By Gale Long, guest blogger
Solutions – In a virtual workshop practicing change through small steps (the workshop is built around the study of a book by Robert Maurer, One Small Step Can Change your Life: The Kaizen Way), I committed to emailing my coach each day after “catching” (becoming aware) of a distraction, naming the distraction if possible. This accountability to my coach gave me a higher likelihood of being aware of the distractions. I also kept a trail (log) of the distractions which gave me the ability to describe the distraction, see patterns, and record the contexts that produced derailments.
I also increased my capacity to notice distractions through renewing my meditation practice. I believe that the same “neuro-muscles” that allow me to “return attention to my breath” are the same muscles I need to notice distractions and choose whether and/or when to chase them.
I learned to make a note of the distraction at the time I was distracted. For me, catching distractions is akin to remembering dreams. If I don’t make a note while they are still present they melt away into the ether.
I caught and logged tens of distractions. Over the last several weeks I’ve caught at least one distracting thought most days and sent a short email description to my effectiveness coach.
I named the distractions, sorted them into categories, and developed countermeasures.
Here are some of my many distractions and countermeasures:
Multi-taxing – While I may think I’m juggling well, I’m really losing effectiveness and taxing my mental resources. (My wife Bonnie coined the term multi-taxing and it fits well with David Rock’s work regarding multi-tasking described in his book Your Brain At Work.) Do one thing at a time, from a priority list.
My Amygdala – Noticing variation is what kept my ancestors from being devoured – it’s just my brain. Accept the reality of my hard wiring. Choose to chase the distraction or remain on task.
Shopping Therapy – Make a list and take it with you. Choose intentionally.
Screen Suck – A term learned from Dr. Edward M. Hallowell’s Crazy Busy. It applies to wandering around in my email, on the internet or surfing TV. Enjoy if I have idle time, otherwise be wary, and choose before chasing.
Going Overboard – Getting into the minutiae of a project at the expense of the pace. Step back and ask if I’m doing what’s most important.
Misplaced Rewards – Are you following a pleasurable path at the expense of your task? Ask if what I’m doing right now is relevant or coasting and then choose.
Drama–Poor me – Be aware/name/choose. Wallow or get back in the game.
I’ll get this later when I’m going that direction – Put away now so you don’t get side tracked.
Interesting but unimportant – Name, then toss or list for later.
Legitimate Distractions – Some are real and important. Welcome/choose/act.
Pressure Coping – Name and then choose to return to priority or chase distraction on purpose if relief is necessary.
Analysis Paralysis – Be wary. Recognize. Choose. Act. Fail fast is OK.
Context – Act or remove distraction.