Ever spend a day being really busy, doing lots of stuff, yet at day’s end a friend asking “Productive day?,” leaves you staring into the question like a deer into headlights.
“What the hell did I get done today?”
Decimate my daily to-do list? Complete a project? Wrote a chapter? Finished that presentation? No?
Good chance you spent your day sampling from the distraction buffet?
What’s a distraction buffet?
Like a desert buffet loaded with delicious choices you can (rep)eat until you explode, a distraction buffet offers unlimited options to explore until it’s time to take a nap. And like the desert buffet none of the choices are any good for you.
You were born with a distraction buffet. It’s called your mind.
The human mind has an infinite capacity to generate images, thoughts and feelings that you repeatedly indulge in like a buffet that fattens you up, slows you down and reduces your capacities to learn, help and grow.
The mind’s distraction buffet entices you to follow a thought from one to the other leaping from lust, to fame, to brilliant ideas, to worry, anxiety, witty but unmade retorts, back to worry, justification, another clever but unmade retort, blame, anger, regret, lust again, vengeance scenarios with you as James Bond delivering an even cleverer retort, fear (what’s that bump), and then the phone rings.
And if the grand playground, fun house, museum, story and meaning factory of your mind doesn’t provide enough distractors; technology offers even more with email, Social sites like Facebook and Twitter, YouTube, news sites, TV shows, movies, etc., etc.
Technology increases our capacity to indulge the wanderings of an aimless mind.
Amazing we get anything done.
Is it work or a distractor?
The thing about a lot of distractors is that they can seem like work. You can spend hours of concentrated time on things that seem like work but aren’t; not really.
Reading the news, articles about work-related topics may or may not be work.
How can you tell?
Ask yourself this: Does this activity …
- move me closer to a scheduled goal or milestone?
- help me fulfil a commitment I made to someone?
No? They’re distractors.
As much as you think reading the news or that latest hot business book is work or work related. They’re not. They don’t help you grow, or do anything unless you have a practice of directly capturing the information so they can be remembered and used as sources in real output e.g. a speech, report or manuscript, or further research.
Spending your time on much of the news and latest business magazines and books is faux-work that is really a form of distraction. They allow you to maintain your image (you’re in the know) and participate in gossip and opinion tennis matches that feed egos but contribute little to nothing to your ambitions or making the world a better place.
When distractors are good
Many distractors aren’t inherently bad. In fact, consciously engaging with them as entertainment, play and regeneration is helpful.
Entertainment, and play are necessary to the human spirit.
The problem is when you engage in them thinking that they are furthering your ambition by helping you in some vague and indirect way. They’re not. These are often the activities that allow you to be quite busy but at the end of the day question what the hell you got done.
To be engaged with your work i.e. not be distracted you must consciously choose what you’re going to do for the next block of time, say 25 minutes to an hour and stick to it.
Choosing to spend the next block of time on Facebook or funny-cat YouTube videos is perfectly fine as long as you are doing it as a conscious break to regenerate and have some fun.
For your activities to count as work you must be able to connect the activity to a commitment you made to others or to yourself.
Whenever you allow your mind to engage with something that randomly appears before it, even things that appear to be work, you’re gorging from your distraction buffet.