There are many entities that stand in our way of getting to where we want to go.
Most of it is fear. The other stuff are distractions — things that steer our mind away from hard work, living simply, and facing our fears.
When Instagram shocked their users about the new terms, I made an impulsive decision: I deleted my profile.
Don’t get me wrong — I really liked Instagram. It’s entertaining and comforts me when I am bored. But, as I have noticed, it has devoured my time and distracted me from doing my work.
So after they withdrew the statement, I tried to recover my profile only to find out that it was not possible. I felt cognitive dissonance and had trouble making a decision on whether or not to create a new profile. (Oh no! pictures of my food and the sunrise and cats!)
I ended up not doing it because I became aware that Instagram served no real purpose for me other than being a distraction — something that I go on when I have trouble writing or reading.
Which lead me to think, why do we distract ourselves? What is this insane routine that we follow that squanders our time and delays us from accomplishing tasks?
Distraction versus Entertainment
The thesaurus states that a distraction is synonymous to entertainment.
I completely disagree. It’s important to differentiate the two.
Entertainment is for when the work is complete. When the writing is done, the inbox is zero, and the bookmark for the book I’m reading moved at least 50 pages.
A distraction is simply that, a distraction. A disturbance. An interruption. An excuse not to do the work; in fact, it comes in between the work.
Finding your poison is important. Mine is Netflix and shows like Mad Men or The Office. This happens after the work is done. I don’t need to think about what I wrote or what other tasks need to get done — it’s already done. I can unwind and relax.
My distractions are Twitter, Google RSS, and StumbleUpon. I click on these things and realize that I’m wasting valuable time because writing up a draft or getting into the flow of reading a book is difficult. How do I stop myself from distracting myself? I cut off the internet. Boom.
A distraction is not entertainment. If you think the two are the same, you’re fooling yourself.
Eliminating a distraction
The goal is to ask ourselves some hard questions to get to the heart of our habits in distracting ourselves:
- What is the purpose of using <insert distraction>? In my case, Instagram. I have a friend who’s a hairstylist and she uploads her finished work that she does on her friends or customers. She builds awareness and a following. It brings her new customers. There is a beneficial and definite purpose. For me, there is no purpose — it’s purely entertainment, which I have enough of. Facebook was exactly the same. I didn’t know why I was using one, but I became aware that I would sign on and off sporadically. I got so fed up with the complainers, trolls, the vanity and need for attention that I finally made the decision to delete it. Life’s been so much better. What is the real purpose behind the things that you do?
- Do I need more entertainment in my life? Honestly, how much entertainment do you have? Do you need more or less? If you’re stressed and tired from work, chances are you need entertainment, something to kick back and relax. Working all day everyday is self-defeating.
- Why are you afraid of removing this distraction? It was tough because Instagram was a habit. When I’m bored, go on Instagram. If conversation isn’t flowing in the classroom or around my friends, go on Instagram. Cue (being bored) that leads to a reward (not being bored) creates a habit (excessive Instagramming). Now this enforces me to change the routine and spark conversation and not be bored — oof, that’s tough.
I’m sure there are more questions, but that’s for you to ask yourself. Those 3 questions were enough to make a tough, conscious decision to organize my life and to become aware that I’m not always working to my full potential.
Ask yourself honest questions on why you continue to feed into your distractions. Realize what is entertainment (something that isn’t bad, something for when the work is done) versus what’s simply a distraction, something that can be cut out of your life to help you be more efficient.
Like quitting cigarettes, it’ll take a few days of getting over it. I’m not sure sure if you’re gonna tremble and shake and sweat by not using your favorite distraction, but it will be tough.
So the question remains, when you eliminate distractions and have all this free time, what are you going to do with it?