Have you ever driven somewhere and after arriving, wondered how the heck you got there, because you had no memory of the drive? Has a family member ever said to you, “you never listen to me?” Have you gone into a room and forgotten why you were there? Or torn the house apart looking for your phone……that was in your hand? If you answered yes to any of these questions, or even added your own as you were reading, you, like most people, are living in a distracted state.
Being distracted can threaten our relationships, waste our time, and worst of all, threaten our lives or the lives of those around us – think of texting or checking e-mail while driving. More than any time in history, we have gadgets and appliances to make our lives easier and save us time. Unfortunately, those very things are constantly distracting us from whatever it is we’re currently doing, whether it’s trying to get a report done or spending quality time with family or friends. Some won’t admit to being distracted. They assert they are merely multi-tasking.
However, according to current research, there’s no such thing as multi-tasking. What we think is multi-tasking, scientists call serial tasking, and it takes our brains longer than we think to switch gears. When we are constantly switching our attention back and forth, we are less productive, can remember less of what we are doing, and we make more mistakes. If this were not true, none of us could answer “yes” to any of the questions in the first paragraph.
I’ve compiled a list of five things we can do to limit distractions in our lives.
Do the worst first. What I mean by this is that if you have several tasks to do, do the one you like the least first, and FINISH it! This helps your day go more smoothly because you are not constantly reminding yourself that you have this unpleasant task to do. This is very distracting and steals the joy of the present moment. I used this technique when I worked home health. I would see my most difficult patients early in the day and saved the most pleasant for later in the day.
Turn off notifications on your phone and computer. You can do this by going into the settings. If you can’t figure out how to do it, ask your child or grandchild. When trying to quiet and focus your mind, it helps to quiet those notifications.
Set a limit on the number of times you check your e-mail each day. I realize some people’s jobs require them to be on the phone and e-mailing all day, but outside of work, most of us can limit it to twice a day, and for our sanity, we should. Turning off notifications will help with this because you won’t be tempted to click over every time you get a notification.
Limit the amount of time you spend watching television and on ALL social media. While Netflix binges are so tempting and social media can be a great way to connect and get information, too much time spent on these platforms distracts us from the real world. Why spend all your time watching other people live their dreams or talk about their lives when you could be focusing on living your own with the amazing people right in front of you? As John Bytheway said, “Turn off the TV and get a life!”
Clear the clutter from your life.
- Physical clutter – Clean out your closets and tidy up your surroundings. Too much stuff can derail your focus like nothing else, so spend a little time spring cleaning this week and see how much your focus improves.
- Mental clutter – In yoga, we call this chitta vritti or monkey mind. Take some time each day to do some mindfulness exercises and get refocused. Here are two links that have some great ideas for mindfulness exercises.
Also, make sure you come to class on Tuesday where I’ll share a mindfulness exercise with you. I promise, you’ll be glad you came.
- Emotional clutter – Either talk or walk. What I mean by this is that if you are carrying an emotional burden concerning a relationship with another person, you need to set aside a time to talk things out and work on a plan to make things better, and if you can’t, you need to walk away. We’ve all had those people in our lives that were toxic and had a way of dragging everyone down, and there was just no working things out with them. This can be hard, but if you can’t talk, you must walk.
Distractions take us away from the present moment, but mindfulness can bring us back. We need to be present for those whom we love. Deepak Chopra said, “It takes a little bit of mindfulness and a little bit of attention to others to be a good listener, which helps cultivate emotional nurturing and engagement.” We also need to be present for ourselves if we are to enjoy life to the fullest and be able to remember each precious moment. We don’t want to be like the distracted driver and arrive at the end of our lives and wonder how the heck we got there and not be able to recall the ride.
Be here, now.