A guide to beat distractions and achieve absolutely anything
By Milo Schooleman
There are two reasons why you’re reading this right now. The first reason is if you need to write something down about one of the articles in the journalism discussion thread, and then right after reading this you’ll forget about this article forever. Or you could be reading this because you’re actually interested in self-improvement, and you have a goal that you want to accomplish. I hope you are here for the latter.
So let’s get started then. When setting a goal, it should be something you’re serious about. Don’t start a goal knowing you’re going to give up after a few weeks, or it’s just a goal that you are only 50% enthusiastic about. Also don’t start a goal if you’re only going to accomplish it when you feel like it. Now tell yourself you will accomplish your goal, because the person who says they are not going to accomplish their goal and the person who says they are going to accomplish their goal are both usually correct. Now get serious. I want you to go into your bathroom or anywhere that there’s a mirror and look at yourself, while you’re looking at the mirror, look at yourself straight on and tell yourself you will reach your goal even if you fail a few times, or get distracted or get off task. It might feel silly but get serious, get mad.
Now after you commit yourself to that goal, figure out what your goal really is. What I mean by this is to break down your goal, get specific as possible. For example you might say, “By July 25, 2021, I want to be able to run a mile in 6 minutes.” Now write your goal down somewhere. It doesn’t have to be a long paragraph. Just include three things:
How you plan to achieve it
Now use this piece of paper every day to update how your goal is progressing, and how many days you have been successful. Be honest. For example if you miss a practice session of guitar, don’t fluff around it and make excuses why you couldn’t put in the time. Be honest that you missed it and learn from it, and move on. On the opposite side, if you make a breakthrough or you see improvement, journal it on the paper. Your paper needs to be used to record both your roses and thorns.
Run a dash
After finding your goal and getting your journal up and running, you’re ready to get at it with the next stage. This stage involves putting in the work. But don’t start by grinding out 2 hours of whatever you’re training to do. Well at least at the beginning. You will start small, 5-10 minutes a day. If you’re beginning at a stage where you’re already halfway through a goal, adjust your time to your needs. Setting aside a small amount of time each day for your goal is great because first, it doesn’t seem like a tall mountain you have to climb, and second it helps you not burn out on your goal or start to dislike it. Instead this will help you learn the form of how to approach the goal without spending too much time on it, and it will help you enjoy the process a lot more.
Routines, reminders and inspiration
“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” – Mike Murdock, an American songwriter and minister
Routines and reminders are what keep you going when you start slipping. They hold you accountable on certain days when a task has to be completed. This is why turning your goal into a habit will help you succeed. Not only will the habit help you make your task easier to remember and execute, but it can also make it more fun. To start a habit, make sure you have a X amount of time for your habit, and X amount of days for that habit. For example, I want to get better at the piano, and my goal is to be able to play Piano Sonata by Mozart. I choose to practice six days a week, and have a free day from the piano. Each day when it’s time to play I will start out practicing 1o minutes a day, but as each week goes by, I will add 5 minutes until I get to an hour of practice time. As each week passes, I should be able to get more comfortable easing into longer practices, and it will slowly become more and more of a habit. But be careful, habits can only be developed when you choose a time and a day to practice and keep at it day by day, week by week and month by month. There are no shortcuts; I can’t create this habit by only choosing to play the piano when I feel like it.
Reminders are there to help you to make sure you practice when you forget or you don’t feel like it. Reminders may come in many different forms, such as telling your parents or friends to keep you accountable, or having a reminder on your phone every time you need to get started on your goal. One of my favorites is having inspirational quote or a picture of an inspirational figure near you during the times you need a reminder to complete your task at hand. If you are trying to get better at playing an instrument, have a quote from your favorite musician. Or every day, wake up and listen to a song that inspires you to play. The same goes with anything else. If you’re interested in football, watch football games or plays that inspire you, follow your favorite personal football legends, read their biographies and watch their movies. Know what inspires you and why.
Eliminate temptation, distractions and procrastination
“Work is hard, distractions are plentiful. And time is short” – Adam Hochschild, American journalist, author, lecturer
Much of the journey to reach your goal will be filled with temptations. These temptations then lead to distraction. For example, I have a big YouTube problem. I can spend all day watching dumb videos and not move a muscle from my bed. Let’s say one day I decide not to watch any YouTube. I’m succeeding throughout the day, but when night hits and I’m alone in my room and stressed and bored, this stress and boredom turns into the temptation to open YouTube on my phone. If I give into the temptation and open YouTube, this now leads into a distraction. But if I say “no” to my temptation and go to bed, then I did it. I didn’t watch YouTube. Yay!
