Distraction is one of my major problems, and I suspect I am not alone. When I was a young music student, I used distraction to help me avoid practicing (“Oops, I forgot to check my math homework!”). As an adult, I can sometimes be too distracted to focus on the practice I actually want to do.
Because practicing is a priority for me, I have learned to recognize the main causes of my distraction, and some ways to put the distractions aside and focus.
There are three main sources of distraction: things, other people, and yourself. Two of these are fairly easy to eliminate, if you take appropriate action. The third is a little more challenging. Here are some of the things I do to avoid distractions and to focus on my work.
1. Things. Turn it off, put it away, give it to someone else. No matter what it is, if it is keeping you from focusing on your work, you don’t need it around. Resist the temptation to leave your cell phone on. Turn it off or put it in another room. You can check Facebook later.
It takes 18 minutes to re-focus on your work after an interruption. Peter Bregman deals with this is his book 18 Minutes:Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done.
2. People. Close the door. Make yourself unavailable. Practice is your “time at the office.” Set your boundaries and don’t allow interruptions. If you can’t prevent interruptions, try working early in the morning or later at night when your time will be your own.
3. Yourself. Recognize that your practice time is important, and allow yourself to make it a priority.Be proud that you can meet this obligation to yourself.
4. Establish a “preparing to work” ritual. Do some stretches. Have a cup of tea. Dust your harp. And of course tune your harp. Just one of these things can be your mental cue to get down to work.
5. Are you a master of procrastination? Do one quick (5 minutes or less) task you’ve been putting off. Then you can settle down to your practice with a small weight lifted from your mind.
6. Begin with the hardest part. Bring your freshest mental state to that difficult passage that you want to conquer. You will be instantly absorbed in the task.
7. Focus on your goals. What do you want to accomplish that day? That week? That month? It’s hard to get anywhere without a road map. Write down a plan and start working on it. Here’s a previous post a wrote on that topic.
What keeps you from the work you want to do?