Distraction is a lot like water: first refreshing, then exhausting, and, finally fatal. – Unknown
Wikipedia defines Distraction as the divided attention of an individual or a group from the chosen object of attention onto the source of distraction. Distraction is caused by the lack of ability to pay attention, lack of interest in the object of attention; or the great intensity, novelty or attractiveness of something other than the object of attention. Distractions come from both external sources, and internal sources. In simple words we can say that Distractions are things that attract our attention and take our mind away from whatever we are trying to do.
We can divide distraction into two major categories:
External Distraction – The Distractions coming from external sources.
Internal Distraction – The Distractions coming from internal sources.
External distractions are unexpected, unpredictable and fairly out of our control. They arise from our environment in the form of a person or situation demanding our attention. But how we respond to most of these distractions is in our hand. We can manage them in a way that causes least disruption and get more done in less time. In this era when technology is ruling everyone’s mind, distractions coming from external sources play a critical role in killing our productivity. We never realize how it drains out our energy and serve as the greatest barrier between what we are and what we could be.
Friends, advancing technology also equals lesser concentration. Famous Norwegian Historian and Nobel Prize Winner, Christian Lous Lange once said “technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.”
He may have said it in the context of nuclear weapon and world war in the early 20th
century, however it completely holds true even today. For me the most important human resource is ‘TIME
’ and most of us don’t even realize how the inappropriate usage of technology is stealing it away from us. You may read my blog on the importance of time
by clicking here
. Unfortunately in today’s time we have surrendered ourselves to the surplus of technology. I came across this interesting picture portraying our current state regards to technology says it all.
1. Phone Calls, Texts, and Whatsapp:
You will agree that many a times you are doing something important and then your phone rings and your attention is totally taken away. The flow of idea and thoughts get a sudden break which sometime cost us dearly. While writing this blog I was interrupted several times with phone calls, texts and whatsapp messages from people ranging from family members, friends and even sometimes unknown.
In no way I am saying all technology is bad and we should not use it, in fact that is the last thing I would say in the given context. It is good to be in touch with family and friends without whom life has no meaning. I guess what I wish to say is, it should not be an obligation for us to receive every phone call and reply to every text the moment we receive it.
Remedy: The best remedy to deal with this distraction is to either shut down your phone or put it on silent mode and away from you when you are doing something important. You can reply to all the calls and messages in your comfortable time. Your loved ones and close friends would understand it well.
2. Facebook and Twitter:
Believe it or not, social networking sites like facebook and twitter make us highly unproductive. Our insatiable need for likes, follows and alerts keep us hooked to our systems. Facebook and Twitter feed are highly addictive. The short-term satisfaction which the number of likes for our post provide ends when the likes end.
Media Gratification Syndrome:
In today’s time most human beings suffer from a disease called media gratification syndrome. Whenever we receive a phone call, text or facebook notification, we run to see who liked me this time. Not only me, not only you, but every human being has this innate desire to be liked. We often feel good by the number of likes and responses we receive for our posts. We tend to think, it gives us instant mental gratification. However without harping much on the topic, I would say getting addicted to facebook or twitter has a far reaching effect and that in the most negative way. Sometimes it takes away your mental peace, sleep and even HAPPINESS. Would you trade you happiness for any meaningless stuff?
Remedy: Friends, how about checking your Facebook or Twitter feed once or at max twice every week. Why not schedule dedicated half an hour to facebook per week just like we had ‘General Knowledge’ period in our primary school once every week.
Viktor Frankl in his book ‘Man’s search for meaning’ said “when a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning they distract themselves with too much pleasure. We often spend most valuable and productive hours of our day watching mindless, meaningless, and rubbish reality shows, news, movies and serials. I have just one word for such TV shows ‘TRASH’.
We never realize, in the name of entertainment, we are giving away our happiness and peace of mind. It is taking away our most valuable and quality time that we could spend with family which would further breed happiness. TV also influences our world view. Most often the negative news broadcast portrays the darker side of the world when there are so many good things happening. It robs us of our most precious but limited resource ‘time’ and ‘mental energy’. I am not even considering the un-necessary electricity bill the countless hours of Television produces. I can cite 100 more reasons why too much TV is not good for you in any possible way.
