There is a printer that has seen better days that sits about 30 feet from my desk and thankfully it is turned off most of the time. Because when it is on those of us who sit near are driven to distraction by the scritching and scratching of its old rollers, the low squeal as its moving parts grind. All other thoughts flee from my head to be replaced by ‘that is ridiculously annoying’.
Even though an office is full of all sorts of sounds on a regular basis – phones ringing, talking, people moving about – this sort of maddening sound is along the same lines as the smoke detector that decides to start chirping its low battery message in the quiet of a sleeping house at 2am. Anything else that might have been in your head is immediately abandoned and this distraction takes over.
One person’s mind-centering soothing sounds are nails on a chalkboard to another. And then there are the visual distractions as well that tease your eyes away from your screen or the person that you are talking to. Evolution has taught us that we need to develop a healthy balance between intense focus and awareness of our surroundings. But once I identify that annoying distraction, Evolution, why can’t I go back to my intense focus? If someone is playing a song that I know and don’t like, why does it get stuck in my head for hours afterward?
Other times, once I get settled into a groove, I can work away at a thing in a busy and public place like a coffee shop without any difficulty. Intense focus comes through for me. Distractions are no match. What’s the difference? Hard to say.
I think that in part it comes down to what you can adjust to based on your experience. Once you feel comfortable that you understand your surroundings, then focus can narrow safely. Then again, some things just cut through that focus, regardless.
Here’s to a week free of those annoying little distractions for all of us.
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