A simple daily habit to reduce distraction

Are you prone to distraction?

Will you even be tempted to interrupt your reading this 437 word post?

If so, you’re not alone. A lot of highly creative people are easily distractible. But that’s not to say we are to cultivate distraction. Every time we switch to a new task, it costs us energy and, worse, conditions us to push away more easily in the future. Researchers have demonstrated there’s no such thing as multitasking, only frequent switching.

A simple habit to reduce distraction


Is it any wonder that so many of us are easily distracted? Just consider the rise of social media in the last few years. Every month over one billion people spend over 700 billion minutes on Facebook. Three million messages are sent every 20 minutes. And that’s just Facebook. There are a half-billion Twitter users as well. Then there’s Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr and the list goes on.

These technologies have enhanced our understanding of events around the world and connected us with more people and opportunities than ever before. (This four-minute video captures well the rise of social media). But with so much information available instantly through the internet and pushed to us through our smart phones, how can we keep from conditioning ourselves to be even more distractible?

Innovation authority, Don Tapscott, suggests a simple way to reduce distraction: Instead of scanning headlines, discipline yourself everyday to read a few articles. His suggestion is about more than slowing down to reduce stress. Intentional and focused reading every day conditions our brain to think slowly, lest we default into a new normal of only reading quick posts and headlines from news feeds and Google search results.

In fact, Steven Johnson, in his excellent book Where Good Ideas Come From, points out that “reading remains an unsurpassed vehicle for the transmission of new ideas and perspectives.” He suggests that the best ideas emerge when we “give new ideas additional opportunities to network among themselves” by cultivate readings from a variety of sources at the same time.

For the past two years, I’ve developed a habit to read from several books each morning. While I may not have had the kind of breakthrough ideas Johnson mentions in his book, I have experienced the networking of ideas he describes. It’s astonishing how many times an idea will form as an integration of my readings from even the most disparate of sources.

If you find yourself prone to distraction give Tapscott’s suggestion a try. Set a goal to read a few articles every day. And since you’ve read this far, you’ve already got one under your belt.

Do you have a regular habit of reading?

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4 thoughts on “A simple daily habit to reduce distraction

  1. I experience the networking of ideas often. I wish I was less inclined to believe I can remember them with out my journal handy. I have found that if I sit through three distractions in my reading I can settle down and think on a deeper level.

    • Boy, you hit that spot on Gary. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away from my reading and forgotten that great idea I had thought about. I now keep a pad of paper just for that purpose. Great comment!

  2. Great post, Leary. I am very easily distracted, even though there is a lot “on my plate” everyday. Being in grad school means reading academic sources for forum posts and research papers. And the subjects change from week to week. It’s very thought provoking, but I’m also looking for ideas to expand my business. I like the idea of reading 2 articles a day. On to the next one!

    • Thanks Chris. Let me know how it goes. Reading an academic research report would definitely require disciplined focus. You’ll be doing some heavy brain rewiring with that project. 🙂

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