Remedy: I am not saying we should not watch TV at all. In fact some programs on TV are really good and useful for our personal, professional and spiritual growth. I myself love watching comedy, informative programs on all round growth and development, and sometime innocent kid’s shows. It makes me feel happy, inspires and rejuvenates me with lots of positive energy, freshness, and feel good factor. Friends how about watching some feel good and inspiring program along with family for no more than 2 hours per week. Please think about it.
4. Email and IMs:
Checking Emails every few minutes and responding to every Instant Message (IM) is one of the many distractions that keep us away from being productive at work. In some cases I have seen people checking email even at home every 5 minutes. My holy Goodness!
These distractions keep us from focusing on the real work at hand and eventually in the long run leads to an unsatisfied professional life. Further, personal email services like Gmail, Yahoo and Rediff also take a lot of our time. Most of the time inbox in our personal emails are filled with relatively least significant stuff which can be checked once in a week with exception when you are really expecting something important.
Remedy: I will tell you what I do to remain productive at work. I go to office with the focused mindset of completing my entire day’s work in the 9-5 schedule. I do not check any email in the first 30 minutes of reaching to office. In this period I settle down and write my top 5 priority goals / action items for the day in my work diary. In most cases I know the things I need to work which may differ in your case. Once I am done with this I check my emails and make a note of any additional priority work which requires my attention. Thereafter I close my outlook for the next 90 minutes and focus solely on my work. I most often complete my entire day’s work in 2-3 hours which others complete in 8 hours or extended period at home. I do my best not to take any office work to home unless it is very important and requires my attention. This works for me, your situation may differ however you can take this idea and apply what works best for you.
5. Newspaper and Magazines:
Turning through the pages of newspaper and magazines takes away our attention. The much hyped and negative news fills our mind with lots of negative assumptions and wrong beliefs about the people and world outside.
Remedy: I would strongly recommend you not to start your day with reading newspaper or magazines. If you are in the habit of reading newspaper or magazines, the best time would be the afternoon period and please try to limit it between 10 to 15 minutes at max. Moreover I would request you to focus only on quality stuffs and avoid any meaningless, mindless junk.
6. Surfing the internet:
Internet is a boon for us and it put the world in front of us. I am so thankful to the inventor of World Wide Web, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee and Google founder Larry Page and Sergey Brin for accessing information had never been so easier. However mindlessly surfing the internet browsing through random websites do no good but takes away our focus from things that are important. For instance as an Indian, I observe my fellow friends browsing the Times of India website very often which I would say is the biggest trash site I have ever come across. What’s the point in knowing which celebrity has an affair with whom and what does Shah Rukh khan eat? Friends remember these so called people whom we call celebrity are just common people who do their job before Camera and are broadcast across the world. They are in no way different from the common crowd. For me Celebrity are people and noble souls like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Ratan Tata, Azim Premji, and the likes.
Remedy: Friends, make a list of the websites that you often visit and are mere time-wasters. Few people suggest blocking these websites. I personally feel that would be a temporary solution. I would rather suggest keeping a track in your notepad whenever you feel the urge to browse through these websites. Slowly and gradually with better awareness you will be able to get rid of this habit.
7. Electronic Gadgets and Video Games:
I have observed many people while talking are in the habit of checking their mobile phones, either looking for messages, whatsapp and other app inputs, facebook feeds, or playing angry bird, candy crush and similar mindless games. Sometimes they spend hours trying to get better scores as if it is the biggest reward of their life.
Remedy: In order to focus and remain present in a given situation, make a list of stuffs that distract you and also write down your strategy to minimize its usage. Playing mindless games serves least good rather focus on doing something that makes the best use of time.
8. Gossips and Rumors:
Friends, in his book ‘The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius’, the Famous Roman Emperor says “How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks but only at what he does himself” Indulging in gossips and rumor is a big time no-no. It serves no good and distracts your from your real job. American Novelist, Anna Godbersen in her book Splendor defines “Gossip as just a tool to distract people who have nothing better to do than feeling jealous with those few of us still remaining with noble hearts.”
Remedy: One of my favorite quotes that comes from eminent American Politician, Eleanor Roosevelt “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Weak minds discuss people. Steve Maraboli, author of Life, the Truth, being free writes “How would your life be different if…You walked away from gossip and verbal defamation? Let today be the day…You speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same.” Friends, if possible stop any gossip or rumor before it starts. We should always engage in meaningful conversations about the people around you.
