focus: the value of distraction
‘Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.’ ~A.A. Milne
Reading this book, you might get the idea that distractions are evil and that we must strive to be focused at all times. Not at all. Distraction is natural, it’s fun, and interestingly, it’s valuable.
Distraction, in most cases, is the enemy of focus, and so if we want to get anything done, we must learn to find at least a modicum of focus, some of the time. But that’s not to say we should banish distraction, every minute of the day. What’s needed is balance.
Distraction is important for a few reasons:
- Our minds need a break — being focused for long periods of time is stressful and we need to alternate focus with periods of relaxation.
- Distraction can take our minds off a troubling problem, and that can often lead to our minds working on the problem in the background, in our subconscious.
- Distraction can lead to inspiration — by reading other things, new ideas can be sparked, or we can find motivation.
- Distraction is fun. And in fun, we often find things we truly love. Let yourself be open to these new paths.
- Distraction can lead to better focus, once we go back to focusing.
So how can we incorporate healthy distractions, but still find necessary focus? The secret is balance: conscious, purposeful balance.
There are lots of ways to find balance. The key is to think about what you need to focus on, when your peak focusing hours are, and try different styles to find a method that works best for you.
- Block off a few hours a day (all at once or broken into 2-3 parts) for focus. Let yourself do email and other communicating during the others parts of your day.
- Work in intervals. Focus for 10-15 minutes, then do 2-5 minutes of distraction, and repeat.
- Try a 40-20 split for every hour: 40 minutes of focus, 20 minutes of distraction.
- Disconnect completely for large parts of your day, and have certain periods just for distraction.
Again, these are just some ideas. You’ll have to find the method that works best for your work needs and personality.
Next chapter: tools for beating distraction