Spencer Richard

Kill Your Distractions


If you have internet, you might be familiar with its ability to be an all powerful distraction machine and/or you are suffering from some kind of procrastination disorder and/or you have not accomplished not even close to as much as you would’ve wanted to at this point in your life.

I have learned through my meager experience that chances are if you are under 25 years old, you have even worse issues with this than most. Us young people are not all the brightest when it comes to how we utilize our time. If you are one of us, I’m willing to bet you have at least three web browsers open right now that have nothing to do with the reason you sat down.

See, distraction is a great evil. And I know that in this day and age it is almost a faux pas to say such words as evil, but if a force exists in which you are rendered deaf, dumb, and mute to the important challenges in your life, evil is too nice of a word. I won’t get technical and say that sometimes there are healthy distractions like a man choosing to go for a walk in order to distract himself from the desire to beat his children. No, when I say distractions I want you to think of all the shit in your life that inhibits you from doing better things. Video games? Distraction. Facebook? Distraction. Internet-85%-of-the-time? Distraction. It’s all bad, because it’s quite literally causing you harm.

So uh…

What is the harm?

To start with, the very word “distraction” is derived from the Latin word distraho, which means to drag apart, tear to pieces, forcibly separate, divide, alienate, divorce, etc. Language evolves and all that jazz but try thinking about that aggressive imagery next time you consider the word. To be distracted is to be torn away from what you ought to do or ought to be. You are ripped apart from being a better version of yourself. Forcibly separated. Divorced.

Every single one of us has a unique set of talents and dispositions we bring to the table, and every single one of us has a full potential to reach. As for myself, it may come as a surprise to you that I have a disposition for writing things. That doesn’t mean I’m good at it, but I love to write. And though I am an amateur of sorts, I know my way around the craft enough to sense a metaphysical connection to it. Music, stories, articles, bad poetry, I write it all, and I love it all. But how about you? What is it that you do that is worth your time? Maybe you enjoy math. Actually, bad example, nobody loves math—maybe you enjoy helping others.

“Don’t we all,” you say, with that sense of indignant sarcasm all your friends have learned to deal with.

In short, no, some people are just douche-bags, and that’s not the point.

The point is that for every moment of distraction you experience, a moment goes by in which some helpless person goes on without help. In my case, every movie I watch is an 1 1/2 hours of writing I did not do. Time adds up quickly, as I’m sure anybody over 25 reading this article can attest to. Life continues, responsibilities pile up, and if all you’re doing is distracting yourself from what really matters to you, you will accomplish nothing and have regrets, or die without doing the things you really wanted to do.

I’ve talked about death before, but let me define it differently for this article. Death is the thing that happens to you after you have spent all the time you can in this world, and then you have no more time to spend. Because of death, time is the only currency that matters. Everybody has a time limit. An hourglass full of beady little bits of sand (or jelly beans) representing your life is constantly pouring its finite amount away.

Practical Steps

Number ONE, you can’t give up all distractions at once because you will give up and break down, binge on Breaking Bad or whatever and then you’ll feel like you cannot be a successful quitter. Pick one distraction, pick the biggest one, and eliminate it completely. If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out, or if your hand, cut it off. Better to enter the kingdom of Heaven blind and maimed than not to enter at all. Or, if you’re picking up what I’m laying down—better to reach your potential having missed Breaking Bad than to never have reached your potential at all.

Number TWO, upon eliminating this big evil distraction, seek to fill its gap with a better thing. There is no such thing as free time. People either fill it with a good habit or a bad habit. If you wasted a lot of time partying with friends who discourage you from being a better person, don’t sit alone in the dark, but take that time and find new friends. If you always watch Jon Stewart every night and think it’s keeping you down (though I can’t imagine how), dedicate that time to something more productive. For me, I want to write more, so instead of messing on social media for hours on end whenever I get the urge, I will choose to write something.

Number THREE, don’t cheat. This one is pretty self explanatory, but if you’re going to cut your hand-off, cut it the hell off. Don’t try growing a new one or playing with the dead limb like a spoiled brat with her vegetables. You have to be aggressive in this endeavor. Reasonable, but aggressive.

Now get to it.

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Spencer Richard

was once a small town columnist for THE HINTON PARKLANDER (2008-2009). Before then he performed to an unsuspecting audience of over 8,000 people during the ALBERTA WINTER GAMES in 2006. Later he had one of his own songs, ON THE WAY, produced by Black Road Records (2013) and showcased it in with an original music video. He is currently working on a couple of novels and a rap album. During the day he manages a book store in Edmonton, Alberta.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • The difficulty, of course, are the lines between “distraction,” “inspiration,” and “alleviation.” You mentioned video games as a negative distraction; however, I have a friend who is into visual art that gains great inspiration via the media of video games. To a point, of course, playing games is “distracting” him from drawing–it is “time he could be spending” drawing–but it is giving him more substance with which to create.

    Then of course, there is the need for alleviation that many “negative distractions” provide. You mentioned that a walk is a distraction, but made certain to clarify that as a “positive distraction.” I would argue that many of the things in your “negative” list can transfer over in some situations. For myself, I know that television and film can be a sort of salve or preventative against bouts of depression. Of course, those hours are hours I could spend “getting better,” but sometimes one simply doesn’t have the energy, and the best one can do is, well, be distracted.

    I suppose I’m just communicating points that you probably agree with but simply didn’t fit into your article proper–you are presenting an idea, not writing a thesis, after all.

    Anyway, my own article finished, allow me to thank you for the intellectual stimulation. Keep on writing!

    • You bring up some excellent points, and you’re far too charitable. I do agree with you. Even the jelly-bean video that I linked too has some problems. It sort of equivocates civil duties and helping friends and family as wasted time, which I think is silly. What about those saintly people who spend their free time helping others entirely?

      You’re right about the depth of activity. Doing one thing does not always mean you are doing nothing else to benefit yourself. Often our actions have layers upon layers of benefit and reason. Thanks for the comment, and sorry for such a late reply.

  • “Instead of messing on social media for hours on end whenever I get the urge, I will choose to write something.”

    That sounds like a really great idea. I’ve been struggling recently, checking FB several times a day, reading absolutely every news feed thing that pops up… I think I will probably rip you off. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the good advice

    • Rip me off all you like! The ideas are older than me, that’s for sure. They are just the kind of thing that needs to be talked about again and again. It isn’t the novel ideas that need repeating, it’s the old ones. The ones that are easy to forget with over saturation.

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