Tidbits for Mia

Ideas for new moms.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

How do you finish anything in a world of distractions?

Our world is full of constant interruption. I thought it started when I had kids, with the constant interruptions and distractions that they generate. However, now that my kids are older and don’t distract me constantly, I’m coming to realize that it’s not only due to them; it’s also the way life is nowadays. It’s not just Generation Y who has grown up with MTV, computers, and multi-tasking as normal parts of life. Life has adapted to them and forced the rest of us to live with constant interruptions and distractions.

For example, just trying to check my email, my computer sends all these pop-up windows giving me the status of my anti-virus system, asking me whether I want to view the secure and non-secure items on a webpage, asking if I want to enter a secure site, asking if I want to leave a secure site, etc. Even the email messages I receive are bordered with advertisements, include links to other websites, ask me to take surveys, or want me to click for detailed information.

It has become increasingly difficult to focus or concentrate on one activity simply because our lives have accepted the concept of being constantly bombarded by other things. What I hate the most is that the majority of it is uninvited solicitation. It’s others interrupting me, not my own lack of concentration.

I remember not being able to answer the phone during dinner when I grew up simply because it was dinner time. We didn’t even have answering machines at that time! (I’m divulging my age there) Now, people are always answering their phones in places that were once considered rude (of course, they were unimaginable in the past, too), such as in class, during meetings, at restaurants, during performances, while exercising, during a deep conversation, etc. In fact, while some still consider it rude to answer a cell phone in those situations, the fact that people regularly do supports the idea that most others do not consider it impolite.

Of course, cell phones can be ignored. Pop-ups can be blocked or quickly closed, ads can be ignored, and links don’t have to be clicked. However, they are still interruptions to our lives. They still take attention away from the project at hand, if even for a brief moment.

The question is how to finish anything? For every project I start, I’m distracted or reminded of something else that’s also important for me to do, so I start working on that, only to be distracted or reminded again of something else to do. I have a house full of started projects or lists of ideas of things to do, important things to do. In the end, nothing gets done until moments before a deadline. Things without a deadline never get done; they are constantly moved to the “Do Later” pile. Some things get buried in the pile of things to do and don’t get done, despite their deadlines.

Sometimes, I’ll go through my piles of things to do and sort them by importance. However, I’m usually interrupted around the time I finish sorting, and I never get around to doing anything I’ve organized! Everything is organized but sits because I’m distracted by other things in life, like sleep, dinner, children needing attention, etc.

At this point, do I even bother organizing my desk mountain (My desk “pile” has become a desk “mountain”), or should I just start at the top and try to finish whatever is there? But what if more important stuff lies deeper within the mountain? Should I tackle the physically bigger things first so that the mountain looks smaller more quickly? I get so overwhelmed by it that I just close the office door and try to forget about it. Is any of it really that important, or could I just dump the whole mountain in the recycling bin? I don’t know because I don’t know exactly what’s in there.

A great cleaning and organizing website, FLYLady.com, suggests spending 15 minutes a day working on my desk mountain. The idea is that the mountain wasn’t created in a day and won’t be taken care of in a day either. Spending 15 minutes a day is that much more than spending 0 minutes a day on it. I’ve tried that in the past and perhaps one paper will be dealt with in that amount of time. Although I agree with the concept, spending so little time almost seems like another distraction in itself.

Am I just bad at multi-tasking? Do others succeed in finishing projects while working on other things at the same time? How do I ignore all the distractions, some significant (like my children crying), and some irrelevant (like email ads)?

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home