Owning Your Distractions
“The distractions holding you back from achieving your goals today should be seen as the rewards for completing those goals.”
There is a struggle with working on any project by yourself that is often never mentioned. The hardest part about starting anything by yourself is that you are doing it by yourself. There’s no one to help you figure out when’s the best due date for a specific task, your goals oftentimes do not show immediate results, and you’re solely responsible for staying focused.
This applies to any type of hustle where you’re the sole boss and employee. Even if you eventually plan on growing a team to help you manage your project, you are in most cases starting from a team of one.
If you’re trying to become a business owner, a part-time or full-time freelancer, influencer, blogger, Youtuber, etc., you will eventually run into a wall. This “wall” is your own waning productivity.
As you work on your project, you’re going to have your doubts. Even worse, each day you work you’re going to begin distracting yourself in little ways.
Distractions plague everyone which is why systems are important
There is a whole list of professions that focus on the singular task of optimizing a company’s processes. Chief Quality Officer, Vice President of Quality, Vice President of Quality Improvement, Director of Process, Quality Systems Manager, Process Owner, Process Engineering Manager, Process Control Supervisor, Director of Quality Systems, and Global Process Owner are some of the vast titles out there for people who work on making teams faster and more effective.
The great news is that just as there are professionals who dedicate their lives to creating techniques and methodologies to improving the processes within a company, there are also people who have dedicated their lives to helping individuals create systems for optimizing their own productivity.
Now with all the information online about self-development and self-improvement, you can spend a whole three months to half a year figuring out which list of habits work for you. I have spent a lot of my time falling into the trap of consuming productivity hacking videos on Youtube as a form of entertainment, rarely adopting anything to see if it actually works.
Whenever I do adopt something I’ve seen on Youtube or read in a book, I seldom commit to it after two weeks.
Perhaps the best approach to finding the right system that can overcome your daily distractions is by first creating your own system first.
It is better to make a horrible system of habits first than to adopt something you had no part in creating?
Trying a new self-help challenge, productivity hack, practice, or routine only to give up on the commitment thirty days later is something I have been guilty of for the past three years. Things only began to shift for me when I asked myself, “Are these suggestions made specifically for me? How can I make them work for my life?”
Sometimes a new experiment can’t work because it clashes with your commitments to others. My girlfriend recently got concerned when I lost almost ten kilograms while trying to see if intermittent fasting was for me. And sometimes a new practice you’ve adopted actually gets in the way of work and becomes another source of complexity; another distraction. I once spent 20 minutes “optimizing my calendar” every afternoon for a whole week, only to realize all I did was make it have 14 shades of blue, red, and green.
A system of best practices only works when you’ve created it without any outside influences first. Yes, you can and should seek inspiration and advice from people more successful than you but, their routines aren’t made with the nuances of your life in mind.
That’s why you have to start with your own system first.
“Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”
The best way to begin creating your own distraction-killing system of habits begins with a diagnosis. I know that I can’t be productive if I’m listening to a podcast while working on a task. I also can’t talk to others while focusing on a problem. Other people don’t have the same issues as me.
Perhaps your main distraction is a mobile game that keeps nudging you to solve that next puzzle or it’s Instagram, calling you to see what your friends and family are doing right now. Regardless of the type of distraction, you have to write them down and acknowledge them before creating the rules to tackle them.
If most of your distractions come in digital form, one simple way to stop them from getting in your way is by simply turning off your Wifi for a set period of time. If your distractions come from being interrupted by others, your productivity hack can come from creating your own private space for work.
Sometimes an easier way to get better results is by discovering during what time of day are you most focused (I can’t do anything effectively until I’ve been awake for at least three hours).
Regardless of what you distracted by, it is important to focus on creating your own system of rules first. If not, you may fall into the trap of distracting yourself by learning how to be productive.
You have to hold yourself accountable. The next time you try something new, make sure it is something you thought of yourself. Do not take any suggestions from anyone. See if that idea is more effective than anything else you’ve tried in the past.
Odds are, it will be more effective because you thought about the idea built from your own personal circumstances. Only after you’ve made the idea on your own and you’ve tried it for at least a month, should you then seek outside advice and inspiration to improve upon that idea.
Lastly, you have to consider that some distractions shouldn’t be eliminated from your life. I like watching anime and it can sometimes get in the way of my work. I’ve used the desire to watch anime as a reward after doing my work rather than an excuse not to do it.
When you are trying to optimize your life, don’t accidentally punish yourself by eliminating the things that bring you joy. Not all distractions are bad, we just need to find ways to defer them for later while we focus on what’s important at the moment.
Work first, have later. It should never be: work first, find ways to work better, and only seek enjoyment in the work. Yes, you have to work in order to achieve your goals. Use the distractions holding you back from achieving your goals as the very rewards gained for completing your work.