At any given point, your brain is dividing its attention between whatever you’re doing right now, and whatever else you’d like to be thinking about.
If you’re trying to disarm a bomb, it would be really great if 100% of your focus was on that task. Active distractions should be cleared – no loud sounds, no flashing lights, no one poking you in the arm. But you need to get rid of passive distractions, too. If your spouse just walked out on you last night, that might be taking up a big part of your mindshare.
Positive things can take up mindshare, too. If you’re really excited for an upcoming concert this weekend, thinking about that experience can be taking up a lot of your mental space, distracting you from your focus.
These experiences are part of life, but keeping them from owning your mental space and energy is important. So what do we do with them?
I give them their space – but I fence them in.
I carry a small, physical notebook with me that I exclusively use to vent these kinds of thoughts. Often the desire to think about something is synonymous with the desire to communicate about it. If I’m excited about that concert, I just want to tell someone how excited I am. So I’ll give myself five minutes and write about that – and then close the book and be able to go back to my work.
Create your outlet for things that you find occupying your mindshare. Often, they’re jus trying to get out – so let them.