Most days, when it’s above 40 degrees, I go for my run/walk outside, without headphones. When someone asks me what I like to listen to on my walks, I say “ME.” And it’s the truth. I count on my exercise time not just to strengthen my physical endurance, but to strengthen my psychic endurance as well. It is a chance to hear my own voice, to digest my own experiences, and to return to my center, the center from which I can make clear decisions in my life and work.
If it’s below 40 degrees, I go to the gym, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s worthwhile. If I look up while on the treadmill I see 14 televisions spanning the width of the gym, each set to a different station. Even if I’m not plugged in to one of them I can still see and feel their images peering down and boring into me.
It’s hardest on weekends when TBS runs half-hour infomercials raising money to help children with cleft palates get life-changing surgery – and I’m a sucker for the animal welfare organization that showcases the faces of forgotten and forlorn animals who desperately need care. No matter how fast I program the treadmill, I can’t outrun the assault from the screen, let alone feel replenished when I’m done my workout.
Places that used to provide a break from the assault – like elevators, cabs, and common corporate work spaces – are becoming littered with uninvited noise.
So how do we turn down the volume on the distraction and turn up our effectiveness?
We must cultivate discernment. This takes practice. This takes vigilance and intention. But taking charge of what and who you give your precious time and attention to is the key to productivity and fulfillment.
Here’s how to start doing this:
- Notice all the uninvited distractions, at home and at work, that drain your time and energy
- Notice the distractions you create for yourself (or others) to avoid important-but-not-urgent activities or to numb out. One client with two smartphones improved his life by turning the email-sound settings off to turn off the constant interruptions
- Limit, if not eliminate, a few of the distractions.
Many of us go through our days reacting instead of responding with wisdom and intelligence. Discipline is the muscle that can get us out of the stimulus/response mode. Here are a few positive practices to consider:
- 1. Determine what your priority and purpose are for a year or even a season
- At the start of each day, ask yourself what your day’s priority is– ideally, it aligns with your life/work priorities
- Practice “hard before easy,” and spend the first part of your day tackling that difficult but important activity
- Schedule 50-minute instead of 60-minute meetings and take the ten 10 minutes to pause, reflect, and breathe
- Once a week turn off the car radio.
If you want to live your life purposely and with intention, notice and lessen daily distractions, discern what’s most important in your life and in the moments that comprise your life. Then cultivate the discipline and courage you need to act on what matters most.