Distractions are everywhere. And our monkey brains are only too happy to follow each and every one of them.
Staying focused can be difficult. It requires us to be mindful. We must exert as much control as we can upon our immediate environment to avoid distractions.
I just switched on the ‘Focus’ function in Word. I’ve never done this before. I have noticed the little button at the bottom of the document, but I’ve never clicked on it. But since I literally just started writing this blog, I decided to see what happens when I do.
It enlarged the page I am working on to cover the screen entirely with only black margins on each side. I still get a little ‘x’ to exit out of this view in the top right-hand corner, but that’s about it.
This option eliminates at least visual distractions from my workspace on my laptop. I don’t see the navigation menu at the bottom, which takes me to my email or the open browser.
Out of sight, out of mind?
Perhaps. Until my monkey brain is fed up with staring at the page (in such cases that words don’t come easily or at all). Then I would probably minimize the document and seek distractions online. They are, after all, far more entertaining than an empty page.
But as I am writing this, I find this feature to be quite useful. Just now I found myself glancing at the corner where the time is normally visible. Why? Because the time is important right now? Or because I want to know how much time I have spent writing? Does it matter?
Earlier, I’ve turned off the Wi-Fi on my phone and put it away. Another distraction put aside. I have no need to check messages or social media right now, so I am making the effort of keeping my phone – this massive source of distraction – far away. It helps.
Depending on the writing I’m doing, I’d be better off switching off my Wi-Fi on my laptop as well. If I then wanted to check the news or go on a random research bout, I’d have to switch it back on again to connect to the Internet. Whilst not a difficult step to take, it might make me pause just for a moment as to why I feel the need to do this now and whether it is such a good idea.
If you leave your connection on, emails are certain to pop up sooner or later and it does require a bit more of a mental effort to withstand the temptation to move over to your browser. That is what I am doing right now, and it feels very conscious. As in, my connection is active and because I am writing about this topic, the idea of switching over using the combination of just two keys on my keyboard looms massively in my mind.
It would be so easy, but I am not going to fall for this trap. Because I am writing right now on the topic of staying focussed.
Of course, the Internet isn’t the only distraction I am referring to. Considering the goals I have, there is a host of other distractions I could succumb to. And inevitably will at some point.
My job is a distraction from my goal of writing. My sofa is a distraction from my goal of working out more. The TV is a distraction from reading. Shopping for my ideal travel backpack is a distraction from saving money.
Some distractions we can eliminate. Others we have to actively evade. I’m not going to throw my TV out, but I can leave it switched off. I will keep looking for that ideal travel backpack, but I am not going to hit purchase on an impulse buy anytime soon. I will set aside time for writing any opportunity I get. And I will not lounge on the sofa until I have done my workout.
Staying focussed is chiefly a mission of being as mindful as possible. It’s not a battle we will always win. I know my vices. I can work around them most of the time, but I also don’t feel the need to try and eliminate them entirely. As long as they don’t keep me from doing what I want to do.
And there are ways we can make it easier on ourselves. By using the ‘Focus’ function, leaving the phone out of reach and switching things off when we don’t need them.
When I actively work on my focus, I also become very conscious of my thoughts straying here and there, seeking distractions, or wondering about the time or my messages or whatever. It’s a strange sensation to become aware of, especially since I don’t give in.
Perhaps this is part of the dopamine detox everyone talks about?