Are you giving your full attention to what you’re doing now? Or maybe you’re running low on your focus? Without the proper concentration every activity gets much longer and much complicated that it actually is. However, it’s not the only reason why lack of concentration is destructive for you. Find out what really happens when you get distracted.
In 2002, it was reported that, on average, we experience an interruption every eight minutes or about seven or eight per hour. In an eight-hour day, that is about 60 interruptions (source: The Guardian). It leads us inevitably to the point where we feel like we’re busy all day, but we did nothing. The result is an increasing level of frustration and dissatisfaction. We enroll to time management courses or trainings believing they will alter that feeling. We’re surprised when it turns out they don’t improve much compared to what we’ve expected. The reality is that they can’t change anything if we allow the distractions take charge of our life.
As most of you already know, the month of January was a crucial challenge for me in terms of writing. I’ve decided to implement a schedule routine when it comes to the regular publication of my posts. You can read about this challenge here. Despite I’ve managed to follow the schedule accordingly to the plan, it was not without a few battles and a few adjustments. That month taught me how significant is the right concentration when trying to persevere in a decision.
Put simply, I was not able to sit and make my job straight away. After a few paragraphs, I’ve been already thinking about what other tasks were waiting for me. I’ve been already looking for something else to do. I’ve been already trying to entertain my mind with pleasant distractions. As usual, the very first step was to check on social media. Then, to check my email. Afterward, to read some articles in search of inspiration. Once back to the blog, I’ve been looking through some settings, customizing the layout, playing with plugins and so on. In other words, I’ve been doing everything to fill out my time, but not necessarily doing what was the most important.
I remember time when I was able to spend long hours on writing or creating other content without a single disturbance. I remember being in a state of flow making me realize that the sunrise was about to come. What was different? My life was not a multitasking undertaking. I was not setting for myself thousands of priorities. I was not trying to please everyone saying yes to all requests. And most importantly, I was not feeling the urge to control what was going on elsewhere.
Today, I ask myself: why can’t I be fully engaged in what I do? Why do I have to constantly jump from one task to another not finishing any of them? Why don’t I feel fulfilled whatever I do? The answer is simple. I’m tired of being everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It seems like there are so many things to think about and so little time to get them well-thought. I look at my to-do list. It discourages me even more. I look at my deadlines. I throw up my hands.
Today, I see the impact of being permanently distracted. I notice a downside of the way I’ve been approaching my most important tasks within last years. That’s why I would like to share with you 5 areas where breaking concentration wreaks the biggest havoc.
1. Mental well-being
It might be that you’re trying to avoid real problems by indulging yourself. It might be that you’re trying to hold back a wave of negative emotions. It might be that you’re trying to feel better for a while, but the problem remains unsolved. When you let your concentration drift away for a long period of time, you get nervous, you get overwhelmed by self-doubt, you get stuck. Lack of concentration is hindering your ability to control not only your reasonable thinking, but also your emotions. At some point, you realize that everything around starts to annoy you. Even though the disruptions pass away, your mental state might be heavily breached.
Solution: Acknowledge what distracts and interrupts you the most and get rid of it. Acknowledge what stops you from doing the right thing and get rid of it. As the saying goes: out of sight, out of mind. Ditch everything which might overwhelm your attention. You know very well what’s your weakest link. If this is something you can’t totally get rid of, then put in a mental parking. Give yourself space to decide what’s genuinely important for you at the moment. Maybe, what you need the most now is to take a rest and recharge your batteries. Don’t neglect the needs of your best tools to perform, which is your brain, your body and your heart. Keep your thoughts and emotions in check. Better concentration makes life easier and healthier. Keep more self-discipline. Practice mindfulness. Pay more attention to what you see or hear. Catch the nuances. Feeling calmer restores focus.
Doing a number of tasks at the same time doesn’t make any of them done well. More importantly, it increases considerably a chance of making mistakes. The result is that in order to fix your mistakes you might need double time than you would spend doing one activity. The calculation is easy. You lose more than you gain. Nobody will congratulate you on doing numerous tasks if they’re not completed properly. Yet, the mistakes you’re the owner of influence not only your final productivity but also the way your work is perceived. It’s hard to name it credible. Having too many irons in the fire might get you severely burned.
Another source of finding your concentration torn up is to spend time on social media or on your phone in parallel to working on an important task. The difference is that it brings even more catastrophic outcomes. While you ought to give your best to a specific project, you disperse all your creative energy to wasteful entertainment. The mistakes are with you shortly.
