Learn the Skill of Escaping Your Unproductive Rut in a World of Distractions

Yesterday’s indestructible is today’s indistractable.

Aamna I. Rizvi


Source: pikisuperstar

The superpowers of our time are pretty underwhelming.

Which is really saying a lot when our villains are the same as those from 2500 years ago when Plato first described “Akrasia”.

While Akrasia means to do something against your better judgement, such as procrastinating or failing to exercise self-control when you are aware of the consequences — I feel 2500 years ago people had more leeway.

Now there is no excuse for not knowing how to break a procrastination spell. There is no philosopher or scholar you have to hunt down in a desert to answer your questions.

We have Google.

Or Bing or Yahoo or Gecko.

We have many choices. More resources than ever for whatever we might need. There is an option saturation that keeps us looking and depletes our time.

Finally settling for one choice would help. Only if this didn’t keep us worried about keeping our options open since we might be missing out on something even better.

For this reason, a while back, I put together a very minimal and condensed solution for myself.

Here are 5 ways to defeat the Grinches who steal our attention and our time and make us miserable.

Plan for the future

Don’t surrender to the flow of time. It is your worst enemy.

Plan ahead of time — whether it is planning for the day, the week, or planning for your life 10 years from now.

Write it down and make to-do lists if you have to.

Everyone knows the way you start your morning can affect your entire day. But great mornings happen when you plan them out the night before.

You know how when you have a great opportunity or an interview, you prepare your stuff the night before? What’s stopping you from reverse engineering your entire life like this? Treat every day like there’s an opportunity coming your way.

Pre-making most of your decisions will not only save time but significantly reduce decision-fatigue in a world full of endless options.

Think about it this way. We spend most of our day wondering what to eat for breakfast, what clothes to wear, what shoes to wear, what to take for lunch etc.

These are decisions that could easily be made in advance by building a capsule wardrobe or meal planning.

They are not things we are going to remember in a week’s time.

Yet they reduce our focus and cost us brainpower daily.

Build micro-habits

Full disclaimer: you don’t need a multimillionaire’s or a fitness guru’s daily routine.

So snooze that 5 am alarm, toss that Avocado toast and detox water.

Maybe you have responsibilities or a 9–5 that leaves you little room. Just pick a few habits and make them a part of your day, even if that’s the last thing you do. It’s not elaborate laborious routines that you need but loyalty to a few things you do every day that add value to your life.

Break down your vision for the life you want 10 years from now. What habits would help you achieve those results? Often we focus so much on the result that we completely overlook what we need to do in our present.

This is where micro-habits become useful. They break our dreams into digestible, achievable goals that we can actively work for.

Want a great body? Do a 10 minute workout every day for a month before turning it into a 30 minute workout for another month. When you see how it affects your life, you’ll automatically commit to it more.

Start by saving pennies every day. When you have the down payment on a car or that house on Zillow, that’s when you’ll see how micro-habits add up.

Micro-habits give you back your control. They steer your life in the right direction. These are micro-adjustments that eventually cause a significant shift in making you the protagonist of your life.

Practice your craft

Your brain is like your biceps.

Neurological pathways grow stronger every time you use them, it’s like physically exercising a muscle.

Biologically speaking — the more you use a neural pathway, the more myelin sheath deposits around your neural circuits and prevents electric impulses from leaking out. Like insulating a wire. Over time, as you keep practicing, you feed more electric impulses into the pathway with less effort.

This is also why

advises writers to treat writing like a workout.

The more you practice something you love, the more you’re learning to do it without even actively thinking of it.

It is a misconception that something you’re passionate about will come to you like second nature.

This is not about cutting corners.

Having something you love just means that you find it more psychologically rewarding than anything else.

When you think of excelling at something initially, it costs you time and attention. If you are too thinly spread or distributing your attention to 5 different tasks at the same time; it won’t work.

Practice makes you more efficient at doing the rewarding thing. You will also have an easier time making it a part of your routine if you are more efficient with it.

Feed your focus

I’ve used the “Ivan Pavlov technique” since my high school days.

I studied for all quizzes, tests, and even the MCAT using this method.

What this means is that I have a desk in my room that I only use when I am studying or working. Nothing else. I don’t take my phone to the desk. I don’t slump in the chair and grab my phone in between breaks. I’ll just get off the desk if I need to do something else.

Now that I have been doing this for the past 6 years, I can practically hear a click in my mind when it switches gears and automatically associates the desk as a place to get in form and work.

I noticed that this technique boosted my concentration only after the first few months of trying it. I have a softboard in front of the desk where I put my tasks, deadlines for whatever I’m working on and sometimes a snippet from my vision board if I am having trouble conforming to a new daily habit.

It’s like when you put blinkers on a racehorse.

This habit has helped me find the state of consciousness called “flow” when working on things. For the past 3 years, I have created all my projects for my clients on this magic desk in this magic state.

You could turn any environment into an “optimal focus” magic desk by intentionally separating it from distractions throughout the day. These are all only a few examples of things that have helped me “feed my focus”. I am planning on writing a separate article on this subject soon.

Escape your FOMO

Fear-of-missing-out is Pinocchio and Social Media is Jiminy Cricket. It speaks to everyone’s FOMO like an external conscience.

It projects other peoples’ Instagram feeds as a montage of hopes and aspirations you’ve had since the day you were born.

It’s the opposite of a vision board. It butchers productivity. It distracts you from your life. And makes you zoom in on the gap between the life you want and the life you have.

60% of social media users say they are constantly online. It’s not social media that is the demon, but our lack of control over its usage. If we aren’t selective with our consumption of knowledge; we fill our lives with distractions.

Social media is the leading cause of why I have showed up at parties that I really didn’t want to be at. It’s why I bought so much useless stuff. It’s how Influencer trends dictated my bad wardrobe choices.

Then I put my foot and my phone down.

I started making my virtual decisions with intentionality and seriousness.

After all, being a follower means the best you will ever do is live someone else’s best life.

Remind friends and family to put down their phones when you share a meal. Ask yourself if you really need that thing you saw on someone’s IG story before making that next purchase.

Lastly, before you replicate someone else’s lifestyle, ask yourself if it will really make you happy or if you’re just buying into an experience that is packaged and glorified to sell you a product.

In Summary

  • Plan ahead every time — being unprepared for a great opportunity in life might take it away from you. Give yourself a fighting chance by always being ready through the tips I’ve shared.
  • Build micro-habits — break down your dreams into digestible and achievable daily goals for success.
  • Practice, practice, practice — become more efficient at the thing you love by doing it more often.
  • Feed your focus — follow my tips to self induce optimum focus, concentration and “flow” states.
  • Beat your FOMO — add intentionality to social media usage.



Aamna I. Rizvi

Student physician. Storyteller. Artist. Unraveling the inner workings of personal development,relationships & wellness. Join me in my pursuit for answers!