Distractions 101 – The Smartphone Alarm Clock

The following appeared two days ago in the Bits section of the NY Times (“Disruptions: For a Restful Night, Make Your Smartphone Sleep on the Couch”):

We’ve all been there. You wake up in the middle of the night and grab your smartphone to check the time — it’s 3 a.m. — and see an alert. Before you know it, you fall down a rabbit hole of email and Twitter. Sleep? Forget it.

The problem? Distraction. The exact opposite of awareness.

There must be a gazillion neural circuits in our brains waiting to spin out thoughts, issue orders, competing with each other for our attention. It doesn’t matter if you are piloting a supersonic jet interceptor or just checking what time it is, the thoughts come out: boom, boom, boom. Your first thought may have been, “what time is it?” but who can say what the next thought will be or the one after that? You’re distracted.

I was talking about distraction recently with a student and I mentioned that it was possible to train yourself to notice when you were losing focus, when you were engaged in a secondary behavior. He said, “What! How?” I replied, “Meditation.”

Try it. I can’t tell you how long it will take to bring results, but I can practically guarantee that it will change the way you think.