Solution: Stop spinning too many plates. Accordingly to ScienceMag.org the human brain can handle two complicated tasks at the same time, but if you add a third one, it raises the number of faults you commit. Prioritize as much as possible. You won’t do everything. It’s pointless to even try. Unless you really want to end up broken. Make a list of three most important and urgent things you have to deal with today. I really love the Eisenhower decision matrix. I use it whenever I feel having too many things on my plate.
If you’re somehow addicted to being in touch with people through social media or your phone, set time slots during the day to read messages, answer the emails or call back. Put your phone in the other room, block temporarily access to social channels, switch off your TV, work offline. Put your headphones in if any external noise throws you off balance. Put yourself on do not disturb mode. Close your door if needed. Don’t make yourself available to any trivialities. Remember that not every message or call is important. And still, they successfully divert your concentration from the right path. If something is truly urgent, the person will find a way to get in touch with you. If it’s not urgent, it can wait.
3. Irrelevant decisions
It’s hard to take accurate decisions if your focus took a break. Then, it’s more likely you act more impulsively than rationally. Imagine yourself entering a huge shopping center without a precise shopping list. You’re surrounded by a multitude of colorful lights, flashy offers and spectacular images of celebrities selling must-have products. What’s the chance you come back home with a new item you didn’t really need before? It’s the same with any other kind of distraction you encounter.
Every day you’re in the decision-making process. Without having a strict focus on your objectives or your limits, you may easily get in trouble. Be it buying a new car when you’ve already mortgaged your property, binging series on Netflix when the next day you’re supposed to have a critical exam or starting an affair when getting bored with your current relationship. Allowing your dispersions to play a major role in your life is a solid sign that you’re heading a dead end.
Solution: Keep track of the most influential distractions to better control them. If you don’t monitor what consumes unproductively your focus, then you don’t have the arm to fight with it. Being on the high-alert mode facilitates to react faster whenever a danger comes into the picture. The thief usually enters the house through the backdoor, so make sure you’re properly secured. Find the leak points. Your dispersions steal a huge amount of your energy so have no mercy.
4. Lower productivity
The problem isn’t always about losing concentration as such, but also about what happens once you lose it. It’s about a prolonged break which affects your capability to regain focus. It’s more effortful to restart working on the interrupted activity than to keep the continuous session ended up by measurable results.
Do you know what’s the cost of interrupted work? The main cost is additional time required to reorient back to a left task. It equals a higher workload due to shortened availability, time pressure and upcoming deadline. Another cost is stress triggered by random interruptions which have nothing to do with the current task. It equals in turn a higher level of frustration and lower quality of the work delivered. In general, any interruption changes work patterns and work rhythms. You might work faster in order to compensate the abandoned occupation, but in the final result you produce less.
Solution: Bring back immediately your focus once lost. Create a mantra to regain your vision if you lack it. Clear out your area to ensure conducive conditions to carry out smoothly your assignments. Mitigate the potential disruptions of your attention. If you’re inclined to put off your tasks, get what has to be done now.
Recently, I read a great book Eat That Frog which taught me that the worst and the most difficult matters we’re used to delaying should be solved first. If impossible to do it at once, then it’s useful to break them in chuckles. The more realistic they appear to be, the more unlikely we’ll be tempted to search for distractions. Not mentioning that if you have the worst task behind you, everything else seems achievable. It’ll definitely boost your motivation for the rest of the day.
Much of stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.David Allen
You may be tempted to celebrate the victory when you’re merely 5 meters before the finish line. Yet, this is when many people lose their focus and when the biggest failures happen. Not for nothing, it is said: don’t count your chickens before they hatch. People become overconfident when they get close to the finish line. When it gets almost tangible for them. They forget that everything may happen until the very last second. They may always trip, slip or make a bad move. They may always slow down because of a very small and stupid distraction on the way.
Solution: Michael Phelps, the most successful American swimmer and Olympian, was used to maximize efforts on the last distance in order to explode before the very end. That was one of his master techniques to get a leg up over his rivals. Keep your attentiveness at the highest level until the task is finished. Keep moving. Anticipate what may go wrong and be prepared for that. Don’t let random events derail you. Don’t let negative comments put your efforts in doubt. No excuses.
Thank you for reading this post! If you feel like it may help someone, please share it. I will be very happy to have your feedback and hear from you!
Do you feel like staying in touch? Follow me on social media!
Thank you for being here,