Last week was a well-timed kickoff of my online virtual Zoom study for Discovering Jesus…
I (Pam) am ADD/ADHD so I feel like a walking miracle because typically someone so easily distracted doesn’t pump out over 55 books (an average of 2 a year for the past several decades) . Every word I type out is a complete God-sized miracle! On occasion, like this week, I get a real-life, HUMOROUS illustration of what a distraction can look like, how distractions can side track us, and a few ideas on how to deal with these noisy neighbors. of distraction.
You likely remember, that Bill and I make our home, for the most part on a live-aboard boat docked in Southern California. We love living so close to nature: welcoming sunrises, majestic sunsets, cool ocean breezes, beautiful birds soar above, frolicking seals, families of ducks, and when we motor out to sea, we are greeted by whales and dolphins that chase alongside our boat. However, we also have some very noisy neighbors– hundreds of sea lions! (See video) While many of you might think sea lions are like the trained seals at SeaWorld that juggle colorful balls and wave their flippers, in reality, sea lions in a marina can be quite the challenge.
Sea lions are HUGE! The average grown bull weighs up to 800 pounds and can be up to 11 feet long! While a cow is in the range of 200-300 pounds and a little shorter. Sea lions are also stubborn, and can be very grumpy, grouchy and menacing. Once they make up their mind on where they want to sun themselves, it is very difficult to get them to change their minds.
In our bay, the herds of sea lions, sometimes over a hundred at a time, hurled themselves on to a public dock and over time, their weight SUNK the dock. In addition, if they take a liking to your boat’s back swim deck, they can do severe damage to your boat. (Like this photo and video that went viral on Facebook)
So what do my sea lions have to do with dealing with distractions?
Sea lions are very NOISY! This week, I was trying to write and the barking cacophony of the sea lions became too loud to bear. Even my noise cancelling headphones didn’t cancel out their barking choir. I got up to see what all the chaos was about, and I could see piles of sealions on the public dock. I walked over and counted more than 70 sea lions blocking egress so no one could go in or out, up or down on the public dock.
In many ways, life’s constant or nagging demands, unhealthy relationship interactions, or like me, my own body and mind (ADD/ADHD), can pile on us like sea lions on a dock. We try to stay focused on an important task. We want to complete that chosen priority, then the noise begins:
- I check my social media and finally find myself emerging from the Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest vortex hours later!
- I look up an article on a relevant topic then read several more very off topic and save a few so I can decide my next haircut or what to buy to look younger, thinner or more sophisticated.
- I check my email to get a tidbit of needed information then find myself answering emails for a few hours.
- I get up to use the restroom or make a snack, then decide to clean the refrigerator or polish up the bath. And while I have the mop in hand, might as well clean ALL the floors in EVERY room!
- I answer a text or phone call and realize I have been on the phone for 40 minutes!
- I take a moment to put on the TV, You Tube, or Vimeo for a little entertainment, then find myself marking favorites to watch later– and I look at your watch and realize it IS LATER!
Recognize yourself in any of these? (Or is it just me?)
Life is noisy. So much comes our way every day!
So what is a person to do when you get a distraction attack?
The Bible gives a wise tip:
I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:27 NLT)
A true athlete will be disciplined in every respect, practicing constant self-control in order to win a laurel wreath that quickly withers. But we run our race to win a victor’s crown that will last forever. For that reason, I don’t run just for exercise or box like one throwing aimless punches, but I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body and get it under my control, so that after preaching the good news to others I myself won’t be disqualified. (1 Cor9:25-27 Passion Version)
But HOW can we gain a bit more self-control? How can we deal with distractions?
How can we become winners in the race to be more productive and less side-tracked?
Know Your Noisy Neighbors
I am much better at dealing with my sea lion throng now that I have dwelt among them for a few years. I know they are more likely to appear on foggy days because the dock is warmer than the ocean. They more often follow fishing boats into the inlet as the vessels carry bait, their favorite snack-pack. I also know a person can choose to walk right by them, (for the most part, sea lions are more afraid of humans than we need to be of them). We CAN ignore their barking, if we choose to not let their presence bother us. And if you need to deal with the damage the sea lions can inflict, I have learned there are both preventative measures to set up and reactive actions to hustle them away before they cause much damage.
