5 Ways to Make Distractions Positive

distraction-cartoonThoughts About Distractions

Distractions often get a bad rap for stealing focus and decreasing productivity. At least, in my mind they existed only as plagues to avoid. Until recently. While I still believe distractions can negatively impact, I also now see they can be powerful tools for managing stress and increasing productivity.

As a very focused (and sometimes intense) person, I viewed distractions as always evil. I needed to stay on task, cross every item off my “to do” list and not let anyone or anything keep me from accomplishing my tasks. Even worse, I imposed this “no distractions” approach on my two boys as well. As you might guess, this led to some struggles. (On the positive side, continually pushing away distractions led to my being able to read and write with the television on and people talking.)

What I have learned through my inner debate over distractions is that sometimes we need to be distracted. Sometimes, we need to let our focus on work and accomplishing go and to live in the moment with the ones we love. And sometimes, focus itself provides much-needed distractions from relationship stress.

5 Ways to Make Distractions PositiveDistractions

As with most areas of life, distractions must exist in a balanced state in order to have positive impact. Too many distractions, and little gets accomplished. On the other hand, constantly staying focused often leads to higher stress levels not only within an individual but within relationships as well.

Follow these tips for turning distractions into positive forces:

  1. Allow your kids to distract you. Never forget that you only have them for a season, and that season goes by so very quickly. In just six years, both my boys will graduate and move out. I don’t want to miss a minute of their lives. When they want to talk, I stop what I’m doing and listen. The posts I want to write and the books I want to read will wait. If they won’t for some reason, they’re worth giving up for the moments I get to spend with my kids.
  2. Make sure electronics don’t take over your family. My kids, like most their age, want to listen to music, text friends and play games on their various electronic devices. I like my devices too (though for slightly different reasons), but electronics don’t eat dinner with us or entertain us constantly in the car. In fact, the license plate game still serves as a favorite and everyone still looks forward to eating dinner together as a family.
  3. Distract yourself when emotions get out of control. When I get a bad report from school about my son’s behavior or when I’m just in a grumpy mood, writing a blog post or reading a book serve as great distractions and help keep me from nagging my boys and husband. When an idea just isn’t flowing right, going for a run provides ample distraction to get my creativity back on track instead of allowing frustration to send me into a tailspin, ruining my (and usually my family’s) day.
  4. Apply balance to your distractions. Too much mindless television leads to a host of unhealthy issues, but some mindless television can help you relax, which then allows you to refocus. Flipping between fiction and non-fiction books keeps me grounded in reality balanced with escape from it at the same time. Whenever possible, deliberately decide the type and amount of distracts impacting your life.
  5. Get distracted alone and with others. While personality and temperament impact needs, learning to allow for individual and group distractions creates stability. Family games and movie nights provide great ways to escape together while reading allows for alone time. Variety seems to help varying personalities in a family find their unique source of energy for staying focused.

Certainly, the ways to allow distractions to live as a positive force equal the ways they can exist as negative ones. The key, as with so many areas of life, involves intentionality and deliberateness.

DISCUSSION: If you allow distractions to dictate your day, what changes can you make to decrease them? On the other hand, if constant focus drives you, how can distractions possibly help your relationships?

25 thoughts on “5 Ways to Make Distractions Positive

  1. I've never really considered welcoming distractions — but you are right. They are necessary.
    I sometimes get a little too focused where I forget about the world around me. I'm driving, looking at the peaks ahead and almost drive off the road because I missed the curves to get there.
    I have a baseball game that I'll play when I'm in the middle of a project — something completely mindless— but it gives me necessary respite.

  2. I am slowly learning that distractions can be a plus, but I tend to get too easily distracted and not finish what I am doing. Like I start to clean one area and find something that takes me to another and get involved in something there and it takes forever to get back to the original project.
    I am working on trying to take one project at a time and if possible finish that before I move on. We are in such a busy state these days that when we multi-task we think we are accomplishing more, but we really aren't. Not to say that it won't work to do more than one thing at a time, but it can make things take longer.
    I find even in the semi I need to change up what I am doing or it gets boring and I get stuck. I read, but I also knit, or play a game, or check email, or just sit and watch the view. Like you say balance is important.
    Thanks for the great blog!

  3. I looked at distractions the same way as you — as an enemy to be defeated. I especially like your thought about allowing a distraction to take the place of emotion. I'll start looking at this differently now.

    Thanks

    • The solution came out of desperation at least in part, I think. Emotions just had too much control. They should be gauges or caution lights, but they should not be driving the car. They were for me, & that needed to change.

  4. Great take on distractions. My master's thesis was on laughter's effect on pain perception. The primary reason it works is because it distracts us. Distractions from pain, monotony, fear are very good things! I really like your saying that we should let our kids distract us, too. I would really be a mess if I didn't have that wonderful distraction.

