Distractions. Distractions. Distractions. The World Cup is a big one for me right now. It’s usually a combination of Facebook and a TBS marathon. I don’t include books as distractions, because those help improve my writing.
The horror of true distractions stem from various components that continuously hook you and turn your distraction into a habit or addiction. I was watching a few episodes of American Dad during my lunch break the other day, and as usual, I went over my designated time limit for lunch. What did I replace this lost time with? More TV!
During that time I started to realize that it’s easier to fight off a distraction or bad habit when you know exactly what factors push you to neglect your work and stay away from productive activity. The only problem is that companies like Comcast are damn good at using their user interface and marketing to keep your eyes on their product.
In short, most distractions today are about other people gaining financially from your laziness. If we pinpoint the techniques used, we can motivate ourselves to get off our butts and create a piece of art that turns other folks into the lazy ones.
Every Distraction Has a Guide That Tempts You and Teases You
When I sit around watching TV there’s always a chance to turn off the TV during a commercial or after a show. Unfortunately, Comcast gives you their gigantic TV Guide to find any from cooking shows to movies On Demand. The content is endless, and they package it up ever so nicely for you.
The best distractions have a little guide, which is marketed for user convenience, but it’s actually a productivity black hole. Think about Facebook’s Timeline–Every post from all your friends and favorite companies is condensed into one stream. Think about your Feedly account. These distractions are like dogs that wine whenever you try to leave.
Next time you find yourself getting distracted, ask yourself how the company has perfectly placed all the content in one location for you. Is there any end to the madness? If this becomes a habit will you ever write a book, get in shape or become successful at all?
We Intentionally Situate Distractions for Easy Access
In the great productivity book Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Getting Things Done, David Allen states:
What we truly need to do is often what we most feel like avoiding.
This is our own fault. Obviously everyone doesn’t do this, but for some reason it seems like human nature pushes us to take the most distracting piece of equipment in the room and use it as a centerpiece. Everyone I know situates their furniture and tables around the TV when setting up a living room. When I moved into my old apartment, my roommate and I spent maybe 10 hours trying to speak with Comcast and setup our internet.
What for? I’m a writer who has the ability to write offline. In fact, when I write offline I create the most genuine content. For some reason people are prone to situating their distractions before realizing that they can live without all of them. Imagine how not having a TV in your home would boost your writing productivity. Think about how not signing up for internet would help your workflow soar. If anything you could go to the coffee shop or library whenever you need to check your email. It gets you out of the house too.
I even had an old friend at work who situated all of his snacks for easy access on his desk. He shoved notepads and pens in his drawers, but his snacks were always close by. Not only did these snacks do a number on his belly, but he never seemed to be clicking away on his keyboard. Why? Eating or sipping on coffee all day is a productivity killer.
These Distractions Are Making Someone Else Rich, While You Fart Around
This is my strongest motivator when I start noticing distractions. Someone, somewhere is getting super rich as I sit around and consume their content. Even if money isn’t an important motivator to you: Someone is making great art while you just sit around. I get this feeling when I watch Judd Apatow movies for some reason. The guy is a writing, producing and directing machine who has some sort of hand in just about any comedy you see nowadays. While I watch Apatow’s movies he is probably sitting at a desk brainstorming his next script.
The same goes for cable TV, books, newspapers, magazines and even when you shop online. Every ad you click or item you buy sends your money to someone else.
Most things you do that don’t relate to your own art send money to another person’s pocket. Why not make your own art and make money from others?
A Distraction is Like Smoking Cigarettes
Well, reading Twitter’s a lot like staring at an ant farm,” Tobey explained while wiping some cheese from his mouth. “Except without all the productivity.
This funny quote from Notes from the Internet Apocalypse has words that many need to hear. We think most distractions are work, but it’s all one big lie. The worst thing–you’re lying to yourself.
A friend in college once told me that smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco or getting hooked on alcohol is for the weak. He claimed that he could quit any of those vices at any time, because he possessed the will to do so. Well, he didn’t use tobacco, so I’m sure he didn’t know how hard it is to get off that habit, and he never planned on quitting alcohol all together (it was college.)
I think it might be human nature, but many people look down on those who get hooked on a drug or other type of product. The only problem is that any distraction is just like smoking cigarettes. Your bad habits don’t need some addictive substance to be considered harmful or regrettable.
Everyone has their form of cigarettes–mine is TV, but just like cigarettes, TV is probably shortening my life, cutting in on successes and making me a little less healthy. And that’s what Comcast taught me about distractions.
What’s something that distracts you on a regular basis? Share your most frequent distractions in the comments section below and let us know what factors keep you coming back for more.