A normal morning for me when I’m not on the road: go to the office and dive into the work I love to do – helping leaders locally & around the world impact children for Christ!
But sometimes I get distracted.
Not long ago I was sitting in my office – distracted. I had intended to get some writing done. But I suddenly realized I had just spent almost an hour checking email and social media. 60 minutes I could have gotten something important done, and would never get back.
Do you ever find yourself getting distracted? It might be from important work, or from spending time with your kids, or from the home projects that are important to you (or your spouse!).
Distractions are everywhere – never more so than in the age we live in. Many of us have a device in our pocket that is full of potential distractions. Our phones – or tablet – offer distractions in the form of social media, email, game apps, or any number of other apps and links which can easily gobble up hours upon hours of our week.
Of course, there’s also the TV, computer and things unique to each of us individually that capture our attention when it should be focused on more important things.
The Power of Distraction and Tips for Beating It
Distractions can have great power in our lives.
- Keep us from getting the work done that we need to get done.
- Keep us from doing great work because we end up rushing just to check off our to-do list.
- Keep us from pursuing great ideas or big goals that we always wanted to pursue.
- Keep us from investing the quality & quantity time in relationships that are important to us.
- Keep us from enjoying special moments with those that are important to us.
- Keep us from seeing warning signs of danger in any number of situations.
- Keep us from fully being who we were made to be, and completely doing what we were made to do.
The list could go on, but just those thoughts are depressing enough! Basically, distractions can steal our time, steal our energy, steal our relationships and, eventually, steal all of our dreams! In short, more often than not, distraction keeps us from what is good and important and steer us toward what is neutral and relatively unimportant.
So how do we overcome distraction? Each of us must tackle our own distractions, but here are a few things I think can help anyone:
1. Determine why you allow yourself to be distracted.
Warning: the real reason might be hard to admit.
- Are you distracted at work because you’re bored? Are you uncertain how to do what you’re supposed to do? Or are you afraid to move forward because you might fail . . . or succeed?
- Do you not want to address the problems with your spouse at home?
- Are you just being lazy?
- Do you not know how to parent your kids or really interact with them well?
- Are you socially starved? Or might it just feel safer to interact online than in person?
2. Identify those things that you commonly allow yourself to be distracted by – your weak spots.
- Social media
- “Social” interactions such as texting, talking on the phone, etc.
- Video games or game apps on your phone
- Day dreaming
- Any number of other distractions can be listed.
3. Count the cost.
What are your distractions really costing you?
- Never to be replaced time with your kids?
- A deeper relationship with your spouse?
- Advancement in your career or building your business?
- Writing that book or completing that big project?
- Getting healthy?
- _______________________________ (fill in the blank for what it’s costing YOU)
4. Make a plan.
Intentions or goals without a plan are simply wishes. (Click here for a post about this.)
- “I will spend X amount of time with my spouse and/or kids before I do any of the things I’ve identified as ‘distractions'”.
- “I will create and adhere to a daily to-do system in order to keep focused on my work.” (the Pomodoro Technique works fantastic, and you can get a great app for it by clicking here.)
- “I will write 2000 words per day before I do anything else in order to complete the manuscript I’ve been dreaming about writing for the last 10 years.”
- “I will only watch 1 sporting event per week in order to invest my time in more important areas.”
- “I will exercise 30 minutes per day.”
- “I will turn off all social media notifications.”
- “I will manage email intentionally, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily. I will have it closed at all other times.”
5. Create accountability.
- Let your boss know what you intend to get done today.
- Make a reservation for dinner with your spouse.
- Agree with your family (spouse and/or older kids) that you’ll all turn off all electronics from 6 to 9 p.m. daily, or on Sundays, or whatever arrangement works for your family.
- Use that calendar on your phone wisely and intentionally to remind you what’s important.
- Set up a weekly coffee conversation with a good friend for the purpose of reviewing your goals.
- Tell your kids you’re going to take them for a bike ride after work today.
- Find one of the online social media managers or apps that tell you how much time your spending, and even shut you out of certain sites when you’ve been on for too long (like Rescue Time, or Minutes Please, or Facebook Limiter. Do a Google search for more options.)
- You get the idea…be creative to help yourself follow through.
6. Reward yourself for following through.
Earlier I said that most distractions “steer us toward what is neutral and relatively unimportant.” Notice I didn’t say the distractions themselves were necessarily “bad”. Social media can be great – when managed appropriately. Games can be fun – when done at the right time. Watching a ballgame can be very relaxing – as long as you’re not watching game after game after game. So:
- Allow yourself a little “distraction time” each day.
- Give yourself permission to do something you enjoy once a week (that ballgame you’d like to watch?).
- When you complete a major accomplishment (like that manuscript) indulge yourself with something that’s really special to you.
More than anything, the reward for controlling our distractions will be a higher sense of purpose, greater productivity, and better relationships. Don’t believe me? Give it a try and see for yourself!