Defeating a Distracted Mind


By Taylor Burton Published on November 15, 2023

Estimated reading time: 6 Minutes

Life is full of distractions. The average human attention span is getting shorter all the time. Imagination, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills are dropping due to the instant access to gratification our phones and tablets provide. After all, why think when you can just consume entertainment directly tailored to you? All around the world, people are losing focus and forgetting how to deal with a single instance of boredom. Some even struggle to sit through movies or commutes to work, hence the number of distracted drivers we continuously encounter.

If you, like many, struggle to overcome distractions and wish to maximize your productivity, this blog is for you. Keep reading to find out what strategies you can employ in order to defeat a distracted mind.

Once you've finished, make sure to register for our upcoming CLE, "Distracted Driving - Professional and Personal Considerations." Distracted driving has been called an epidemic and with good reason--it is common to spot distracted drivers while on the road. Join us on November 20th to learn about the newest and most significant cases involving distracted driving issues.

Distracted-Driving

Identify your distractors. Start off by identifying and eliminating your typical distractions. Do you while away the hours shooting the breeze with your coworkers? Okay, you can't eliminate them, but you can establish boundaries. Don't be afraid to shut the door to your office or simply bypass the conversation by letting them know you have a lot of work to do. This goes for your family as well, if you happen to be working from home.

Is your workspace cluttered? A disorganized desk can equate to a disorganized mind. If you're keen on defeating distractions, it might be time for a bit of spring cleaning.

How about your phone or laptop? The Internet can be the biggest distractor of all, with its endless flow of information and infinite scrolling. It's time to harness your self-control and focus on your work. Speaking of your phone...

Silence notifications. Phones have become our number one distractor since they are typically residing with us. It's too easy to immediately start scrolling when you encounter a lull in your work.

Upon downloading an app, the first thing it is likely to ask you is if you would like to turn on notifications. Our phones are designed to constantly vie for our attention and grant us little hits of dopamine, making them difficult to put down. It's time to put your foot down and only turn on notifications for the important things. Head into your settings and start making adjustments. Turn off notifications for the apps that don't matter, but can be heavy distractors, such as games and social media. Take advantage of "Do Not Disturb" mode and set it so only certain people can reach you during work hours or off hours. You can set emergency contacts to be able to reach you at any time.

If you want to go the extra mile, leave your phone face down, in your desk, or better yet, turn it off completely if you can afford to. Don't let technology control you when you should be the one in control!

Hand holding smartphone with colorful app icons concept

Block off your schedule. You may consider yourself a talented multitasker, but the truth is, our brains are not built to weave between various tasks. It can ruin your concentration. Creating a list of tasks and blocking off time for each one in your schedule can help. Tackle one thing at a time and give it your full attention. This will heighten your productivity while cutting down on your likelihood of mind wandering to other things.

Having a plan can go a long way in defeating distractions!

Try the Pomodoro Technique. Did you know this popular method for productivity is named after tomatoes? The Pomodoro Technique is a great way to improve your focus because it combines timed breaks with to-do lists, which are both beneficial in overcoming distractions.

The technique is simple: Set a timer and work on a particular task for 25 minutes. Once the time is up, take a five-minute break and check off one "pomodoro." Once you've earned four, treat yourself to a revitalizing 30-minute break. Don't try to cheat the system! Only take that break if you earned it, and don't try to sneak any extra work into your break. Easier said than done, but if you master this method, it really can work wonders!

To learn more about the Pomodoro Technique, check out this article from Todoist.

Businessman standing and making his choice between times

Refresh and recharge. It can be tough to tear yourself away from your desk, but sometimes stepping away for a bit might be just what the doctor ordered. Take regular breaks to stretch, go for a walk, and hydrate. Breaks will keep your energy level up, affecting your productivity and the quality of your work for the better. Your body and brain will thank you. By the time you return, you'll hopefully be feeling refreshed and motivated. If none of those options appeal to you, another great option for clearing out unwanted thoughts is...

Meditation. Meditation is the act of clearing your mind and focusing on your breathing. Find a quiet place to sit and close your eyes for five minutes each day. It can take a bit of practice since our busy lives tend to be go, go, go, 24/7. If thoughts try to intrude during this moment of peace, simply acknowledge them and let them go, like dandelion puffs drifting away on the wind...

Breathe in. Meditation is a great way to slow yourself down and clear your mind. Once you've become successful at it, you may find yourself returning to work with a greater focus than before. Breathe out.

Yoga woman meditating and making a zen symbol with her hand

The magic of music. There are certain types of music that can engage your brain and improve focus. Just ask YouTube, with its plentiful playlists of lofi music and coffee shop ambiance meant to assist with studying. Classical music is said to be the most beneficial. Other options include jazz, lofi hip-hop, new age music, or nature ambiance containing soothing rain or birdsong.

Of course, some might find music to be a distraction. It all comes down to personal preference and the type of music--including its genre, tempo, volume, and whether or not it has lyrics. If it's pretty intense and fast-paced, overly catchy, or has lyrics, it's more likely to distract rather than assist.

Get a desk toy. Sometimes, your brain just needs a little something extra to chew on while you're working. Why do you think fidget spinners were such a big hit? Playing with magnets, squeezing a stress ball, or even clicking a pen keeps your brain stimulated and can aid the mind in focusing. Check out these 5 desk toys that can improve your productivity, according to Inc.

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Keep in mind that different focus hacks work for different people. Maybe the Pomodoro Technique doesn't work for you, but it works wonders for your colleague. Or maybe you need absolute silence to get work done, so music is out, but noise-canceling headphones are in. The key is to experiment! Find what method works for you and hone it from there.