Filtering DistractionsPosted: December 28, 2015
“I’ve trained all my life not to be distracted by distractions.” —Nik Wallenda, daredevil, seventh-generation member of the Flying Wallenda’s Family
When my daughters were in high school, I looked on in amazement as they studied. They’d have music playing and/or the television on while responding to the never-ending buzz of social media notifications. This didn’t stop them from finishing a paper or studying for a test, and their good grades showed this method worked for them.
I can’t imagine settling down to work with so many distractions. Is it a question of age? A quick Google search locates many articles that confirm that as we age, our ability to filter distractions decreases.
Likely just as significant is one’s definition of a “distraction.” The background noise of a coffee shop, for example, doesn’t bother me at all. The gentle mix of music, other people’s conversations, and the familiar sound of the coffee grinder or espresso machine blend together in a pleasant cacophony.
From time to time I need quiet and dark to filter out distractions. On other occasions, looking out a window and noticing weather, nature, and general goings-on can bring focus. Driving is another opportunity to control and shape the environment. Loud music, National Public Radio, or quiet thoughts with a stack of post-it notes at the ready can each be therapeutic in their own way. Other times it’s just heads down into the computer or forcing myself to apply extra concentration to a phone conversation or conference call. Mindfulness techniques that keep me in the moment can be a great help.
I’m curious what filters others use to keep out unwanted distractions. What are the characteristics of environments that hinder your focus? What are the conditions that foster productivity?