In the 21st century, the distractions out there are limitless: Facebook, Twitter, email notifications, your cell phone, online games and instant messaging—just to name a few. And even if you turn off all these electronics and apps, you still have to deal with children, roommates, spouses, pets, the noisy neighbor and the thoughts inside your own head.
We are in the “age of distraction,” according to Focus: A simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction by Leo Babauta. There’s a constant influx of information coming at us, whether we like it or not. And, whether we can admit it or not, we’re actually addicted to these distractions.
So why are we so fascinated with distractions? Why do we feel the need to check our Facebook and Twitter feeds, email and text messages so often? Psychologists have identified several reasons. Here, we break those down for you and offer you some ways to avoid the distractions and just get down to work, or life.
We’re addicted to constant interaction
When was the last time you went for a walk or to dinner with loved ones without your cell phone? We’re so used to having the world on a leash that we forget to make time for those right in front of us. We also forget that we actually need some downtime, time away from work and interruptions. Obviously, distractions prevent us from being totally present mentally and they prevent us from completing tasks. One freelance writer decided to take a meditation vacation, living in a meditation center for 92 days without speaking to another person. While this might be a bit extreme for Average Joe, try taking a mental break a few times a day. Turn off your notifications and just sit quietly. You will return to your work or your interactions with loved ones with a fresh mind and renewed spirit.
We’re worried about failure
This seems contradictory: because we are so worried about failing, we thrive on distractions and procrastinating, don’t get our work done, and then fail. In essence, we’re so worried about failing at a task, that we instead procrastinate so we don’t get it done at all. We control the failure and forgo success. There’s a reason you were hired or asked to do the task at hand: someone sees value in your work. Instead of thinking of all the ways you could fail, take that person’s confidence in you and run with it.
We’re worried we might succeed
On the other side of the coin, we fear that if we succeed, others will expect more of us in the future. It’s better to get distracted, procrastinate the work to be done, and then avoid future challenges. If you’re content in where you are personally and professionally, then go ahead and keep with the status quo. It feels good to know you can meet the minimum expectations. But humans are designed to succeed—just look at all the human race has accomplished. We wouldn’t have all the luxuries (and distractions) we have today if someone was so afraid of success that they didn’t take a risk. So take that risk and accept your success!
Our work isn’t aligned with what we want to do
Remember as a kid, when you put off cleaning your room as long as possible? I used to lock myself in my bedroom and read to avoid cleaning. I found ways to distract myself to procrastinate doing the inevitable. The same holds true as an adult. I’ll avoid cleaning my house by reading a book or even sitting at my computer to work—anything’s better than cleaning! In life, there will always be things you have to do that you don’t want to do (yard work, clean the house, balance the checkbook). Determine your needs and wants and get the must-do’s out of the way first so you can focus on the things you’d rather be doing.
You’ll never rid yourself of the nasty procrastination habit entirely; if you’ve got it, it’s likely ingrained in your personality. But use some of these quick tips to push it aside—even for a moment—so you can move forward in life and in work.
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About the Author
Abby is a writer and editor in the Phoenix area and is always on the prowl for great ideas. When she’s not in front of her computer, you can find her running the streets or nearby mountain trails—usually way too early in the morning to be considered sane.Follow on Twitter More Content by Abby Herman