A Dysfunctional Alarm Clock

This post will bring awareness to unnecessary alarms in your life. You can easily minimize these alarms to improve the qualify of your life.

Imagine you go to bed one night and your alarm clock goes off sporadically during the night. The first time it goes off you reset it, the second time you unplug it, and the third time you remove the backup battery. An hour later the alarm on your mobile phone starts the same pattern.

It isn’t hard to imagine having a challenging day after a night of multiple alarms. If this were to happen to you, you would no doubt get to the root of the problem and remedy the situation so that it wouldn’t continue to happen.

You may have this kind of thing happening in your waking life, and not even realize it. Your unconscious, like an alarm clock is a great tool to alert you to some action you need to take. If you are driving and another car unexpectedly comes into your path, your brain is effective in getting you to naturally take action without conscious thought. It acts in many ways as an alarm clock.

In this post we will discuss other kinds of alarms that you should be aware of. Just like your night of sporadic alarms, they can have a negative impact on your day.


What is your response when you hear text or email notifications coming from your phone? Do you immediately feel compelled to answer or at least look at them? The pattern created in your brain from responding to constant alerts will naturally cause you to be much more distracted during the day. It will also keep you from developing a healthy natural rhythm to your day, which goes a long way for overall mental health.

How you remedy this in your life is up to you, but one way to do that is to silence all email, text, and possibly even phone call alerts. Instead of hearing the alerts you can check them in the morning, at lunch, mid-afternoon, and at the end of the day. The key, regardless of how often you check them is to put them into a natural rhythm, that you control and can follow daily.

Overloaded calendars and task lists

One of the biggest reasons that tasks lists aren’t ideal is that we put too many things on them at once. With the best of intentions you start your day by making a list of tasks you have to accomplish that day. If you are like me that list gets pretty full, pretty quick.

The act of putting those tasks on paper fills your unconscious mind with a list of things that you are telling it you need to do. Your unconscious will serve you by setting frequent natural alarms that will distract you from what you are currently doing. This will naturally create extra anxiety in your life.

It is important that you learn to focus on one task at a time. I will provide a suggestion here, but once you realize what is going on you can come up with a solution that works for you.

I employ a tactic I call “What’s Next”. In the early evening after my work day, I review and add appointments to my calendar, then I make a list of what will need to be done the next day in order of priority. I put only the first task in plain view for the following morning. In the morning I do that one task until it is done, or I have a hard stop or blocker. I then consciously say “What’s Next?” The bottom line, however you achieve it is to only look at and deal with your tasks one at a time, and do everything in your power to finish that one task before you move on. When you are done consciously ask, “What’s Next?”


Attention isn’t the problem for most us, it is putting and keeping our attention where we want it. With all the distractions we have in modern life it is easy to become mindless, and let your brain react to your external environment. This challenge is a little more nefarious than the others. It can be hard to recognize when something is chomping at our attention, when we are struggling to pay attention to something else.

It is important to set aside some time periodically throughout your day to relax, take a deep breath, and simply notice the thoughts occurring on in your mind. Mindfulness is much more than a sitting meditation practice. It is simply taking time to relax, focus on your breath, and notice what your mind is doing. If you can effectively do this, it will by far be the best thing you can do for your day.

In Summary we would be well served to control what comes to our attention throughout our day, but in order to control them, we need to be aware of them. This week just take a few minutes a few times per day to just take a deep breath and notice what is going on in your mind without reacting to it. Get Curious about it, and ask yourself questions around the source of it. If you watch your life carefully and listen to it as if it has something to tell you, solutions will often present themselves.


3 responses to “A Dysfunctional Alarm Clock”

  1. Oh wow, what a timely reminder. It’s so easy to get distracted in this day and age, and the part about ‘not reacting’ to your thoughts is something we ought to practice. Anyway, thanks for this post, Brent!

  2. […] a prior blog post I talked about dysfunctional alarms. We often associate alarms with things like our alarm clocks, and fire alarms that were meant to […]

  3. Reblogged this on Your Remote Life Coach and commented:

    I was reminded of this old post today, as I noticed my mental alarms going off during the day.

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