How to Say “NO” to Distractions

By Susan Holland in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

Preparation is everything! As the Boy Scouts say, “Be Prepared.”

When I have an art project to do, I put myself through a NASA-like preparation period to get things moving. Maybe it’s because I am an ADHD sort, but I need that prep time to really get serious and focused about my work.

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You see, if there is a phone call, or a dinner call, or a floating anxiety, it can derail the whole process, and the mission becomes a flop.

As a result, I’ve learned some tricks that help me focus during crunch time, and keep other people from interrupting my flow. Here’s what works for me:

1. Isolate the project in a place far away from “regular life.”

2. Notify others that I am committed and should not be disturbed.

3. Prepare materials and workspace ahead of time in a goal-specific way.

4. Break down big projects into sections.

5. Schedule short breaks when each section is completed.

6. Plan eating breaks intelligently to keep my energy up.

7. Use white noise, music, or isolation to block out interruptions.

This works whether the task is cooking a meal, getting prepared for an important business meeting, or even finishing a big art project.

Is this overkill? Not at all.

For example, all my life I have found telephones to be a bane of productivity. Other people’s agendas are annoyingly disruptive to my own, and even casual visiting with a neighbor can quickly become an enemy to getting anything done.

Whether or not a phone call is important, if the topic is something completely different from what I should be focused on that day, then it has no place in my schedule.

Pick another day for a long phone call, today is for art. Don’t mix the two.

An unexpected visit from a friend or neighbor is often the worst kind of problem. Either I offend the nice person by saying to call again another day, or I exchange a pleasant conversation, and kiss my focus goodbye.

Sometimes I can negotiate my way out of the chat quickly enough not to be distracted. But my nature is to pay serious attention to whatever I am doing, and so it is difficult for me to move past the distraction.

These sorts of normal interruptions don’t bother everyone, but they are more than a bother to me, as well as a huge expenditure of energy and time. And that’s why I have those 7 steps. Trust me, they work!

Once I put in a productive day, I can sleep well at night. . . and it all works together to make this artist a bright girl for the projects of tomorrow.

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