Distractions Begone!

A persistent problem I used to have in my life was distractions. Every report card I got as a child included the phrase “Easily distracted” and “Has difficulty finishing assignments.” This followed me for a long time though its exact form has morphed and changed over the years. The Internet while an amazing resource for communication and a great repository of information is also perhaps the world’s most effective distraction machine (aside from girls playing tackle football in school uniforms perhaps, but then I’m sure you can find that on YouTube).

Another thing I found problematic was framing my self-image in an affirmative rather than a negative way. Ie; the difference between saying “I am easily distracted.” vs. “I was easily distracted.” The distinction here is an important one, because our thoughts create our reality. If I say I’m easily distracted, well then, I will be… distracted that is… what?

On the other hand saying “I was easily distracted.” doesn’t deny the previous behaviour, but it makes a positive, affirmative break from it. I was. Not anymore.

So, putting these together I arrive at the here and now. A less distractable me. Let’s take a look at how its done, starting with that damned Internet.

In the past I would obsess over three things when online, email, facebook and chat. While the Internet’s ability to connect us is wonderful, it might be at times a bit too much. There is always someone I know online somewhere in the world. It was very easy then to spend a lot of my time chatting with people near and far about things sometimes important, but more often than not, kind of frivolous.

One of the simple things I’ve done is collapse the chat tab in my Gmail and other Google applications so I can’t see who’s online without clicking. This reduces a lot of temptation and sidewards glances. I’ve also shut off the notification of people logging in and out on my chat programs. I don’t need to know whether or not you’re sitting in front of your computer, nor need I feel compelled to chit chat with you just because you are.

I’m doing similar things with my email and RSS feeds, keeping them accessible, but making them less visible, taking up less space on my desktop and less of my attention. facebook use likewise is on a “diet” of sorts where I just do what is healthy and no more.

Given the choice of continuing my Internet service at my old address until the 20th of August or cancelling it now provided a great opportunity to make the change. Now I can only access the Internet at my new apartment.

Another thing I’m doing is re-introducing my Top 5 board. The Top 5 board is a dry erase board that will go on the door of my new room as soon as I move in. The rules for the board are simple. There can be only 5 tasks on the board at any given time, and a task cannot be removed unless its completed. This way, in order to add anything new, an old task has to get done. It provides focus where a long list would only cause distractions. Its placement on the door ensures that I see it whenever I go in or out of my room.

A set of daily routines is another thing that works well for me. When I get up I read a daily meditation from the Internet or my Dali Lama calendar. Then I go for a nice meditative walk outdoors. In the evening before bed I prepare for the following morning by making a lunch and consulting my calendar for the day’s happenings. Soon there will be other daily and weekly routines to keep me on track such as yoga and capoeira training.

Essential to all these things are pacing. As I read on the blog Zen Habits its important also to take breaks and take care of oneself. So, I am doing that. I focus on one thing for 30-90 minutes, then give myself a 15-30 minute break.

Ultimately who I am and what I do has a lot to do with how I perceive myself and also how I organize my life. These changes are making it possible for me to be who I truly want to be rather than submitting to the random eddies and swirls of life. I am still open and free to the powers of the universe and I embrace chaos and change, but I don’t allow them to trap me or compromise my vision. I choose what I take and what I let go.

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