When Distraction Knocks
There is a difference between an opportunity and a distraction, but most of us don’t know how to recognize it. When distraction knocks, the simple solution is to just say no. We think when someone presents us with a potential for lucrative gains in our growth, development, or income, we should jump at that chance. But sometimes that seeming leg up is not in line with our goals. Distraction can be masked as opportunity if we are not crystal clear on our goals, and how new activities fit into them.
It’s a skill to be able say no to time sucks, but it can be developed and strengthened with practice.
I have been using the Best Self Journal for over a year. It builds on time management techniques including time blocking, long term goal setting, and setting daily intentions the day before, to help chip away at long term stretch goals. In this way, when new “opportunities” arise, it is my responsibility to see if that was something already on my radar as a long term or short term goal, or if in fact this “opportunity” is a time suck that will take me away from the plans already set. It’s a skill to be able say no to time sucks, but it can be developed and strengthened with practice.
Some would say planning and goal setting this way is too rigid, and I get that, I am very much a “set it and forget it” kind of girl. I like knowing what to expect moment to moment and week to week based on the plans I have laid to that end. However, this does not mean that goals and objectives do not shift. When new items want entry into my calendar, they are met with intense scrutiny. This is how all wardens of their time should respond.
Four Tests to Spot an Opportunity
Is this something that can help me get to my BHAG?
Big. Hairy. Audacious. Goal. For many of us there’s a pretty big end game on the horizon. A goal line that we are seeking to cross that likely takes more than a few tries to get right. When new tasks arise, we have to ask ourselves, does this aide in my achieving x? Whether an income goal, a debt payoff goal, a goal centered on how you will feel or something you will be able to do, how (if at all) does that new item help you get there? It doesn’t? It’s a distraction. Say no. If it does, there are still 3 questions to pressure test this item.
Most people have no idea what is truly driving you, and that’s largely because they haven’t bothered to ask.
What’s at stake if I take this on?
Will taking on this task, force me to sacrifice some other habit in the long run? And if yes, is dropping the other habit worth the investment in the new habit (long term)? What will suffer if I give up that 1 hour a day that is reserved for exercise? or writing, or meditation? Play it out in your mind. Is the consequence worth it and in line with your long term version of the person you want to be? No? It’s a distraction. Say no.
Can I trust where the ask is coming from?
Is the person or entity who has presented this new task looking out for my best interests? This is a loaded one. Most people have no idea what is truly driving you, and that’s largely because they haven’t bother to ask. If they are poor at selling (ie poor at relationships) as most people are, they haven’t taken the time to truly discover what matters to you in this proposition. WIIFM (Whats In It For Me) didn’t get to be the most popular radio station in the world by being focused on filling everyone’s needs first. What’s in it for me is all about how “I benefit” in the situation. Did the offer come from a place of helping you, or of helping them? Look hard at these offers, as it requires you to see what the net benefit is for you, and your best interests.
When someone asks you to do something that is for your benefit, in line with your goals, and in line with your routines for being your best self, it’s also a chance for you to be courageous.
Do you want to do this?
This one is easy, if you know what you want. No one can force you to do something you do not want to do. Trust that, and if you don’t want to do it, say no.
Not Every Opportunity Is Worth Your Time
Just because something is an opportunity doesn’t mean you should do it. We all have limited resources of time, energy, and finances. Just because it’s good for you, doesn’t mean you should take it on. Sometimes when we are approached about new tasks, we see a conventionally good thing, but it may not be good for us in that moment. Let’s use being asked to speak at a panel as an example.
Quick gut check on this opportunity:
- Is it in line with your goal (of getting more notoriety in your field)?
- Can you prepare for it without sacrificing any of the time already allocated to other good habits? If not, what is less important that you are willing to sacrifice in order to make this happen?
- Is the person who recommended you your mentor, coach, or someone you trust and who is genuinely interested in your success and what your participation can add to your life/business/career?
Finally, do you want to do this? If you answered yes to the other 3 questions, this fourth question about desire may be where you linger the longest. The question about desire is wrapped up in us understanding your own motives.
Check Your Fears
If after answering the other 3 questions you are unsure about desire, check your fears. Sometimes once we can see that a new activity is not a distraction, the thing that gets in the way, is our own fears. When someone asks you to do something that is for your benefit, in line with your goals, and in line with your routines for being your best self, not only is that an opportunity to hit your BHAG, it’s also a chance for you to be courageous.
When opportunity knocks, be courageous enough to open the door.
Feel the fear and do it anyway, but only on things that are going to bring you closer to your best. Everything else is a distraction. Stay focused. I’m not saying be fearless, because all of us feel fear. But when opportunity knocks, be courageous enough to open the door. Turn that anticipation into excitement by gaining clarity on your future self, and what they would do. Only you can answer that question.
De Clutter Your Life By Saying No
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up swept the middle/upper middle class world with ideas of bidding farewell to the clutter in their lives. Author, Marie Kondo has been credited with everything from the perfect way to fold your clothes to how to clean your apartment in a gratifying way.
Stop spending time you don’t have with people you don’t like
But, there’s a lot of clutter that exists inside the mind. Mental clutter is exhausting to sift through on a regular basis. Distractions are constantly cluttering our mind, and taking up valuable resources in our lives. Say no to mental clutter.
Sarah Knight sums up the concept of de-cluttering your mind in an honest way in her TedTalk “The Magic of Not Giving a F***“. Be warned, this talk is filled with profanity and a dose of realness, that may make some people uncomfortable, and everything she says is true. You can de-clutter your life by removing those things that you don’t want to do. Knight cites attending baby showers as one of her examples.
She calls her system a way to stop spending time you don’t have, with people you don’t like. You get to decide how your time, money, and energy is spent. And if it isn’t in service to you, it’s a distraction. Not an opportunity. Don’t feel guilty about saying no. Feel empowered to call a distraction out for what it is. Decide and commit not to spend energy on activities that yield diminishing returns. Be good to yourself.