When we worked in an office, we were working in a space designed specifically for work. The entire office exists entirely to allow people to get their work done, no matter what it is. Now, we’re working at home, a place that is made for everything else in our lives.
It can be easy to get distracted anywhere, but your home offers a lot of personal distractions, whether there’s a pile of laundry just out of sight of your webcam, or you start mentally assembling your lunch in your head during a call. But is distraction always a bad thing? According to David Vallance’s deep dive over on the Work In Progress blog, it’s not — if you can learn how to manage it.
Why does my mind wander?
Your mind wandering is caused by yourdefault mode network(DMN). The DMN kicks into gear when you find yourself without a specific goal-oriented mental task—say, solving a complex mathematical problem. Without a clear focus, blood rushes to a different part of your brain, and that causes your mind to wander on to other topics, like imagining future events, reliving a past event, or even assessing your environment for threats! Luckily, we don’t need to worry about our imminent survival all that often anymore, but nevertheless it’s still important that our brain is active.
How to manage a wandering mind
If the DMN can distract us from particular types of work without much warning. Tt then becomes a matter of accepting and managing your distractions.“Many people use meditation as a way to manage their Default Mode Network, which involves accepting your thoughts and then letting them go,” Brian Wind, a clinical psychologist and Chief Clinical Officer of an addiction treatment center explains.“If you have a thought that might be useful, write it down somewhere and let it go. You'll be able to come back later to your notebook or notes on your phone to explore the thoughts and ideas you had. Discuss them with someone and see if there are initiatives or projects you can propose from your thoughts and ideas.”
When I read this, I started keeping a to-do list on Paper to track the things that were distracting me and, silly and all as it sounds, it makes it easier to box those thoughts off, once you know you can revisit them later.
To further help to manage a wandering mind, you might find that routine or little rituals can help to reengage your mind. For me, if I notice that I’ve been staring at the blinking line in a Paper doc for a while, I will go and get a glass of water. I use this little screen break to refocus while walking back to my desk. Others have specific songs that get them into a productive headspace. The key is doing something that helps to send you a signal your brain to say‘ok, that’s enough of that now’. You can check out our cheat sheet here for helpful triggers you might like to try out.
What tricks do you use to ward off distraction? Tell us in the comments below so we can add them to our routine as well.