I pulled into traffic on northbound 75. I felt my phone vibrate as I took my place in a lane. I reached for my phone. Looked at the message. I started responding immediately.
Did the text require an immediate response? No. Was it worth endangering myself and others? No. Was the topic remotely urgent? No.
Then why did I let the distraction take over?
A – Because I could. B- Because the transaction would be immediate. C- Because rules and consequences don’t apply to me. D- Because my mammal brain is in charge (not my human forebrain).
I’m not in charge.
Why do we do this?
We are not rational creatures. Sorry. Our reptile and mammalian brains are the horse. Our human forebrain is the rider. For most of us, the horse isn’t broken and we’re not good trainers or riders.
We will text when we drive … even though it’s shown that it’s more dangerous than drunk driving.
We will text while we sit in meetings discussing multi-million dollar projects … even though the rest of the team will disengage, expensive mistakes will slip by and our reputation will tarnish.
We text while at dinner with friends and/or family to respond to issues that can wait the 27 minutes it would take to finish the meal … even though a smart phone on the table significantly reduces the sense of connection people have with the cell phone owner.
It’s not only texting where our pitiful ability to focus and priorities is experienced. It’s just very clear that we suck at managing ourselves by looking at how we text.
Most of us are as resourceful at dogs, cats and monkeys when it comes to being intentional.
How Do We Get Control?
Here’s a secret to get control of your mammal mind.
Take a vow. Huh? Take a vow. That’s only 50% successful for marriage. Isn’t there a better way. No. You will take a vow. You will make a covenant with yourself.
You can increase your odds of success by telling someone else. If you believe in God, include Him in the mix.
What will I vow?
Ask yourself this question: Can this wait an hour?
Burn this question into your mind. Ask it constantly. Until it’s made a groove in your thoughts like a valley in the Grand Canyon.
How does this work?
Text arrives. Ask the question: Can this wait an hour? If you’re honest, your magic 8-ball mind will usually tell you, “Yes, it can wait. ” Wait an hour to respond.
This will achieve two things.
- You’ll build a new habit to interrupt your reflexes.
- You will train people to not expect you to drop everything for them.
This will help train our horse. And train our friend’s and co-workers, too.
This vow works for texting, email, web browsing, just about any modern distraction.
It also works on interrupting co-workers and children. Ask the co-workers and children the question. They will mostly say “yes”. Politely ask them to return in an hour. They won’t. They’ll find something more important or more distracting.
Sometimes you might forget to respond after an hour. That’s ok. Your texting, calling, emailing, interrupting friends will let you know when it’s important. After all, they know how to get a hold of you, right?
Some of you might be saying … but that’s rude to make them wait an hour. Is it any more rude than someone interrupting you with no regard to your schedule, relationships or priorities. A text is an unrequested interruption. Kind of rude, huh?
You’ll respond in an hour. They’ll get over it.
A quick note: You will fail. You will respond reflexively sometimes. It’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up. Just repeat the question to yourself, like a mantra: Can this wait an hour? Can this wait an hour? Can this wait an hour?
We are cultivating a habit. It takes a little time. We’ll wobble. We’ll fall. We’ll keep stumbling forward.
Mark today on your calendar. Do this for 30 days. Come back and tell us how much more relaxed and productive you are. Let me know how this helps you with getting things done.
Beat the distraction. Make better decisions. Take the vow. Start getting things done.