What I’m Doing to Increase my Focus and Decrease Distractions

A vibrantly colored abstract painting
Joy, 2014. For details or to purchase, please contact Alexis.

Lately, I’ve been trying to grow my attention span.  I get distracted easily, and having the internet at an arm’s length most of the day does not help.  But to be as productive as possible in my job, and to enter flow states and do good creative work, I need to be able to focus on one task for an extended period of time.

Like many people today, I’m a chronic multitasker.  In my free time, you’ll rarely find me doing just one thing.  I’m talking on the phone while driving, listening to an audiobook while gardening, watching a TV show while cooking, texting a friend while listening to a podcast while putting away laundry.  Though always doing two (or more) things at once may make me feel more productive, I know that it reduces the amount of attention I’m devoting to each activity.  I think multitasking too much can lead me to feel less calm, too.  My brain sometimes needs silence, and the chance to devote itself to just one thing.  So I’m making a conscious effort to do more unitasking (also known as monotasking).

It isn’t an easy change to make, and I frequently slip back into bad habits. I wrote down some rules for myself, and I review them regularly to help me stay on track. Here are a few things I’m doing to try to minimize distractions and increase my focus.

Read more

On Books, and My Attempt to Read More of Them

Three shelves of books

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I’ve cut back on the amount of time I spend scrolling through social media feeds and reading articles online in order to free up more time for writing in the mornings and evenings. I’m also attempting to replace mindless phone-checking throughout the day with other more meaningful tasks — things like mindful breathing, short bursts of physical activity, and reading books. My overarching goal is to use my time more deliberately instead of impulsively reacting to whatever is aiming to capture my attention. Time, after all, is a scarce and non-renewable resource. To riff off Annie Dillard, how we spend our minutes is how we spend our hours, how we spend our hours is how we spend our days, and how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

Read more