At any one time I’ve got a handful of really important things to do that will really make a difference in my future. At work there are important projects outside of my typical tasks that could really change things. For Life Stoked, there’s always something I’m excited about doing to advance my vision.
There’s only one problem: I spend way too much time being distracted.
When I sit down at my computer I check my email, check Facebook, check Twitter, check my other email, and THEN I’m clear to do some work… unless maybe an email came in while I was checking that other stuff… or someone replied to my Facebook update… or my last Tweet…
I’m convinced that if there were no consequences for never getting anything done that I could be stuck in this meaningless loop forever.
But why? It sounds so stupid (especially written out, and especially on a blog published under my own name!)
David Rock highlights an interesting point in his book Your Brain At Work. He traces this addiction back to the days of early man when our lives were very different. In those days we had to be vigilant to keep an eye out for predators. As Rock explains it, “We are the descendants of people who paid very close attention when something rustled in the bushes.”
When my phone dings, it’s a rustle in the bushes. No matter what I’m working on, I have to go see what’s there. Just try and NOT do it. It’s almost impossible! You’ve got to at least skim the subject and see who it’s from right?
It turns out there’s a very good biological reason for this. Our brains release a chemical when we check to see who the email is from. It’s like a tiny chemical reward, and we’re completely addicted to it. When I cycle through my accounts endlessly looking for updates I’m activating the same reward centers. It’s like a drug.
The same can’t be said for when I sit down to write an article that could genuinely impact someone. That is hard. It’s tough to focus on it. I’m trying to organize my thoughts, but there’s something rusteling in the bushes.
So what do you do?
Aside from turning off your phone’s notifications, there’s only one thing I know to do: Start anyway.
Once you start the nagging to “get your fix” checking email and social media will undoubtedly set in. All you have to do is hold out for five minutes. Five little minutes and you can go check your email and reward yourself.
What typically happens for me is that I forget. By the time five minutes of intense, focused work have passed I’m a completely different person. My brain has stopped endlessly checking the bushes and has narrowed it’s focus on exactly one thing.
Everything has changed now. Now I can write. Now I can create. Now I can do the things that really matter. All because I committed to tough work for five short minutes.
I wrote this post because I had to. I’ve been stuck in a major rut the past few months over at Life Stoked, and the only way out is to write my way out. There is so much to share, and so much to say.
This blog will be where I vet out ideas and write without worry, objective, or goal. The only objective is to share my thoughts and ideas, and hear yours through the comments.
Thank you for reading. Come back often.