June 5/09: Distracted by distractions

Right now there are a million distractions.

So allow me to suggest you focus on one thing. Put down your cell phone. Ignore the doorbell.

DNTO requires your attention. I'm Sook-Yin Lee.

In this age of multiple distractions, for some people having a hard time focusing is a social sickness. For others, distractions are a key to creativity.

So on this week's episode of Definitely Not the Opera we're wondering if distractions are a good thing for us, or are they ruining our lives? And when it's so difficult to focus our attention how are we supposed to get anything done?

I confess. Ten years ago, I would wake up in the morning and the first thing I'd do was grab a bag of potato chips under my bed. Nowadays, the first thing I do when I wake up is grab my laptop computer under my bed. I'm not sure which is worse.

Anyway, the thing I find most distracting is Yahoo News. It is like crack cocaine. What hooks me in are its sensational and scandalous news headlines. "Monkeys have green glowing babies." Or "Megan Fox's mini dress fails to save her look."

It's an endless parade of grotesqueries, and like a car wreck about to happen, (which by the way you can also watch on Yahoo News by live streaming video), I can't turn away. Not only is it consuming too many precious hours of my day, I wonder what it's doing to my mind. Help me!

Find out the key to dealing with all these distractions and harness the power of attention by listening to this week's totally distracted DNTO.

I'm telling you, it's life changing radio!


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Previous Comments (9)

Wonderful show on one a topic that needs a lot more attention. Is the problem the multiple entertainment choices or just those available from the computer & phone? These tend to be more compulsive.

One of the reasons that distractions cause so much dissatisfaction is the "paradox of choice." There are so many choices for things that could be read/viewed/done that any particular one that you choose will seem less satisfying.

Perry, June 6, 2009 3:55 PM


Loved the show today on Distraction! Thought Provoking,,

What was the name of the book mentioned in the early by the lady who you spoke with over the phone?



philip burgess, June 6, 2009 6:31 PM

We all know about kids with attention deficit disorder. I swear that I have Adult Attention Deficit Disorder as I am easily taken off tasks to do anything but my work. For example, here I am posting to you rather than work-see, easily taken off task!

Don Pike, June 6, 2009 8:24 PM

I needed this! Something I deal with everyday. Thanks.

Thanks WBEZ. Was this the first week of DNTO on air?

Jeff, June 6, 2009 8:32 PM

Hi Sook-Yin,
"Heroically intimate" is the description that comes to mind after hearing your piece on meditation. I immediately identified with the difficulty of staying focused on your breathing with all the distracting chatter going on inside your skull. We are not our brains thinking, we are conscious awareness _attending_ to our brains thinking, and in fact we can pay attention to whatever we choose - inside or out. One wise choice is certainly to cease paying attention to all those distractions for a little while every day, sort of like a system reboot.
Congratulations on a monumentally important piece of radio. More! (and louder...:-)

Geoff Mainwaring, June 7, 2009 7:21 PM

I did hear that radio broadcast yesterday and loved it. I'm trying to find a way to hear it again on here. Never having been to this site before, I'm not sure if it's possible to re-listen to a radio broadcast.

Christine, June 7, 2009 10:16 PM

Hi everyone! Thanks very much for the feedback on the "distraction" show.

To answer your questions:

1. Phillip, I think the woman you're thinking of is Mary Carlomagno. She wrote a book called "Give It Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better With Less."

2. Hi Jeff - glad you caught the show on WBEZ! We've been airing there on Saturday afternoons for a few weeks - if you'd like to catch up, check out the past episodes of our podcast (you'll find the "Podcast" link on the right side of this page).

3. Thanks for the kind feedback, Christine! If you'd like to hear the show again, check out the podcast (again, the link is on the right side of this page). It's usually got everything we aired on the show, minus the commercial music, which we can't podcast for copyright reasons.

Hope that helps!


Joff Schmidt
Assoc. Producer

Joff Schmidt (DNTO), June 8, 2009 3:56 PM


I'm astounded and amused at the 23 open windows on a computer at work. I've got my e-mail open, two databases open (one of which pops up a new window for virtually everything I do), and an internet page to send in this comment....and I have 5 windows open.

Thanks for the distraction!

Meghan, June 8, 2009 8:11 PM

Funny. I'm listening to your show, while working on 3 computers and surfing the web while I wait for updates to finish. Spot on!

Randal Wark, June 17, 2009 11:21 PM
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