Happy Halloween! Did you get your candy for tonight? Are your kids’ costumes ready? Oh, and be sure to get something for dinner. And the dog needs his flea meds. Did your mom call you back? Need to check in. Hey, look what your friend posted on Facebook – that’s awesome! Let’s go see what’s on Instagram.
No, I’m not practicing stream-of-consciousness writing. I’m giving you an example of “monkey brain” – an overstimulated, unable-to-concentrate thought process that most of us experience in today’s wired world. The problem? There’s almost no room for focus. We’re just too distracted! And that can hurt our clients and our businesses.
It’s so bad – thanks to the Internet and all of our favorite apps – that Harvard Medical School research shows we have “culturally generated ADD.” We’re all now inattentive, disorganized, overbooked. Yikes. Not a great set-up for small businesses that need ALL of our attention.
It’s so bad, that most medical research on multitasking now calls it attention switching, with your brain trying to switch constantly to other topics or chatter at you until you stop focusing on the task at hand. So what’s a “monkey brain” to do?
Stanford University research says that focus can be developed, like a muscle. We just have to literally practice focusing. How do we do that? You know the answer. You have to clear the decks of ALL distractions.
Peter Shankman, an entrepreneur who has written five books, found concentration so hard for him that he actually booked round-trip flights to Tokyo just so he could write without anything grabbing for his attention. He found it to be a small price to pay to get his books done. But I love flying today for the same reason – no distractions. You just have to try to resist the temptation to log onto inflight WiFi.
Here’s how to start using that focus muscle without a flight to Tokyo:
- Turn off all alerts on your phone. You do NOT need to know how many people like that photo you posted. You can look later. It’s hard to resist the temptation to look, so help yourself by eliminating those alerts.
- Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. You can set it so your child’s school can still get through; no one else really needs to. So shut it down. We used to live through whole days without talking to people who weren’t involved in our actual jobs, so you can do that for a few hours each day.
- Turn off every window on your browser except the one you require for the task at hand. That includes Facebook.
- Tell your team/spouse/mom/whomever that you are working and can’t be disturbed. Period. Hold them (and yourself) to it!
- Turn off the noise. That includes televisions, radios, anything else that’s distracting to your concentration. Consider using white noise machines, a fan, anything to block whatever might cause your brain to disengage.
It can take up to an hour to get your brain back in gear once you’ve been distracted, so don’t let that monkey brain run away with you! Think about how much more you could get done in a day if you really and truly focused on your business. It could be a game changer!
What distracts you from your work? Let me know in the comments section below!