It’s a darn noisy world.
Smartphones. Social media. 24 hour news. Email. Distractions lurk in every corner. No wonder there is plenty of literature and a litany of advice on how to focus, focus, focus. Now.
But, is there an upside to distractions? Can allowing your mind to wander, just a little bit, boost your creativity and productivity? Can you become a better worker by focusing on your major distractions?
Here are some interesting reasons why distraction can indeed be more helpful than you think:
A study found that working in an environment infused with ambient noise could increase creativity. Controlled commotion forces the brain to think less in a linear pattern and to instead shift to abstract thinking, which is the realm of creativity. Allowing your mind to wander away from the work at hand provides the brain with some ‘thinking space.’ This temporary shift of focus does in fact offer a creative window of opportunity within which you can think up new ideas.
You do not have to work from a noisy coffee shop to get your creativity juices flowing. In fact, some people require pin-drop silence to get any work done. Even the slightest hubbub is enough to overwhelm such people. Given such a predicament, the logical path of action is to avoid distractions as much as possible. Yet truth is, what you resist persists. Have you noticed that the more you try to avoid checking email, the more you feel the urge to do it? Focusing on the things that distract you can in fact help you to understand your distraction pattern and what mostly causes your mind to wander. Identifying your key distractions in a way gives you the awareness and prompts you to consciously remove yourself from a distracting environment.
Distraction and escape are two sides of the same coin. When your mind incessantly chooses to wander, it could be a self-preserving mechanism. When you are faced with a challenge or you are in a distressful environment, mindlessness can help you to shift your attention to something that is more pleasant than your current situation. This ping-pong, back and forth shift from distressful conditions to pleasant thoughts, can serve to alleviate (not deny) the experience of the present misery. In other words, stopping to smell the flowers may in effect, help you to change your situation by looking at it from a different light.
Observing traffic while working from a coffee, watching people, or listening to music as you work can inevitably open you up to novel ideas that can help to refocus or propel your present project. How many times have you chosen to work from a quiet apartment yet had very little done? Unless, you work best in utter silence, you will likely experience an “ideas block” if your daily workspace is a solitary one. Without a doubt, an “ideas block” is a major impediment to your overall productivity. Public and often distraction-filled spaces are filled with different objects, and diverse experiences that can inspire you and renew your focus on any project at hand.
It is undisputable that too much mindlessness can threaten your happiness, wellbeing and your sense of productivity. Even then, fighting against distractions creates a perfect domino effect that causes more wandering and more mindlessness. Take a closer look at the distractions around you. Some are worth removing yourself from, while others are ‘necessary evils’ that can have the reverse effect of boosting your creativity and your zest.
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