Over the past couple weeks, I’ve found myself more distracted than usual. I can tell because it seems every time I sit down to write, prepare for an upcoming meeting, or knock something else off my ever-growing to-do list, I end up doing something completely different. I check my email, look through social media updates, clean something, play a game on my ipod, snuggle with my kitties, etc. Not that any of those pursuits are necessarily bad, but when done in lieu of what needs to get done it really adds up to a lot of time avoiding rather than really doing what needs to get done. Does that ever happen to you?

Instead of writing the articles that are on my list to write today, I decided to write about what is getting in the way of me getting things done.

Distractions.

Distractions do serve a purpose. They can help us clear our minds and ease away from an over-stimulated brain. But when we continuously use distractions to avoid our lives, we’re sure to miss out on a lot. Life can just pass us by while we’re distracted by other things. The key is finding out not only what you’re avoiding but why.

It’s generally easy to figure out what you’re avoiding because things just don’t get done or dealt with. You might avoid work, a difficult conversation, paying certain bills, exercise, or any other number of people, places, or things. The real trick is figuring out why you are avoiding.

Sometimes we just don’t want to deal with something (or someone) out of fear. Fear of what might happen. Fear of the unknown. Fear that things will change (or won’t change). We avoid having to deal with uncomfortable feelings and situations by avoiding. We might put off making decisions, thinking that an answer will suddenly appear that eases the burden of us having to toil over the possibility of making a “wrong” choice. Avoidance can also be a sign that you are just too overwhelmed, need a break, and need to reprioritize some things.

To find out WHAT you are avoiding, ask yourself these questions:

  • What THINGS on my to-do list aren’t getting done?
  • Are there certain people I’m not getting back to? Emails, phone messages, or texts going unanswered?

To find out WHY you are avoiding, ask yourself these questions:

  • How do I FEEL when I think about what I need to do (that thing I keep avoiding)?
  • What am I afraid might happen when I do that thing I keep avoiding?

And finally, here are some ideas to help you keep distractions to a minimum:

  • Make a decision. We sometimes think that avoiding making a decision means you can put it off till later. But really, avoiding a decision is making a decision NOT to decide. If you’ve been putting off making a decision, simply accept that you have made a decision, take ownership of it, and move on.
  • Separate and conquer. Figure out what your biggest distractions are and try to separate those from what you are avoiding. For example, if you are working on the computer and you get distracted by email, close out your email program.
  • Give yourself a break. Sometimes we are hard on ourselves for being distracted and avoiding when we simply might need a well deserved break. Remember to take frequent breaks during your day. Physically step away from what you are doing and do something different. If you work with people, spend some time alone. If you work with technology, unplug for a few minutes. If you work inside, go outside and get some fresh air.

Remember distractions aren’t always a bad thing. When used in moderation, distractions can help you unwind and shift gears. But when you use distractions to avoid doing things you really need to get done, it’s time to take a closer look.

Photo: iPod touch – My PDA. © by MJ/TR (´・ω・)

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