One of the things I love about working for myself is the freedom.
One of the things I hate about working for myself is the freedom.
Ironic isn’t it. We crave the day when we can leave our jobs and embark on this wonderful adventure called entrepreneurship. But it’s not long before we’re hankering for someone to tell us what to do.
Too many options. Too many things to learn. Too many ideas.
What started as a wonderful adventure soon turned into the road trip from hell. Constantly overwhelmed, exhausted and uncertain about what to do next.
How does it start?
When we feel unsure about what to do next, it’s easy to fall into the trap of a quick peek at Facebook or 10 minutes searching for our next holiday destination.
It’s harmless, right? 10 minutes here, 4 hours there…
What starts out as a simple distraction can quickly become a bad habit, and if you’re not careful an addiction.
Before you know it your productivity is nowhere to be seen, and all you can manage each day is a few fits and spurts of action laced with plenty of your go-to distraction.
But once you know the cycle, it’s easier for you to identify that you have a problem.
The cycle of a distraction addict.
Like any addiction, it all starts innocently. You don’t mean to start, it just kind of happens.
Trigger – This is the emotional feeling that starts the cycle. It’s usually a sense of unease or uncertainty that makes us feel out of our depth or a little scared. We don’t like it when we’re a beginner at something or start to believe the fear that creeps in when we try something new.
Craving – When things feel uncertain we crave the feeling of security and certainty. We like feeling in control, so we seek out things we know. It gives us the hit of dopamine that makes us feel on top of things again.
Distraction – Social media is a great choice for a get a quick distraction hit. So is your phone or your inbox. There are plenty of shiny objects to keep your focus away from the task you set out to do. It’s like your best friends have dropped in with a bottle of wine and a cheese platter – happy days!
Guilt – That is until it’s time to pick up your kids and you’ve hardly achieved anything apart from being up to date on your Facebook newsfeed and feeling inadequate after consuming way too much of other people’s content.
Promise – You’ve woken up, snapped out of the distraction fog and promise you’ll get back to work. You really do want to get the right things done and know at the end of the day it’s OK to switch off and enjoy your downtime. Tomorrow will be better, you’ll be more focused.
Until the cycle starts all over again…
How to flip distraction to action
I know this cycle well. To be honest I mastered it in many ways. Finding new distractions to trick myself into believing I had it beat. Moving from one distraction to the next does not break the cycle.
You need to meet it at the trigger phase and acknowledge the discomfort and uncertainty for what it is. Growth.
When we stretch and grow we have to learn new things, fail a few times and keep going. Staying comfortable and in total control is not going to get us where we want to go.
To flip distraction to action try this:
- Ask yourself – Why am I avoiding this task? Is it because you don’t know what to do, or you really don’t want to do it? Is it something you could outsource so you’re no longer the bottleneck in the process?
- Ask for help. Get someone to help keep you accountable or guide you through the steps you need to take.
- Remove the distractions. Turn off your phone or set to do not disturb. Close down your tabs. Block out your calendar. Do the work.
- Reward yourself. Once your task is done, allow yourself to indulge in your distraction of choice guilt-free (for a limited time).
Think Big Start Small
When your vision is big and grand it can be overwhelming, and create the perfect incubator for distraction. But rather than bite off more than you can chew, start with small consistent steps to keep the distraction at bay. You’re far more capable than you give yourself credit for, and you can achieve whatever you want. But only once you kick your addiction to distraction and trust yourself instead.