Why distractions don’t serve us and only create more tension

I am having a hard time turning off notifications on my computer to allow me to focus on important work I wanted to complete. No doubt you know the distractions I’m talking about. We receive constant alerts, notifications and sounds telling us about a new email, a calendar invitation, the latest text message or a reminder to check out a social media post. Even while writing this post, email notifications are chiming in despite having disabled them, or so I thought! Our devices are designed to distract us but when we understand that we only have a limited cognitive capacity, it’s time to take back control of what we put our attention on.

Working from home has also further blurred work and home life, creating even more distractions.

That’s why I was pleased to hear about Attention Span: Finding Focus for a Fulfilling Life, by Gloria Mark. She suggests, ‘Without top-down control of our attention, we open ourselves up to stimuli that steer our attention for us. Our mind becomes like a pinball propelled from lever to lever by text chimes, social media notifications and targeted ads.’

She also explains that strange feeling we get that the distractions are not all that satisfying. It is called the “Zeigarnik effect,” a finding that, when a task is interrupted, whether by some other task or the end of the workday, “it creates a state of tension from that unsatisfied need to finish it, which stays with us and serves to remind us—over and over and over again—to return to the task.”

Turning off notifications is only the first part of focusing on what we want to accomplish. We also need to address the self-induced distractions of our work environment, interruptions from others and doom scrolling on social media. Mark believes if we reduce the distractions, we can pay more attention to better quality things and make time for thinking deeper. Whereas if we push ourselves to the point of exhaustion, we lack the resources to come up with new ideas.

🙋 How do you remove distractions to allow you to focus? 🙋

Best regards, Brian

PS: Most of my clients come from referrals from people like you. If you know someone in your network who you believe could benefit from executive coaching, please connect us.