We live in a world filled with a ton of distractions. This can make it difficult to focus on a specific task, be it short or long. This can be tolerable in some areas of your life, but it can be financially expensive and destructive to your career to lose focus. More than ever, it’s essential to identify and limit distractions to maximize your productivity. So how to stay away from distractions?
The science behind distraction and concentration
If you really want to eliminate distractions in your life, you need to get to the root of the problem and understand what is really going on. For starters, you probably need a better understanding of how concentration works in our brain.
As Dr. Julie Schwartzbard explains, at least three types of attention support our ability to focus:
– Selective attention. This allows you to focus on one thing and block everything else. For example, you use selective attention when you are at a football game and you largely ignore all the noise, conversations, and visual distractions in the stands to focus on each action that takes place in the field.
– Shared attention. This is what happens when you try to manage and process multiple sources of information and stimuli at a time. Preparing dinner is an example. When cooking, you could chop vegetables while keeping an eye on a simmering pot and talking to your spouse. In this case, your attention will switch between different activities.
– Sustained attention. The third kind of attention occurs when you have to stay focused on one thing for a long time. That’s what happens, for example, when you write. You have to block almost everything else to focus on the task at hand for an extended period.
“Even with these treatment filters, your brain can still lose focus,” says Dr. Schwartzbard. The loud noises and flashing lights generate a lot of neural activity that makes them zoom in on the foreground of your consciousness, leaving behind what you’re focusing on. It’s useful on a battlefield or when you’re about to have a car accident, but not if you’re trying to study for an exam and a nearby car alarm breaks your focus. In order to stay focused, the brain needs a kind of “braking system” that allows it to prevent bad inputs from arising in our minds at the wrong time. Biologically, scientists believe that this work is done by the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (CPFVL) … but it is a far from perfect system. Sometimes it works and sometimes not.
Five tips to limit distractions
Although the CPFVL in your brain intervenes to block interruptions, you must help by limiting the number of distractions you are exposed to when you need to concentrate. If you write content, here are five essentials that you might find useful.
- Practice mindfulness
One of the keys to staying focused and limiting distractions is to practice mindfulness. It might sound like a New Age term that has little practical value in the real world, but it can honestly have a transformational impact on how you write. “Mindfulness simply means being aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and immediate surroundings,” says Chris Kresser, health professional. “It means paying attention to what is, rather than getting lost in our thoughts about the future or the past.”
- Think about your physical environment
There is a link between your immediate physical environment and your overall level of production. This is particularly the case for people who work at home. You must be aware of the nature of your environment, and get rid of the clutter that tends to accumulate throughout the week. The first of the month is a perfect time. On the first Saturday of each month, take an hour and go to every room in the house. If there is something that has not been used in a while, throw it away or give it away. From a practical point of view, this can reduce the number of visual distractions. This offers the benefit of freeing your mind to focus more effectively on what is essential.
- Hang a sign that says “busy” on your office door
One of the biggest drawbacks of working at home – not a rare practice when writing content – is that you find yourself in a strange point of intersection between your personal and professional lives. If you are not careful, the situation can become too distracting for you to be really effective. If other people share your home – children, roommates, even just a spouse – put a small whiteboard on the door of your office. When you are busy and do not want to be interrupted, leave a note on the board asking people to leave you alone. It’s not likely to be 100% effective, but it can reduce the constant interruptions that can sometimes occur.
- Do research in advance
If your writing requires a lot of research, try to do it in advance. Doing research while writing can sometimes be unavoidable, but it greatly increases the chances of getting distracted by intriguing sites and articles. If you do most of your research upstream, you can write in one go without having to pause several times. This promotes sustained attention and avoids the passage of mental gears that can be so distracting, and therefore waste time.
- Do not change anything when you write
Perfectionists may find it difficult not to modify their copy as they write. Between sentence structure, punctuation, formatting and correct spelling (the automatic spellchecker sometimes “corrects” an error incorrectly), you naturally want to improve things as you go along. Try to resist the temptation, however. The editing being written slows down everything and can make you more vulnerable to distractions.
Get your attention and maximize production!
Content writers cannot take the subject of attention and concentration lightly. A lack of concentration will always hurt you (and hurt your wallet). By taking a proactive approach and limiting all your distractions, you can give yourself a better chance of succeeding. Do you see what the implementation of some of the tips described above can bring you?