The last blog post, Enjoy the Show – Take Time to Witness the Swans, focused on the ability to step back and enjoy life while just doing nothing. I realized after writing that post how difficult it is for anyone to put this advice into practice without also implementing the corollary – reduce the distractions in your life. Part of the reason we as women have such difficulty relaxing is due to our innate ability to see the world around us; we invariably become distracted by everything that needs to be done.We all invariably become distracted by everything that needs to be done. #ReducingDistraction Click To Tweet
Let’s take as an example my female cat. Each morning I put food down in front of her, a time-honored ritual since she was a kitten. Yet here in Ireland, because our kitchen is much closer to the street, she hears all the cars driving past, along with the people walking by. It doesn’t seem to bother me or my husband, but it drives our cat crazy. Each time she hears a noise, she has to look up from her food dish and examine. I am realizing it takes her twice as long to eat the same amount food because of all the distractions she’s encountering.
Now, let’s compound that for all the women out there attuned to their environment and the needs of others. How often are you called upon to stop what you’re doing, even for a few seconds, by the innumerable requests of your partner, kids, parents, friends, and others? And what about the pings on your phone or other devices when various types of messages are received? I think this phenomenon has only recently started afflicting men due to electronic devices, because somehow they are immune to the in-person call outs from others. Perhaps it’s their innate ability to concentrate and focus that allows them this opportunity.
So, what’s a woman to do? Well I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some recommendations to lessen the noise and reduce a few of the distractions.
Silence Electronics: Take back your sanity by going through all your electronic devices and changing the sound settings. For most of them, the magic word is “None,” meaning no sound whatsoever. This means you get to choose when you go into your device to check email, texts, messenger, etc. If you must receive an immediate phone call, then change it deliberately just for a short period. Most of the time, you really don’t need to know when a new photo has been updated to your Facebook. It’s just not that relevant to the productiveness of your day.
Set Boundaries: Yes, it’s tough, but set boundaries with those closest to you. If my mother could do it, then so can you. My mother was a single parent raising two children. She worked a full-time job as a high school teacher. From a very young age my brother and I learned that we had better be “death or dying”, as we called it, before we decided to call mom at work. When are your times for no calls, interruptions or distractions from your closest few? Also, what boundaries are you setting for those at work? Do you have special times for “Do Not Disturb” so you can get your work out the door? Even a sign on the door works, which is what I used to do for the home office. Even my housecleaner knew not to disturb me.
Focus Time: Set specific times to focus on whatever task you are doing. Men have an advantage over us in this department, but I think it’s because they have more practice. I remember as the older sister calling my brother on several occasions and receiving no answer. I would later discover he was right in the next room and inevitably he would comment, “Gosh, I just didn’t hear you. I was so focused.” That being said, focusing is a muscle you build up over time. You have to put it into practice for it to improve. Set aside time for a specific task to do, and ONLY that task. Break it into a manageable portion, like a 30-minute or one-hour segment (Understand what your upper limit of focus time is). Then, sit down and do it, ALL of it! Don’t take breaks to check email, watch a YouTube video, or anything else. Just get it done! Take a micro break, then go on to the next task. Be very deliberate about how you are expending your time and energy, and on what tasks. Believe it or not, at the end of the day you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish without all the distractions.
ACTION: Share with me what you do to reduce the distractions in your life.
Kathy Hart, Ed.D. has a driving passion for human change and transformation. Her goal is to provide professional women with the support and resources needed to re-imagine and lead even more abundant, joy-filled and purpose-driven lives. If you are a woman wanting to reclaim your voice, realize a long-held dream, or just live your life to the fullest, take concrete action by contacting Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org. The choice is yours!
Services that Kathy offers:
- 1:1 coaching to support the journey into your next life transition, whether work or personal
- Trusted advisor for women navigating work changes and requiring an expert guide
- Speaking and workshops on human change and transformation
- Small group work and team development to boost the group’s performance