Think for a moment about the greatest sources of your daily distraction. For me, it’s my smart phone, email and surfing the web. Likely you’re no different. Even with daily meditation and yoga, I was losing productivity, constantly falling out of the present moment, working too much and losing patience with the speed of life.
Then I realized something — not only was I distracted, but I had become addicted to the causes of my distraction. I had to do something radical. The solution? I put myself in iPhone Rehab.
Disclaimer: I don’t recommend this for everyone. Going cold turkey isn’t easy and be forewarned that it will likely piss off some friends and colleagues. I lasted without a smartphone for eight months, and was able to live off the grid without moving to a cave. I could see more clearly, prioritize better and listen more attentively.
My little experiment showed me some clear truths: Unplugging makes you happier, nicer and less stressed out. But I also realized that you don’t need to put yourself into iPhone Rehab for eight months to reach a similar conclusion.
Here are three less extreme ways to reduce your daily distractions:
1. Reduce the tendency to multi-task.
Though we think we're being more productive, multi-tasking actually reduces our focus, increases stress and reduces overall productivity. It can actually lead us to increased mental and physical fatigue in the long run.
So there's no need to have a bunch of windows on your desktop open! Try minimizing and only using what you need for the duration of whatever it is you're working on.
2. Put boundaries on your email.
Stop checking your email every couple of minutes! By interrupting our creative or analytical thinking, we drain our brains’ energy. Giving in to the addiction of constantly checking email creates a situation ripe for mistakes. It also feeds the stimulant-motivated-culture, by responding in a Pavlovian nature to every ping of another email, every vibration from your smart-watch.
In his book The Four Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss writes, “My greatest creative pushes have come when I’ve not allowed myself to check email before doing my most important creative act of the day (whether it’s writing or reading or whatever)." I was inspired to do the same.
3. Do something that requires total concentration.
Whether it's knitting, meditating, practicing yoga, cycling, cooking, or reading a book, give it your whole and undivided attention. Use this as a building block to regain your ability to pay attention for a sustained period of time. Think of attention and awareness as the intelligence of the soul. Even if you decide to spend some time in front of the TV, then just do that.
As a result of constantly being distracted we’ve forgotten the difference between attention and awareness. Concentrating retrains our brains to pay attention and focus solely at the task at hand. This returns us back to the present moment and reawaken to the infinite mystery and curiosity there.
Reducing distraction is the ultimate act of self-compassion. If you stay course on the distraction track, you will burn out faster, be less happy, and remain disconnected from all the good things that are happening right now, right in front of you.