When was the last time you were horribly distracted from a task you kept trying to complete? Yesterday, today, or just a few minutes ago?
If you answered yes to all parts of the second question, you’re not alone.
Not everyone can concentrate in the middle of a thunderstorm like the few outliers I’ve come across in life. Even amidst utter chaos, some people are able to focus THAT intensely on what they’re doing.
For people like myself, it’s pretty hard to maintain such Herculean focus long enough before I’m off on another mental tangent. These tangents, though productive in the creative sense, inevitably lead to either inspiration for a work of art or an hour or two of zoning out that you can’t get back.
Even the slightest noise can throw me off balance before I have to refocus my attention – at least until the next distraction comes strolling by.
Stop the distraction before the distraction stops you
But for every problem that lies conveniently on the path to success, there are tried and true techniques that get me through the day with my psyche aligned and intact.
To destroy what’s breaking your concentration, you have to rid it from your corner of reality. This will take some getting used to, especially if unconsciously causing mental unrest has become a routine for you.
But if you’re ready and willing, great! Let’s move on to the practical stuff.
1. Leave the place you feel most comfortable.
Where you are most comfortable usually has tempting items for you to indulge in: some snacks, a pillow, pictures, a bed. For me, it’s my dorm room that generally muddles up my thoughts when I’m trying to concentrate.
Instead, pick a place where the setting is strictly meant for productivity. Places I suggest are libraries and basements.
2. Keep your cell phone on vibrate.
I love technology as much as the next guy, but there are times when being plugged in can get to be a little too much of a hassle. Take the average cell phone, for example. Do you really need to have your phone ringing every few minutes? It only serves to distract you from the work at hand. But if you simply can’t live without your phone, just keep it on vibrate.
3. Become a misanthrope.
Stop letting yourself succumb to one of the worst distractions known to man: people. This is not to say that I don’t like people (because I do), but we are a very distracting species. All kinds of sounds are coming from our bodies: coughs, sniffles, yawns, and even sneezes.
I haven’ t even mentioned how much talking can mess with your unfocused mind.
Do yourself a favor and cease connecting with others when you’re trying to create.
4. For some of you, listen to the “right kind” of music.
Some people focus better when there’s music in the background. There are many studies that prove music helps us concentrate and absorb more information. That being said, don’t just play any kind of music. Turn on the type of jams that sooth the mind and calm the soul, like classical music.
Rock music, and erratic techno beats are out of the question.
5. For the rest of you, scrap the noise.
If your brain gets distracted way too easily, I recommend against listening to any type of music. For me, when I hear music, I just start getting into the groove and single out certain tunes that I mentally repeat back to myself. It can be a real problem when you start focusing on music instead of the task at hand.
Try working in complete silence. It’s peaceful and productive.
6. If you do computer work, block your daily sites.
Your daily sites are like your morning pick-me-ups, and watching them evolve and provide new content overtime can be an enjoyable, albeit addicting, experience. But if you want to get things done, you’ve got to block them. These days, many new browsers come with site blocking add-ons that will easily shave off all the hours you spend refreshing your favorite homepage.
7. Manage your physical distractions.
The tapping, twiddling, pulling, stroking, and itching are things you can do without. I know it feels comfortable and sometimes you just can’t find the right spot to put your hands, but what are you accomplishing? You’re just delaying the work you know you have to do. Try abstaining from any pattern-like motions while concentrating.
8. Manage your emotional distractions.
Events that happened a long time ago, yesterday, or even earlier in the day can disrupt our train of thought. Maybe the old lady on the bus didn’t smile back when you smiled directly at her, or nobody laughed at your joke in front of the water cooler when it was clearly taken from a Seinfeld rerun.
Or maybe a more painful past incident is distracting you from your work…
The idea here is to keep your mind clear of anything irrelevant to the present. You can stand to deal with any emotional baggage after your
agenda is complete.
9. Get to work early in the morning.
The power in waking up early is that you’re probably way too tired to get distracted. The morning is the time of day when your mind is just waking up: your movements and thoughts are much slower. This makes it much easier to focus.
As a precaution, be sure to get an adequate amount of sleep the night before. Too little or too much sleep will only serve to warp your morning concentration.