Posted on

My Mind Was There a Minute Ago


It is sure easy to become distracted these days.

One minute an idea is there. The next, it’s lost in the ether with another thought, email, text, pop-up, phone alert “ding” or incomplete task diverting me.  How about for you?

At work and at home (which for me these days is 100% the same), I’m finding it increasingly challenging to focus on the “heads-down” work that is a portion of my daily work as a professional coach and consultant (like writing this blog).

I don’t know about you, but I find the increased use of technology for every single meeting is exhausting and mentally draining.  And, I’ve used Zoom daily for my business for over five years – I’m not a “newbie.”

It also seems twice as hard to get things done in the current climate. It is taking more of my “mental cycles” to do work that was second-nature in the past.

Is it any wonder that it’s difficult to keep your already permeable attention span focused on anything for a period of time?

Plus, if you’re a leader trying to successfully get your team to deliver for your clients, your constituents, your partners or your stakeholders in the midst of endless distractions, what do you do to help?

Here are five ideas for leading yourself (and others) in a time of great distraction:

Gain Focus

There isn’t one right answer on how to focus. You have a pattern that works for you; I have one that works for me. So, it’s knowing the one that works for you and using it that’s the key.

How do you know? Ask yourself, “When I’ve had the ability to strongly or easily maintain focus in the past, what did I do?” Was it while studying in school, spending time in an engaging conversation, or working on a hobby you love? What was it? How did you go about it?

For me, I am a walking case of undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder. To overcome this, I have come to understand that I need to “get centered” and then “get busy.” I’m not very “New Age” but a few minutes of breathing and meditation gets me into that zone. It seems to line up the runway lights so I can take off with my work. To help me remember to do this, I have a sticky-note prominently on my computer monitor that says, “Center First.” And, it works.

What’s the method of getting focused that works for you?

Stay in the Present

I’ve noticed that many of my distracted thoughts are not about this very moment. They are either re-living or re-hashing something that has already happened or anticipating something that hasn’t happened yet. Is that true for you as well?

I’d wager that very few distracted thoughts are about the present moment. Even the “Oh, I forgot to send that email” really isn’t about right now. It’s about your worries about something not happening or how someone will perceive you. Jot it down and go back to the important task you were doing.

Stop and ask yourself, “Does this thought pertain to what I’m doing right now?” If not, note it, file it or forget it. Remember too, it takes a little while to get used to this skill as well.

The Power of Routine

To paraphrase an old expression, “Sanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting the same result.”

Getting consistent results (whether its professional productivity or personal satisfaction) depends on knowing and repeating what works. What can you do to make routines of the things you want to do and achieve consistently? Maybe creating a checklist or “cheat sheet” for yourself would help.

As important as using a routine is for creating repeatable success, it’s also important to recognize when something is no longer working. Sometimes we do things by rote. We just repeat them because they have worked in the past. Yet, we forget to re-evaluate them to see if changes, tweaks, or a wholesale re-do is in order.

What haven’t you turned into an intentional routine that will give you ease, comfort and satisfying results? And, what do you need to change amongst your current routines that will make a difference for you?

Get into the Rhythm

In a situation like we have today where the “old normal” isn’t so normal any more, are you scrambling to keep up? I am. As much as I like variety, lots of change all at once is hard to accommodate. Sometimes I criticize myself for feeling frustration and resistance to thinking and behaving differently. This, in fact, is actually “normal.”

Our brains perceive change as a type of threat. It’s uncomfortable and awkward at times. Because of this, sometimes we expect that unless we are instantly comfortable with something new, we think we are failing. I’ll admit I do that sometimes. Well, maybe most of the time.

The key is to get into a new rhythm with the changed habit of thought or action by sticking with it. When we have enough experience with it, we become more comfortable.

Yes, on occasion “being in the flow” just happens. However, more often it takes a lot of intentional practice to get the new rhythm and flourish with the change.

Are you sticking with it long enough to get to the other side of change?

Create Small Wins

Perhaps you suffer, as I do, from a bit of perfectionism. I admit it. I want the big, perfect accomplishment or achievement and I want it every time.

However, I’ve come to realize that this attitude and viewpoint actually leads me directly into distraction. When I think, fantasize or fret about the completed result, I begin to think about everything that it will take to get there. By that, I mean get there perfectly.

That thinking sabotages me because I become distracted and divert my attention from doing the “next right thing” to get the job done. The wider I mentally cast my net, the more likely it is that the internet, the refrigerator, my email or researching that long-neglected vacation option becomes vital to do in this moment. The outcome: procrastination.

My Jedi-mind-trick for this is to make the “next right thing” a goal and getting there a “win.” Setting my sights to the practical short-run and allowing myself to feel good about “checking that box” helps me stay on track. When I bring my head out of the clouds and down to my feet, stuff gets done. And, maybe it’s good enough rather than perfect. But, it’s done!

How could you break your work into small wins to keep yourself excited, motivated and focused?

Distraction is easy but with an intentional strategy, it doesn’t have to derail you.

More: Your Head is a Nice Place to Visit But Please Don’t Live There