Yesterday we took a look at distractions, and how what many of us consider to be annoyances and focal points of our blame, they can also be quite beneficial. That is, if we are intentional with how and when we use them.
In today’s discussion of disruptions, we’ll see how although they’re similar in many ways to distractions, their differences are significant and, as a result, require a different tack.
What is a disruption?
Similar to distractions, disruptions are things that interfere with our original plans, requiring instead we focus on them.
The difference - and it is a big one - is that unlike distractions, which offer us the choice to attend to them or not (even if it doesn’t always seem like it), disruptions do not.
Even though we nearly always have a choice, in the case of disruptions, it is in typically our best interest to attend to them rather than ignore them.
Here are just a few examples of disruptions:
Pausing for disruptions.
Disruptions can range in scale and intensity. Certainly if one lives in an area hit by a natural disaster, that is a very different disruption than if we lose internet service for a few hours.
Yet each of these things still interfere with our ability to progress along our planned or desired path, and we typically feel the need to attend to them, or the potential fall-out because of them, in order to move on. Alternatively, with distractions, we are more likely to temporarily delay our plans in favor of the distraction.
Choosing our priorities to minimize impact.
As discussed yesterday, one of the big things to remember with distractions is that we allow them by choice. And so being intentional about which distractions we choose to allow, and establishing boundaries in order to minimize unwelcome distractions, are helpful approaches to effectively managing them.
Another way to help us stay on course, is to have a clear understanding of our priorities. This knowledge is especially beneficial when it comes to disruptions, although for slightly different reasons.
With distractions, understanding our priorities helps us to keep our eyes on the prize, whereas knowing our priorities before disruptions occur can help us to more effectively triage. This then ensures we continue to pay attention to what is most important to us even when disruptions require us to divide our attention.
To do this, it is helpful to have a clear understanding of what is most important to us, which can be done by creating what I call a priority hierarchy.
Why a hierarchy?
Why a hierarchy? Well, as research has increasingly shown, we are not that great at multitasking and, in fact, multitasking is more of a facade than a reality for most of us.
What this means, is that we are better off focusing on one thing at a time, so when disruptions occur that detract us from what we want to do, we run the risk of wanting to focus on both that and the disruption at the same time.
But doing this releases cortisol, a stress hormone, and also leads to a lowered ability to focus, and a reduction of energy. Exactly what we don’t need to effectively work beyond the disruption and get back to what’s most important.
What we’re going to do today is create a very basic priority hierarchy. We’ll delve further into this tomorrow, but for starters, here’s what to do:
Identifying our priorities.
With this hierarchy, we’re starting with what is, rather than what we’d like it to be. However, after sitting with this list for a while, and especially once we begin to notice patterns of where our priorities compete and/or disruptions create the greatest impact, we might find that certain priorities should be reshuffled. This is totally fine to do. After all, it’s our list!
The extra potency of disruptions during transition.
When we are undergoing a transition to change, we are especially prone to both distractions and disruptions.
This is, in part, because we are in the process of adapting to something new, which requires we pull up our anchors and drift a bit until we’re ready to drop them in a new space, with new routines, habits and such.
We are at our most vulnerable when in transition because of this, so when a disruption occurs, we have a high potential of running off course. And the further we’re pushed away from our destination, the longer and harder it is to get ourselves headed back in the right direction.
Understanding the difference between distractions and disruptions and recognizing the power we have when either or both appear, can be extremely helpful in keeping our focus when and where it matters most.
Tomorrow we’ll dig a bit further into our priorities and how to devise a protective shield around those we value the most.
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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