Action Catalyst Blog

How to Break Free From the Addiction of Distraction

Distraction

Priority Dilution is the new procrastination.

Priority Dilution is fascinating because it affects the chronic overachievers, the do-gooders, the check-listers, the task-masters, the movers and shakers, and all the people you wouldn’t normally think to be procrastinators.

It’s unlike regular procrastination in that it has nothing to do with being lazy or apathetic or disengaged.

But it is the same net result as a classic procrastination in that we leave the office at the end of the day with our most significant priorities left incomplete because we’ve allowed our attention to shift to less important but perhaps more seemingly urgent tasks.

This person’s life is characterized as a constant state of interruption.

Why do we do that?

Why do we allow ourselves to get distracted?

Why do we allow ourselves to get interrupted?

Why do we put off the things that are significant and that will matter in the long term for things that are more short term?

Is it because we’re somehow inept or not smart enough or not motivated enough?

Perhaps.

But there may be more to it than that…

As we’ve learned more about the neuroscience of the brain we now know that the brain sends signals telling our body how to operate through the release of predominately only a handful of chemicals.

One of those chemicals, the pleasure releasing drug, is called dopamine.

Under brain scan we suspect that dopamine is released whenever a task is completed, an email is deleted, or something is crossed off our to-do list.

Which means that we get a little “hit” of dopamine making us “feel” good.

We “feel” successful.

We “feel” productive.

Which explains why you may have at some point completed a task that wasn’t on your to-do list, but you then added it to your to-do list just so you could cross it off!

(In some ways not too dissimilar from the illogical behavior exhibited by anyone who becomes addicted to a foreign substance that gives them a dopamine release.)

But in this way, the neuroscience of our brain is working against us.

Because it’s leading us to be focused on completing the largest volume of tasks – each time we do making us “feel” good or productive.

But ultra-performers know that success is no longer related to the volume of the tasks you complete; but rather to the significance of them.

In other words, it doesn’t matter that we got ten things done if they are all trivial compared to the one most significant thing that we needed to get done.

The world’s most productive people would intentionally choose to get the one significant things done instead of the ten small things.

How do you measure significance?

That is the subject of our book Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Time (free 1 hr training here). The essence of which is spending time on things today that produce more time or results tomorrow.

But your brain – in a weird way – is working against you because, left to its own devices, it’s going to pull you in the direction of completing the most number of tasks rather than completing the few significant ones.

In essence making you susceptible to perpetual Priority Dilution.

So how do we change that?

Through a simple 3 step process:

1. Consciousness – Being made aware of the dynamic goes a long way in helping you to move in the right direction.

2. Discipline – You decide you’re going to operate a different way and you intentionally start to make different choices than you made yesterday.

3. Accountability – You create structures around yourself that help reinforce this new way of thinking. This is why Southwestern Consulting predominantly focuses on coaching; we believe working with someone 1-on-1 over an extended period of time is the best way to actually create sustainable behavioral change. Exploring the idea of getting your own coach is a great way to do that (request a free call).

 

At the end of the day you have to realize that your brain isn’t programmed for success; your brain is programmed for survival.

You are naturally designed in a way for survival first.

Survival means to conserve energy.

Survival means to do what is easiest.

Survival tends to push us to do what feels good in the short term.

But you were also designed in a way to have the power of choice.

And the power of choice gives you the chance to opt for success instead of survival.

You can overwrite the original program.

You can program yourself for success.

Success means expending energy to learn and execute a better way.

Success means to take the path less traveled by.

Success means to make disciplined choices now knowing that they create greater benefits later on.

So in that way you aren’t just programmed for survival.

You can program yourself for success instead.

You can program yourself for greatness.

You can decide to have a different life.

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