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Why We Love Distractions

Why We Love Distractions

    As I sat down to write just now, I was completely distracted by so many noises: my computer fan turned on and sounded more like a car motor than a laptop, the central heat in my house was rumbling along, a motorcycle zoomed by outside, the cats were crying outside my office door… I seriously wondered how I would be able to accomplish anything.

    And then, miraculously, all of the noises stopped at exactly the same time. Complete quiet. Complete stillness. All that I hear right now is the sound of my fingers hitting the keys to create the words that you are now reading.

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    I should be happy, right? I wished for silence, and that wish was granted. So why am I feeling so unsettled now? Why do I want to quickly open up Facebook just to see if someone (anyone!) has posted a new status update? Why am I suddenly fighting the urge to watch cute kitten videos on YouTube? Why am I praying that my inbox will notify me of a new message?

    Because now it is just me and my thoughts.

    There are absolutely no distractions to pull me away from them. And I am realizing in this very moment how very scary being alone in my office with just my thoughts can be. I am no longer able to run away from the gut-wrenching questions that tend to keep me from sleeping soundly at night or being at peace during the day. Will my writing be good enough? Am I good enough? Will it matter? Will I matter?

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    The allure of distractions

    We are all experts at putting up distractions so that we will rarely (if ever) have to face this uncomfortable feeling that I am facing right now. There is something so real and so vulnerable about simply being, isn’t there? It’s like standing in the middle of a crowded room completely naked – how many of us have had nightmares about this one? But seriously, without the distractions of TV, internet, phones, games, our job, the outside world – there’s no buffer between us and the questions we try so hard to avoid:

    See Also: Fear: Why We Can’t Just Be

    • Why am I wasting time working at this job that doesn’t feed my soul?
    • Why do I slave away on these projects each and every day only to bring home a check that is far less than what I deserve?
    • Why am I still hanging around friends who don’t feed my soul or make me laugh or fill me up in any way?
    • Why can’t I look at myself in the mirror without picking apart all of the parts that I can’t stand?
    • Why haven’t I confronted my mom about how hurt I am that she always forgets to return my calls?
    • Why can’t I seem to stay in a loving relationship and be happy there?
    • Why do I always have to have one foot out the door looking for something better? Why am I so unhappy?
    • Why is this the way my life turned out? Why am I always tired? Why have I gained so much weight?
    • Why haven’t I really given my art a go and seen if I could make a living with it?
    • Why haven’t I stepped up and put in my resignation at work?
    • Why haven’t I been brave enough to take the leap and start living my dreams?

    Well, no wonder we wouldn’t want to eliminate our distractions – who wants to be bombarded with all of these thoughts and pressures and demands? In many ways, it’s much easier to keep plugging along with our distractions firmly in place, so we never have to address what’s lurking just under the surface.

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    The happiness ceiling

    However, by not allowing ourselves to examine what’s underneath our distractions, we have created a happiness ceiling that we can’t rise above. So we could have a great job, a ton of money, all of the latest gadgets, and externally seem to have everything going really great – but if we are suffering inside and never taking the time to answer the questions that our souls are urging us to examine, we’ll only be able to reach a certain level of fulfillment.

    We all want to be happy, but are we all willing to do what it takes to get there? Are we willing to push our distractions aside and create the stillness necessary to be alone with our thoughts and really listen to our soul’s urgings? If so, we can start by simply acknowledging these whispers.

    Sit with them and listen to them without judgment. Write them down and pay attention to those thoughts that carry weight – that resonate within our souls – that elicit strong emotion. For example, if one of your whispers is telling you to leave your job, take some time to examine whether this carries weight:

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    • How does thinking about leaving your job make you feel?
    • Are you staying in it because you are afraid of leaving?
    • What is your job keeping you from pursuing?
    • How is it distracting you from living your ideal life?

    Once you have answered these questions (and any others that you come up with on your own), you’ll have a much clearer idea of which direction to go in. And then you can begin making changes to turn these whispers into fully integrated parts of your consciousness – and your life!

    Conclusion

    Let’s be brave enough to examine what’s really underneath all of the distractions that we have created in our lives. When we begin to address them one by one, we create space in our lives for our authentic selves to shine. We start to feel lighter. The happiness that starts to seep into our bodies is a lasting one, not a fleeting one that our distractions bring.

    On a personal note, I’m proud of myself for sticking with this article and not allowing myself to check Facebook or YouTube while writing it. I simply wrote through my inner urges to distract myself, which is something that makes me happy. So find some time today to sit in silence and see what comes up for you. I think you’ll find that if you eliminate your own distractions and listen to your soul, a true happiness will begin to emerge. And who wouldn’t be happy about that?

    (Photo credit: Mini zen garden via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on October 20, 2020

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

    The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

    Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

    1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

    Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

    For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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    • (1) Research
    • (2) Deciding the topic
    • (3) Creating the outline
    • (4) Drafting the content
    • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
    • (6) Revision
    • (7) etc.

    Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

    2. Change Your Environment

    Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

    One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

    3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

    Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

    Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

    My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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    Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

    If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

    Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

    I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

    5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

    I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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    As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

    6. Get a Buddy

    Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

    I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

    7. Tell Others About Your Goals

    This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

    For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

    8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

    What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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    9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

    If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

    Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

    10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

    Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

    Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

    11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

    At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

    Reality check:

    I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

    Bonus: Think Like a Rhino

    More Tips for Procrastinators to Start Taking Action

    Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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