Friday, July 26, 2013

Distractions in my Day-to-Day Routine

[Written two and a half years ago for a course on Concentration]

For this assignment, take stock of your day to day routine. In doing so, jot down what your routine is on most days. Then think about what type of distractions you often encounter. Write your list of distractions and come up with ways that you can try to address them. Submit your list and of distractions and possible ways you can address them to the instructor.

My typical week day involves getting ready for work at home, driving to work, working, driving back home, ending the day at home.

When I'm at home, I'm distracted by
  1. The needs of my wife and daughter. Even if they don't interrupt, I expect them to, so I don't get deeply involved in any activity until they're out of the house or in bed. I get our daughter ready to school. Even though she's a teenager, I want to be involved. Otherwise she'll probably make herself a breakfast of three Hershey Kisses and go out into 30F weather wearing just a flimsy sweatshirt and jeans. I can make my own breakfast while making something for our daughter. I can find out if things are going well for her at school during breakfast or while waiting with her at the bus stop.
  2. The cuteness of our pets (or the damage they do). I'm either fawning over our cats, or cleaning up after them. Sometimes I take a quick break to pet one of them. Or I protect my meal from the fat one who's always hungry. Once in a while I'll take out the camera to take a picture, even if it will make me late for work. When I take the dog outside, he wants to play outside for a while. When I'm outside with the dog, I can let him roll around on the ground while I pick up branches from the lawn or get the newspaper. I want him to be happy. He's a good dog, and he's getting old, so I'm willing to spend time with him. I can keep the hungry cat away from our meals by spraying him with a water bottle. I do some pet photography as a hobby, and this year's Christmas card resulted from taking a picture of a cat that posed under the tree. So even though I'm distracted, I can make something good come from it.
  3. Things that are out-of-place and need picking up or straightening. I'll walk from the bathroom to the kitchen and notice a candy wrapper on the living room floor. Or I'll go into the laundry room (which doubles as an overflow pantry) to get more tea and notice that the clothes need to be transferred into the dryer. So I'll do that and forget about the tea. I'm trying to condition our daughter to pick up things that are out-of-place. When I do notice a chore that needs completing, I can ignore it if it's not an emergency.
  4. A news story on the radio. I can't seem to listen to the radio while doing something. So if there's something I want to hear, I usually stop what I'm doing to listen. I can turn the radio on just for the five minutes of important news I need and then turn it off when it's over. I don't need to listen to the banter and trivia.
  5. Thoughts. I always have an inner dialog (or music) going on in my head. I'm meditating more and trying to stay mindful.
While driving, I can be distracted by
  1. Scenery. I love nature and photography, and I drive through a rural area alongside a river. I can drive slowly when there isn't much traffic and still take in some scenery.
  2. Radio. Since I'm a visual thinker, it can be dangerous for me to listen to music or talk radio while driving in heavy traffic. I can drive slowly when there isn't much traffic and enjoy the radio. When driving in traffic or on unfamiliar roads, I turn off the radio.
  3. Passengers. This is the same as having the radio on. But I can't turn them off. I don't respond to passengers when driving in traffic or on unfamiliar roads.
  4. Thoughts (particularly what I have planned for the day). Again, I drive slowly. But I find that the process of driving a normal speed keeps me from thinking, and I focus better on driving.

At work, distractions include:
  1. E-mail. I tend to keep the e-mail client open and check it whenever I get a new message notification. When I need to focus, I do close the e-mail client.
  2. Phone calls. When I really need to focus, I unplug the phone. Activating the "Do Not Disturb" function doesn't help -- it still beeps to indicate that someone is trying to call.
  3. In-person interruptions. I'm one of those folks that seems to know a lot about everything, so when a "new guy" is stymied, he'll come to me. I can ask him to come back later, or promise that I'll get back to him within 15 minutes, which can give me enough time to reach a good breaking point in my work. Sometimes just a look of intensity can dissuade someone from interrupting. This does not work for the boss, though.
  4. Noisy co-workers. The guy next to me not only talks loud on the phone, but he uses speaker phone, too. Earplugs, headphones?
  5. "What if" thoughts (work related). The work I do often involves solving problems. Sometimes I'll come up with an idea for a problem that I'm not currently working on. Or I'll learn about a new tool that might be helpful later. Rather than stop my current task to explore the new idea or tool, I'll use my new capture tool to record a brief note about the thought and then return to my task.
  6. Thoughts (not related to work). There's a lot going on in my personal life: family & pet issues, volunteer activities, car and home maintenance, finances. I can use the capture tool to record notes about these thoughts, too, so that I can let go of them more easily.
  7. Muscle stiffness and other physical discomfort. Some days I just can't seem to sit because my legs ache. Also, I've found if I don't eat well, I'll feel gnawing hunger pains or experience dizziness. If I eat too much or the wrong foods, I can feel bloated or foggy. I can stick to my diet and avoid empty foods or those that I can't tolerate. I can get plenty of sleep the night before and take breaks to walk and drink water. I can do office yoga.


Rummuser said...

That about sums it all up for still working people. For retired old codgers like me, the biggest distraction is not having anything to do which drives them to find things to do, which in turn usually ends up in interfering with some one else's routine.

Square Peg Guy said...

Nothing for retired old codgers to do -- that's seems like such a waste of valuable experience! Fortunately for the Blogsphere, you spend time writing!

A retired former robotics engineer I know mentors the robotics club students at his local high school and middle school. He always jokes with folks about being retired. He says, "Now that I'm retired, I have just a 40-hour work day." (Getting down to 40 hours per week is a "relaxing" full time job.)

Thanks for your comment!