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Monday, September 3, 2012

The Distracted Guest

When trying to focus, how successful are you tuning out your surroundings? Which distractions pose the biggest challenge for you?

In most situations, I have little difficulty tuning out. Even in a noisy environment like the subway, I've been able to briefly get to a single point of focus in a meditation. When reading in a public place, I can usually tune out conversations or street clatter. The distraction that poses the greatest challenge for me is music. If music is audible, that's where my attention lands. Except for Muzak, "background music" strikes me as an oxymoron.

And though my distraction is most pronounced if it's jazz or 60's-80's rock n' roll, music I wouldn't necessarily choose to listen to also pulls me in to the exclusion of doing something else. When I was still working full time, people who knew me well would often ask why there was no music on in my office. Easy - very little would get done. Unless it was something that had been played to death, if something familiar played, I'd be listening for what I might have previously missed or mesmerized by a favorite lyric. Something unfamiliar? I'd wonder who did it, listen for unusual harmonies, analyze the structure.

So if you're not playing an endless loop of "Stairway to Heaven" when I'm a guest in your home, expect less than my full attention at least part of the time. Sorry in advance.

4 comments:

  1. So to continue a 34-year disagreement....if you can hear the music over the conversation no matter what else is going on....why does it have to be so #@&#ing loud?

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  2. In total, total agreement. I have co-workers who, when they are not required to be answering the phone in our little call center, will immediately plug in the ear buds and tune in Pandora on their phones. Yikes! That is not possible for me. I listen to music on so many levels, that I don't have any brain cells left over for mundane stuff like, well, work! Hot single tip: Gary Clark, Jr. "Don't Owe You a Thang" from the Bright Lights EP. Whew!

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  3. I can sometimes focus with music playing but only if there are no lyrics. I suppose if I had enough musical training to truly appreciate it, I'd be distracted by all of it too! I agree, it's amazing how we can tune out so many other things but not that.

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