    • Very interesting about laughter being distracting, Melanie. Though, now that I think about it, it does make perfect sense. And actually, I need to laugh more. My kids are a great source for that, but I stifle it too much in my seriousness. I needed this reminder to seek out laughter more intentionally, especially when life seems a bit harassed. Yes, our kids are great sources for us on so many things, and teaching us to enjoy life's moments are certainly one of those.

  5. I'm on the same page with you. I like to get things done. I like the feeling of accomplishing tasks. I too am an Intense person…so is my husband.
    But once my son was born God began to show me that tasks can wait. I'm honored and blessed to be his mama and I don't want to waste a minute of it. If that means I never get to be a published author, then that's okay- it must not have been what God wanted.

    I hadn't realized how much gadgets interfered with life until I went on a 21 day fast from all technology. That time really opened my eyes to how much I let gadgets into my relationship. I carry my phone in my pocket and periodically check my emails. But during that 21 days I didn't have my phone, I found I didn't always know what to do with myself. Instead, I found more time to interact with my son- which is amazing because I spend TONS of time on the floor building towers, racing cars, and so on.
    After that 21 days I asked God if I should give up my gadgets for good, but He showed me that there is a balance. So for the most part, I only get online when my son is sleeping or playing with grandma. I try to cherish each moment I have with him.

    Sorry for the long comment. Great post!

    • Kids sure change everything, don't they? Parenting has ultimately made me a better person by forcing me to confront the negative and grow out of them along with my kids growing. Fasting from gadgets is a great idea! We try to do that on vacations as much as possible. One reason I loved going on our cruise earlier this year is that we didn't have any technology & no one could call us (except for emergencies of course). I think it's important to break from things like technology and many of our regular habits & routines to be able to see if we need to change or get rid of anything and to even see how valuable something is. Great points, TC!

  6. Kari,
    I never considered those positive distractions. There are certainly things we should allow ourselves to be distracted by; almost always by someone who needs us or could be blessed by us. Bad distractions are things I do that I should not do when I want to deal with the pain of life. I sometimes choose wrong to distract myself from pain. I should deal with the pain not distract myself from it.

    • I'm certainly with you on letting myself get distracted from dealing with pain. The more we deal with, the more we grow. God will use them to draw us to Him, so it's so much better to not hide from them.

  7. This is a great reminder of an absolute truth: tunnel vision limits your field of vision, for good and for bad. Like blinders on a horse, designed to minimize distractions, we can become a slave to our tasks and miss out on so many opportunities everyday that come our way. Thanks for this reminder. Sometimes it is for our own good when we look up to find there is a greater good in the distraction than the task we believe is so important… God's purposes and plans always supersede the busyness of our days.

    • I grew up with Amish neighbors & spent a lot of time with them. I distinctly remember them putting blinders on their horses and thinking it interesting that they didn't want their horses to see anything but what was in front of them. It's a great visual reminder for me for sure. Being open to God moving in every area – distractions too – really gives us a fuller experience of God. We just can't limit Him in any way. A huge part of why I started Struggle to Victory is to show His presence and activity in every detail of our lives, and this includes our distractions.

  8. I'm more of a welcome the distractions type of person. I stay focused by renewing my mind when I don't feel like working on my list. And having goals of when I need to get things done by. I just now got back from a wonderful middle of the day hike and prayer time with a friend – we just went for two hours so we could get back to work. If I didn't have my goal of getting my Bible study out by December and didn't know how much I needed to do each week to meet the goal, I would have gone for the day! Although since my friend is the worker type, that probably wouldn't have happened anyway. 🙂

  9. Sometimes planned distractions are good. When I'm really into preparing a sermon I will plan some distraction. Usually it includes doing some physical exercises to keep my brain moving.

    • We definitely need to plan them more when working on intense projects. Physical exercise is one of my favorites too. Watching movies is another, as is playing games with my family.

  10. Great thoughts Kari. I once heard someone say that ministry happens in the distractions. Meaning, when you're busy doing 'God's work' , and someone calls you or visits you unexpectedly, that's God's work. It's hard for me, though.

    • That's a great way to say it, for sure. It is hard. We make plans and think we're doing what we're "called" to do when a delay (interruption) comes up that seems to be a distraction but is actually more of what we're supposed to do it. Hmmm… kind of sounds a little bit of a typical day for Jesus, doesn't it? So hard to be delayed. So against what our minds want.

  11. I would take a slightly different tack with this 🙂
    I would say that distractions are not good. However, I would say a lot of these things really aren't what I would define as distractions. For instance, your kids wanting to talk isn't really a distraction so much as opportunities to strengthen a relationship. Not everything that is unplanned is a distraction 🙂
    But I see your point. Sometimes a change of pace is something that can be quite beneficial.

    • What you say makes sense, Loren. My point was that people get obsessed with accomplishing things, especially in our busy culture, that relationships are often viewed as distractions from success. While I do believe they should be viewed as opportunities to strengthen relationships, they often are unfortunately viewed as distractions from accomplishing.

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