The undistracted mind

It’s easy to focus when nothing else grabs for your attention. But we aren’t built to handle distraction. When you consider that we were often beset by predators on a daily basis, it makes sense that our attention would be easily pulled away from what we were doing – lest we’d be eaten.

So handling distraction isn’t so much a matter of will power, rather than it’s a function of setting your environment up in such a way that potential distractions are blocked before they can even reach you. I like the description in Cal Newport’s Deep Work of Carl Jung: “He began with a basic two-story stone house he called the Tower… [including a private office]. “In my retiring room I am by myself,’ Jung said of the space. ‘I keep the key with me all the time; no one else is allowed in there except with my permission.”

In a practical sense, maybe you can’t have a tower out in the woods. But you can set up distraction-proofing.

That means, for me, working on a computer with the internet off, notifications off, noise-canceling headphones, a song on repeat (this one certainly takes some getting used to, but I’ve found that once the song fades into the background it is easier to concentrate than with other ambient noises), and a block (or blocks of time) that are strictly for the work.


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