Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How Distractions Can Save Your Life

We all get distracted while we're trying to do work - especially work that seems tedious or boring or that we aren't excited about. Instead of cleaning the studio (which might create a better environment for creating), we end up watching youtube videos or reading blogs. Instead of working on that painting we've been trying to finish for the last two months, we're on our phones playing Angry Birds or Words with Friends.

It happens to the best of us, and with smart phones and laptops, it's even easier to be lured away from our work. And if we're digital artists who are plugged into the net for important emails and looking for reference or using Skype or Gchat to communicate with clients or collaborators, there's always emails about specials, vacations, funny links to viral content, etc. etc. etc. How is someone supposed to get any work done?

The worst thing is that when we give in to our primal urges to watch the latest Gaga video, or whatever it is we're compelled to distract ourselves with, is that the entire time we're distracting ourselves we're also fighting the voice in our head that's saying "You're wasting time! Get back to work!" The same goes for many people who put in long hours to get their creativity done or entrepreneurs that are trying to get a side-business (or two) up and running. While we need breaks to stay sane, every time we decide to take a night off, or to ignore our emails for going on a date or hanging out with friends, we feel like we're failing ourselves a little bit since we don't have the dedication to keep our nose to the grindstone. Guilt and frustration at ourselves begins to well up, and we begin to not even enjoy the break anymore since we know "we should be working!"

In this way, we're not really even taking a break. If we're still thinking about that email that needs to be sent or that shirt that has to get printed, we're not taking a break, we're merely not doing work and raising our stress level at the same time.

Poo poo on this! While we're guilty of this as well (that's why we talk about it here!), we all need to get better at compartmentalizing the difference between work and play. However you do it, you have to make a break between work and non-work. Whether it's scheduling in breaks as you would an important meeting with a producer, or if it's scheduling the time that you have to do your creative work, you have to do it.

You see, if a break doesn't feel like a break, then it's really just a waste of your time. If you're not recharging and feeling good about yourself on a break, you're just distracting yourself from your distractions, so at that point you might as well just be working. But all work and no play makes people crazy, so take a break and enjoy it!

We have found that life is all about priorities. Priorities are different for everyone, but when we say "we don't have time," we're really just saying that we are not prioritizing it. If you say "I don't have time to take a break," are you really engaged every single second of every single hour with some activity that is more important than your own sanity? You can't delegate a task for ten minutes? You can't take five minutes on your bus ride to zone out and meditate? You can't waste three minutes on your lunch to watch a funny video, or tend to your digital crops?

Just as important as it is to prioritize creating, it is equally important to prioritize taking an actual, enjoyable, guilt-free break. So what do you do to rest and recharge?