Are you distracted? Here’s a litmus test: reading anything that takes longer than the average bowel movement is a challenge. Most of us are training our brains to consider 140 characters a full load.

The danger of being distracted from the most important task is not new, but we are taking it to a new level. I recently heard a story that the radio operator on the Titanic, who should have received the communication that would have saved the ship 20 minutes before the crash replied, “Shut up! Shut up! I’m busy!” How often are you missing the key message? How frequently are you spattering your attention between a conversation, the TV or computer, and your smartphone?

I was recently impressed (perhaps by fear or shame) to make a point of reclaiming time to think and meditate. I was motivated by the idea that my apparent memory loss may be less a function of age than poor habits of attention. I’m seeking to follow the mantra of M*A*S*H’s Charles Emerson Winchester III (played brilliantly by David Ogden Stiers, who will be 70 on Halloween), “I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on.”

Perhaps I shouldn’t be shocked at how difficult it is. I’m surrounded by folks who haven’t heard that multi-tasking is a myth. It seems socially acceptable to forgo the person in front of you to type with your thumbs to communicate with someone in another location (witness a table of Gen Y-ers at a bar: 2 having a conversation, 5 heads down peering at iPhones). I just exceeded 250 words with that parenthetical phrase: hang on just a bit longer.

What is the iceberg in your path? If you continue on the current path of distraction, overwhelm (and maybe exhaustion), who will you be a year from now? What is worth the effort of settling down and reconnecting with some solitude? Here’s to some focus.

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