In this post: Discover 5 ways to reduce distraction in your life, plus one tool to help get you there!
Last summer, EJ and I were out on the deck hanging out until Ryan got home from work. There was nothing unique or special about the moment at the time. It would have likely been a time I would have been on my phone, scrolling through Facebook while he explored. However, I wasn’t on it for whatever reason. As I was sitting and hanging out with him, EJ picked the tiniest flower off my basil plant and brought it to me. It was the first time he ever picked a flower for his mama. That moment struck my heart. My baby saw something beautiful and brought it to me to enjoy.
I thought of all the years to come that he would bring me semi-living dandelions, slimy creatures, rocks, and sticks. This was the first of what I’m certain will be many. And, at that moment, I became acutely aware that I might have missed this memory in the making altogether. Had I been on my phone, mindlessly killing time, I might have missed the fullness of his joy in discovering something special and bringing it proudly to his mama.
My heart became convicted. How many times had I allowed distraction to rob me of the joy of a moment? How many times would I allow it in the future, choosing distraction over the opportunity to be present?
While I believe I have a better than average ability to control my technology use, did I have it completely in check? I realized recognizing distraction is not something you conquer once and you’re done. Rather, it’s something you must constantly be aware of if you want to be present in the moments of your life.
If you feel a nagging in your spirit, that you are not all present in your life, give these five steps a try. Reprioritize your time to align with your values and gain peace over your situation.
Be Present: 5 Mindful Steps to Reducing Distraction
1. Identify where you spend your time
Before you can be present in your life, you need to identify where you are currently spending your time. What distractions have you allowed to dictate your time? What are your go-to mindless behaviors? If there’s a lull in activity or you choose to check out of what you are currently doing, what do you do? For me, my mindless behavior usually means scrolling through Facebook. Maybe yours is binge-watching Netflix, scrolling through social media, or playing games on your phone. Once you identify the source or sources of your distraction, you can begin to analyze your habits regarding them.
2. Analyze Your Habits
Once you identify where you tend to spend your time when you are not present in your life, analyze your habits around the behaviors. When do you tend to engage in your distractions? Is it first thing in the morning when you are trying to wake yourself up? Maybe during your lunch hour or those few precious minutes after your kids go to bed but before you crash into bed? Do you find yourself pursuing distraction when you are bored or when your kids are engaged in something else?
Consider tracking how you spend your time so that you can notice patterns in your habits. If you think your phone is the biggest distraction for you, consider downloading a time tracking app like Moment to gain insights into your usage and frequency. The app tracks your screen time, the waking life of your phone, how many times you pick up your phone daily, and how much time you spend on your most used app. It also color-codes your usage so you can visually track progress. You can even set daily limits to help you form new habits.
I found the mindlessness of social media began infiltrating multiple times in my day. I’d check it when I was waking up, before I even got out of bed. I might look at it again during lunchtime with EJ or in the afternoon while waiting for Ryan to get home. It usually made another resurgence in the evening or before bed. And while I might not have been on it for long periods of time, all those times I picked up my phone to look at it added up to a lot of time spent on social media. There were also plenty of times where I decided to check my phone, expecting to look for 5-10 minutes, and would waste an hour before I really noticed it. If I couldn’t even keep track of the amount of time I was spending online, there was no way I could be present in those moments.
3. Evaluate Your Priorities
One of the biggest problems with distraction is that, unless you are aware of your priorities and what you want out of your life, you can’t fully recognize the impact of those distractions. In order to be present, you must identify your life priorities and values. It’s only when you recognize what you want out of life that you can identify the things that are holding you back from it.
I desire to live an intentional life. That means being mindful of how I spend my time, keeping my habits and routines in line with my values. If I value being a stay at home mom, then I need to ensure I am being mindful of how I spend my time with my children. I’m not showing I value the time with them by being distracted by my phone or lost in my own thoughts. If I’m not careful, I will miss moments and opportunities to be present with them. What’s the point of being home with them if I’m not really present with them?
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4. Make a Plan
Once you evaluate your priorities and what you want out of your time, you have to eliminate or reduce the distractions that are keeping you from living the life you desire. Perhaps you need to cut back on a few things or cut something out of your life completely. Identify the largest distraction that keeps you from being present and start there. What could you do to reduce this distraction? If it’s your phone, what habits could you change? If it’s mindless television, could you set up new habits during the times you are most likely to flip through channels? Consider setting a goal for reducing unwanted distractions and track your progress. Maybe it’s deleting a frequently used app off your phone, or completing a digital detox. Consider quitting technology for a day, a week, or more.
There have been a few times I have set goals to tweak my use of technology, and a few other times I have completed a digital detox. I have completed a few Facebook fasts where I have deactivated my account and didn’t check it for a month. While this might be extreme for some, I find extreme changes are often necessary for me to truly break a habit.
5. Routinely Check Your Progress
Now that you have identified the distractions that inhibit your ability to be present in your daily life and created a plan to tackle them, you need to routinely revisit your plan to ensure you’re making progress. Are you holding yourself accountable to the goals you set? Do you need to try a more extreme version of your plan, or create a more rigorous goal? Are you feeling more present in your life? Are you more aware of when you are living a distracted life? I find that setting boundaries for social media- and consistently keeping them- helps me be present in my day to day relationships. Plus, I’m not exposing myself to an influx of information that can taint my mood or outlook.
Be Present in Your Life
Life is full of distractions. It’s critical to be mindful of them and the influence they have over your time if you wish to live a life of intention. Time is a limited commodity, and it passes quickly…especially when you are too distracted to live in the moment! If you are noticing a lack of connection to your time or in your relationships, consider working through these 5 steps and see if you can’t regain your equilibrium. Cut out the things that take your mind and energy away from what matters most. Reprioritize your time. Focus on the priorities that matter most. Be present in those moments and regain balance in your life.