Controlling the Sources of Distractions
There are more sources of distractions these days with the availability of the Internet. Decades ago, people were only distracted by the phone, memos, fax machine, solitaire, and co-workers. Now, people have to deal with emails, IM, blogs, online forums, social networks, news sites, mobile devices, Skype, online games, online TV, eBooks, online music, videos, apps, and more.
So, how you can control the flow of these distractions?
For one, you need to be conscious about how much time you spend online. Choose what you want to do carefully and focus on the most important information and communications.
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It also helps to admit to yourself that you can’t consume all the information there is. There’s just too much information, too many people to communicate with, and too many tasks to finish. Once you acknowledge this, you have to choose on what you read and how to communicate and let go of the rest.
You may also want to consider going on an information cleanse by not checking your email, social networks, IMs, and favorite websites, not watching TV, avoiding your phones except to answer important calls, going online only to do the necessary research. Instead, you spend your time reading books and articles that you’ve shelved for a long time or watching thought-provoking movies.
Doing this cleanse will help you clearly see that you can live without being online all the time. So now, you need to choose the most important channels of communication. It could be email, cell phone, or Skype. Find out the most important news sites and blogs to visit for updates. Choose the right music, movies, and TV shows. Eliminate the things that you don’t need one a time per day. This will help reduce your distractions.
Limit the time spent on even the online communications that you consider essential. It could be 30 minutes in your inbox, 30 minutes on your favorite blogs, or one hour of TV. List these priorities down and follow them to the Teach day, until it becomes a habit.
Choose Your Responses
It seems like it has become a habit to always respond to emails, social network messages, blog comments, posts, and forum posts. However, this only makes you prone to distractions.
But why do people feel that urgency to respond to things right away? It’s mainly because of fear that people might think you're slacking on your job, fear that customers might abandon you, fear that people will see you as rude for ignoring their messages.
So how can you get rid of these fears?
• Imagine yourself without those fears. You prioritize who you will respond to and do so not out of fear, but because your reply is important. This will significantly reduce the stress out of the need to send replies to everyone as fast as you can.
• Face those fears. Determine those fears and deal with them by disconnecting for a few hours. Then see what happens, how people reacted, and whether your fears are true or not.
• Wean yourself. Now that you know how your fears and the urgency to respond are ruining your life, free few hours of your day every day by not responding. Gain more control over when to give a response.
Break Free from Keeping Up With Information
As discussed earlier, the need to get the latest information or check the latest messages stems from fear. If you’re scared of looking ignorant, think about how many people will ask you about current events or laugh at you for not being updated. Instead, focus on the important things that really matter to you.
If you don’t want to miss an opportunity, then control your need to stay up to date and spend your time on pursuing real opportunities instead. If you’re worried that you won’t know the bad things that are about to happen if you ignore messages, you will still know anyway. Family and friends will still tell you about an approaching storm, a possible economic collapse, or any significant event that might affect you.
If you are concerned you might experience something bad for not being informed, the opposite might happen. You can spend your free time being creative. If you’re really worried, read the headlines of your favorite news sites, then tune out for two days before checking these sites again. Repeat this until such time when you can spend more days being tuned out and see if something bad happens. You will then break free from the urgency of staying updated and enjoy your life more.
Controlling Your Time with Your Inbox
It’s a common habit to leave your inbox open most of the time, at home or at work. However, doing so will keep you distracted since every time a new email comes, you’ll stop what you are doing to check it and even respond to it.
To avoid spending excessive time in your inbox, follow these tips:
• Make a to-do list out of the inbox. Read your emails and list down all the tasks you find in them. Do it on a notebook, Notepad, or programs such as Taskpaper.
• Open emails only at scheduled times. Find the most convenient time for you to stay available through email. You could check your inbox 5 minutes every hour, or twice a day.
• Work without opening your email. Do this to all the other online communications and distractions too. Don’t even leave your browser open to avoid the temptation to surf online.
• Prioritize your tasks. After disconnecting from your inbox, choose what’s important.
When thinking distractions, you might consider them all negatives. However, distractions are also good because of the following reasons:
• They can give you a break. Distractions can relieve stress from your mind and let you relax.
• They can help you forget certain problems, pushing them in the back of your minds.
• They can inspire you, especially if you are distracted by reading articles and books, possibly giving you new ideas or a source of motivation.
• They can be fun and may even let you find new things to enjoy.
• They can help you refocus.
So how can you let healthy distractions into your life?
• Spare a few hours of your day to focus on important things. Avoid communicating online.
• Follow intervals for work. Spend 40 minutes on work and 20 minutes for healthy distractions.
• Set disconnect time for hours every day. Find more ways to balance your life between focus and healthy distractions. Consider your personality and needs as well.
Why It’s Hard to Avoid Distractions
While you may be set on letting go of all your distractions, it’s not all that easy. The difficulties stem from the following things:
• You are addicted to distractions. You are compelled to know everything and get in touch with everyone. But you can overcome your addiction one trigger at a time, so you can control each one better. Think about how cravings and urges will go away. Endure them, then try to replace them with a good habit.
• Answer your emotional need. Since you can no longer do the distractions that fill your emotional need, such as the need to be entertained by reading blogs or to be satisfied when you see social network messages, likes or retweets, find other ways to fill the void. Instead of recognition from your distractions, seek real recognition. Avoid feeling bored. Pursue a real passion instead of playing online games.
• Address your fears. Be honest what those fears are and confront them. Try to see just how real those fears are by doing a test, by letting go of your distractions for real. You will likely see there’s no ground for your fears.
• Deal with your desires. Find out what those desires are. If you dream of blogging or tweeting while building followers. If you are determined to reach these goals, then devote your time to doing such things online. But if you’re not really aiming for these things, then you better spend your time on more important things. If your desire requires that you deal with the online distractions, just make sure to constantly remind yourself what you need to do and what you have to avoid