How are you feeling today? Focused on your work? Getting through everything you need to?

Or are you thinking about the weekend?

Or the fact that you haven’t got your taxes done.

Or what you’re going to eat tonight?

Or maybe you’re just feeling grumpy about something that hasn’t gone quite the way you wanted After all, there’s a fair bit of life that doesn’t go as planned, and it’s not your fault, is it?

Of course the self-help gurus will tell you that you have chosen to be where you are today. And I can’t think of anything to say to that, because it’s rubbish, and as a statement, it makes me so mad I might have to be rude.

We can’t control the universe, stuff happens. Illness. Catastrophe. Death.

So if you have problems finding the motivation to work on your great escape from the 9-5, if you find your adventure in the land of ecommerce is not quite going as planned, then it’s probably just because life’s like that. And you have a life, so you can’t always be focused on your webstore. Right?

So what are you doing exactly?

Here’s what I’ve done today. I’ve written two articles, made a list of the next few that I have to write and I’ve commented on five websites. I’d have got through a lot more, but half way through the commenting I saw an advert on one site that looked like the sort of table I’m looking for, so I stopped and looked through the site. I got distracted. Does that ever happen to you? And then what was worse, I started to feel really angry with myself for being distracted and that lead to a feeling of helplessness. How can I succeed when I cant stay focused?

But that was the turning point. Because the one thing I know I can control, if I want to, is the way I feel. Whatever happens, no-one can make me feel anything I don’t want to, and the same is true for you. So don’t be distracted. Be determined.

The most amazing thing about taking charge of the way you feel is that it’s a lot easier than you think, largely because the body is an amazing machine. There’s a very simple technique you can use to set yourself on a positive path, you can produce positive emotions at will by doing something very simple; all you have to do is smile.

Scientific research has shown that it is possible to ‘see’ speicifc emotions in the way they activate the hemispheres of the brain as shown by an electroencephalograph (EEG) Positive emotions, for example are asscociated with the activiation of the left side front portion of the brain, and recent studies have shown that this happens when you smile, which you’d expect. After all, we smile when we enjoy something or we’re having fun. But the research went further.

As we all know, there are smiles and smiles. The genuine smile is one which has the ‘Duchenne marker’ named for the French neurologist G.B. Duchenne who first identified it. There are two major factors involved, the mouth and the eyes. It is of course quite possible to smile with the mouth only, but we all know the value of a smile which doesn’t reach the eyes. It’s a smile in name only.

So we shouldn’t be surprised to find that Dr Paul Eckman (TV fans may recognised the name – his research is the basis for ‘Lie to Me’) has proved the point, and this is important, that while we experience the smile and the emotion at the same time, the smile can produce the emotion. In a study where participants were ‘posed’ in the right smile (not as a result of any emotional stimulus) their EEG indicated that they experienced the same positive emotion.

What’s even more interesting is that the smile makes people react to you differently. As the experiment took place, observers were asked to rate the participants for certain personality traits. Those with a genuine smile were rated as more pleasant, outgoing and likeable, sincere, genuine and honest.

So there you are. You’re not alone. We all fight distraction -its the plague of the internet age. The real problem is the demotivation which results, and that we can fight.

So recognise that you get distracted. Set a limit on it. Promise yourself to get back to work at a certain time, set an alarm and stick to it. And when you get that feeling that you’d never succeed, that it’s all going nowhere, relax. Try again.

And don’t forget to smile.

Note: I’ll try to get this posted, but I do need to do some shopping right now …

How about you?

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17 Responses to “How To Stop Being Distracted and Get Stuff Done”

  1. Adrian says:

    Hi Lesley,

    This is exactly the article I needed to read right now, this is a very stressing day for me because I have a lot of work and I was demotivated because you know, it’s weekend and I have to work and so on, but after reading this I’m full of power and working efficiently and fast. Thank you extremely much!

    P.S.: bookmarked it and I will read it whenever I need

  2. Nicole Fende says:

    Lesley thanks for a thought provoking article. I confess that I love to watch “Lie to Me”, but didn’t realize the cues on the show were based on legitimate research. While I have read that it is important to try and smile while speaking on the phone (your smile can be heard!), I did not know that the smile can create the actual emotion. I’m a big believer in owning the moment and moving forward. Thanks for another great tool!

