Finding Focus in a Loud, Loud World

I have trouble focusing. I can get easily distracted when I’m supposed to be working. Sometimes, somebody can be talking to me and I can have a hard time paying attention to them, or I can be reading and I have to reread a page because I wasn’t paying attention, or I can even be watching a movie and have to rewind it a few minutes because I was thinking about something else.

Cursed Superpowers

It can be a bit confusing because a lot of the time I am really good at focusing! It is almost like a superpower how I can concentrate on something for a very long time – because other people lose interest more easily. I love focusing on things and thinking about them as long as I want to.

Being good at focusing is not always a good thing for me, though. I can focus so much on one project that I have a hard time working on any other projects. I can even get so focused on a project or idea that I forget to eat or even go to bed.

It can be really difficult to find a balance between focusing too little and focusing too much.

There are so many things that can distract me. There are so many pretty flowers and so many colors to look at and there will never be enough time to look at them all as long as I want to.

Yancey Portrait

And every day that goes by brings more interesting things to see and think about. The world gets louder and louder. If I try to think about everything I want to think about, my brain gets louder and louder!

So how do I quiet down distractions without turning my brain off completely?

Compartmentalize “Distractions”

There are distractions from the outside, and distractions from within. Distractions from outside can be television, the internet, or even other people talking.The distractions from within like day dreams or worry, can be particularly difficult to deal with.

It is important to remember that distractions from either inside or outside can be good distractions or bad distractions. It is good to acknowledge all kinds of distractions so you know how to act when they come up.

The Good Distractions

Distractions are not always bad things – there are times when I thought something was a distraction, but it actually led me to a breakthrough on one of my projects.

The other day, I was working on a collage of lepidoptera, and it led me to wondering the difference between a moth and a butterfly. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So I stopped what I was doing and looked it up. This did 3 things for me.

  1. It answered my questions and got me to stop thinking about the question.
  2. It made me happy.
  3. It helped me work on the rest of my project.

The Bad Distractions

Distractions have a bad rap for a good reason! They have the potential to derail my thought process and flow tremendously. The inertia of focus is a strong one – this means it is relatively easy to stay on track, but there is friction when you try to get back on track.

Most distractions get a boost in some way if they keep my attention for as long as possible. So most distractions are tailored made to be just a little bit addictive. Even when other people are distracting you, they might feel the need to keep your attention for more time.

And To Make It Even More Confusing

Distractions are not inherently good or bad – one day a certain distraction can be horrible for your work, and the next day it might be just what you need.

Steer clear of making hard and fast rules about any type of distractions. Evaluate them on a case by case basis, and factor in your mood.

When I looked up moths vs. butterflies, I was able to get right back to work after I read that. That is ideal. But it is very easy to look that up and then need to look up hares vs. rabbits vs. bunnies if Bugs Bunny is actually a hare why Bugs Bunny says “What’s up, Doc?” What are all the names of the 7 dwarfs if the 7 dwarfs each have an emoji that lines up with their personality. Phew. You get the idea.

🤧😴 😠 🤭😀😲👨‍⚕️

Get it? rabbit hole?

Prioritize

Remember why you want certain things. Make sure you are doing things for the right reasons. Visualize what you want your life to look like. Make sure you are getting that from what you are prioritizing.

This is way easier said than done, of course. The main takeaway from this point is

You might have a hard time focusing because the thing you are working on does not line up with what you want, need, value, or feel like, which are all important.

You may be “distracted” by something that actually does line up with the life you want. So honor your priorities thoughtfully.

Take Breaks

Don’t forget about the importance of breaks. When you are prioritizing things, put equal importance on fun and relaxation and make sure you spend time on that. You know you focus better when you are not burnt out, so don’t let yourself get burnt out.

Set a Schedule or a Timer

If there is something to be done that you are having a hard time focusing on, set a timer for 10-15 minutes and just do it that long.

If you feel like you are focusing too much on something, it is good to have a schedule – like calling someone every day at a set time, or even just a bedtime that you stick to. That way even if you do get stuck on working on something, you know you won’t go past a certain time. It’s not foolproof, but it works most days.

Forget multitasking – embrace serial tasking

It is really easy to get distracted if you are trying to do too much at once. You might be tempted to watch a YouTube video, write an e-mail, plan out your weekend, and eat your lunch all at the same time. If you completely devote your attention to each task, one at a time, you might actually end up spending less time altogether. Additionally, you will likely do each task better, you will enjoy each one more, and you definitely will be more at peace.

Be Mindful of the Present Moment

Being mindful is a secret weapon. I know I am prone to thinking and rethinking about the events of the past week, or even events of the more distant past. I also can easily get caught in what is to come – what I want to happen, what might happen, and what other people have planned.

The craziest thing I find myself thinking about are things that never happened, or won’t be happening any time soon.

  • I wish I had said this instead!
  • What if they reacted in a different way?
  • If I had more money, I would buy this car.
  • What would my family do if I moved to another country?

If I’m giving thought to all of these extra things, then it’s no wonder I have a hard time focusing on what I’m doing right now. I don’t have a bottomless supply of attention, so I should be prudent with it.

Practice and Adjust

Practice, Practice, Practice! Like many things, navigating your focus and attention abilities is something I always have to keep working on. That is good because my specific needs can change over time, so I have to adjust. Even if I have to change my tactics sometimes, I still get better and better and better the more I practice.

Believe in Yourself!

If you are someone who has a particularly difficult time focusing, you might have low self-esteem. I know when I feel like I don’t believe in myself, I feel especially prone to distracting thoughts. I can also find myself feeling the need to do more or change what I’m doing, because I’m less confident in my choices.

When I am practicing all of the other steps, it is much, much easier to believe in myself. My mind is clearer and I can be more certain that what I am doing is the right thing, so it is easier to focus. I also feel more free to take breaks, and let my attention turn to other things, because I know it will be easier to get back on track.

Love You, Bye! -Yancey

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Yancey LLamsus-pegacorn

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