I came a long way before my journey brought me to the concept of embrace distractions. You see, I always love everything productivity-related. When I was still in school, one of my best friends at a time, Enny, was an organized person. As you may have guessed, I pick up some of her attitudes and habits. It lasts up to now. I think I have practiced being organized for long that it has become a habit.
From being organized, I picked up a new habit of planning. From the practice of planning came the habit of setting goals. One thing led to another; I grew up questioning, changing, implementing, revamping any productivity-related approaches for my personal growth. My prior experiences as an employee and employer taught me a great deal about productivity. There was something, however, that I couldn’t shake. It started with one question
How the hell I feel that I don’t have enough time to do everything I have or want to do?
I was 20 years old, I dropped off from my first university and got a job with an Australian company. It was a small company, so all of us from every department worked together in a small room. You can imagine the phone rang non-stop, chatters all day round. My second job as a secretary for a Managing Director in a German company afterward exposed me to the same environment. I had my businesses and experienced the same situation.
A little help for a colleague or my employees came to me for decisions because I was the bottleneck. The constant email checking from my suppliers in China, 24/7 Yahoo Messanger chat with my suppliers in Indonesia. I was learning non-stop in the evening in front of the TV while petting my Golden Retriever Louie.
It felt normal because I thought that was how we do business. Of course, I organized, planned, set goals, and with discipline, I accomplished a lot. But that feeling of not having the time to do everything bugged me more.
THE BUSY TRAP
You see, despite my meticulous daily planning, I still feel that 24 hours wasn’t enough. I found my focus scattered around, I felt busy, but I wasn’t productive. I felt energetic but not active.
Despite having around ten employees at the time, I feel that my workload was never-ending. The goals I have set up didn’t work. No matter how much I tried to organize my work and personal life, I felt that I was in a hamster wheel.
It went on for years. The more I tried to perfect my approaches to productivity and effectiveness, the less I get things done the way I hoped.
I just kept thinking that I could do better than that. For example, accomplish tasks quicker, be in constant laser-focused to produce more results. Be productive, instead of being busy, seemed like a holy grail I would never get. I got overwhelmed and frustrated that I stopped doing that much.
I ended up having broad goals, something similar to any new year’s resolutions. Goals that were just goals, without any intention to do them. A ‘make me feel good’ kind of goals. You know the one you wrote down to make you feel at least you have a purpose in life?
When I recognized my smartphone addiction, my focus was even more all over the place. I knew that I had been a lazy ignorant for too long. I decided to acknowledge my flaws and created three simple strategies to reverse that habit. That was the first time I realized that distraction is a real deal. The whole action sparks my interest in distractions in particular.
One curiosity to another, a book called Deep Work by Carl Newport, landed on my Kindle. Few chapters into the book, I realized two things. First, distractions come in many forms. Not just my smartphone turned out. Second, my perspectives and I need to update my approaches about distractions and productivity. The book spoke to me so much that I decided to incorporate his Deep Work methods in my life.
After Carl Newport, I became even more interested in learning how I could produce quality work and counter the essential aspects of my life. That made me genuinely, honestly, start to analyze what I could do better on my personal level. Slowly, I began to understand how I felt that 24 hours wasn’t enough or why I thought I was always in a hamster wheel. I also started to see how some of my methods in the past didn’t work out.
Turned out, I always treat distractions as bad. I spent my time trying to avoid, ignore, overcome, shush away distractions. Obviously, it didn’t work. Why don’t I try a different approach then?
Over the years, when I started minimalism, I become more and more trained in using simplification to essential aspects of my life. So I decided to embrace distractions and hack them.
I finally realized that distractions are not only external, like my smartphone or my working environment. There are internal distractions. I can’t count on how many times I sit down to do deep work, and my mind wanders. From thinking about kinds of stuff that I ‘m rather doing, or suddenly remember something, I have forgotten for days.
I decided to embrace the fact that our brain is designed to be distracted. I also embrace that my old holy grail, the constant laser – focus, is not natural.
EMBRACE DISTRACTIONS AND MAKE THEM OUR NEW BEST FRIEND
Here are the things we could do to embrace distractions mindfully, both internal and external.
PLAN TIME FOR DISTRACTIONS
Knowing that we have a specific time planned for distractions will give us peace of mind. We know that we will get them at a later stage.
Planning time for distractions also means that we get a downtime from our deep work, which is beneficial for our brain. Our brain, like our body, needs to rest from time to time. I call this mindful productivity.
I usually have a couple of small hours planned for distractions. If I experience internal distractions when I deep work, I write them on a piece of paper. I deal with them at a later stage.
CHOOSE HOW WE WANT TO DISTRACT OURSELVES
Now that we plan our distractions, why not choose how we want to be distracted? Check your social media if we want, or get back to the old friend who messages us. Call our family, do laundry, listen to new music. Or let our mind wanders, stare at the vision boards, or create stuff and clean up our desk. Neuroscientists suggest that the mind wandering is a valuable part of life. I find many interesting things happen when my mind wanders.
CLAIM OUR RIGHT TO DISCONNECT
I am going to make this short and sweet. We have the right to disconnect, just like we have the right to vote. I know life can get in away. There are work, children, husband, friends, Facebook Groups, Instagram, news – anything that can distract us.
But the fact is if we don’t make time or protect our right to disconnect, nobody will give it to us.
Let me tell you a little story. It was a lovely day, and I sat down about to write my first article about distraction. Then my phone rang. Ironic eh? I forgot to switch it off that day.
In normal circumstances, I wouldn’t pick up and switch it off straight away. But it was my sister. We ended up talking for an hour, and we talked about our Mother. Our Ma died last year, and we barely talk about it. It felt extremely good to be able to speak to her about it. She is my only sister.
I then spent the next hours after that phone call to write in my journal about my Mother. My article? I decided to write it the next day.
Sometimes, we need to let go and embrace the fact that there are distractions that good for your soul and your growth.
Are you embracing your distraction?