When you have a lot of things to do competing for your attention alongside all of the things you want to do, it can be easy to get distracted along the way to finding balance. Unfortunately, getting distracted and letting your focus get taken over by tasks other than the one you’re involved in at the moment actually slows you down.
So, what do you do? Well, you can set timers, you can make to-do lists, and you can even use goal systems to reward yourself for staying on track. But something that will be more useful and less complicated, in the long run, is making a habit of directing your focus intentionally to keep from getting distracted easily when you have something that needs to get done.
Remove Mental Clutter
Mental clutter is anything that keeps your mind going in circles even when you have something in the present taking up your thoughts. These are those extra to-dos swimming around in your brain. Removing this clutter and keeping it from interfering with your productivity can be done by making to-do lists and other journaling-type exercises, clearly separating out the different kinds of things keeping you distracted. Removing mental clutter is a top priority because having a cluttered mind makes you distracted, but it also makes it harder to sleep at night.
Avoid Being Reactive
Let’s say you’re working on a task and then you find out that your favorite artist just released a new album. Or you’re finally cracking down on that to-do list but something happens to change your plans suddenly and, perhaps, even irritatingly. What do you do?
You don’t jump up and spend the next hour listening to that album. You also don’t lose your cool if something dramatic happens. Why? Reactivity (think Stephen Covey’s soda vs. water metaphor), or jumping quickly to a conclusion, a new task, or a sudden emotional response, is one way that we allow ourselves to be distracted. Working to be less-reactive helps us maintain a stronger focus.
Learn from Your Distractions
Distractions aren’t all bad, though! They can actually help you work toward being less distracted. What? That sounds like nonsense, but noticing your distractions lets you learn from them. Keep in mind the things that distract you and learn to put them down and keep them from consuming your focus.
With those things in mind, all that’s left is to intentionally put them into practice. You will become more focused over time (and more productive!). Let the things that hold your attention be the things you love, things you are passionate about, not things you obsess over.