So far we have considered what constitutes a distraction and have looked at some of the things that cause distractions. We could extend that list but there is little benefit. The important part of this series is to suggest solutions and strategies for handling distractions.
I am going to suggest several possible solutions for you to consider and apply in your own life; there is no ‘one size fits all’ but there are some principles that can be widely applied. You may also like to look at a website I recommend which has a fuller article on this subject, including drawing from various research papers which provide deeper understanding of why we behave how we do and how we can beneficially modify our behaviour.
We live in an age of bombardment, visual and auditory attention seekers attacking us from all directions. The result is that we lose focus.
Focus, like our physical bodies, needs intentional development if it is not to get lazy. To be honest I don’t find huge pleasure in attending a gym but I know that I feel better if I am disciplined and consistent at going through the routine my instructor has given me. That repetitiveness builds up muscle and stamina, and equips me better to meet the demands of everyday life.
Focus is similar; it requires self-discipline. What are some of the keys that can help us focus which, as we use them regularly, become a habit – the equivalent of a muscle made fit through regular usage.
One of my greatest battle-grounds comes at the start of the day when I set aside undisturbed time to read my Bible and to pray. Instantly my mind starts to wander. Then I think of something I should be doing that day and can’t get it off my mind. In order to remain focussed I have to be intentional, keeping a notepad beside me to jot down things that are distracting me so that I can return to them later.
The fact that I use a Bible reading scheme that is on my smart-phone is both helpful and unhelpful. Helpful as my ‘notepad’ is immediately to hand; unhelpful in that I can easily get distracted by other apps etc on my phone while turning to the notepad, which can take my mind in other directions. Once again, self discipline is called for!
2. Turn off the phone
It is important to differentiate between the vehicle and the content of communication. The vehicle, in this case the phone, can become all intrusive. How often have you been in conversation with someone and their mobile phone has rung? Without thinking they pick it up and answer it. If they had been away from their phone that person would surely have left a message or phoned back. Or they hear a text message arrive and reach for the phone? Meanwhile they have been distracted from the conversation they were having with you and typically restart it with ‘Now, where was I?’
Apart from being discourteous this is also inefficient. The train of thought of both of you has been interrupted by the distraction and intrusiveness of technology which seems to demand attention. Turn the phone off or put it on airplane mode! There are few things more irritating than talking with someone while being aware that they are not giving you their full attention. (We may consider listening skills on another occasion.)
Next time we shall continue to look at some other strategies to help you retain focus and handle distractions.