How to Use Distraction for Your Benefit [Ep.08]
This episode takes a fun twist on what distraction is and how to use them for your benefit.
- Digs into the nuance of what distraction is
- Explores why we distract ourselves, especially from things that we say we really want to do
- Shares 3 benefits of distraction
- A simple method to leverage distraction in your life
I also introduced my upcoming Courageous Conversation monthly series for women who want to explore an interesting and valuable topic that isn’t part of your day-to-day. Because I believe when you slow down and take the opportunity to participate in a safe and supportive dialogue you can discover true growth and deep learning. More details here.
Show Notes Episode 8
Today we’re looking at a fun twist on distraction, which is how to use it for your benefit. Super fun!
A Note: Courageous Conversations
Before we dive in I want to invite you to Courageous Conversations. Going forward I’m looking for another way to connect with this community. These Courageous Conversations will be hosted monthly and they’re my way of exploring ideas and holding an inspiring space for honest and judgement-free dialogue.
Each month we’ll explore a new theme. There will be a combination of intention-setting, prompts, and quotes to spark your imagination and intuition and curiosity. There will also be opportunities for reflection, expression and encouragement among an intimate group of women who are interested in slowing down, connecting and practicing turning inward. This will be space to honest express and what you think and what you know. I’m really excited about this new way to connect. Interested in joining us for the next conversation? Register here.
Let’s dive in to distraction. This is really important because I notice that people feel a bit ashamed about being distracted. And that’s a problem! Because to avoid feeling ashamed you aren’t acknowledging and accepting when you’re distracted.
If you think that being distracted is a bad thing, something to pass judgement on, then you’re not going to raise your hand and say “yep, that’s me.” So the first thing I want to do is reduce the stigma that you may feel about being distracted. Because the truth is that you get distracted, I get distracted, and modern humans get distracted.
Funnily enough… even less than modern humans felt distracted. In his awesome book, Indistractable, author Nir Eyal talked about Plato, who struggled with distraction 2500 years before the iPhone. Which means this is not a new problem. Thus not one that we can 100% blame on the technology.
What is Distraction
Online dictionary tells us: “a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else.” Basically, the interference of focus.
There is some nuance to explore here.
Because it’s not just about interference of focus on just anything. I think the distraction that we’re talking about is this sense of being distracted or pulled away from what matters or what your intention was. I mean, I doubt that you would consider your kids a distraction from scrolling on your phone. Or going for a walk is a distraction from checking your email.
I think the two questions that I want to answer through this are
- What are these “things” that prevent us from giving our attention toward what we want? and
- Why would we allow that to happen?
What are these “things” that are stealing our attention?
If you’re like most people I connect with, the main things that you think are distracting you are things that are related to technology. That’s only part of the story.
Tech might be what you interact with or where you end up when you find out that you’ve been distracted. What lead you to the technology is the “root” that is interfering with our focus.
Distraction is a way that we manage or escape discomfort or pain.
The urge to distract is the brain’s way of avoiding uncomfortable emotions like overwhelm, self-doubt, or shame. Those emotions are the root causes that lead you to the tech.
First, we must realize that discomfort isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Discomfort doesn’t always need to be relieved. In fact, discomfort can be leveraged to propel us forward. Instead of looking for the easiest way to rid ourselves of pain, we can look to understand what’s creating this discomfort? And what’s driving our desire to escape the way we feel? Example
What am I really avoiding when I don’t do the things I say I want to do?
WHY am I allowing myself to get distracted, especially when it’s something that really matters to me?
And THAT is the ironic part my friends, because the fact that it matters makes it slightly more likely that you’re going to distract yourself from it.
I know. How annoying is that?
But here’s the thing. When it’s something that matters to you, then there’s more risk, there’s more on the line. When it matters, there’s more fear of rejection. When it matters, there’s more fear of failure. When it matters it’s probably connected to your heart and your identity.
So, in order to protect ourselves from the discomfort of fear, failure, rejection, etc. we distract ourselves.
Have you ever needed to have a really uncomfortable conversation at work or with your family and suddenly THE.MOST.IMPORTANT.THING is cleaning your closet? I know I’ve done that.
