When the distractions take away too much.

distractions | kourtney thomas life coach

I’ve been talking about it for, I don’t know, probably a year or more, and I’ve written about it no less than five times – my dreaded struggle with social media.

Mostly, it’s been an inevitability I’ve been fighting against because I’m probably one of the world’s most stubborn people. I thought I could set my own boundaries. I thought I could manage my usage, curate my consumption, easily curb my time spent on Instagram, limit my emotional reactions to engagement metrics. Ha. Wrong. No matter how I tried, I could do none of those things on my own.

The inevitability is that I would have to get strict, outside help to even begin to make a change.

That’s incredibly frustrating for me. In mostly every area of my life, I can take care of myself. I’m a self-starter. I’m intrinsically motivated. I can do things on a whim. A few years ago, I quit my three-snooze habit overnight, for Pete’s sake! It’s been making me irritated beyond belief that I can’t seem to manage, and ultimately, change, my relationship with social media to any reasonable extent on my own.

And there are layers there, cycles. Like, I wasn’t always so bogged down by it. I’ve been involved for years, and maybe even enjoyed Facebook and Instagram, had some fun with it. But the last two years have gotten progressively heavier. I’ve gone through periods of a few months here or there (honestly, it was mostly while we were living in Colorado, for obvious reasons) where I could pull back a bit, actually make it an entire 30 hours without having to charge my phone! But that hasn’t happened in far longer than I’d like to admit – even on vacation.

What that really all boils down to is distraction.

Plain and simple. It’s something to occupy my fingers and my thoughts when I am feeling blocked in the fingers or not wanting to confront more pressing or difficult thoughts. It’s something to give me a break. To disconnect, even when I’m really trying to connect. It’s a way to avoid that which I really need and want to be doing – the more meaningful stuff that requires more effort. Or, the stuff that speaks to my fears.

Dammit.

That’s frustrating in itself, that I can’t seem to stay focused for a few hours a day of uninterrupted, purposeful work. But even more frustrating, again, is the fact that I can’t seem to break that pattern on my own.

But you know what? I’m self-aware enough to recognize when it’s gone too far and I need to make a real change. I’m aware of the pattern, I’ve made excuses for it forever, I understand my layers, and I understand that at a certain point, the distractions are taking away too much. I know when I need to get help. So I did.

Last week, I signed up for Freedom. I had known of it for a while, but never used it. I tried a few other apps, but I would always, always find my way around them, through all the little loopholes, just in case. Freedom seemed like a better fit for me to not be able to do that, so I set it on my laptop and on my phone for three hours one afternoon and said a little prayer. Turns out, I needed it.

One, the app worked great, and all my distractions were quieted. I got a bunch of work done, probably 30% more than I would have had I not used an external tool to help me.

But wow, I was flabbergasted at how many times in those three hours I still tried to distract myself. I caught myself opening up browsers for Facebook and Gmail, and trying to open my Instagram app frequently. I started texting friends and my husband. I weirdly kept opening my Google calendar. I swiped over to the Google news feed on my phone to read…something.

Anything. Didn’t matter what it was, just anything to distract myself.

It made me feel desperate. It made me feel a little pathetic. I was certainly disappointed in myself, and frustrated all over again at all the time I’ve been wasting on distractions. Sure, I’ve done a lot of really great work in the past few years, but it jolted me to see just how much more impact that work (and all the rest of the work I left on the table) could have had if it wasn’t constantly letting myself get sidetracked.

Dammit times two.

It’s been about a week since I’ve been using the app. I schedule Freedom sessions every day, their length varying depending on my schedule, what I need to get done, and what I need access to for my work (real work). I’m still working through all the layers in their own ways, and the overarching theme of avoidance and distraction. I’m also still allowing myself to binge on Instagram Stories in the morning and in the evening.

But in this relatively short period of time, I’m already finding a clarity and focus I don’t think I’ve ever had, to be honest. I’m already better able to detach from the emotional side and validation of social media. I’m clearer on what work is the best fit for my professional vision, and I’m feeling more ease in doing it. I’m seeking out the social connection I need. I’m squashing fears left and right because I have less external influence to feed them. And I’m distracting and avoiding far less, even when I don’t have the app running.

That’s some big stuff! That’s serious progress (for me). Is it annoying that it’s something relatively simple like an app that allowed for that progress? Yeah, I can admit that. But I can also say that I don’t particularly care.

I needed support, I sought it out, it worked.

There’s a continued prevailing story about being able to figure everything out on our own. Being able to do everything on our own. Never asking for help when we need it. I understand it. I have lived it. But what I do not understand is how we continue to fight for it, even when we feel how much havoc it’s wreaking in our lives. At a certain point, it becomes silly, doesn’t it?

If there is something, or someone, out there that can filter out the noise and distractions and lead you to more of what you want, why wouldn’t you employ it?

It’s different for everyone, and this applies to so many things other than just social media and online interactions. But I suspect there are as many layers for all of us. And it’s likely there are as many fears lurking beneath the surface of those impulses for distraction too. But, it’s also possible that there is a surprisingly uncomplicated solution to address those layers, distractions, and patterns around them. The world often tells us to resist those solutions because it makes us weak (story for another day!), but where is that getting us?

If I’m able to see progress in one week on a decades-long pattern of dependence and distraction by seeking the support of a single app, what kind of progress do you think you could see in your patterns and distractions if you gave whatever or whoever a chance to work for you?

Now is as good a time as any to consider some outside help and take your focus back, wouldn’t you say?


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