Dominating Distractions in Life, Part 1

How can you reclaim your life from daily distractions that prevent you from having a stress-free life?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “distraction” as “a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else”.

A second definition also exists, which is very appropriate for our study of stress and its intricate connections to our daily life: distraction is an extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.

Where do distractions come from?

Distractions are often things in our surroundings that capture our attention frequently, even if they have absolutely no connection to what you’re presently doing.

Sometimes, it’s our own fault that we are distracted. You check your Facebook or Twitter when you get bored while working. You open your email even if you just did a few minutes ago.

Sometimes, the distractions come from other people who are not fully aware of your need to finish your own tasks and obligations.

There will also be situations where other people end up wasting your time in trivial matters, simply because you were available at that time. Interactions can easily turn into full-blown distractions that take you away from your work, leading to delays and toxic levels of stress.

How can you effectively manage electronic distractions like emails, instant messages, etc.?

We are already living (and quite immersed) in the age of electronics. At the present time, people have to contend not only with email, they also have to deal with conventional phone calls, Skype calls, Skype messages, instant messages, text messages, FaceTime messages and calls… The list goes on and on.

A person can be as connected as he wishes to other people, but as an immediate drawback, he would have to tend to all active communication channels. In the beginning, it may seem fun to have so many ways to talk to family, friends and co-workers.

However, the novelty wears off very quickly when you’re in the middle of a tough working day and your smartphone’s notifications are going off every 5-10 minutes. Here are some ways that you can manage this type of distraction:

  1. Check & Answer in Batches – Don’t look at every email and text message as soon as you receive them, especially if you have to finish something urgent.

Acknowledge that you have received them and check them all later. If you check each message individually as they arrive, you’re going to get very distracted and you may lose the vital momentum you may have had.

  1. Turn Off Instant Notifications – Today’s devices are extremely efficient in notifying users when new emails, IMs or text messages are received. However, this efficiency doesn’t really support the type of productivity you need to finish critical and time-sensitive tasks.

Put your phone or computer on “silent mode” and focus on finishing your tasks. Again, you can check all your new messages at a later time, after you’ve made some progress in your work.

  1. Respond with Short Messages – Don’t call someone unless it’s absolutely necessary to do so. Of course, this guideline doesn’t apply to family members. Call your spouse or children the moment something important or urgent comes up.

How can you prevent visitors from distracting you?

There will be times when visitors are just not welcome anymore because of the large number of tasks you have to finish very soon. Visitors are distractions, plain and simple. If you can’t afford to tarry around anymore, you have to manage the amount of time you give other people.

Here are some pro tips to prevent visitors from robbing you of precious working time:

  1. Tell Them – This is the most effective way to persuade a visitor to leave. Simply tell the visitor that you are unavailable because you have to finish something very urgent and important.

Tell the visitor that you will contact him/her at a future time, right after you’re done with what you’re doing. However, I would dissuade you from saying this to everyone who visits as you may end up with a long list of “I’ll get back to you’s” at the end of the day.

  1. Change Your Location – If you’re doing something at home, avoid high traffic areas. I call this “hiding” because you’re removing yourself from people’s line of sight. Out of sight, out of mind! Changing your working spot may give you a temporary reprieve from distractions.
  1. Don’t Be Available – If you allow people to distract you, they will, simply because they can. If you have a chair near your desk, put something on it so people won’t be tempted to sit down for a “quick chat”. Put on some headphones so people won’t be tempted to make small talk.