Reposted from the archives.
Life is full of distraction.
Everywhere you look something’s vying for your attention.
Take your kids to school, ride the train to work, log onto the Internet and you’ll see things aimed at taking your money, focus, and time.
One thing about a world full of attention clutter, our brain can become numb to it so we get to where we don’t even see it. But don’t kid yourself, there’s a drawback to this numbness.
It also means we don’t really experience the other things in our life.
Human nature seems to crave routine and structure. One way we can combat distraction is create a routine. This is what is being proposed when you read those “how to create flow” or “get in the zone” type posts. But again, there’s a drawback to routine.
Routine can become so, uh, routine that days can go by and we fail to realize we’re alive.
I’m continually amazed at how we live our lives day to day. It’s as if we’re in a race to create a full life. And we are, only, this full life often plays out in a full calendar, not necessarily a deep, meaningful life with others.
Answer me this: When someone asks you “How have you been?” what’s the most common reply? … Busy.
Since when has busyness become so appealing?
Granted, busyness serves a purpose – it can cover pain and frustration that may be present in life. You’ve done this before, something bad happens in your life (loss of a loved one, end of a relationship, losing a job) and to help you cope through the downturn – you stay busy.
I understand. Who wants to wallow in misery or pain?
The problem – busyness fades … then what?
What happens to the pain? Is it ever really confronted and felt?
If it’s not, this helps create a schedule filled with routine and tasks. It helps you become a “yes man” to everyone else because you lack the ability to say “no” to things you don’t want in your life.
It creates a robotic life that allow days to go by without really feeling anything. No pain, frustration, or sadness – but, no pleasure, joy, happiness or passion.
I propose a new way to combat distraction, routine, and busyness.
A way to be practice being 100% present.
A way to take relationships to a deeper level.
And it’s simple.
Be where your butt is.
Tell me if this has happened to you. You’re in the middle of doing something and you find yourself thinking of something else. You’re sitting at work – daydreaming about the weekend. You’re with a group of friends – texting other friends. Or you’re having dinner with your family – still mentally at work.
1. Disconnect, then connect.
At the end of the work day, take the time to disconnect mentally before arriving home. Listen to good music on the way home. Walk. Read. When you get home, turn off the phone, don’t check your business email, leave the projects at work. Point is: when you are with your family, be with your family. When you’re with friends, be with friends.
2. Give up on the idea of multitasking.
There’s a common belief that we’re able to do multiple things at the same time. And it’s true. But how well do we do these multiple things? Our lives, and our relationships are better served when we learn to sequential task. Devote all your attention to wherever your butt is. Then disconnect from that task when it’s done and move to the next one.
3. Don’t answer your phone.
When you are with others and your phone rings or vibrates due to a call, text, email, IM, push notification, etc. – don’t answer. Let voice mail do its job. Whatever it is can wait. There are very little “real” emergencies in life.
4. Turn away from the screen time.
When you’re surfing, watching, or working and your spouse or kids approach you for something, hit pause, close the laptop, put the device down completely and connect with them face to face. Look them in the eye. Listen. Connect. It probably will only take a few minutes then you can move back to the task at hand. Point is: spend your time with them – with them.
5. Create a no distraction zone.
When it’s time to work, clear away distractions, and work. But what about the times you’re with the one you love? When you’re with your lover, focus on then. Listen. Respond. Love.
There are many times I’ve been out with my wife and we see other couples out together, but on their phones texting or surfing. Once I watched a family of three sit across from me, each on their phones. The only words spoken at the table were to place their order.
Distractions most often keep us disconnected with the world around us, making us feel uneasy, alone or lost. Of all the species on the planet, humans are the only ones who speed up when they’re lost or anxious. Every other animal sits still until they get their bearings before proceeding where they want to go.
Slowing down to find your pace and your bearing is vital to a life fully alive.
So, when you find you’re not where your butt is.
Don’t panic. Simply breathe.