Guest Editor: Wendy Dessler
We are an attention deficit culture. Adults have adjusted their behavior and are doing too many things at once, instead of focusing on the most important task at hand. We now lean so much toward allowing distractions in our world, that we slap badges on ourselves and try to impress each other with our crippling abilities. How many times have you heard someone praise their co-worker for being a great multi-tasker?
Our children learn their behavior from us. While there are children with Attention Deficit Disorder, many experts question the staggering numbers of children who are medicated daily for behaving much like their role models. To gain perspective, in 1990 there were 600,000 children taking prescription medication for A.D.H.D. - by 2013 that number jumped to 3.5 million.
This is another reason it is important for adults to train themselves to beat distractions and stay focused. These habits will be picked up by the children and productivity will rise in the workplace and probably in education as well. Below are some tips that can help:
You must retrain your brain we must learn to control the thoughts that continually feed into our minds. This is done with meditation. Learning to be still and to clear the mind of things that are not important is the first step toward reclaiming our focus. Begin with sitting very still in a quiet place and concentrating on your breathing, exhaling to a longer count than inhaling. As you are comfortable, grow this practice.
Make a plan
Not so many years ago, making a plan was common practice in business. We used daily planners to keep up with the agenda. In our world of smartphones, e-mail, and technology, we simply keep up with what needs to be done and mark the deadlines. But we do not set up a plan and carve out time to accomplish our tasks. We must prioritize, allow time for the job, and stay with it until it is complete.
Use the 4 out of 5 plan
When you look at the tasks that must be done in a week, you will see a few big things and a dozen or so little things. These little things like set up an appointment with the vet, take the car in for an oil change, practice your harmonica playing in case Steven Tyler calls, can all be rolled into one day. Resist the urge to “just do them and knock it out” that is a form of distraction. Divide your big jobs so you can accomplish them over the first 4 days of the week. Use the 5th day for little duties. After a while, this will come to you with little thought.
You are in the zone, working away and making progress and the cell phone rings. You cannot ignore the call, so you go ahead and answer (it is against your core values at this point in life) telling yourself it will just take a second. But the call leads to a quick check of the computer, sending out an email, and making another call. Soon you find you have wasted 2 valuable hours that you cannot get back. Unplug! When you are going to work in the zone, turn off the cell phone, computer, and tablet. Do not let any electronic device drain your power.