Defeating Distractions

I find that I have become an incredibly distracted person. Everything is at our fingertips these days and we are led to believe that if we want something we should be able to get it instantly. I want to watch “Forest Gump”, jump on Netflix and watch it instantly. I want to buy a new pair of jeans, jump online and buy a pair. I want to eat pizza, have it ready in 30 minutes or your money back. If we somehow are not able to get what we want as soon (or very soon) after we want it, we are then led to believe that something is wrong or broken either with the system or ourselves. That’s a pretty dark thought but I find myself having these reactions without realizing they are happening. I get frustrated or anxious at times for any number of ridiculous reasons; my browser froze up for 10 seconds, the order I placed online had to be resubmitted, the game I was streaming was slow and the picture was terrible.

I decided to give up any and all “screens” used for entertainment for Lent. Anything that does not have a constructive, direct purpose for being online is gone. No Netflix. No movies on TV. No Carolina basketball games. No news feeds. No Facebook. No YouTube surfing.  No mindless web browsing whose only purpose is to be distracted! Anything that is necessary for my work is still fair game (Gmail, bank accounts, Sibelius, etc.) and any research for a particular project, either around the house or for work is acceptable. It’s only the hours that I could spend distracting myself that I am trying to eliminate. I still probably spend too much time on the computer even without the distractions. But I will say, the last two weeks have been some of the most productive weeks I’ve had in a very long time.

I’ve probably done 20 house projects over the last two weeks. Many of them small things like patching a wall or installing a new thermostat. Many of them are the beginnings of huge undertakings like insulating the attic and crawlspace or installing a French drain system. At first I would find myself sitting around a little bummed that I had assigned this lack-of-screens punishment to myself. I would literally be sitting in my living room staring out of the window wondering what the hell I was going to do. But then I realized, it was the “wondering” that I had been distracting myself from when I would jump on the computer. It was the “how do I make this happen?” that ceased to exist the second Netflix was opened. I didn’t have the “what project can I do today?” anymore because I didn’t have any space for my mind to think. I had forgotten how invaluable it is to have time for your mind to just wander and wonder.

I just read “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert and she talks about creativity and inspiration as living forces that seek out minds that are open and willing to take a chance. The big ideas that we have are like little magical friends that are looking for someone to grab onto them and give them life. If we turn ourselves off or decide we don’t have the time for them, they sadly end up leaving in an effort to find someone else that will give them a voice and presence. The distractions that we are bombarded with everyday are like kryptonite for these little dudes. It saps our energy and gives us less time to nurture our magical inspiration friends so they can grow up and turn into something new and wonderful and they end up leaving. Over the last few weeks, I think word may have gotten out to them that I am working on being a more responsible parent and I’ve been pleased that these days I have a lot of little inspiration buddies to take care of and help grow up into strong, independent, well-formed projects.

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