I am constantly reminded that I have a problem with distraction.
Each moment seems to be a battle between what I am doing, and an opportunity to do something else.
And I realize that the greatest influence towards being distracted is my environment. Whatever is around me — within my immediate field of vision, or audible to my ears — provides me with opportunities to remove my focus from the task at hand.
They are reminders that there is something else I can be doing, which takes away my focus from what I am already doing.
While I do not wish to live a monk-like life of complete asceticism, I am still compelled to evaluate my environment to determine how I might optimize things for greater clarity, focus, and mindfulness.
Let’s start with my desk.
It is currently a cluttered mess. Various screens seeking my attention. Papers, cables, and accessories that haven’t been put away. Not one, not two, not even three, but four sets of wireless headphones (plus one with wires, “just in case“). And all manner of half-looked-at items that have yet to “find a home”.
But what is actually necessary?
A computer. A monitor. A hard drive. A keyboard. A mouse. A webcam and microphone for Zoom meetings. One set of headphones.
That is all. Simple. Concise. Focused.
Working to simplify the various areas of my life is a constant battle against environmental (and internal) distractions. One that requires daily vigilance and regular maintenance.
But it doesn’t require a grand, monumental effort to do it all in one foul swoop. Cramming never works in the long run.
Rather, it is a daily practice. Starting small and simple. Expanding over time.
I do not need to move the mountain. I only need to carry one small stone to the next location. Then, placing it gently and mindfully on the ground, go back and pick up another stone. As my ability to move stones improves over time, my capacity naturally increases. I can move larger stones at one time. Perhaps I discover tools to assist me, such as a satchel or a wheelbarrow.
This is a metaphor, of course. But the idea carries over.
Start small. Spend 10 minutes clearing space from my desk. Do this at the end of each day. Next week, perhaps it is 15 minutes. Next month I may move on to another part of my life to clear away the dross.
If I miss a day? Forgiveness.
Then, start again.
But it starts with today. It starts with now.
Removing distractions is not an act. It is not an event. It is not even a challenge.
It is a practice. And like any practice, it requires consistency and focus.
Recognize the distraction. Make a decision. Remove it from the environment. Move forward.
Practice, practice, practice.