A distracted mind is an agitated mind that stubbornly prevents you from concentrating on a particular thing. Also called the "Monkey Mind" it refuses to be still, even when you are idle. And in some people, it is hyper-distracted-mind, where it refuses to focus on a task, even when you are not idle.
Mindfulness means moment to moment awareness of present events and also remembering to be aware of something or to do something at a designated time in the future. In other words, it means being attentive in everything that we do and have to do without letting the mind wander incessantly.
Attention is maintained on the chosen object or subject of awareness and in case the mind wanders away from it, returning back to refocus on it.
I absolutely adore the Internet, but there’s no doubt it has made us more distracted than ever. Just look around yourself: constant use of laptops, switching between browser tabs, checking things on iPhones, typing in a message here and there..… we all do it. The photographs going around the internet where a group of people or even a family at dinner or at a mall or in a theatre constantly occupied with their smart phones and virtually unaware of their immediate surroundings is not just humour, its a fact.
But it’s not a good formula for getting things done.
We may feel productive when we’re constantly switching between things, constantly doing something, but in all honesty, we’re not. We may also call it multi-tasking – really?
We’re just distracted.
Havent you heard people tell you it is so difficult for them to focus on anything, to get things done, with so many distractions running through their mind? Havent you heard them tell you how neatness has been sacrificed in the interests of getting multiple tasks accomplished? Havent you also heard them tell you tardiness has become the norm due to multiple distractions that arise in every new task that they undertake?
In truth, we all have this problem in various degrees.
We’re suffering from Distraction Syndrome.
This causes people not to be able to study for class, to get important or difficult work done, to create, to be mindful throughout their day.
So what’s the cure for Distraction Syndrome? Mindfullness is the cure for Distraction!
Here’s what has often worked for me, it should work for you too:
Awareness. Become aware even when you’re switching tasks, being pulled by social media and other distractions. Become aware of your mind rushing from one thing to the next. If you’re not aware of the habit, you’ll never change it. This awareness can be increased over days and weeks, if you just start paying attention, and notice when you’ve gone a few hours without noticing.
Pick one thing to focus on at a time. You might have a long list of things to do, but you can’t do them all right now. Just pick one: something to study, a novel to read, something to write, a harder task that you’ve been putting off. Ignore the distractions that will inevitably crop up, if not by your own mind, by people around you. Attend to your mind or them as the case may be, and switch back your focus to the task at hand.
Dispel everything else. Close all programs you don’t need. Close your computer if you don’t need it. Turn off your phone or put it on silent and hide it. Ignore all the other tasks that suddenly pop up. It does not matter if you pay those bills just a little later. It does not matter if you delay your bath and shower by an hour. It does not matter if you do not rush to address the tyranny of the urgent. Just have this task in front of you.
Set a timer for 30 minutes. Or 10 minutes, or 20. During this time, you’re going to do nothing but focus on the one task you choose. No switching to other things. At all. If you finish the task before the 30 minutes is up, you can pick another task to focus on for the remainder of the time (and then do it again if you finish early), but no going to your distractions. Practice this whenever you can and that should ideally be more often than not, and you will find yourself getting better and better at it over a period of time.
Watch your mind try to run. This will predictably happen. It’s a part of the Distraction Syndrome. It’s just you and your task, and your mind will want to wander. Suddenly, you are scared to focus, scared you will miss something, scared you will forget another more important task, scared of the certainty / uncertainty. This fear will cause you to be distracted, but you don’t have to give in to it. It’s just something that will arise in your mind, as if by magic. Stay with it, dont give in to it, dont act on it. Continue with the task and observe the urge to go to a distraction – as you observe it attentively, you will find that the urge dissipitates.
Schedule breaks. If you had initially set the timer for 30 minutes, respect it. Take a well-deserved break. Allow yourself the distractions, but this time be fully aware of what you are doing even as you are indulging with the distractions. The break relieves your mind. Even if you have not completed your task, respect the time you had set for yourself. If you have completed your task, go to the next task on your list after the break.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation if not meditation itself. And by doing the above, it is productive too. However, like many other things in life, it takes practice. And you get better at it over days and weeks, till it becomes yet another habit – one that you want to have. Check where you falter and try again with more insightfulness. A less distracted mental habit is the first step towards productive meditation.
Make meditation a habit, Nirmiti Nidra is one of those things that will help you to develop this habit.
The author, Rajesh Seshadri, is an internationally recognized Certified Leadership Coach, Certified Success Coach and Certified Life Coach. He is also a NLP Master Practitioner, facilitator and therapist. The basket of therapies is holistic and integrative adopting techniques from Psychotherapy, NLP, Silva, Gestalt, Hypnosis and Silva UltraMind. Additionally, he is a seasoned corporate professional who continues to serve as a whole-time Director and Board Member. You can contact him here.