It’s no secret that the modern world is trying to rip our brains apart into a million tiny pieces, pulling it from one distraction to the other. Sure, there are some ill-intentioned CEOs out there running many of these companies whose aim it is to engage our minds, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, we live in a country that runs off supply and demand, and without the demand the suppliers would have no ground to stand on. Much of the blame rests upon our own shoulders.

Regardless, this is the world we live in and to be effective in whichever way we desire, we must learn to navigate the waters. In combat, in order for someone to be effective in body they must also have a level of effectiveness in their minds. Civilian life is no different — if we strive to make a difference or succeed in our jobs, families or relationships, then we must be effective in our minds as well as the skills necessary to complete the tasks at hand.

And how can we be effective in mind if our brains are constantly being pulled from one social media platform to the other multiple times every ten minutes? Or from email to Reddit? As a country, we have certainly graduated beyond the occasional commercial break in the realm of short spanned distractions. This fractured mindset has become normal for many people, as they bounce from one distraction on their phone to another on their computer.

But the reality is that some things — like email in most cases, and even social media in some cases — are necessary in the world we live in. They can be tools that can even be healthy things. I love to see pictures of my growing nieces on Facebook, courtesy of my sister-in-law posting frequent pictures and funny anecdotes. I need to be connected to email for work, so I can respond when necessary to those who are relying on me for a prompt response. Cutting these out entirely is not always an option, though I would recommend anyone consider it if possible.

The key is time management. Of course, time management has been preached in universities and families for longer than any of us have been alive, but I believe it to be more necessary now than ever.

Time management takes discipline, and discipline is always hardest at first, but grows easier as time goes on. For any fellow military veterans reading, you probably remember that standing in formation for long periods of time grew easier as you progressed in your career. Shaving every day became less of a nuisance, and it didn’t take as much drive to stay in shape.

The same goes for disciplining aspects of modern life. I have taken it so far as to treat myself like a child when it comes to certain electronics: “Okay, Luke. You only get 5 minutes of Facebook time for the rest of the day.” “Ten minutes to respond to readers on your articles, then you’re done for the day.” I have found that, with the right amount of discipline, this is very effective.

The obvious, first result is just that I have more time to spend on other things. The secondary, yet possibly more important result is that my mind is able to lock in and focus on those extra things that I’m able to do. Doing this for a while and one realizes just how often we are sucked back into the world of social media — how often our brains are constantly shifting gears, and therefore never entirely investing itself into a task. How many people feel compelled to take their phones with them into the bathroom? How many people check their phones the second it vibrates, or the moment there is a split-second of silence?