But this harder than it sounds. Like most distractions and temptations, many people have a really hard time saying “No.” Sometimes we try to force the distraction out of our mind, and it comes back two-times stronger than we can handle. Other times we put on more distractions to hide ourselves from the original distraction. You can see why this method doesn’t work. One way to get rid of distractions and temptations is to know that they are there. By this I mean being mindful of them and identifying them. Here’s a three-step process you can use to help get rid of distractions and temptations in your life:
Realize the distraction is there
Figure out how long has it distracted you
Ask yourself if it’s useful or not useful?
To put this in an example, I’m going to go back to my YouTube distraction. Night rolls around, and I have nothing to do. I’m bored. The first thought of me going on YouTube appears. “I wonder what my favorite YouTuber has posted today?” Then right there I realize that was a temptation. I say to myself “I just got distracted there.” I then ask myself how long did the temptation last. “Oh it lasted only a second.” Finally, I ask if the temptation was useful or not to achieve my goal. “No. It was not useful.” Right after these questions your temptations or distractions should be gone. If you don’t believe me, try it. What’s the worst that could go wrong? But the temptation will not be gone for long. It will most likely come back. To keep up the mindfulness, it helps to pretend it is a game “How many temptations and distractions can I catch?” It will probably be hard at the beginning noticing when you’re distracted, but as long as you keep trying to be mindful, you will get rid of your irritants permanently.
If this method doesn’t work for you, another method to eliminate distraction is to correlate you getting distracted and not reaching your goal with something negative. For example, if I’m about to open YouTube, I catch myself and imagine what will happen if I get distracted by it.
Bineging on YouTube videos—-> Spending the whole day not making progress on my goal—-> Failure on that goal—–> Disappointment and sadness with myself.
Another way to help get rid of distractions is to plan. For example, if I know that I will be bored in bed tonight and probably stressed due to school, I will make an effort to make sure I read before I go to bed to help suppress boredom and get myself sleepy faster.
Progress and making failure hard
If you start making progress on your goal, it helps a lot to make it visual. Like I said earlier, having a daily journal will help, and it will help even more if you make the progress visual, this could include taking videos of your daily piano practices or make a graph to show how much you are increasing your run time. This does not have to be something you have to do, but when I first started going to the gym back in eighth-grade, I look back, and I wish I had taken before and after pictures to help me throughout my journey, and help to show how far I’ve come.
“Failure is not the opposite of success; it’s a part of it.” — Arianna Huffington, author, syndicated columnist and founder of the Huffington Post.
If you don’t make your failure painful then failure will come easy. I’m going to be frank with you. If you are going for a goal that you know is going to be hard then you will probably encounter failure once or even more throughout the journey. This failure could involve missing a practice session or breaking your streak. But don’t let this discourage you. Failure can make you approach the situation at a different angle and become a learning experience that makes you feel human.
To make yourself not want to fail, you have to feel the failure. Let’s say I relapse on quitting alcohol. Yes, an alcohol addiction is much more serious than missing a piano practice, but the same concept still applies. If I relapse, I won’t hide my shame or anger. Instead, I’ll delve deep into how I feel, sit with the discomfort. Use this pain to understand that if I keep failing, I’ll keep feeling this pain. Another way to feel pain when you fail is to make a costly bet with someone and hold yourself up to your promises. Tell your friend you’ll give them $100 if you don’t reach your goal or hit a certain number of days of practicing. This will help make sure that you’ll avoid failure. But unfortunately, it still does not provide a 100 percent guarantee.
Five-steps to success
Here’s a quick guide to help you stay on track:
Figure out what your goal is: Get as specific as possible with your goal and get serious about it. Journal your progress and your failures.
Run a “dash”: Start with only five to 10 minutes a day.
Routine, reminders and inspiration: Get a daily routine down or a routine that you can grow off of. Start small. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Set reminders and deadlines. Get inspired every day by your personal heroes and their life stories and reflect on why they inspire you.
Eliminate temptations, distractions and procrastination: Learn to know and understand your distractions and temptations, and then learn to be mindful of them. Don’t say “I’ll only give in once.” Write down your distractions, procrastinations and temptations.
Progress and making failure hard: Make your progress visual and celebrate your success. Make failure painful but also see it as a learning experience.