February 2, 2010
I can’t remember what conference it was, but someone said something close to ‘choose your distractions wisely.’ I use that often in talks I give – along with ‘choices have consequences.’ I purposely chose the term ‘favorite’ distractions in order to distinguish it from ‘pet distractions’ which is what I really wanted to use in my title. When I Googled ‘pet distractions‘ I found lots of information of animal distractions – not pet/favorite/preferred/desired/etc distractions.
So, I decided to Google ‘choose distractions wisely’ and discovered that ‘distraction’ was not on the first couple of pages. Choose your ‘battles’ ‘riding companions’ ‘diet pills’ ‘company’ ‘friends’ and other topics all beat out ‘distractions.’
Next, I Googled ‘distractions time management’ to see what I could learn, since I wanted to focus today on distraction as an aspect of time management. A myriad of time management topics appeared, and many of them encompassed the general topic of distractions – as would be expected. Clean desk, setting priorities, focus, written lists, limiting e-mails, escaping conversations, scheduling time, etc. A lot of good advice to limit distractions!
But, let’s face it – no matter what we do, most of us succumb to distractions – noise, people, day-dreaming, lights and even vibrations sometimes. However, we all have our own ‘pet’ distraction. Something that we will stop everything we are doing and pay attention to it. If you were to do a Pareto chart of your distractions, this would be the first item with the highest frequency.
Conquer your pet distraction and you can make amazing strides. One of my oldest distractions was television. If the television set was on, I would stop, as if mesmerized by the picture on the screen. I would have to see what was going to happen. Or, if that particular show was of no interest, then I could always select another.
There were action, drama, movies, serials, sports, game shows, westerns, comedies, and a few other television shows that would instantly grab and keep my attention. You might notice that news programs didn’t make my list. Something irritated me about news programs way back then. I don’t mind hearing the news; I just don’t like someone interpreting it for me. As I’ve found the internet, news is filtered – it’s not presented at all, or only part of it is presented. It’s programming me and I don’t like that kind of programming. Plus, I can find enough negative programming in my life without choosing to watch it on television.
But, television consumed my life when I was not going to school or working. It was my pet distraction. As I got older, I chose involvement in other evening activities (meetings, school, and other obsessions), I found that I wasn’t able to watch television during the week. I was gone three weekends a month with the Reserves and did not watch weekend television. I weaned myself off television, and it has stayed that way for over twenty years. Today, I still select a show or two to watch, but it’s on my time when I’ve scheduled it after all other priorities are done for the day.
I used to find that e-mail consumed more than a computer minute. A computer minute is at least ten minutes of normal time. When I decide to check e-mails (I have three active accounts I check regularly), it robs me of many more minutes than I intend to devote to it. Most of the time my time is not productive. I go from this e-mail to that and to another. I know I should do it later, but there might be something really important that I have to know about now (like those television shows) – I can’t wait.
Today (2016), social media consumes a lot of my time. I do check it often throughout the day and respond as needed. I try not to be connected more than five or ten minutes at a time. It can be addictive.
Every day, I ‘choose to be productive‘ (working on a project – e-book, hub page, article, blog, press release, video or audio editing or other special effort), I start those planned productive efforts without opening my e-mail accounts or checking my social media. E-mail had been my ‘pet’ distraction. E-mail was something required in my job, but no longer since retiring from gainful employment. I think that FB is my current pet distraction. Pet distractions are part of our lives. They live with us. We take them wherever we go. They rob us of productivity. They rob us of time that we should spend on things that are more important in life.
Think back over the past two days and determine when you were really productive. What stopped you from continuing on that process? Was it because you finished what you were doing? Great! Or, was it because you chose to do something that crept into your scheduled time? Additionally, when you chose to ‘relax’ – did you find that hours go by and you are still no where near achieving those goals you want in life. Relaxing for a short while turned into a long while. Insanity is doing the same thing all the time and expecting different results.
Stop feeding, watering and walking your pet distraction! Recognize it and do something about it. Regain control over your time and your productivity.