When I started this chapter titled “Wait Fifteen Minutes,” I figured it was about the “Power of the Pause.” It was sort of about that idea, but Rubin’s perspective was more about the value of distractions. Now, as an ADHD Coach, helping people manage their distractions is my focus rather than helping them seek ways to be distracted. I confess I had to do a bit of reframing to see Rubin’s point.
What she’s really discussing is the value of purposefully creating a distraction to shift oneself from a bad habit. She explains the value of a distraction that involves physical movement. (I have no reservations about that idea. It’s one I often introduce in the context of taking a break.)
The bottom line in Rubin’s definition of distraction is that it is purposeful and deliberate. That’s VERY different from the more common way we usually think about distractions – something that just seems to happen to us and robs our focus.
One of Rubin’s recommendations for a purposeful distraction is to tell yourself that you CAN do that in fifteen minutes rather than right now. She proposes that this action is more effective than telling yourself “no!” Telling yourself “no” often results in a backlash effect “in which feelings of deprivation make the forbidden more enticing.”
One of the habits she tries to avoid is constantly checking email and social media while she is working (as a writer, she works in a home office). The strategy she found most helpful was to go to the library to write. She shares that in that environment she doesn’t feel tempted to the intermittent reinforcement of the Internet.
Rubin states that distraction can also make it easier to keep to keep her good habits by taking her mind off worries. She reports that “studies suggest that distraction works best if it directs our mind to something absorbing and pleasant, rather than distressing or highly arousing.”
Distractions (I still think the idea of the power of the pause is more powerful language than distraction) help when they are used mindfully to shift attention away from what she calls “potato chip news.” (That’s another name for “junk news” that’s a time suck. She defines “potato chip news” as “news that’s repetitive, requires little effort to absorb, and is consumable in massive quantities.”)
Where could waiting fifteen minutes provide you a beneficial distraction?
The next blog will introduce two more ideas: the “bad trance” vs. the “good trance” and focus boosters.