Do you ever feel like you are your own personal ER? Are you faced with minute-by-minute distractions within a large spectrum of importance and urgency? Are you your worst enemy some days? Truthfully, I can answer yes to all three. But, my awareness and intention keeps me “triaging” the emergencies with as few fatalities as possible.

Try this! Take a piece of paper and lay out a timeline of your last couple of days. Key milestones, meetings, conversations, work(!), etc. Then go back along the timeline and think about the miriad of distractions that occurred. My definition for distraction is: interruptions that take you off-track from your intended activity. Jot those distractions with key words onto the timeline. Make sure you include the personal ones (e.g., call from spouse, remembered drycleaning pick-up, child with homework help required, etc.) and your thinking (e.g. obsessing, worrying, anger, etc.). Then look for categories of distractions and ask yourself which ones:

  1. Could not be ignored?
  2. Were more important than what you were doing at the time? Less important?
  3. Simply require discipline to “say no thank you” or “later”?
  4. Appeal to your desire to be important or helpful (and therefore have a reward)?

What strikes me about my pattern is a) the ever-present interruption of information in the form of emails, links, tweets, and calls,  b) my own thoughts that remind me of something that I then take the time to check out, and c) how I simply “find myself” down the path with the distraction with little conscious decision. Let me know what you see in your own patterns–change always starts with awareness and choice. In future entries, I’ll share some of my solutions. Subscribe above if you want to ensure you get that entry.

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