A distraction is anything that draws attention away from what you’re doing at a given moment and I’m sure this definition sounds pretty familiar to many of us. We all have fallen for them at least more than a few times in our lives and according to the Harvard Business Review, “The average employee is getting interrupted 50 to 60 times per day, and about 80% of these interruptions are unimportant. As a result, people are spending little time in what psychologists call “the flow state.” Although many of us may think the reason for why we get distracted is because of the devices in our pocket, Instagram, Snapchat, text messages, and other notifications that may be urging us to check them, Harvard psychologists, Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, have actually found that this state of continuous distraction is wired into our brains. When they conducted a study of about 2,000 participants, they were able to conclude that humans spend around 47% of our time “mind-wandering.” This shows how natural and ordinary “mind-wandering” is that we spend almost half of our time doing it. The thing is that these states of mind are the default mode of operation of our brains. The devices and notifications that we see as distractions are merely triggers that lead us to the state of mind-wandering and leave us thinking or worrying about something else instead of focusing on what we were doing.
So How Do We Become Indistractable?
1. Master Internal Triggers
We need to know the root cause of our distractions and that’s getting deeper than just what apps are causing us to be distracted. In truth, we, humans, usually look at our phones, social media, and games in order to escape discomfort. Although social media may not be entertaining, it’s able to free us from the psychological discomfort we feel as it allows our brain to go into this default mode where it’s not thinking critically or stressing about a situation.
So next time when you find yourself wanting to give into your distraction, stop and become familiar with the internal trigger. Look at what has triggered and caused you to end up distracted and on your phone scrolling through Instagram. Ask yourself how you are feeling whether it is anxious, tired, overwhelmed, or just not prepared to do the task.
2. Rewire, Refocus, and Try Again!
After stopping and thinking, next, rewire your brain to think positive thoughts because, like it was said previously, we are usually distracted as a result of our stress. Because of this, rather than trying to ignore the stress, address it with positive thinking. One thing I have found helpful was telling myself, “I can do it!” at least three times and finishing whatever I was working on. Don’t feel bad that you got distracted because distraction is inevitable and it’s something we all do. Not only this, but distractions aren’t always bad.
We all have a limit and we should never overwork ourselves to a point where we have no energy left. If you’re feeling tired and really not wanting to work, take a break and let your mind wander on its own! Go for a walk or a drive or eat some food with a friend! In order to prevent burnouts, we need breaks and it’s always important to take them.
3. Fighting External Triggers
Social media notifications, phone calls, the class adding noise when getting a text message are basic triggers that force you to look at your phone, become distracted, and eventually waste time that you will eventually regret.
a. Remove any and all apps you no longer need
b. Turn on "Do Not Disturb" so that you are not distracted by notifications
c. Try to prevent people from interrupting whether that's through finding a quiet place to study or just putting a "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door.