- September 22, 2015
I was walking my dog, Neko, around my neighborhood the other day. As we made our way down the sidewalk, it was almost as if her presence triggered a motion-sensor for barking from other dogs in their own yards and from their own windows. I noticed Neko was surprisingly not affected by this. The barking continued, and as we were about to round the corner, another dog and its owner came rushing around the bend, barking and lunging. Although seemingly a little wary of this other dog, Neko still seemed largely unaffected by him.
At this point, I began to wonder if I should maybe learn a thing or two from Neko. More specifically, she has demonstrated her ability time and time again to block out the noise. I’m going to call the act of blocking out noise “using earplugs.” These “earplugs” can be applied to almost anything – however, I think learning how and when to use earplugs is essential particularly in the work setting.
There is a lot of “noise” that can clutter your mind and make it more difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish the tasks you need to complete throughout the day. “Noise” in this context means anything that either contributes little to your task at hand or actually diminishes your ability to accomplish your task. This can mean anything from a disgruntled client demanding your attention, to a coworker who is just having a bad day, to the numerous texts from your mother asking why you haven’t called her.
In the age of smartphones, immediate access to information and people is not only encouraged – it is also expected. This is undoubtedly an exhausting expectation. While the ability to multi-task can be enhanced by these ever-expanding technologies, it can also really put a damper on your productivity and cause increased stress levels because of excess noise.
You might find yourself mentally disrupted by others around you – or, sometimes even more disrupting, by your own thoughts about anything and everything that is entirely unrelated to what you are trying to accomplish at the moment. I am sure most of you reading this are all too familiar with thinking about tomorrow’s problems when today’s problems haven’t yet been solved. Some people go above and beyond that and stress themselves out thinking about future potential problems rather than the tangible things they can tackle in the present.
The solution? I’m not telling you to toss your phone out the window, shut your blinds, or unplug your computer. Rather, the solution is a type of mindfulness that allows you the flexibility to use those “earplugs” when you need them most. This is certainly easier said than done. It is more easily preached than practiced. But humor me for just a little bit and apply it this week to just one project you have. Don’t allow your phone to disrupt your focus – turn it on silent if you need to. Be mindful of what you’re focused on, what you should be focused on, and what you can allow yourself focus on at a later time. Don’t allow other people to bully you into thinking you need to focus on their issue at that moment. Learn to say “no.” Learn to say “not right now.” Surround yourself with others who help facilitate your use of earplugs. In short, follow Neko’s lead and ignore the excess noise.
By Victoria L. Chinsee, Esq.