Strategic Distractions, not Discipline
Here’s a new method to tackle resolutions. Don’t double down on self-discipline (which always seems to fail for me), use strategic distractions. Here are some categories of distractions which we can utilize, and some ways I’m planning on employing them to work for me! Hopefully they can inspire some distraction-driven goal-accomplishing for you.
Technology aided distractions
I get distracted by Facebook, texts, Instagram, and checking my blog stats way too much. But, I think there are some ways to harness these distractions to help us accomplish our goals.
The Wake Up Hack
I really want to eliminate those times when I wake up, having gotten just enough sleep, but I choose to waste another hour in bed anyway. I used to “should” on myself for doing that, and tried to amp up my self-discipline to get up earlier the next day. Sheer failing will power. But I notice that when I wake up I have NO qualms with reaching over and grabbing my phone and tapping around. I heard research that the glowing screens actually excite your brain patterns which prevent sleep at night. So I figure I’ll use that little fact in my favor, and use it to wake me up. And as soon as I eliminate all those little red bubbles, and my brain is all lit up, I’ll jump out of bed and get on my running shoes (see next hack).
I’ve noticed that whenever I have a work email come in, I’m very eager to knock it out. So, part of my morning routine will be to check my work email and if I am tasked with a project, use that as motivation to pull me out of bed as well.
When I have no more Facebook red numbered bubbles to tap away, and no project emails have come in, I find myself wandering over to Instagram. I would like to stay more up-to-date with popular illustration styles, so I can just make myself search #illustration and so my Instagram distraction might just turn into an inspiration, which can just improve my illustration goals.
Use one distraction to start a chain reaction of goal accomplishing.
Working out, eating healthier, and reading more Bible
I got a membership to the Y but haven’t been in a couple months. I also want to eat healthier, and read more Bible in long chunks. I noticed that when I used to go to the Y more consistently it was because I got hungry and needed to get out of the house for lunch anyway (hunger is a good distraction). Now this may be debatable for some but I think Chipotle and Subway are both fairly healthy options (I load them with lots of protein and vegetables), and I love them both. But just in case all that isn’t enough to motivate me to get up, I can tempt myself with a healthy fruit smoothy as well (in the same shopping center close to the YMCA).
And then I’ll listen to the Bible on the YouVersion Bible app while I’m running over there. Killing like three birds with one stone, hopefully in just a little more than an hour.
Placement of things
I notice I often get distracted by things in my vision. So if I place my open Bible on a shelf on the way to the kitchen, it’s more likely I’ll stop to read a little bit of it.
In the bathroom, while sitting, we have a choice of our reading material. What is that book with short chapters you’ve been wanting to knock out?
Or placing a broom right by the door of the kitchen so I can easily take a couple sweeps to keep the kitchen free of crumby debris.
Also, if I open a document that I know I need to work on, I’m more likely to start hacking away at it when I close out one window and see it open, waiting for me. So I should just open a lot of the projects I need to work on that day, right at the beginning.
Which distractions to harness
As I looked at what other things I should try to trim out of my life this year, I asked myself what are my goals. And then, what are the things that keep me from achieving them.
Distractions were sometimes what got in the way of my goals. But when I look at why I accomplished what I did last year, it was often also because of distractions. Projects I wanted to do, even if while in the middle of other projects. And I’ve noticed that my normal workflow is to start one project (usually ones with deadlines) and when I hit any sort of wall, I open a new project that occurs to me to do instead. An hour into my work session I have 8 internet windows open and five programs with different documents open. But that’s okay if I have enough time, because when I hit blocks in the fifth open project, I end up revisiting the first open project and often knock it out. And like dominoes I start knocking the rest out as well.
The key is knowing which distractions to allow and being strategic to placing the right ones in your path (the ones that help me accomplish my goals). And knowing how to eliminate the bad ones.
If your vice is TV, don’t put the TV in your room where you spend most of your time. Put some books or something you wish you did more of. This is why I don’t own a TV. It doesn’t contribute to my goals of creating things for this world!
I sometimes have the impulse to listen to a song, but I’ve learned that sometimes it brings my efficiency way down. So I want to save up ideas of which songs I’d like to listen to, and punch the play button as soon as I take a break.
Turn off Facebook notifications on my phone. Do I really need to know the very moment someone shares something of mine? I just went into settings and turned off Facebook notifications after I wrote that sentence.
Discipline is still a virtue
If development of character were the only important thing in this life, I’d say we should work on self-discipline much more than strategic-distraction. Strategic distraction isn’t listed as one if the fruits of the spirit, so we will still be more complete if we foster self discipline. But I don’t think God is against us using distractions as inspirations to do what he’s built us to do in this world. And then we can slowly, steadily, work self-disciplines into our lives where we can.
Raw Spoon, 12-27-16