For some reason, bright orange or red buckets frighten sea lions. As does a buoy strung between two trash cans. To a sea lion, these small items feel like impenetrable boundaries.
Create Your Own Preventative Measures
Take inventory on which things become distractions to you. While writing my book, The Get It Done, Girl: Maximize Your Moments Action Planner, I took time to take inventory of my personal distractions. I seem to maintain my focus in writing if I shut down my email, place my phone (with its myriad of distractions) plugged in away from where I am working and on “do not disturb mode”.
I also find I can be more productive if I time block my weekly schedule and divide up my week into Focused or Friendly days. Friendly days are when I take the time to look great, put on my make up, host all my zoom calls or in person meetings. I typically also run my errands or do shopping on my friendly days too. I get dressed once, then I maximize my interpersonal moments.
On my Focused days, I write. I typically wear a ball cap, yoga pants and no make up! I usually walk while I post to social media, so I get a bit of exercise in. I then set a timer and handle emails before and after a longer 90 minute writing block, and I repeat this pattern several times in the day. To really stay focused, I make deals with myself. “You can have a snack or lunch after so many minutes or so many words” or, on deadline, I might even say to myself, “Finish the paragraph, and then go to the restroom.”
Sea lions can be very bullheaded and cantankerous. One night, almost midnight, Bill and I arrived home to our boat from a long day of flying home from a speaking engagement. There, sitting right in front of the three steps that is our only entrance to get on our boat, was a HUGE old grumpy sea lion. We were sea lion novices at the time, so we tried raising our voices, enlarging our size by waving our arms over head. He was not intimidated, only annoyed and growled at us. We then thought, maybe if we make a unique or unusual noise, that might work, so we whacked our hose line on the cement. Zip. Zero. Nothing. Nada! No movement by Mr. Stubborn Sea Lion. It was a stare down. If we moved closer, the sea lion roared and growled and moved toward us, and though he was slower on land, his size was intimidating to us because one whack of his tail would place either of us in the chilly black waters. There was no going around Mr. Sea Lion!
We were careful to never harm or harass, but rather motivate Mr. Sea Lion back into the ocean, Bill then sprayed him with a hose. Mr. Sea Lion responded like he was at a day spa, sitting in a jacuzzi, and very content to simply stay in the shower. Finally, in desperation, after over an hour of trying to persuade with no avail, Bill turned on the power washer we use to clean our vessel, and simply aimed the spray in the direction of the indignant creature. The noise alone seemed to frustrate Mr. Sea Lion enough to motivate him to slide back into the ocean to frolic and swim once again.
Sometimes, just like a sea lion, distractions are very very stubborn. In those cases, you might need some extra help. An APP that times your online time then blocks access. A counselor to help with an irritating or unpredictable relationship. A life coach, like my husband, Bill, who helps people discover their best self, and the path to their best life, so they can say “Yes” to God’s plan and “No” to distractions. discouragements and detours. (You can contact Bill for life-coaching at www.Love-Wise.com)
In The Get It Done, Girl: Maximize Your Moments Action Planner, I also take the reader on a journey to self discovery. I have you keep a record of what helps you be most productive. For example, I can really pump out the words if:
- The temperature is 66-72 degrees
- I eat small bites of protein (or protein drinks) for fuel rather than a big meal that will make me sleepy.
- I drink plenty of water and green tea so I have a bit of caffeine in me but not the crash that can come after too much coffee or sugary drinks.
- I have essential oil mixes like “Focus” and “Revive” in a diffuser near by, (If you have a friend who sells Deterra or Young Living oils, ask her to help you create your energizing or focusing mix. )
- And finally, for me, after 4 decades of writing, I am much more productive when I write in a recliner with my feet elevated above my waist. (I have no idea why, but it just WORKS!)
Pray and ask God how you can subdue your “sea lions”. Diagnose, then deactivate your distractions and stay fabulously focused to Get It Done, Girl!
Pam Farrel is a bestselling author who finds living on the ocean an energizing adventure that inspires her writing. Check out books written by the Farrels at www.Love-Wise.com