Over at Zenhabits, Leo Babauta offers a simple method for overcoming a bad habit of being constantly distracted.
What I did when I wanted to develop an awareness of my smoking urges was carry around a pencil and small scrap of paper, and put a tally mark on it each time I had the urge to smoke. I could still smoke, but I’d have to put a tally mark first.
This built my awareness muscle, and it allowed me to insert a small space between the urge and my subsequent action. Into that space, however small, I could eventually make a choice. That was where the power came in.
this really struck a chord with me. I always read these absurd suggestions that say our inability to focus can be fixed by downsizing, returning to a dumb phone, using a pen and paper instead of a computer etc. None of these address the root cause of the problem: our easily distracted minds and sensitive temperaments.
Furthermore, no amount of self lecturing, motivational back patting, and visualizing is really going to stop the endless mental chatter. You know the type…”Okay time to sit down to work! Wow, I should google this…okaaaay I just spent a long time on wikipedia. God I’m so hungry, maybe I should…NO NO GET TO WORK….God, I am SO UNFOCUSED. Maybe I have late onset ADHD?? Google that. Ugh okay now…man, the lighting in here…So itchy…”
I am going to try this simple tally trick for 2 weeks.
Today, between 3pm and 5pm, I was distracted at
3:10 pm – went on facebok
3:22 pm – went on tumblr
3:43 pm – went back to work
4:30 pm – went back to work!
4:39 pm – went online, maybe Reddit?
4:55 pm – packed up and went home.