Hungry For Distractions? You're Normal

But my brain, I realized, wasn't just drifting. It was hungry. It was demanding to be fed the way the Net fed it-and the more it was fed, the hungrier it became.

-From The Shallows, Nicholas Carr

If you feel like you are easily distracted, I have good news... you are normal. As research is now showing, our brains are hardwired to keep seeking out new information and to look for changes in our surroundings. Of course that's also the bad news. If it's natural for our attention to be quickly diverted, it means we have to constantly fight the urge to turn our attention away from a task requiring lots of mental energy. Some suggestions to help you battle this urge include:

  • When working at your computer, close out any open programs minimized in your taskbar that you aren't using. They are all screaming for your attention.
  • When reading on a tablet or mobile device, disable the wireless connection. This makes it harder for you to mentally "jump ship" to something else.
  • Minimize caffeine intake. Enough said.
  • Remove anything "undone" from around your work area. This includes unpaid bills, reports or other items that could grab your attention in a moment of distraction.
  • Get out of a line of sight to other people. You're intensely focused on something when you happen to look up for a moment and "BAM!" there's John walking by. Your brain quickly reminds you that you wanted to talk to John about something-and it wants you to do it NOW.
  • Keep a reward in mind for getting the job done now. As much as your brain likes distractions, it likes the endorphins that come from a sense of accomplishment even more. Build in some type of appropriate incentive for staying the course on a particular task.

 And if you simply can not stay focused any longer because the desire for distraction is overwhelming you, take a quick break. Use the time to get some physical exercise and maybe even take care of a couple of simple tasks. But be careful not to stray too far mentally... your brain may find these distractions a buffet it just can't resist.