hold your ground. It is better to say no from the beginning than say yes and somewhere along the line fail or disappoint others—or more importantly yourself!