Have you ever wasted an hour following links, reading articles, learning about something, only to walk away feeling…empty?
The more that I work for myself, the more I realize I have a tendency to use distraction as an escape.
I realize there are a lot of articles out there about this, but writing about it helps me improve my understanding of the problem. And a clearer picture of the problem helps me identify it when it creeps up. And that helps me to avoid it.
So, indulge me for a moment while I state the obvious:
Not all food that fills you favors you.
You can crave food that is tasty, food that is enjoyable to eat, but there is a whole category of food that is fun and appealing, but is destructive if indulged on a regular basis.
And it’s easy to get addicted to escape through food.
Information to the brain is like food to the body.
And because creative people are curious, it is common for them to look for inspiration, to look for learning, and to look to get the juices moving – especially when they hit a wall.
But it may be that wall is there to strengthen you. As you develop the skill of pushing through the wall, rather than escaping it through distraction, you may find that you get better and better at finding the ideas that are hard to uncover.
You know you have a good idea when you start, and you start with the low-hanging fruit, the common, the clever, and the relatively unoriginal.
To get past the obvious, you have to push. You have to do the hard work. There is no way around it.
This is true with any project.
Have you ever noticed how some managers use meetings to get the feeling that something is being done, when, really, very little gets done in a meeting?
Meetings are fun because there is a lot of collaboration, discussion, the brain fires, and it really feels like things are moving forward.
But far too often, meetings are little more than mental masturbation-it feels good, but it doesn’t do anything other than relieve the tension and make a small mess.
Perhaps the tension is there for a reason.
We have an innate fight or flight response to danger.
Perhaps when we face tension, fear, discomfort, we are put into a fight-or-flight mode.
And the flight we choose is distraction. We read articles. We check our email. We catch up on social media. We run away from the problem hoping it will have changed by the time we come back to it.
But when we come back to it, it rarely has changed. Usually the only thing that has changed is our commitment to finish as quickly or as well as we originally intended.
And we are surprised to find that that’s ok.
Even though we know, deep down inside, that we could have done better.
And so we vow to do better next time.
But next time comes around and we run.
And then we get disappointed that we aren’t more productive. We wonder why life isn’t going the way we planned. We get frustrated with our jobs. With the money we make. With our inability to change.
But maybe there is only one thing that needs to change – maybe just change the small reaction you have to discomfort.
Develop the skill of pushing through the discomfort. Of diving into it. Of observing your feelings, your fears, your panic – and being still. And moving forward.
Maybe start a timer for 10 minutes – the moment you want to take a break and check out social media or your email, set a time for 10 minutes and work until that timer rings. Then you’ve broken the pattern. Then you’ve started down a new path. You’ve chosen fight over flight. And it’s a fight you win simply by joining.
It becomes a selful skill you can add to your list of abilities. A mental muscle you can strengthen.
Recognize the discomfort, feel it, push through.
You can thank me later – maybe once your ten minutes are up.
Now, get back to that task you are avoiding.