True to form, months ago, I bookmarked the ‘upcoming’ documentary from The Minialmists on Netflix, anxiously awaiting its arrival. The DAY it was released, I watched it and was again inspired to get back to simplifying life. I’ll be honest, though: There was NOTHING in this documentary that was ‘new’ to me. Living a clutter-free life has been an ongoing process for over a decade now. But, I was reminded.
And so, we continue – you and me – toward a simple life and so on. A significant part of being ‘clutter-free’ includes keeping your internal environment free of distractions. I’m not talking about your living room or that junk drawer. I’m talking about your Self.
I’ve written so much about Busy’s Glorification and how ‘Busy’ is the new ‘Fine’ I’m not sure it is worth repeating. Except…it is. It absolutely is worth repeating because I asked six people last week how they were, and each of them stated, “Busy. So busy.”
You know how this goes, right? “How are you?” they ask. “Busy,” you reply, rolling your eyes with a tone of exaggeration. “Busy” has become a badge of honor, as if being busier than the next person wins you some kind of prize or something.
Honestly? How can you be so busy? The fucking world is shut down because of Covid-19. So much has changed to reduce time constraints. You can have someone else shop for and deliver your groceries. There are people at the ready to arrive on your doorstep with prepared meals. If you’re lucky enough (yes…lucky enough.) to work from home you can wash, dry, and fold that laundry (dishes, etc.) on your breaks. (Ahem. Yes. Breaks. WFH doesn’t require 9 hours of desk time.)
There are a lot of reasons why people get so busy. We take too much on, refuse to set boundaries, can’t accept failure as an option, blah, blah, blah. But what if one of the real reasons we are all so damn busy is that we let too many distractions into our life? I guess, if you think about it, it is a bit like not setting boundaries, but here are five of the ways I find myself getting distracted from the things that really matter.
1. My Smart Phone Made Me Do It. Yes, I really did just compare my smartphone to Satan. (Remember the old Saturday Night Live skit?) That darn thing is nothing more than a constant feed of information, noise, and entertainment. I finally had to set up a Do Not Disturb auto-turn on at 9 pm because I’m so darn undisciplined with that gadget.
“Our phones live not just in our pockets, but in front of our eyes. The influence of the Internet and its constant stream of information is accessible from nearly every corner of our world. Breaking news breaks into our day at breakneck speed. And we are fed messages relentlessly from advertisements on nearly every flat surface. Each distraction enters our mind with one goal: Gain control of our attention and resources.” – Josh Becker.
2. Getting bogged down by the “C” List. I keep a running “Priority C” list (‘C’ stands for Crap That Bugs Me). C-list items are the tasks that take 5 minutes or less to complete. I designate a time each day to knock out as many as I can in a half-hour. If I don’t do this, I get distracted by those items and forget to do the essential things. Also, my Priority C list includes personal stuff, too, not just something at work. I find it hard to focus if I have too many “C’s” buzzing around. Because, folks, I don’t believe in a work/life balance. It’s just life…and it has to work. David Allen writes about this practice in his best-seller “Getting Things Done.” Here is a summary.
3. Kill the clutter. My desk usually looks like a tornado blew over it. At least once a day, I take two-three minutes to reduce unnecessary clutter from my desk and my office. On one of my breaks, I take a loop around the house and straighten up any thing that is quick to fix or clean. I battle Generalized Anxiety Disorder and have learned that unnecessary clutter creates anxiety for me. If things are messy, I get anxious. When I’m anxious, I cannot focus.
4. Get rid of digital clutter. I recently revealed my ‘email inbox’ while conducting a remote desktop share with a client. They gasped and I felt like an email master. I had something crazy, like, five emails in the ‘inbox.’ The key is that I have rules set up so all the ‘unimportant’ stuff filters into folders. (I get to determine what the difference between unimportant and important. They don’t.) I designate a time each hour, day, or week to read what needs to be read and either delete it or file it immediately. I don’t have a lot of unnecessary communication distracting me from what really needs to happen that day. Also, I am not a significant “IM” participant (Is it IM, PM, DM? I get so confused.) “Instant Messenging” of any sort is simply the Evil Satan-Spawn Child of the Smart Phone. I. Loathe. It.
And my favorite? First, a disclaimer. I can’t take credit for this. I stole this one word-for-word from Josh Becker because, well, I owe my minimalist lifestyle to him. So, he wrote this, I didn’t. I just try to implement it daily:
5. Care less about what other people think. “The value of your life is not measured by the number of likes your Facebook post receives or the number of positive comments on your blog post. Please understand: There is much value in humbly seeking opinion and appreciating the wise counsel of those who loves you. But there is no value in wasting mental energy over the negative criticism of those who only value their own self-interests. Learn to recognize the difference. And stop living distracted over the opinion of people who don’t matter.”
I once heard a someone say “The Devil has three main ways of getting to you. He’ll distract you, disappoint you, and disorganize you.” I’ve experienced all three lately, so I’m thankful for good counsel (like Josh) and others who have their priorities straight. So, what about you? What is your biggest distraction? (If you say “Pinterest,” I’ll give you a big AMEN and possibly a sticker!!!)
As always, I leave you with a song. This one is by The Weepies. Who doesn’t love The Weepies, right??