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Slay the distraction vampires

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Summer is always a time for vampire movies -- be it "Twilight" sagas or something more curious involving Abraham Lincoln. But when it comes to things that suck your life energy, movie vampires have nothing on the everyday temptations of the electronic world.

You know how it goes. You get an email about something posted on Facebook (FB). You click over, then find a link to another article. You click on that and see some catchy headlines on the sidebar that also look enticing. Then you notice you have email, so you head back over and check that. One is a spam message from a bank, which reminds you that you meant to make a change on your account at a different bank, so you click over but then see a headline about the market dropping and... hey, is it time for my 11:00 a.m. meeting already?

Humans are prone to distraction. Our best intentions to focus can be sucked dry by constant connectivity. We may accomplish nothing with all our clicking around, and then we're tired from sitting so we have to take a break. We sit back down to email and it starts all over again -- sound and fury signifying nothing.

How do you slay the distraction vampires?

1. Play offense. Carve out unconnected time when you turn off the phone, shut your browser, and try to focus on one project. If you're addicted to technology, you'll soon see how hard this is. People who lost power due to last week's storm have pondered what to do with themselves with no TV or computers! You'll likely find yourself experiencing symptoms similar to withdrawal, but try to push through to a more Zen-like state.

2. Keep track of your distractions. When people take up meditation, teachers tell them to note when their minds wander and simply guide their thoughts back. It's the same thing with distractions. If you've set a goal to send five emails about a certain topic before your 2 p.m. meeting and you notice yourself cruising around your favorite blogs, make a hash mark and go back. Over time, you can reward yourself for lowering the number of hash marks incurred in a given day.

3. See them for what they are. Fundamentally, the reason we goof off online is that it's pleasant, but it looks like we're working. You're a professional, though. Who are you trying to impress with how much time you're sitting at the computer? Take real breaks instead. Go for a walk or out for lunch, and return better able to focus. If that still isn't doing it for you, you may have bigger concerns.

4. Rethink your job. Maybe there's a reason you're putting real tasks off: You fundamentally don't want to do them. Life's too short to be in a job you hate. Next time you find yourself getting distracted, pull out that resume, and drive a stake through the heart of those frenzied vampires.

How do you slay distractions?

Photo courtesy of flickr user Enockson
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