How to Turn Down the Noise in Your Life
By Meg Lundstrom
Learn to manage the distractions that sap your concentration — so you can
find your focus and your peace of mind.
Your boss is bugging you to hand in that status report, your husband wants
you to sit down and talk finances, your son needs help with his science
project. You're feeling the urgency of it all, yet here you sit, frittering
away precious minutes, Googling from link to link or flipping from channel to
channel. Pretty soon you're consumed with guilt and frustration — and you're
kicking yourself for wasting so much time.
It's not plain old laziness. We're riveted by these electronic distractions
because of the way we're hardwired, experts say: Our brains instinctively cue
in to unexpected sights and sounds, a trait that has helped us humans thwart
danger and survive for about 2 million years. Manufacturers and marketers know
this fact well; that's why they keep adding flickering lights, insistent
sounds, and other bells and whistles to computer monitors, cell phones, PDAs,
and the like, in order to amp up the number of these attention-grabbing sensory
shocks we receive — known as "jolts per minute."
"The jolts make our brains release adrenaline, and we can easily get
used to this heightened level of stimulation, but there's a price to pay for
that," says psychologist and attention expert Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D.,
author of Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction
and Overload. "The more adrenaline we generate, the more we want, and
high amounts of this hormone put us into overdrive, making us feel intense,
worried, excited, angry, or afraid." What's more, because we get accustomed
to these high adrenaline levels, we feel bored, sluggish, and restless when
they drop off.
"Our days can easily swing back and forth between the two extremes, and
over time, we lose our natural ability to stay in the zone of just-enough
stimulation, in which we're both relaxed and alert — and able to get things
done," says Palladino. But it's when you're in that just-enough zone — what
she calls the "focus zone" — that you have the greatest capacity to
manage your emotions, make good decisions, and reach your goals, all while
feeling energized and on top of the world. Try these smart and very doable
steps, and let them help you bring out your peak performance.
STEP 1: Tune in to your mind-set.
To increase your ability to focus, you first need to be aware of when you
are, and aren't, in the focus zone — meaning calm, energized, and attentive
versus overwhelmed or bored. "Once you become conscious of where you are at
any given moment, you can do what it takes to move yourself into the focus zone
and stay there," says Palladino.