9. Critics and Criticism:
Friends, one of my favorite Speaker and Mentor, Zig Ziglar once said “Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember the only taste of success some people get is by taking a bite of you.” I had written in my previous blog
, critics are nothing but big time distractions and dwelling on the thought of critics, spending even 5 second of your mental energy is a big no-no. You may read my blog 3 Powerful things
for more in this regard. Just refuse to let the people with small and petty thoughts distract you from your big purpose.
10. Co-worker, Friends, and Family Members:
Sometimes even our co-worker, friends or family member can be distraction at workplace and home when we are doing something important. The best thing we can do is request them to leave you alone for given period so that you can focus and complete your work. In most cases they will understand and help you in your endeavor by giving you your space.
11. Personal Issues:
Sometimes personal issues like disagreement with your Wife, friends or loved ones over certain issue, or worry about housing loan, car loan, property issues can distract you from your focus zone. Friends, I have observed we often worry about things which we don’t have control over in the given period and which has no relation with the current day or work. Please, please stop doing so for it does no good, steals productive hours and even sometimes lead to health issues.
Distractions which are coming from within are called internal distractions i.e. no one but we ourselves are responsible for these kind of distractions. Friends, our outer life is no bigger than our inner life and if our inner life is strong, we can get better of any kind of distraction in this world and take our focus level to world class. So what forms our inner life? Our inner life is a portrait of who we are, what is our true selves? This is a topic of paramount interest and I can write tens of pages on this topic alone, rather I would keep it brief and try to bring forth this topic for your awareness
Ego is the greatest of all human poisons. It is nothing but a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. So ego is just our self-image and not our true self. It is often characterized by labels, masks, images and judgments, as the famous Indian author and Physician Dr. Deepak Chopra say. The overtly feeling of arrogance that I can do it all at any given time takes away your focus on several other un-important tasks.
Eminent behavioral gerontologist, Eleanor Brownn shares “Don’t let worry, doubt and fear distract you from what’s really important in your life.” Friends, Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is wrong and is most likely to cause pain, threat or failure. The fear that if I don’t get the desired outcome in the given time causes you to distract on several other things but the real job itself. The simple and profound solution to fear that I can share is the ACTION part. Just do what you fear about and fear will run away.
Honore de Blazac has said it so well ‘When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubts. Self-doubt is nothing but the lack of confidence in oneself and one’s abilities. The best quote I recall in this regard comes from Henry Ford who said “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you can’t.” Friends here, self-belief is the key. You can drive away your self-doubt with positive affirmations. Statements like “Yes, it is a difficult job but I know I can do it with my super-determined effort” can do the miracle. This technique to become your own enthusiast works wonders and helps a great deal to stay focused.
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. Anxiety causes stress which in turn causes distraction from the real work. Meditation, deep and slow breathing or even soothing and relaxing music can help come out of your anxiety. One of my favorites is the Braveheart theme music available on youtube.
Anger is nothing but a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility. It’s an emotion with a wide range of intensity, from mild irritation to frustration and rage. Friends, although we all experience anger from time to time, if you are experiencing constant anger, you are shortening your attention span into pieces. Friends, if you fall in one such category I would strongly recommend you writing all those things, situations, and people that triggers anger in you? Do some self-talk and ask yourself is it really worth giving away my power to such a small thing. Why did I lose my temper here and how can I get the better of it.
17. Physical Body needs:
Things like feeling hungry, sleepiness, physical discomforts, bathroom breaks etc. can contribute in taking away our focus. The best thing we can do in this regard is we anticipate our physical needs before we start to work on something important.
My Final Words:
One of the best antidote or panacea to all your distractions in life, I can share is please, please, please START MEDITATING today. Meditation has unbelievable power. It helps you stay focused and at complete peace of mind.
So Friends, points to take away from today’s blog 1. Please realize the power of consistency. Small daily acts of improvements can compound to giant results. 2. Find you focus zone, what is it that you really love to do in your life? We have limited physical and mental energy and spending them on a multitude of mindless things will lead to a highly unsatisfactory and unfulfilled life. 3. The things that are easy to do are also the things not easy to do. Please do not ignore or postpone doing easy things. 4. Awareness is the first step to your self-development. Be aware of all your distractions. 5. Work very sincerely on ways to minimize and even root out your distractions.
I did my best to put forth my ideas in the few hours of my writing since yesterday. And I sincerely hope this humble effort of mine was value for your time. Most of all, after publishing this blog, I am feeling much happier and at complete peace of mind. Thank you and all of you take great care of yourselves and yes……Stay Focused!
Stay Great Friends.