The world is hell-bent on your distraction. Not a moment goes by that you potentially can’t lose focus on your work.
There are the usual focus-killing suspects: your computer, your phone and your co-workers. But there are also a few hidden distractions around you: a cluttered desk, an open office, even the food you ate (or didn’t eat) for breakfast! These things can occupy your mind and keep you from giving 100% of your attention to the task at hand.
What Happens When You’re Distracted
We give in to distractions and interruptions because that’s how our brain works. Part of our survival instinct involves being aware of our surroundings and acting on impulse to protect ourselves. That’s all well and good, but we don’t live in predator-filled jungles anymore. At least, I hope you don’t!
We work in comfortable offices, far from scary disasters and man-eaters. But we still have this reactive instinct, an impulse to keep ourselves safe and content even if it means harming ourselves in the long run.
Being reactive means doing your first impulse when faced with a situation. It’s why you panic when the boss slams a deadline in front of you. It makes you lash out when someone criticizes you. It raises your blood pressure when your internet is running slowly.
As you can see, your first reaction often isn’t very pretty. Sure, you might know how you should act in those situations. But go ahead and ask someone else how you really react to those types of situations. The answer will probably shock you (and will probably provoke another ugly reaction).
What You Need Is Mindfulness
The solution to the age of distraction and reaction is learning how to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means taking control of your actions by being in the moment. Don’t let other things like emotions, situations and other people dictate your actions.
Let me give an example. Remember that scene in a movie when the hero seemingly slows down time and starts talking to themself? He describes what’s happening around him, weighs his options, and chooses the best course of action. Then time speeds up again and the hero executes his plan perfectly. That’s the kind of superpower you get with mindfulness.
How to Practice Mindfulness: Take A Second
Now you might think that being mindful is for monks in the mountains or yoga moms. Well, it is too, but you can also be mindful through this simple exercise:
- Before you react to anything, pause for one second. Then ask yourself: why? Why are you reacting this way? Is this the right reaction given the situation?
And yes, it’s really that simple. But like all exercise, you need to keep practicing to make it part of your life. Try these two steps during your morning routine:
- Take a moment to focus on what you are sensing, thinking and feeling. Act like a data sponge, soaking in all of this information.
- Next, ask yourself “why” questions: why? For example, why do you have this routine? Why does it make you feel a certain way? Why do you do it?
Other Ways To Be More Mindful
Aside from the above, you can also do a few other things to help you be more mindful:
- Remove notifications from your devices. You don’t need something buzzing all day that interrupts your workflow. Just check your alerts during breaks and you’ll be much more focused and productive.
- Monotask. Avoid the urge to do more than one thing at a time. Multitasking prevents you from being mindful because you’re juggling several things at once. When you feel the urge to do something else, gently nudge your thoughts back to the task at hand. Remind yourself again why you want or need to do it.
- Use tools. What you need is a simple activity that will help exercise your focus, such as meditation, prayer, or even journaling. There are also a lot of apps that will help you be more mindful, from meditation exercises to tools that give you focus.
- Be mindful with friends. Habits are best built with friends to encourage and support you. Get a close friend or even your team at work to check each other’s mindfulness journey. Work on issues together and motivate each other to keep practicing daily.
It’s time to take control of your work. Stop reactions and distractions.
Learn how to practice mindfulness: all it takes is a few seconds.
Still having a hard time with distractions? Here are four common distractions at work and how to deal with them.