Tuesday, September 18, 2018

David K. Reynolds "Obstacles to Attention"

David K. Reynolds who founded the "Constructive Living" movement has been a generous contributor to the monthly "Constructive Living Newsletter," edited and distributed by Paul Kroner.  This month's issue contained a very useful article by Dr. Reynolds which he titled:  "Obstacles to Attention".  With this permission I share it here.  Thanks for these insights.

From Dr. David K. Reynolds (dkreynoldsjapan@gmail.com):

ObstaclesWhat interferes with purpose-focused attention? Here is a list of obstacles to constructive activities. They represent a variety of distractions that need to be avoided.

1. Rushing

Doing something in a hurry makes it difficult to attend carefully to purposeful activity.

2. Repetition
Doing the same action many, many times, the routine nature can interfere with the potential newness of an activity.

3. Alternative desires
Thinking of some preferred activity can be a distraction from the present task.

4. Physical condition

When tired or ill or in pain or excited, proper attention to behavior may be disturbed.

5. Laziness

The thought that getting around to doing an irksome task can be troublesome.

6. Environmental distractions

Television sounds, noises in the house or neighborhood, lighting, other people moving about nearby, and the like can interfere.  Also, when the temperature is particularly high or low, it may be difficult to focus on the task at hand.

7. Lack of information

Not knowing how to go about a task properly can be a problem.

8. Worry

Over-concern about the possibility that the task is not going well can be a distraction that compounds the problem of distracted attention.

9. Two tasks at once

Attending to a smart phone while doing something else reduces the quality of attention to both. Watching television while writing a letter can make both activities less than adequate.

10. Cluttered surroundings

A messy environment can hinder focused attention on the task at hand.

11. Daydreaming

Mentally spacing out, of course, interferes with proper attention to tasks at hand.

12. Planning too far ahead

Planning is fine. However, while engaged in some other task, the planning can be a distraction. If planning is necessary, it is better to stop and plan, writing down notes so that you can return to the planning after the task at hand is completed.

13. Preparation interference

When preparing to do a task (e.g., getting out tools, changing clothes, traveling, organizing space) is bothersome, the task becomes harder to do. It can be helpful to think of the preparation itself as a task. Thus, there are two tasks to do. Finishing the preparations is completing a task. Success already. It may be possible to separate the two tasks over time. Two successes whenever the original task is completed. Furthermore, once involved in finishing preparations, it is sometimes quite natural and relatively easy to slide into doing the task immediately.

14. Comparison interference

Comparing a difficult but necessary task with some pleasant, easy, restful alternative throws up an unnecessary barrier. Of course, prioritizing what needs to be done is up to you. However, more useful comparisons are possible, such as what the situation will be like when the task is completed, what rewards are possible after finishing the task, how much more fun is possible in anticipation after completing the task, how satisfied you will feel after the task is done, and so forth. When something needs to be done, do it.

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