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Perils Of Distraction


At 24, I am being pulled by many cords. I have two day jobs. I am a freelance writer. I have a small business. I am attempting to read one book a week. I am busy.

Procrastination is easier than ever, with so many distractions constantly vying for our attention. It is important to remember however that not all procrastination is bad, and in fact it can be useful to create your own list of 'certified distractions' to spend your not-working time more productively.

But yet, I still find the time to scroll through Instagram for ‘research’ and watch YouTube videos instead of tackling my to-do list or doing adult things.

I sometimes wonder how my affinity with distractions became so strong. I was always a good student, and a good employee, so I obviously managed to battle them to some degree. But somewhere along the line, I started embracing distraction like an old friend, and making excuses to hang with them at every given opportunity. I suppose it all began when I was completing a university degree via distance education. Online courses are promoted for ‘flexibility’ and ‘the opportunity to complete your studies around your life’, but really, they’re just a test to see how far you can push yourself and delay doing any actual work.

Leaving assignments to the last minute became my forte; and I was accustomed to working on tight deadlines (albeit, self-set ones) and forfeiting my weekends to be a slave to my computer. During my final semester, my partner came home from work and asked how my assignment was going. I replied “not good” (the cold, hard truth) and proceeded to list what I’d done instead (Instagram, YouTube, podcasts, writing). He responded with, “So it’s not going bad, you just haven’t started yet.” And we laughed. And that’s the thing. I always produce good work (in the end). But sometimes, I just haven’t started yet.

When I decided to start a business on top of my regular stack of commitments, I didn’t really consider what it would mean – or how it would affect me. I love writing and I enjoy the process of creating and nurturing a brand. And I think I’m pretty darn good at it too. But none of that could prepare me for how intense it’s been. 

I do sometimes wonder how the fuck I’m going to pull it off. How I can juggle so many things and still maintain meaningful relationships with my boyfriend, friends and family. How I’ll be able to be a #Girlboss without completely cutting out my self care rituals. Lately, I’ve been reading and listening to stories from founders of brilliant businesses, and how they got started. It’s truly inspiring stuff, even if you’re not interested in running your own business; and it also makes you realise just how much you can do if you put in the darn effort.

As informative as these memoirs are, they can also be quite daunting. On one hand, you’re armed with the secrets of the top entrepreneurs in the world. On the other, you’re handed an encyclopedia of accomplishments that you may never get your name in. It’s surprisingly easy to fall into a trap of judging yourself at every non-working moment. “Do you think Sophia Amoruso built Nasty Gal by spending a whole day watching Netflix?” “Do you think Oprah wastes her time worrying about other people’s businesses?” In case you were wondering, the answer is usually no. Whilst this tactic can be effective and inspiring from time to time, it isn’t something I’d recommend long-term. Sure, we all have our own motivators, but belittling and comparing ourselves to others is never the answer. It’s a slippery slope from aspiring to be like your role model to constantly fearing you’ll never be as good as them or as successful or smart or charismatic.

To combat the above makings of Imposter Syndrome, I like to remind myself that doing certain, non-work related things still count towards expanding my knowledge and working on my business – and if you’re in the same boat, you should try it too. 

My list of certified distractions includes:

  • Listening to podcasts

  • Reading good books

  • Connecting with people online

  • Posting and interacting with my audience on Instagram

  • Spending hours setting up Mailchimp templates

  • Interviewing creatives

  • Writing articles

  • Writing business blog posts

  • Googling shit I don’t know (i.e. everything about running a business)

  • Starting relevant conversations with friends or colleagues

It’s pretty basic, but adds up to be a hefty pile of self improvement, learning and growth tactics which benefit my mind, business and overall happiness. On paper it might look like a whole lot of distractions, but realistically, my university diploma didn’t teach me everything I need to know. In fact, it was completely tailored to suit the graphic design industry, which is brilliant for some occasions, but a tad useless for others. Sure, knowing and utilising the rule of thirds will ensure I produce balanced designs forevermore, but how the heck is that going to help me when I have a raging client asking for the impossible? 

Enter: podcasts and Google. You can guarantee that someone, somewhere in the world has been in a similar position and either searched for the information or given it out for free in audio form. And what angels they are. In summary: I welcome distractions whilst studying working living. Is it counterproductive? Perhaps. Realistic? Absolutely.