  3. Anthony says:

    My biggest distraction comes from television programs since my office is inside my room which has a 21 inch television in it. I found it hard to work on my job at hand whenever I know that one of my favorite shows is on.

    Like you said, we all fight this every day. The only thing that motivates me to work is the fact that I do have many bills to be paid each month.

  4. Jax says:

    Hi Lesley, please stop putting me to shame :-) I’m starting to think that distraction is my second middle name (after procrastination). But then sometimes distraction can lead you to a whole new idea or a hundred new ideas. I guess it’s just how it takes you, I’ll keep smiling regardless.

  5. Its human to be distracted and its not a sin unless you are a responsible individual. We all have got works to do, finish within a given time frame and distractions always bar us from achieving our goals. It was nice to see you talking a great deal to tackle this and help people in having a strong mindset.

    • lesley says:

      Hm. James – thanks for your comment but ‘it’s not a sin unless you are a responsible individual’? Isn’t that what we all try to be?

  6. Well, of course lesley. We all have to get responsible. That is why we are provided with education and taught to encompass only the desirable human traits and leave the undesirable ones, so that we could be better individuals and hence contribute in making of a better society overall.

    • lesley says:

      You make it sound so easy. As to whether the aim of education is to get us all to be responsible, I’m not sure I agree. I like to think about all progress being made by the unreasonable man, but of course he has to conquer his distractions :-)

  7. Daniel says:

    Wow Lesley, your posts are so great to read and 100% complete. I have to agree that distraction is a part of my life constantly in more then one way. I get distracted from doing my work on the business from family and at the same time, my time with the family is distracted by my work on the business. I guess it just takes some time to strike a balance where both can exist in peace. Must be the life of working from home. :)

    • lesley says:

      Thanks Daniel, I appreciate your comments. On this one, the thing to remember is that working from home is part of the online lifestyle idea, but it has its challenges. You can, from time to time, feel really isolated, and you can fall prey to distractions. But since its what we’re all aiming for, and when you have a family (as I know you do) it is in many ways idea, you need to face those distractions head on, and work out how to deal with them!

  8. Joshua says:

    Haha! Distractions, distractions, they are everywhere. I have a hard time staying focused on something for more than an hour. I need many breaks during one day. May be due to this corporate job i held for 3 years where they encouraged us to take breaks from the computer every 50 minutes. :) They taught us bad.

  9. Lesley says:

    James, taking a break from your screen every 40 minutes or so is a good idea, just to rest your eyes. I’m lucky, I sit by a large window, and I use pen and paper to makes notes. It’s a good idea to let your eyes focus at a different distance than on the screen, and the change also seems to give them a bit of a rest.

  10. Adam Gardner says:

    Concentration is a must have factor for getting things done. Either you have to make your mind strong enough to rule out the distractions, which is pretty tough by the way, or by minimizing the distractions, whichever way suits you the best.

  11. Antonia says:

    Main thing that distracts me are friends.
    I have this friend/neighbour that visit me every single day for coffee and stuff, and she doesn’t leave for hours and hours. It’s not that i don’t like the company, but i can’t seem to make her understand i have work to do, and i can’t drink coffee all day long just because she’s bored.
    Any solution for my problem? :(

    • lesley says:

      A lot of us have this problem, and it is a difficult one, I agree. My Mum lives with me and wants to chat every morning over coffee. She is a fun, interesting person, but she doesn’t always know when to stop, I can easily end up getting nothing done. So I walk away. I always explain what it is I’m going to do and why I need to do it. Then, when I have the time, I am sure to put aside the time so we can sit and chat, as we did this morning in fact. It was very difficult at first, but I think we have both got the hang of it now, and the best thing is, when I do sit and chat with her, I’m not always thinking that I should be doing something else. Hope that helps.

  12. I am the queen of distraction! Everyone knows that not all parts of your work is something you enjoy. Rarely is there work that you enjoy 100 percent of all things involved with it. That’s when I get the most distracted. If I’m not totally interested in what I doing, my brain naturally wonders to more fun topics. Thanks for letting me know that I’m not alone.

  13. I recently developed a new system to keep me focused on my Internet Marketing job just like having a real job.

    I started to write myself at the end of each day the schedule for the next day, like a to do list but more complex, with time periods that are needed to be spent on each specific task I have to do and so on.

    Of course I still got distracted but found that day by day I’m keeping up better and better with my daily schedule.

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