Yep, harsh title right there. But, that’s the phrase I’ve unfortunately been telling myself more often than not recently.
You see, I know we— as humans—have a hard-wired susceptibility to being distracted. Part of me blames nature, a larger part blames the internet, but no matter how you slice it, the ability to concentrate on one specific thing for a long period of time isn’t so easy.
I myself need a good heaping portion of deadline pressure, marginal stress, and a short time frame to crank out my best work. Frankly, it is amazing what I can do in the hours before something is due—I’m focused, precise, and fast. Not even the distraction of needing to pee can take me away from something if I’m in this kind of zone.
However, as you can probably guess—the majority of the time I don’t have this kind of pressure. Sure, there’s always work to be done, but with a time frame that exceeds a week or a deadline that’s far off, I manage to think of every single other thing in the world to do besides what I’m supposed to do.
I don’t have ADD, and in fact I consider myself a hard worker and driven person, so how in the world has stress managed to become a necessary element in making me productive?
It’s not just in my work life either. If I have a lot of errands that have to be done or chores that need taking care of, I will make it all happen. This is one of the reasons why I run in the mornings on days I know will be stressful; a run jump starts my interpretation of “a productive day.” And I don’t want to toot my own horn (because trust me the self-criticism will come later on), but sometimes I am shocked at just what I can accomplish when the productivity monster kicks me in the pants. (<— entertaining image right there)
BUT. Want to know why I am amazed at my own ability to “do things?” Because way too much of my time is, otherwise, spent doing stupid shit.
Again, I blame social media and the internet to an extent. As many of us remember from our college years of writing papers in the library, when Facebook was only a click away…our best intentions to be productive were always thrown out the window. Then came Twitter, which thankfully I didn’t become aware of until after I graduated, and now there’s Instagram, Tumblrs, blogs, PINTEREST, and lord knows however many other time-wasters that I haven’t heard of yet.
But here’s the thing…yes those things exist and yes smart phones exist and wah wah wah we are all a product of our society. BUT, we—on our own—make the decisions to use these things; we consciously decide to break up our real-life routines for the sake of our digital realities. And this, my friends, is 100% our own fault.
I might just be talking to myself here; maybe all of you are wizards at ignoring your phone and checking all your networks just a few times a day. If so, I applaud you. Thankfully, most social media sites are blocked at my place of work…making that distraction much easier to avoid. Which is why blogs, especially of the running variety, are my default “mental break.” And that’s fine…sometimes. I like reading them, I learn a little something from a lot of them, and they help keep me inspired and motivated in my own running pursuits.
But when it’s 2 pm…and I’m randomly typing in URLs in hopes that someone, somewhere has posted something new…it’s a problem. It’s nothing more than boredom and the hope that for a few minutes, someone will distract me from continuing to do the things I actually ought to be focusing on. In other words, I’m actively searching out stupid shit to fill my time with.
And you know what? I am nearly 100% positive I’m not alone in this habit.
It’s a little depressing…but once I start trying to recognize the times when I’m just doing something to keep from doing something else, the list starts to pile up. All of a sudden, it’s not just the internet or my phone; it’s staring at my pores in the magnetized mirror for 8 solid minutes, or randomly choosing to pluck my eyebrows at 5 am when I should actually be leaving for my run.
All these little things aren’t harmful, but they—for the most part—don’t serve a purpose. All they’re doing is taking time away from the much more productive and constructive things I should be doing.
Thus, I’ve realized that all these time wasting activities are really just stupid shit—and none of it really adds to my life. Yes, I do need to pluck my eyebrows every so often and yes, as an active blogger, using Twitter is useful and informative. BUT, when I’m using those things in place of more time sensitive, important matters—they become inhibitors.
I’m not saying that I should never zone out on the couch watching reruns of Gossip Girl (yes, still on that one), and I’m definitely not saying I should quit social media. But those activities need to become more purposeful and less default-ish. Does that make sense? In other words, if I’m ever going to have a prayer of getting anything done (and be a productive member of society) I need to have intention in my actions rather than waiting for the stress of time running out to tap on my shoulder.
Deciding to tackle our to-do lists doesn’t take much effort—but they wind up having a huge time-saving and de-stressing effect. I love the feeling of getting something done I’ve been putting off for too long (um, hello buying new windshield wipers for a car driven in SEATTLE). It’s such a satisfying feeling—but what normally shocks me whenever this self-congratulations happens is just how easy it is to get things done.
Somehow, all the stupid shit we’ve managed to replace our productivity with makes all those TO-DOs so much more daunting. And sure, it’s easier to use your thumb to scroll through an infinite amount of tweets, photos, and gifs…but it’s also completely empty. I like to feel that when I do lay on the couch for hours and when I do read through Twitter, it’s because I genuinely do need a break from being busy…and not the other way around.
What’s the point of all this? Well, besides castrating myself for succumbing to the all-too-tempting shoulder-devils of the internet, I suppose I’m hoping that writing this will help hold me a little accountable. Admitting is the first step, as they say, and while I’ve always known that my iPhone was a portal to infinite opportunities for stupid shit— it’s time I reclaim a little bit of control.
I really love my real-life life. And I want to try and stop doing the stupid shit that keeps me away from it. Yes, I love you internet people as well—and I’m not planning on leaving you. But this world is much more interesting if there’s something left to the imagination—rather than being auto-refreshed every hour.
So consider this my pledge; to be the highly functioning person I know I’m capable of being—rather than just another street walker whose nose is pressed to a screen. Time to look up and look out.
And as Louis C.K says…
“‘I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say…you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say, ‘I’m bored.'”