The Candor

How to Deal with Distractions

Omair Ali

Perspectives Editor

Today, we struggle to deal with distractions. Our lives are filled with daily plans, commitments, or expectations that also are vulnerable to mismanagement. Last week, I argued that we should familiarize ourselves with the problem of divided attention that is associated with our information-heavy world.

The overwhelming informational needs established by technology, social norms and other factors make it hard for us to properly focus on information. This causes us to resort to multitasking and other time-inefficient behaviors that may contribute to our perceived sense of time scarcity, or not having adequate time to do what one desires.

The question I asked was, “what could possibly be the right approach to sustain our attention that would allow us to maximize our potential while saving us time?”

Thus, based on my personal experiences, I have created a blueprint for dealing with distractions with the hope that this set of guidelines can correctly match one’s attention with the desired behavior.

Prioritize Then Follow a Distraction Diet

When dealing with divided attention, we ought to identify the activities that we wish to prioritize and preserve, and why they mean a lot to us. Some may struggle to understand the importance of a routine or activity because they are conflicted with other behaviors, often distracting, that cause them to lose their connection with their goal or purpose. These activities are typically those a person depends most on for their respective goals, such as daily workouts for an athlete or daily literature review for a research student. After identifying the activities that mean the most to us, we should proceed with creating more time for these activities.

The best way to deal with limited time or too many activities is to perform a “process of elimination,” a systematic method by which we can exclude the least important activities. In my other article this week, I advised the creation of an activity diary or profile, where one records every single activity that he performs and then can identify the clearest examples of distraction-influenced behavior. If this strategy is paired with process of elimination, one should be able to identify the principal unwanted behaviors,

We are familiar with the term diet to describe the act of limiting or refraining from consuming foods or beverages. We can also use this term figuratively to describe other behaviors that require a level of abstinence. Thus, a “distraction diet” should be taken how it is perceived—a limitation in engagement with the most undesirable, distracting information. If this diet is taken as strictly and consistently as possible, then the amount of newly created time can be maximized.

Cultivate Attention and Do What Matters

If divided attention has been a chronic issue, I suggest building our attention capacities, by finding an attention-friendly sanctuary where our minds would not be contaminated with incoming signals. This can be a local library, a park, a chapel room, or any environment free of this background noise. Only in environments where one can focus on himself can cultivate the concentration and attention needed to carry out the important activities in his life.

The purpose of filtering out unwanted distractions from one’s life is to create more time for the activities that matter to them. By removing the stimuli that create the state of attention deficiency, doing the activities that are more important to us can come easy while helping us feel like we are not short of time.