On the one hand, there are the things we want to do and achieve in life, like taking control of our selves and our lives and furthering our dreams and aspirations, and on the other hand, there are the things we engage ourselves in that take up all the time and attention required to achieve the first. These time-wasting, attention-diverting, dream-procrastinating, mostly meaningless activities are called distractions. The good news is there are a couple of fun and creative remedies for this insidious way of living.
1) Understand how distractions work.
Distractions are often habit-based, set off by a certain “trigger,” a situation/problem that is dealt with in a certain way. So, for instance, watching television is a huge distraction many people engage themselves in. When people get bored, they turn on the television. In this case, boredom is the trigger, and television is the habit/distraction.
2) The problem usually contains the solution.
Once you’re able to realize the science Of how distractions work, it’s fairly easy to come up with a solution. When we get bored, we heal our boredom by watching TV. The problem is our boredom. The new solution, rather than watching TV? I don’t know. That’s up to you. But don’t be afraid to have fun and get creative with it.
Some brainstorming just off the top of my head of alternative things you can do:
-Taking a step towards your dreams (putting together a business plan, saving up some money for your backpacking trip, YouTubing a video on how to do a backflip)
-Going for a walk
-Calling up an old friend to see how they’re doing (or texting, emailing, social messaging, whatever)
3) Understanding the difference between the “kinds” of distractions
We can make the argument that any of the above activities are distractions in themselves, which is where the essence of this portion of the article comes in—differentiating between the “kinds” of distractions.
There are two kinds of distractions, one that is mindless and does next to nothing to one’s personal development, and then the other which is growth-inducing. Things like meditating might not seem like much, but meditating cultivates focus, discipline, awareness to one’s self, and myriad of other benefits.
You want to enrich your life, grow and learn, develop your character, pursue your dreams and goals, and engage yourself in activities that contribute to your well-being and happiness. Life is short. Don’t waste time on activities that waste your time.
You can’t really get rid of a distraction, but you can replace it with something better. Distract yourself with life-enriching, growth-inducing distractions.
4) Analyze your day and ask yourself some important questions.
Most of us live routine lives. What helps on the journey of making the routine of our lives more spicier and colourful is a simple exercise.
1) Write down a list of exactly how you spend your day, from the moment you wake up, to the moment you fall asleep. How do you spend your time? How does your day unfold?
2) Now ask yourself some important questions as you go through your list, like:
Do I feel good spending my time in this way? Is doing this how I want to spend my precious moments? Is this contributing to my well-being and happiness? Is this furthering my development? Am I having fun?
5) Deeply understand the pros and cons.
Outlining the pros of quitting your distraction and the cons of continuing to engage in your distraction helps serve as motivational fuel to quit the bad habit. For instance, the pros of eliminating television is you get more time, possibly even more money depending on how much you pay for TV each month, and more mental freedom to think for yourself. The bad side, of course is less time, less money, and a mind manipulated and influenced by mass media. Quitting sounds better to me.
6) Start a challenge.
30-day challenges are an effective and fun way of making lifestyle changes. Doing so gives you a test-run to see if you’re new lifestyle choice is the right fit for you. 30-days without television isn’t so bad. If you’re life becomes exponentially better, then you win. If you finish the 30 days and life becomes so unbearable because you can’t exercise your imagination to come up with creative ideas to soothe your boredom, well, you can always turn back to the TV.
7) Get accountability and support.
Ask a close friend or family member to keep tabs on you to see if you’re eliminating your distraction habit. Have them check on you every day, and ask you questions like, “So, have you seen or not seen the new episode of Game of Thrones?” Just kidding. Maybe more like, “Did you stay away from television today? Yes? Good job buddy! Gold star for you! I’m so proud of you.”
8) Come up with rewards and punishments.
This is a form of psychological conditioning called positive and negative reinforcement. When you do well, reward yourself. On the contrary, if you don’t, “punish” yourself. (Just nothing too crazy.)
So if you don’t watch TV for an entire day, reward yourself with a bubble bath or a glass of wine … or both. If you do, then do 50 pushups or whatever might be difficult for you.
You can combine this with your 30 day challenge to deepen the rewards and consequences a bit more. If you can succeed 25 out of the 30 days, go get a full-body massage at that local parlour you’ve been wanting for some time now. If you can’t, donate 200 dollars to a charity.
Like I said, don’t be afraid to get creative.
9) Kill the source.
The best way to get rid of a distraction is to kill the source. You want to stop a bad TV habit? Cancel your contract. You want to stop distracting your self by eating unhealthy foods? Throw them in the garbage.
Eliminating the source of the distraction gets rid of the possibility of you even in engaging with the distraction in the first place. No more distraction, no more problem.
This world is filled to the brim with things yearning for our attention. Only a few is worth giving. Learn to discern the difference and see how much your life changes. This much I can guarantee.
What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.
Christopher is a writer at his blog The Art Of Life, where he is dedicated to helping others remove the blockages, mental or otherwise, that prevent people from being the characters they want to be, and living the lives they want to live.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.