Mental Distractions

“One way to boost our will power and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us.”

Daniel Goleman, author and science journalist

How many apps do you have on your phone? How many of them do you actually use? (Sidebar: If you’re interested in specifics, you can look this up in your phone settings.) How many email addresses do you have? What does your desktop or file folders look like? What websites do you check frequently? How many tabs do you have open right now on your computer???

Tabs are my embarrassing weakness. On any given day, I’ve got elevendy-billion tabs open. I love when the browser inevitably buckles under the weight of too many tabs and it finally crashes and I can start fresh. (Ahhhh.)

Digital clutter affects us just as much as physical clutter.

One thing I’ve been thinking quite a lot about lately is how everything has it’s own gravitation force that pulls on us. Some things pull on all of us—like the subtle tug of the closest star, Alpha Centauri A. Or more relevantly, this latest pandemic we’ve all been facing. Other things influence personally—like the people we surround ourselves with, our experiences, and how we spend our time.

The more we think/surround ourselves with someone (or something), the more influence and priority it has on us. Bringing it back to our phones, we’ll more likely open the apps on our home screen more than we would open an app five pages deep.

Digital, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—everything has a gravitational pull on us.

Which also means, it’s easy to become distracted, now more than ever.

Let’s define distraction as anything that keeps us from our most important things.

If family and fast cars are what’s important to you, like it is for the fast & furious crew, then anything that takes you away from that is distracting you from your greater purpose.

Not only can distractions take our tim, they can also take our energy.

Anything thing you want or wish you would do, or maybe-someday-ought-todo’s are just as mentally distracting as a stack of unread books or dancing gorilla.

The tricky thing is that it’s usually opportunities or interesting shiny things that distract us from our purpose. Great opportunities! …that happen to be in the opposite direction we wanted to go. Distractions can come in little or big sizes.

First, you need to know what you want in life (which is huge). Then the key is asking yourself—

  • Is this helping me, or distracting me?
  • Am I doing my job as a _________?
    • (ex: Am I doing my job as a writer? Am I doing my job as a dog-owner?)
  • What distraction can easily remove/get rid of?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1029

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Breathing Room

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Steve Jobs

Clutter is a very visible thing. You can see it stuffed on bookshelves and overflowing on dressers. You can see it pilled in closets, hanging off unused at-home exercise machines, and clustered in junk drawers. You can even see it in our digital lives: overflowing emails, apps, friends, tabs, Desktop screens, notes, and files.

But what makes clutter feel like clutter?

Is it because things are unorganized and ‘out of place’ compared to where you would expect them? Or maybe it’s because things are too many things compared to the space available?

My vote is on clutter feels like clutter because it doesn’t have the space it (whatever it is) needs to be useful and comfortable (for lack of a better word).

Think about it—

A desk isn’t very useful if you’re stuff is everywhere and so overpowering and distracting that you can’t actually sit down (or stand up) and work unless you wade through all the clutter first.

A bookshelf isn’t very enlightening if you can’t find the book you are looking for, or worse—you see the book but its under a hundred things and can’t be removed unless you want to be squashed like a bug as books and piles of crap fall on you to your doom.

Our possessions need breathing room—otherwise, they lose their usefulness.

The same is true for most (if not all) things in our lives too.

It’s hard to be a good freelancer if you juggling a dozen clients while also working on two side hustles.

It’s difficult to create anything if you spend all your time doing everything but working on your art.

It’s impossible to get work done if you spend all your time jumping from meeting after meeting or spending half the day sporadically responding to email.

And most importantly, it’s tough being a good friend, or skilled professional, or partner, or sibling, or father, if you spread yourself too thin.

Everything needs a little breathing room to work properly. Without it, we’re also gonna be running late, busy, overworked, and unfulfilled.

Q: How can you add more breathing room into your life? Alt: What can you remove to give yourself more breathing room?

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Albert Einstein

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1020

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Creative Clutter

“Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, that’s a consequence of simplicity. Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product. The absence of clutter is just a clutter-free product. That’s not simple.”

Jonathan Ive

Clutter is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s organization is another person’s junk. What matters, of course, is what works best for each of us. Different places can inspire/offer different ideas.

What makes you feel the most creative in your environment?

Is it having everything exactly in its right place?
Is it having everything stacked in piles?
Is it having a thread-bare room with nothing in it except the task at hand?

For me, I feel the most creative when my tools are easily accessible, within reach and ready to go.

Personally, nothing kills a moment of inspiration more than a guitar closed off in its case. Paper needs to be ready. Pens, notecards, post-its, and other supplies are all on stand-by. Instruments are out and plugged in. When an idea strikes, all I want to do is flip a switch and start creating. It may sound silly, but it’s true. Anything between the idea/feeling and the act of creating is friction that could lead to reluctance or inaction.

Am I just being lazy? Perhaps. I think of it more as being ridiculously practical. Do what works for you. Your home, your office, your desk, your garage—whatever you have access to—this is something you can change and control.

You want to set up your environment for success. If you find yourself unmotivated to work on your art, then there’s something behind the scenes causing that feeling.

The things that we surround ourselves with can either enable or distract us from our calling.

Think of it like putting a plate of cookies in front of you and then telling yourself not to eat them. You’re either going to be thinking about cookies all day (and wasting time and energy) or you’re going to be eating cookies even though that wasn’t what you wanted. Neither of which— cookies, no cookies— was the work you were hoping to do.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #928

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