I have been on a roll lately, getting things done that are important to me. Taking on my big dreams and big projects, the ones that have been languishing, being avoided, or moving so slowly.
To move forward in a concerted way toward what matters most to me, toward co-creating what I long for in my life, one thing has been paramount: saying no to distractions.
I’ve been gaining greater clarity as I go.
And that means letting other wonderful, valid, even loved things go for now. Saying no to distractions. Being vigilant about staying on track.
As scary or difficult as some of my dreams can feel, as challenging or triggering as some of the steps I need to take are, the feeling of momentum, relief, and release is wonderful. Freeing, enlivening.
Are You Distractable?
I don’t think of myself as a person who is easily distracted. Once I am engaged in a task, I don’t like to be interrupted. I can hold a laser-like focus, especially when creating art or working on a project.
But we live in a culture of constant distraction. And we are all affected by it, unless you live without technology. Our attention-based economy means that things are grabbing for our attention nearly all the time in the most pernicious ways.
Our cell phones, computers, and tablets are specifically designed to distract us and pull us in a thousand directions. Social media, advertising, and the news all do this too.
The effect of these on our ability to focus and stay focused on any activity, conversation, train of thought, or feeling is devastating. Especially if you wish to live a life of heart, a fulfilling, inspired, soulful, artful life.
In other words, it’s not just you who is struggling with this.
How to Say No to Distractions
The antidote, or at least a key antidote, is saying no to distractions.
Long ago I turned off all notifications on my devices—all beeps, boops, boings, buzzes, and banners—except for phone calls and text messages. And I don’t keep my phone in the room where I create or work.
I’m a big fan of the Do Not Disturb setting on the phone, but nothing beats putting the phone where you cannot see it or reach it. I have to walk into another room to answer the phone or texts. Usually, if I’m working, I ignore it.
I do my best to say no to heading off on unrelated tangents while in the middle of a project. To not suddenly switch gears, get thrown by an open tab on the computer, an email, or a thought zinging through my mind. (I don’t always succeed at this.)
I’m certainly not able to stop myself from opening six tabs on my computer during the day. But most days, I close them all down in the evening, whether or not I looked at them. I may jot down notes of things I truly want to follow up on. This is better than leaving the tabs open. It gives me more choice about when to follow up and fewer distractions facing me at the start of a new day.
Don’t Keep Piling More on Your Plate
Once I choose my top priorities for the month or week or day, I watch out for piling more things on my plate. We cannot plan everything in our lives and I wouldn’t want to. I allow for flexibility and new inspiration. But the key is to choose consciously.
When I chose to take a demanding and time-consuming course in support of my Breakthrough Dream in 2021, I found myself considering an unrelated class on essay writing and another that would feed my spiritual growth at the same time.
Until I realized, while standing in the shower (an excellent place to think because it’s so free of distractions): I need to keep my time and energy focused on the one class for the next two months. Adding more would only make my life stressful, cause me to get less from the class I signed up for, and keep me from making the progress I desire on my biggest dreams.
Your Turn: Will You Say No to Distractions?
I invite you to ask yourself:
What are your top 3 priorities for the next 3 months? What matters most? What would feel the best to complete? What would bring you the most joy or satisfaction?
And then, what distractions can you say no to in order to make more time (and inner space and inspiration) for what you love and desire?
Write these down and make a clear commitment. What distractions will you eliminate? What supports will you put in place to help you do this?
Pay attention to when you get distracted during the day and gently pause, refocus, and come back to where you really wish to put your energy.
Healthy (and Unhealthy) Distractions
Saying no to distractions that keep you from doing what you love and long to do, or what most needs doing, isn’t the same as taking breaks to rest, replenish, and revitalize. These are vital.
The difference for me between a healthy break and a distraction looks like taking a five-minute dance break or nature break during my work day vs. checking my phone. Or spending time reading or napping vs. scrolling through the news or social media.
You’ll know the difference for yourself because unhealthy distractions leave you feeling depleted, overwhelmed, unfocused, or unmotivated. They keep you from what matters most to you.
Healthy breaks revitalize you, give you fresh energy and focus, and bring in doses of inspiration.
It’s good to get up from our projects periodically to stretch, have a glass of water, look around, step outside. It’s good to take in new inspiration and experiences.
But here’s where it gets tricky: Some distractions, even though they may be lovely or have positive aspects, if they don’t feed your dreams and priorities right now, are still distractions.
Let them go. There may be time for them to become a priority later. For now, make space. Invite focus, peace, and flow by saying no to distractions.
Choosing priorities, limiting the number of them (no more than three is good rule), and saying no to distractions brings more ease, fulfillment, and empowerment.
What will you say no to so you can say YES more often to what you love?