Just Say No to Distractions to Create a Life You Love

Just Say No to Distractions to Create a Life You Love

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.

This requires, first and foremost, making choices, choosing what matters most now, creating an order of priorities. And then, focusing on just a few things, focusing on completions.

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?

The Gifts (and Perils) of Focus

The Gifts (and Perils) of Focus

This is the beginning of a two-part series on Focus. We’ll look at how you can bless your creativity and your life with its gifts. And, avoid its pitfalls.

Focus is about getting out of overwhelm, over-doing, and the feeling of spinning your wheels. It’s about aligning your life with what matters most to you. It brings fulfillment, clarity, and ease.

What it’s not about is driving yourself with an inner taskmaster or eliminating other delights from your life. It isn’t about having a maniacal single purpose with nothing else going on.

Focus gives you purpose and momentum. Perhaps you feel your primary focus needs to be on your work, or school, or your family right now. Perhaps you decide to put it on finding a partner or learning a new skill.

Once you name your focus and give it your attention, you can fill in around it with other things that bring enjoyment and spice. You’ll also fill in with things that are necessary or important—like care of your finances and your health.

But you know your primary focus. And you understand why you may have to let some things go, some things be dormant or more quiet, why you might need to neglect some things for a period of time. Instead of trying to do it all.

Knowing your focus lets you off the hook of trying to do everything and all at the same level. So you don’t go crazy and exhaust yourself. Or get discouraged and never reach your dreams.

We need focus. In our art and in our lives. And it can feel harder and harder to choose and maintain focus in our “distraction economy.”

When You Have a Lot of Interests

Having focus means we choose where to give our life energy—to which art form, creative project, or aims. Within your creative life (and any area of life), choosing a primary focus can be enormously freeing, helpful, and satisfying.

Choosing a focus doesn’t mean you can’t work in more than one art form, or have more than one interest at a time. I am a writer, dancer, and musician. Each one gives me something different and vital. But I can’t do them all at the same level all the time.

Writing has been my primary focus for many years. Knowing this gives me clarity in how I use my studio time, nourish my muse, and grow as an artist. And I can choose to shift that focus for periods of time.

You can also work on multiple projects at a time. Some artists need this cross-pollination to do their best work. And you may have goals in different areas of your creative life, goals for creating art, learning, and sharing your work, for instance.

But I slow my progress and artistic development when I lack a strong focus, when my priorities aren’t clear, and when I don’t stick to those priorities. Then I feel frustrated and disappointed with how little progress I have made. I need to narrow my focus, know the order of priority of my projects and goals, and have a realistic plan for reaching them. Otherwise, I tend to flail, doing a little of this and a little of that.

The proof is always in the pudding. Are you completing things you are proud of? Creating your best work? Growing as an artist and in your life? Most of all, are you enjoying your life?

Choosing a Primary Focus

Start by choosing a primary focus. This might be a creative project or goal or a focus for your life as a whole right now. What is calling to you? What lights you up? What would feel the best or make the biggest positive difference in your life right now? What is your one thing if you had to choose one thing for a time?

Right now my artistic focus is the book I’m writing on how to live a passionate, inspired creative life. As long as I didn’t get crystal clear that my book was my primary focus, progress was painfully slow. I kept getting distracted and derailed. I had my hand in so many projects. And was also juggling too many small (and large) goals all over my life. I felt overwhelmed and like I was always falling behind. And it felt like nothing was getting done.

Perhaps you don’t yet have a focus or not enough. You go into your creative space and just dabble. You go about your life, answering to whatever is most urgent that day. Or you are overwhelmed with too many projects and directions.

Let Your Heart Be Your Guide

Focus, when chosen well—from your heart’s deepest desires and soul’s needs—gives you excitement, energy, and relief. And both the process and completion brings fulfillment, joy, and a sense of accomplishment.

I invite you to choose a primary focus in your creative life now, and perhaps one in your life as a whole. Here’s how.

Try this: Pour out all the projects, goals, desires, pursuits that you have going in your life now or have been thinking about. Dump them all onto a piece of paper.

Go through them one by one. Which ones spark joy? Which feel exciting or draw you? Which connect to a deep sense of purpose or meaning? Put a star or a heart next to those.

If something feels heavy or too hard, perhaps the time is not right for that now. If something feels like a should rather than a want to, cross it off or find a way to connect it to something you truly desire. Maybe you need to hire support with it. If something feels urgent, is that urgency connected to a goal or dream that’s truly important, or is it a false urgency, coming from unhealed trauma or anxiety?

Winnow down your goals and projects. Cross whatever you can off the list. Now, choose a primary focus in your creative life and/or in your life as a whole. If you cannot choose one, choose three and rank them in order of priority.

You can decide the time frame for this choice. Perhaps you start playing with this by just choosing a singular focus from now until the end of the year. That’s just two weeks away. So your focus might be to enjoy the holidays and let yourself rest. Or to finish a project that is near to completion. Or to spend time harvesting the outgoing year and visioning the new. Perhaps you are ready to choose a primary focus for 2022.

Focus Is More Than Just Choosing

Once you know what your focus is, you need a plan for how you will move toward it and keep it alive in daily life.

Focus can include detailing the steps and timeline. Right now, I’ve given myself the goal of editing one big chapter of my book every two weeks until this draft is done. Your focus might be a learning goal: To master watercolor technique or learn to play Bach’s solo cello suites. What’s your plan for how you will do this?

Whatever the focus, and whatever your steps, you also need a way to remember to take those steps, check how it’s going, and adjust as needed. You need encouragement, support, accountability. I have both an editor who is helping me with my book and a writer friend that I meet with regularly to share.

Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. We need mentors and companions on the path to our heart’s dreams.

Support for Your Passionate Life

If you would love radical clarity on your focus, I’d be honored to support you with one-on-one Creative Life Mentoring. This is a magical combo of life coaching, creativity mentoring, and soul whispering that is tailored to your specific needs, desires, dreams, challenges. It is a profound gift to give to yourself.

Stay tuned for part II on Focus in which I share some recent pitfalls I fell into, how I got out, and more.


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