I’m Kevin Holesh and I have a problem. I’m addicted to being distracted. I cannot function if my brain has any idle CPU time. I need to fill it with something useful, or more likely, something not useful at all. I’ve watched more Vine compilation videos on Friday nights than I care to admit, all in the name of keeping my brain occupied.
I have a routine to keeping myself distracted. If I have downtime, I meander through my Twitter stream. After that, I’ll check on my RSS feeds. Finally, I’ll go into full distraction mode and peruse through the top posts on Reddit and Hacker News. I’m addicted to keeping my brain entertained and not actually thinking about anything meaningful.
Oh and my iPhone. My iPhone is basically a portable distraction device. When I’m waiting to check out at the grocery store, out comes my iPhone. If I’m having a conversation with friends and “who was that guy that starred in How I Met Your Mother?” comes up, my iPhone savior will instantly tell me who played Ted Mosby.
I shouldn’t be living my life through the soft glow of an iPhone screen.
What I need to get better at
I need to be able to be bored again. I need to give myself some time to think before I immediately quell any anxiety with a fresh layer of jokes on Reddit or the latest startup news. I need to stop wasting time on things that don’t matter. I tell myself that I need to check Twitter and Hacker News to get the latest web design news, but I really don’t. The newest articles on flat design don’t affect me. At all.
I need to focus on the world around me, instead of using my iPhone as a social crutch. If I’m talking to a person, a real live person sitting in front of me, my iPhone should be in the other room, or completely off. That person should be my only priority.
What I am getting better at
There are only two things that I’ve done to help quell my distraction addiction. One is to take a shower every day. Totally crazy life hack, right? The shower is the only place where my iPhone can’t go (yet) and it forces my brain to have some alone time.
I’ve also stopped listening to music when I go on a run or walk my dogs. I used to listen to a podcast or an audiobook to be as productive as possible. “Exercise my brain and my body at the same time” I’d tell myself. Now I enjoy the silence of running through the woods or around my neighborhood. I can hear myself breathe and, more importantly, hear myself think.
Showering and running give my brain a chance to think and, wouldn’t you know it, that is when I come up with all of my good ideas. Every single one of them has come to me in the shower or when I was running, the only places where I’m not distracted by some glowing device. Every new app I build, every tough screen I design, every marketing page I write. Every bit of meaningful thinking I’ve done has been in the shower or when I was running.
My next step
My next step in curing this addiction is to completely block every bit of distracting content I can. Delete my Twitter and YouTube apps and block Reddit and Hacker News on my laptop. I would never normally force myself to create a habit. I’d rather be mindful of my distractions and use my conscious thought to focus on the moment and not crave distraction.
But I can’t do it. For the past 12 months, I’ve tried to no avail and my habit has only gotten worse. Now I’m trying a more forceful step. I hope it works.
How to you fight off the need for constant distraction?