As we contemplate the distractions in our lives, we have to ask: what purpose do these distractions serve for us?
The answer isn’t “nothing.” We have these distractions because they fulfill a need. What is that need?
For me, the answer is usually something like:
- My brain is tired and wants a break
- I don’t feel like doing this hard task
- I just opened my computer and my habit is to check on my usual distractions
The last one isn’t so much a need as a habit, but the original need was probably the second reason â€” I would start up my computer to do something difficult, and instantly start checking email and my favorite blogs or social news sites.
But if distractions come with the important benefits of allowing our minds to take a break, or giving us something easy to do when we don’t want to do hard work … what’s the problem? Well, we all know the problem â€” a break turns into an hour or two, and then maybe even an entire day that’s wasted. We keep putting off hard tasks, fill our days with the trivial rather than the important. Distractions keep us busy but we’re not really getting things done that we most want to focus on.
So distractions have a benefit and a cost. Ask yourself these questions:
- What does it feel like when I imagine shutting the door on all my distractions for a day? What emotions come up for me? What about shutting the door on all distractions for a week? For a month?
- What does it feel like when I imagine opening the door to all distractions, all the time?
I have to admit that I closed about five browser tabs that I’d been reading, so that I could write this article this morning. My weakness is opening a bunch of browser tabs to look things up, because I’m curious, and then delaying getting to the task.
To write this article, I had to tell myself, “Shut the door on distractions.” So I did: I closed the tabs, closed everything, and had only one door open for myself â€” writing this article.
When we have a lot of doors open, to distractions and other possibilities, it can feel like freedom. It’s freeing to be able to jump around to anything we want, to be able to move away from the uncomfortable.
But can it also be freeing to close the door on those options?
What is it like to intentionally close off all escape routes, and just have one option?
I encourage you to explore that over the next few days.