People process the sensory data received by their brains in different ways. How you process the sensory data in your brain has a lot to do with how, and when, you focus best. In order to discover how you process data, I’d like you to try this simple three-minute exercise…
1. Get a piece of paper and divide it into three columns.
2. Title the first column sight, the second column sound, and the third column smell, taste, feel.
3. Now, sit silently for three minutes, and write whatever you happen to notice during those three minutes in its corresponding column. If you hear a dog bark, for example, you write dog bark in the sound column. If you see a bird fly by, you write bird in the sight column, and if you begin to feel uncomfortable, you write uncomfortable in the smell, taste, feel column, and so on.
4. When the three minutes are over, count how many items you have in each column.
5. This exercise works best if you do it before you read any further.
The types of distractions that you noticed during those three minutes will indicate whether you are predominantly audio, visual or kinetic. And whether you are audio, visual or kinetic will have a lot to do with the type of sensory data that steals your focus.
If most of the items on your list were in the sight column, then you tend to process information visually. You are probably distracted by anything within your line of sight. But when you control what enters your line of sight, you also control your distractions. If you are visual, you probably can’t take your eyes off the flickering of a television. Bad lighting annoys you. Clutter most likely distracts and irritates you. And if you have more than one project on your desk, you will have difficulty focusing on the project at hand. You do not work well facing windows, messes, or crowded rooms. But what you can’t see won’t distract you. So, when you do need to concentrate, control what you have in your line of sight, and you will find concentrating much easier.
If most of the items on your list were in the sound column, you tend to be audio. You cannot ignore sounds. If someone asks you a question, you are compelled to respond. When you go to bed, you lie awake-listening to the sound of your own thoughts and hearing every drippy sink for miles. Noise steals your focus and concentration. When you try to concentrate in a noisy space, you are driven to distraction. Libraries were made for you because once you control the sounds around you, you begin to control your focus. Earplugs, closed doors and white noise are your best defenses. By white noise, I mean any continuous sound that keeps your overly sensitive ears busy without distracting them-continuous being the key word because if there is a disruption in that noise, you will notice. Some examples of white noise are: a television with the volume at a faint mumble, the clatter and murmur of a local coffee shop, the trickling water of a fountain, an air conditioner’s hum, low chanting, your own voice drowning out other noises and soft music with no lyrics. “No lyrics” is important because if audio people can hear words, they will start paying attention to those words. If you are audio, then once you begin to control the sounds around you, you will begin to expand your focus.
Finally, if most of the items on your list were in the third column, you tend to be kinetic. Touch and smell are your dominant senses. Extremes in temperature, poor airflow, obnoxious smells and cramped quarters are your concentration sappers. Kinetic people benefit from controlling the space and smells around them. In fact, aromatherapy can actually aid a kinetic person’s concentration by giving them something upon which to concentrate. Kinetic people also benefit from improved airflow, air conditioning and heating systems. They’re the one type of person who must invest in comfortable desk furniture because unless kinetic people feel comfortable, they’ll be unable to focus on the job at hand, and the investment in their comfort will be worth the expense. Kinetic people only really notice what enters their personal space, so if you want to hold a kinetic person’s attention, you had better be within their arms reach. If you are kinetic, then controlling your personal space will expand your ability to focus.
Can you be all three types? Well, can people be ambidextrous? Of course! And the same holds true for audio, visual and kinetic people. However, most people do have one dominant sense, and they only notice the distractions to their other senses after their dominant sense has been distracted. I’m audio, for example, and the fact that my office is cramped, stuffy and cluttered only seems to affect my concentration when my neighbor is playing loud music. By and large, when people control the distractions to their dominant sense, the distractions to their other senses don’t bother them so much.