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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?