It might surprise you to hear that when it comes to distractions, your brain can be your own worst enemy. You’re probably familiar with the traps of social media and twenty-four-hour news cycles as distractions, but the worries, fears, doubts, and ‘what-ifs’ that circle in your mind can be harder to shut out.
The good news is that your brain can be reprogrammed. You just have to decide to take control of your thoughts. Here are some expert strategies to help get you started.
- Focus on the Distracting Thought
It sounds counter-intuitive to think about your distracting thought, but it can help to face that nagging worry or fear and bring it out into the light. Trying not to think about your negative thoughts automatically makes you feel about them.
Voice your thought out loud or write it down. Talk it through with your partner or a close friend. Once confronted, the chances are that Bogey Man Thought won’t turn out to be that bad.
- Set Some Worry Boundaries
It can help to schedule some dedicated time to work through your distracting fears or worries consciously. Schedule fifteen minutes in your diary and write down all the things that are nagging away in your mind. Making those negative thoughts more conscious is the first step in being able to process and deal with them.
- Have a Strategy
Sometimes, worrying thoughts come from feeling you don’t have any control over what’s happening in your life. Take back control by making a plan or a strategy. The plan can cover all your goals or just one project, depending on what you need and what’s worrying you. Once you have a plan, you can work through all the tasks you have to do. Make each completed job a success by checking it off your list. When you see concrete progress, chances are the nagging worries in your head will recede.
- Do Something Completely Different
If your nagging thought is still doing laps in your brain, you can short-circuit it by working on a completely different activity. Make it something you enjoy doing, like walking in nature, playing sports, making a cake, or some other activity that requires your full attention. Your brain can’t focus on too many things at once, so when you get into the flow of doing something you’re passionate about, there’s no room for that worrying negative thought!
Tips for Keeping Distractions at Bay
Everyone gets distracted. It’s a fact of life. But you don’t have to get derailed by them. You can choose to take control and manage all the things you know will make you take your eye off the main game. Here are five expert tips to keep distractions at bay.
- Schedule your Time to Suit You
Are you a morning person? Or do you work better later in the day? Only you know when you’re at your best, so program your day to take account of your energy peaks and troughs. If you don’t really wake up until mid-morning, schedule those mindless tasks for first thing. Conversely, if you’re a lark and are up and sparky before dawn, that’s a good time to schedule more complex or creative projects.
- Use a Web-blocker
Social media, news sites, and your favorite websites can be hard to resist. Just a peek can become hours of scrolling before you know it. If you’re easily tempted to surf the net, try using an app that blocks nominated websites so that you can get on with your work uninterrupted.
- Turn off Notifications
Do you need to know whenever someone has liked one of your social media posts? You can turn off notifications or switch off the volume on your phone to stop those annoying and distracting ‘pings.’ You can also set your phone to ‘do not disturb’ so you can focus on what you need to get done and catch up with phone calls and emails at a time that suits you.
- Shut out Your Colleagues’ Chat
Even the best colleagues can be distracting if they’re in chatty mode while you’re trying to get through your to-do list. Part of the problem with modern open-plan offices is that it looks like you’re always available. Using a pair of headphones sends a signal that you’re focused on something important right now and shouldn’t be interrupted.