Inviting distraction

A habit of mine I’ve recently been working to eliminate is inviting distractions into my world. Given a perfectly calm, quiet moment, instead of taking advantage and focusing on the task at hand, I find myself seeking out interruptions. I’ll check my email, play with something on my phone, or get into an unnecessary conversation with someone. My focus shattered, entirely by my own hand. Why?

Asking this question, I started to realize something: a false sense of necessity was powering a lot of my choices. Instead of doing what I wanted or needed to do, I’d waste time upending my day by focusing on urgencies that I mistook as priorities. Someone saying “hey can you help with this” was given my full attention, while the things I really wanted to focus on were put on the back burner.

For the past two weeks or so, I’ve deliberately started to stop myself whenever I felt the urge to jump into some distraction. Instead of checking messages constantly, I’ve started to wait until the end of the day or the next day. Instead of starting my day off by reading email, I’ve disabled email on my phone and wait until I get to my desk next to bother with it. By removing these little “urgency” points from my day, I’m finding it far easier to get work done and stay in a much more positive mood.

When I first started doing this, I felt a bit guilty. Almost as though there was some rule or law that I needed to check these things. But what I realized was that just because I have the option to constantly be available doesn’t mean that I need to be.

By taking control and saying “no,” to these things, I’ve found that I feel far more accomplished at the end of the day. Where I used to work ad nauseam into the evening, now I stop when I’m tired and shift my focus on to more leisurely things. Only when something is truly pressing do I give it my time and attention.

Instead of feeling “busy” all of the time, I feel comfortable completing whatever I complete for the day and then waiting to pick it up again tomorrow. Just by eliminating the noisy points—shutting off email, ignoring Twitter, etc.—I’ve found my time freeing up and my outlook far more positive.

What this reminded me is that a lot of what we’re told is “necessary” in the world is far from it. Most things are designed to interrupt us. To make it harder to think. By removing these things, I’ve found life to be a lot more enjoyable.