You’ve distracted yourself from not only the conversation moreso, you’ve protected yourself from the uncomfortable feelings that the conversation might create for you.
Is there something in the last couple days that you were going to do and you got distracted from doing? When you think about doing that thing what’s your inner dialogue? What do you start to think and what emotions come up?
The Benefits of Distraction
Having shared my basic premise around distraction, , like I mentioned at the beginning of the episode I want to talk about using distraction for your benefit. Most people simply try to get rid of distractions, which is great. Eliminating and reducing your distractions will definitely help keep you on task, on target and moving forward.
When distractions do come up (and they will!) how can you use them for your benefit.
I have three main benefits of distraction:
Connect to Traction
1. Understand that if you’re feeling distracted it means that you are off-track from something. Distraction is the opposite of traction. So the first thing is that you can use distraction to better understand what’s is traction? If by doing this I’m off-track, then what would on-track be? Distraction can be a signal for you to notice and make a correction.
Deal with the Root Cause
2. Understand what’s taking you off-track. There are several main reasons you will take the distraction path. Distraction creates awareness that something is amiss and there are several primary reasons why you might be getting distracted. Distraction can help you identify what’s challenging you that’s causing this distraction. Simply being aware of being distracted (and then not judging or shaming yourself) can help you uncover what’s really going on. You can understand this is not about the task, this is probably about how the task is making you feel.
This allows you to treat the root of the problem and not just the symptom. Because if you’re just eliminating the notifications on your phone but you haven’t dug into WHY you keep looking at the notifications on your phone you’ll replace that with some other kind of distraction.
Build Your Compassion
3. It is an invitation to be compassionate toward yourself and your humanness. You know what doesn’t get distracted – robots. They also miss out on the rich emotional lives and relationships that we, humans, get to experience. Distraction can benefit you by building your friendship and tenderness with yourself. Which is absolutely critical! Through working through your distraction you can develop trust that you can count on you know matter what, even when you’re human. And that trust will take you places you can only imagine.
To Tap into the Benefits
The first thing you need to know what is a distraction for you. And what is not. The only way to do that is to have a direction that you want to be going. If you don’t have a direction then you can’t identify what is a distraction and what isn’t. Whether you have an intention, an aim, a goal, a vision, a success metric or any other language that you want to use. You need to know what is traction to be able to discern it from distraction.
Once you have defined the direction you want be moving toward, then one great tool is to reflect regularly, maybe on a weekly basis.
I’m a strong proponent of a weekly review and to reflect on the question – what is distracting me?
I use this to reflect on any “shoulds,” or shiny objects that might be tempting me away from what matters most right now.
Because, the truth is, that sometimes distractions look legitimately great or interesting, but they’re still a distraction if they’re not what matters most right now. Even great ideas or projects are distractions when they pull me away from what matters most.
And, actually I want to add something more to this episode, I want to talk about what I might call “pro-social distraction”. NOTHING makes a better distraction that doing something that “no one can argue with”. Like volunteering or helping someone out, or going above and beyond when it wasn’t necessary. Those things are distractions when they’re taking you away from the direction that’s really about you moving out of your comfort zone and leading the life you truly desire.
No one else can tell you if what you’re doing is a distraction or not – you have to be willing to be honest with yourself.
Back to the Weekly Review
So I want to look at whether I’m trying to fit things into the week that are just distractions and put those aside. It’s not about judging these ideas or myself for being distracted by them. I’m just recognizing that they’re a distraction.
Today we went right into it, all about distractions what they are and how to use them for your benefit. And some of the tricky ways that our brains can manipulate us into thinking something isn’t a distraction. When actually it is taking us away from the things we identified as most important, those things that will move us forward, or the things that matter deeply, even if it only matters to us.
If you want to move out of distraction without shaming yourself then reach out and see working with me might be a fit for you. If I can help you do the things that you say you really want to do. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Indistractable.
Hey! I’m Amanda Jane, host of More Ways.
As an alternative productivity enthusiast, I love helping people spend their time on what matters.
It’s my passion for coaching and connecting that brought me to start a podcast, and I founded More Ways to help more creative, ambitious women like you, focus on progress and purpose.