Waiting at the Airport

Distraction is the New Normal


Over the last year, I flew 137k miles which means I’ve spent a lot of time in airports, delayed, waiting in lines, sitting by some amazing people as we rocket from one destination to the next, but when you have that much time on your hands you tend to people watch­–or at least I do. There is no better place to check the pulse of our culture than an airport, and it became one of the catalysts for writing Framing Faith (more about that later). What I saw shocked me. People were plugged in, disconnected and unaware of what was happening around them.

They say we’re living in a time that will go down in history as the Age of Information, a time of technological advancement that has made instant access to information part of our everyday lives. With portable laptops, tablets, and phones at our disposal each and every day, we are never not connected to the world. For many of us, being hooked on technology has become our new normal, and our new way of life. However, this way of living has also brought about a great deal of distraction.


It is resistances aim to shove us away, distract us from doing our work.

- Steven Pressfield

We have so much at our fingertips ‒ social media, texting, instant messaging and email always at the ready ‒ distractions have become a major part of our everyday lives. It’s hard to answer a phone call without finishing up a text, logging out of Facebook, or sending out a Tweet; let alone doing that all at once. We are always on, always connected and completely preoccupied.

It’s the Great Distraction. The more we are connected, the more we are removing ourselves from the moments right in front of us. They are holding us captive, shifting our focus from the things we need to accomplish, whether it’s work, family life, or other personal obligations.

Distraction is virtually everywhere and while we may try to focus on one thing, such as work, we often have distractions coming from every direction. This has caused many of us to think we have mastered the art of multi-tasking, when in reality we have mastered the art of falling victim to the lure of surrounding distractions. Finishing an assignment at work has never been more difficult, with email notifications popping up in the corner, the lure of the browser beckoning at every instant, and the constant notifications coming from our mobile devices.

These interruptions add to the distractions of work, family life, your co-worker popping in for a question, the stack of paper on your desk you still haven’t filtered through, and all of the other everyday distractions that already impact our everyday lives without the impact of technology. While some praise the progress our world has made, in reality we have created a world where there are so many things competing for our attention it is almost impossible to focus on and complete anything in a timely fashion.

I wouldn’t be anywhere without my iPhone it has made things easier, kept me more in tune with the world, and has created social connections that have linked me to people from all over the world. However, in many ways, these advancements have done the opposite. Instead of creating a world that helps make life and work easier, it has created one filled with distractions that often make it harder. It’s a new way of life and for many of us it’s an addiction. Think about it the next time you’re waiting and look around, no one just waits in line at the grocery store or rides in silence on a plane; they play on their phone, check email, post to Twitter about their life, they are completely absorbed playing candy crush.

I took the time to account for how much I was really spending being distracted. Every time I would stop what I was doing to respond to a text message, answer an email, or check a notification, I put a mark on a piece of paper. It didn’t matter how long I spent on this distraction, whether it was ten seconds or ten minutes, I put a mark on the piece of paper just to see how much I was being distracted every day. I did this just one day and I had 150 marks on that piece of paper. Even when I was trying to avoid doing this, I was distracted 150 different times. Those were 150 different opportunities I had to make the decision to stay focused, and failed. This was a wake up call to me because I realized just how much I was being distracted in my everyday life.


Focus on what you need to make your life better. Do not let wants and desires distract you from what really matters.

- Leon Brown

The good news is there are ways to find focus in your life and to battle against the distraction that limits so many of us from doing the things that we want to do. However, it isn’t always easy. Finding the focus you need to block out distractions from the outside world starts with acknowledging the issue and understanding the presence of these distractions in our world today. When you are able to identify social media alerts, incoming texts, and email notifications for what they are, you are one step closer to finding the focus that can block out these distractions and help you live a less cluttered, more focused life.

There are other small, yet effective changes you can make in your everyday that can help you be less distracted. Try adding these to your everyday routine and see the power they can have on your life:

  • Turn off your phone and email notifications when you need to be productive. The average person checks their phone more than 150 times a day. Set aside a time when you check emails, instead of doing it constantly throughout the day.
  • Remove physical and digital clutter. Both of these can act as distractions. Make sure your workspace and your desktop are clean and clear.
  • Complete all your small projects right away. If you have small projects that only take a minute or two, complete them right away instead of delaying them.
  • Keep a constant to-do list. Always check off an item when you have completed it so you can track your progress and see how little distractions are impacting you.

When you are able to make small changes like this, over time they can lead to a big transformation in how easily you get distracted and how productive you can be.

In a world moving way too fast, do you need focus because you fill every “spare” moment rather than taking an intermission to be present in every moment? Checkout my book Framing Faith and sign up for exclusive updates and give aways.  

Matt Knisely

Matt Knisely is an Emmy Award–winning visual storyteller, creative director, and author who loves telling stories of the extraordinary. Make sure you check out his book Framing Faith, it helps connect the seemingly unconnected, see the beauty right in front of us, and revealing how to be present in the moment.

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