Even if the desire is there, it is almost impossible to maintain focus away from chaos these days. It’s a world that is built to distract us. It’s a world that thrives on busyness and distractions. Living in such a world isn’t always easy when there are things to be done, deadlines to meet, and imminent exams that need some serious studying for. For some, chaos can become catastrophic – chaos becomes what leads to procrastination and letting things fall off the priority list. What results is creating chaos from chaos.
What is chaos exactly? Chaos is basically a state of disorder and confusion. Chaos can be unpredictable, random, and can set off pretty consequential events if it is significant enough. Chaos is looking at your day planner and wondering how you’re going to get through your tasks that were due yesterday, then having a new assignment added with a “today” deadline. Chaos is sitting and intending to focus, but being interrupted by visitors, emails, and other unpredictable goings on of a day. Chaos is having 20 browser windows open on your computer at once. Chaos is sitting down and trying to work, but seeing about a million things around you that you would rather be doing. Chaos is everywhere, and you can’t avoid it, but you can learn to manage it.
In a chaotic world, you can develop strategies that will allow you to recognize chaos, manage it, and maintain focus. How can you become a master at handling chaos? Here’s a few ways:
The most important step in managing chaos is to accept it. Be mentally prepared for the unexpected. This requires practice. For those who thrive on being organised this may take some time. However, the benefit of doing this may be more than you expect. The concept of “willpower” as a limited resource comes into play. In summary, we all have a limited amount of energy each day. How is it that someone can manage more stress and chaos than others? This comes down to managing what we decide to put energy towards and maybe more importantly, how we react to unexpected situations or “chaotic” moments.
Compartmentalization helps you separate things from each other, or put things into groups. Compartmentalization helps you place things into their own box, and you become the decider of when that box is opened again. When you compartmentalize, you can create boundaries around things, and protect them, to ensure their integrity and importance. Examples of compartmentalization would be to completely separate your work and social life so to be able to create lines in the sand – when you’re working, you’re working; when you’re socializing, you’re socializing. You can also compartmentalize spaces. For instance, certain spaces in your home, campus or where you live you can designate as places for focus/work/school where others are for relaxation and fun and you will use those spaces only for those purposes. This helps you keep the chaos to where you want to designate it.
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TURN OFF DISTRACTIONS
Sometimes managing chaos is as simple as pressing the off button. I know, I know, it’s so hard to be disconnected when there is a world of connectivity at your fingertips. But trust me, you’d be surprised what can happen when you shut off your phone, turn off your social media, shut down your browser, and focus solely on your task at hand. Let’s break it down. A recent study examining the media usage of teens and tweens stated that youth spend an estimated 9 hours on their screens a day. 9 HOURS! Imagine what could happen if you took just one of those hours away from your media – one hour of an uninterrupted break from chaos. Suddenly the time you take to browse through someone’s Facebook timeline becomes the time you write a paragraph of your essay due tomorrow. Suddenly the time you take to compose that perfect 140 character Tweet becomes getting three emails answered. Use your time wisely!
SET YOUR PACE
If you have 10 things to do by the end of the week, do you create chaos for yourself by waiting until the last couple days of the week to hurriedly tackle all your things on your list? Taking time to plan your workload intentionally will allow you to be more tolerant and resilient to chaos. When you set a pace, and commit to disciplining yourself to accomplishing your tasks in a more spread out and consistent fashion, you allow yourself the time to deal with the unexpected assignments, or last minute invitations.
MINIMIZE THE FEELING OF BEING OVERWHELMED
Sometimes the mere feeling of being overwhelmed can cause a serious hit on your productivity. When we are overwhelmed, all we can think about is how much we need to do, how little time we have, and all the distractions that will prevent us from getting to where we need to be. Taking time to manage that feeling of being overwhelmed can reduce the chaos you are feeling in your life. Use a planner to write down your tasks and deadlines rather than keeping them in your head. Delegating tasks when possible, and not being afraid to ask for help. Take time to really consider what can be taken off your to-do list, and what can truly wait until later and a better time. Once you clear your head, you can clear your way out of chaos.
ALLOW YOURSELF A BIT OF CHAOS
Sometimes it’s just kind of fun to succumb to the chaos. Just because sometimes chaos can tend to distract us doesn’t mean it is totally bad, or you can’t enjoy some of it. You can be spontaneous. You can take the time to goof around with your friends or co-workers. You can take the time to spend 2 hours following YouTube recommendations for entertainment’s sake. You can decide to drop what you’re doing to join in the fun. However, when you keep your priorities in check by using strategies designed to ensure those priorities are taken care of first and foremost, you free yourself up for more chaos. The fun kind of chaos.
It is a chaotic, distracting, disordered and confusing world, but when you prepare yourself to take on the chaos head on, you pave your way to success and productivity. Try some of these strategies, even just one or two at first, and see how your ability to handle chaos changes. Demonstrate these strategies to others, so together, you can work to reduce the chaos around you, by still finding time and opportunity to create and enjoy the kind of fun chaos you want in your life.
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