Interesting timing on today’s Mailbox Monday question…
Because just last Friday — completely without connecting the dots — I write a post titled “Head down, grind it out…” all about hyper-productivity.
And then here I am on Monday, a whole business day later, realizing I have a question about largely the same topic. But we get to approach it from a new angle today — and hopefully we’ll uncover some new revelations.
But first, remember that Mailbox Monday depends on YOU to be awesome.
Every Monday I answer YOUR questions on business, marketing, selling, life, the works…
All you have to do is submit your question to [email protected], and I’ll add you to the queue. (Though please be understanding that the queue currently stretches to February or so!)
Okay, on to today’s question…
I’ve got a crazy question for you and it’s not about marketing. It’s about distractions.
Do you watch TV? If so what do you watch and how much? Do you take in a movie every once in a while?
I’m finding that TV is a huge distraction for me (especially news) so I’m cracking down and turning it off.
Great question — because if you’re distracted, you’re not creating value — and if you’re not creating value, you’re not making money!
So, let’s talk about distractions…
First, let me answer YOUR question specifically William, and then dive in with a few more tips and ideas about distraction and maintaining focus…
First off, the TV trap!
I don’t watch TV live — called “appointment television.”
The last thing I watched live was the Peter Pan Live! musical, with my kids. (What a failure! C’mon Christopher Walken! … And like every other member of the cast, and the director!)
And I don’t recall the last thing I watched live before that. I just don’t.
Oh, I guess it would be football games this season. But even that was hard to recall — and I caught all of one Ducks game (my 2nd team) and about four (maybe) Huskers games (my 1st team).
I don’t have cable, either. (Part of why I didn’t watch too much football.)
I do have very fast internet though, and I pay for Netflix and Hulu.
And I often watch TV in the evening with my wife, as part of winding down for the day. We watch specific shows or movies via streaming.
This is very important because it sets up a limited time frame for viewing, and you have to make the decision from show to show to keep watching. (As long as you turn off that blasted auto-play “feature.”)
24 hour news networks are designed to trap you at all times, and are a total time suck.
They’re as good as copywriters (maybe better) at grabbing and trapping your attention. And they have the advantage of flashy graphics, attractive talking heads, and no need to actually make a sale (or a coherent argument).
So they just hit you with one curiosity-slammer after another, one emotion-wrenching hot-button after another, one titillating tease to maintain your curiosity through the commercial brake after another…
In fact, you can hardly call the crap they’re running 99% of the time news. It’s entertainment. It’s propaganda to get you riled up against a common political enemy. It’s flat-out manipulation of the story to support their agenda (and mess with your head).
They win when you can’t turn it off…
If you want to watch the news, turn it on for 30 minutes. Set a timer. And turn it off at the end — even in the middle of a friggin’ story. You will have gotten all the important stories of the day, because they basically repeat them all day long.
Or, get your news elsewhere. My own personal time sucks are Google News and Zero Hedge — as it relates to the news. I find myself reading them when I shouldn’t. But Google News has one “front page” and I don’t go beyond that, and I scan through most sections. And Zero Hedge has a ton of content but they do have pages (versus the Facebook infinite scroll) so it’s a little easier to shut the tab after a certain chunk of stories.
It’s a constant battle — especially because I rely on these to stay on top of financial stories and the pulse of the public — but the best way I know to manage the time-suck is to be aware of it, monitor it if necessary (track your habits), set timers to limit the time before you start, etc.
There are other horrible time-sucks, too… Probably the worst of which is social media…
I grow less and less of a fan of social media, the longer I’m on it.
It literally impacts your brain like a drug. And as a result, you get addicted to it like a drug.
When you get a “like” on something you shared, you get a little dopamine and serotonin rush — the “happy” neurotransmitters.
It’s just like taking a hit of meth, though smaller. (Or taking ADHD drugs.)
When someone comments on something you shared, an even bigger hit.
When you’re exposed to a story you like, another hit.
And so you keep scrolling, keep interacting… Hoping to get more hits.
But you know what happens when a druggie keeps taking hits? They do less. They create less of that initial bliss. The positive effect is attenuated. But the negative of not having it — and seeking it — is amplified. You literally become less and less happy between “likes” the more you get.
(Incidentally, the same thing happens with a news addiction, or any addiction — I write, just before picking up my coffee.)
And now that Facebook has infinite scroll, and the news networks have 24/7 broadcasts, you don’t have a clear way to stop.
And so you end up mainlining this crap to your noggin, non-stop.
It will suck your life away if you let it.
Here’s how to kill these distractions for good…
This kind of relates to my “Head down, grind it out…” post from Friday, linked above.
Yes, the short-term way to deal with these things is to set a timer. Just like you can set a timer for productivity, you can set a timer for distraction. If you feel like you NEED Facebook (recognizing that it’s an addiction) or the news, limit it. Set a timer. Give yourself 30 minutes, or 20 minutes, or 10. And then be done. And don’t let yourself back at it for at least a few hours — or preferably until the next day.
But that’s nothing compared to this solution.
Do important shit.
I don’t cuss much in these emails. And I try to refrain from most cussing. But this topic more than most is really getting me wound up — and I’m not really filtering it because I think there’s a reason I’m making the exception here.
(That was my dad’s rule about cussing, and one that stuck with me. “I don’t cuss often, because when I do, I want you to know I mean it.”)
Here’s the thing.
Sometimes, I’m very distractible.
Sometimes I’m impossible to move.
The difference? When I’m so consumed with important shit that I can’t afford distraction, nothing moves me. When I have nothing better to do, the mere thought of, umm, anything will knock me off whatever I’m doing.
The more you can fill your schedule, your day, your life with important shit, the less you’ll deal with distractions. You just won’t have the time.
Sure, at the end of the day, you may CHOOSE to wind down from all the important shit you’ve been doing all day by popping in a good movie.
But at that point, that’s something you’re doing on purpose. With purpose. And anything else becomes the distraction.
This is as much an attitude thing as anything.
I sometimes CHOOSE making music during the work day as a distraction, when I can afford it in my schedule and when I need it for emotional or psychological reasons.
I sometimes CHOOSE certain distractions, like scanning my favorite news sites, as a way to step back from a project for a few moments.
I’d never choose to put a TV with cable hooked up to it in my office, because I know what a horrible time-suck it could be.
But most of all, I CHOOSE to try to keep my schedule full of important shit, so time-suck distractions are not appealing to me.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets