Session 15: Mind Squirrel Strategies

Distractions can have way more of an impact on us than just lost time. However, as we have discussed throughout this entire intensive program, we are humans and we are not perfect. All of us will get distracted for positive or negative reasons during many points in the day, and that's okay!

What is important is how we respond to these distractions in order to reset and demonstrate effective leadership. 

Consider the following strategies the next time you notice yourself experiencing mind squirrels and need to reset: 

Record: If you notice that you are getting distracted during the workday, especially at the same times of the day, take a few minutes at that time (or the next time you have a short break) to write down what you were being distracted by. Also, write down as much as you can about the situation where you noticed yourself being distracted. All of this information will help you develop an effective plan to reset. Especially focus on what was happening before and after you noticed yourself getting distracted and what emotions you were experiencing during this time. 

Break it down: If you notice that many of your distractions come during stretches where you are attempting to work for long periods of time, break down your work into smaller chunks. Everyone will have a different time frame that works for them but a good place to start is by working solidly for approximately 30 minutes at a time. Then give yourself a 5-10 minute window of time where you allow yourself to indulge your distractions and give your mind a break. Adjust this period of time to be longer or shorter as needed. If possible, this can also greatly improve your ability to listen and communicate with colleagues if you are able to give yourself a small break between in-person or virtual meetings. 

Practice: Increasing our ability to focus can also help limit the power that distractions can have on us. However, focus is just like a muscle in our body, we need to practice and increase the difficulty over time to see a significant improvement. Additionally, the information about what happens before and after you get distracted is critical in designing the best practice to increase your focus. 

If you notice you get distracted during work conversations, try focusing for increasingly longer periods of time in less stressful situations, like with a friend or even a video of people having a conversation. You will be surprised by how much more you pick up from these conversations by gradually increasing your focus when listening!

If you notice you are getting distracted more while completing projects for work, attempt to complete more enjoyable (and lower stake) tasks outside of work for increasingly longer periods of time with no distractions. For example, try working a crossword puzzle for longer and longer periods of time without stopping to do something else in between.

Once you are able to increase your focus on more enjoyable tasks and conversations, slowly start to practice doing this in your work environment. 

Remember it is about progress, not perfection!