Verb of the Week – Distract
By Donna Ambler on 12 April 2018
I have lots of things on my To Do List this week; most still waiting to be completed. But I‘ve been really focused on one particular project so they’ve had to wait. That has meant I’ve been on top of that project and all the little things are stacking up – like writing a blog this week.
On reflection, that’s because I am usually too easily distracted and tend to do all the little things first, or at different times during the day. I think it goes back to the old saying ‘A stitch in time saves nine’. I’ve always thought it best to do the little things first–before they become big things. But sometimes you just need buckle down and get on with the biggest task, turn off all the distractions, and focus.
The Oxford Dictionary online has four very appropriate definitions for distract, which it describes as a late middle English word from the Latin for ‘drawn apart’.
- To prevent (someone) from concentrating on something.
- To divert (attention) from something.
- To divert one's attention from something unpleasant by doing something different or more pleasurable.
- To perplex and bewilder.
I really like that the last definition is described as archaic and the example given is equally archaic: ‘horror and doubt distract His troubl'd thoughts’
I’m not usually one to take be distracted by bright, shiny things, but I have to admit that I just hung up from calling the computer shop to book my desktop in for a service halfway through writing this blog. Sometimes, when you are not completely focused on the task at hand it’s easy to see something else as a priority. It might be a thought pattern (my brain chugs along at a million miles an hour most days, cluttered with thoughts about all the things I need to do); or that what you’re doing is either difficult or disinteresting.
I’m also a serial interrupter. I just have to tell the person talking to me what is on my mind at that point in time because I know that it will disappear if I wait my turn. Then the moment will be lost! I just can’t stack things up to wait their turn. I have to act in the moment. I know it’s rude and annoying, but it’s a habit I just can’t break – my through processes keep on distracting me from being completely focused on just listening.
I guess that’s why I multitask. I usually have a few things on the go at once and I appreciate that the current thinking is that multitasking is ineffective, but it’s a tough habit to break. I know other women who agree that housework tasks can take them half a day. You know how it goes – you start mopping the floor and then see a spill on the bench that needs cleaning up, but then you also notice that the dishwasher needs unpacking. Pretty quickly, you have three jobs on the go at once. That’s what being easily distracted does to you.
Our teenagers seem to be distracted all the time these days. It’s a luxury to have their undivided attention, without any screen distractions. We try to teach them the importance of making eye contact and actively listening when they are being spoken to, but some days I think we might be talking in Martian for the amount of attention they give us.
So now that I’m at the bottom of the page I can see a bright shiny object out of the corner or my eye that needs my attention. Best check back on that To Do list.