One or two hours of wasted time does not mean the day is wasted.
An unproductive day doesn’t mean your week is over.
A week of distraction isn’t a signal that your whole month will suck.
Taking a month off won’t make you inefficient for a whole year.
And even when you struggle for a whole year, it’s not a sign that you’re permanently destined to failure.
It’s easy to be hard on yourself when you have a hard time focusing. You catastrophize and think that you’ve failed this time period, so you might as well give up for the rest.
But when things go wrong your mind defaults to irrational thinking. You deceive yourself with thoughts of all-encompassing defeat. The idea that all is lost for the rest of your day, week, month, year, or life isn’t the truth. It’s a limiting belief.
Days of distraction will come no matter how hard you try to prevent them. But consistent success, even through hard times, happens when you can anticipate difficulties and prepare by removing them beforehand and having a plan for what to do when they come.
You might even be distracted right now, reading this in one tab while your unfinished work is a few tabs over, with Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram in between. It’s okay, I do it too sometimes.
Don’t panic. All is not lost. You’re human and it’s natural to waste time occasionally. It’s even necessary for your psychological health.
“Wasting time is about recharging your battery and de-cluttering.”
— Michael Guttridge
Getting Your Momentum Again
Nobody wants to stay distracted forever, though. You have things to do and goals to achieve! So what can you do when you get down because you’ve spent the last hour or day surfing the web instead of getting work done?
Start by searching for the truth about your work ethic. Have you worked hard in the past, but you only struggled for that one time? Were you going through something hard, or maybe a lot of difficult things back to back?
If you’re normally a hard worker and just have one unproductive day, week, month, or year, then you aren’t lazy. You’re a human being that needs a break.
Once you get that self-awareness, it’s time to start getting back on track. No matter the time-scale, you can refocus yourself by re-planning the rest of your day, week, month, year, or life.
This is my go-to method for getting back after wasted time. If I’ve been distracted in the morning, I’ll set a note to re-plan the rest of my day at lunch. I cut my losses and recommit to what I know is most important.
This even works on a weekly or longer basis.
Last week, for instance, I sat down to write on Monday and felt overwhelmingly apathetic. I’d been crushing it for the entire previous month and my mind had had too much. So I went easy on myself for the next few days.
When I had my weekly review on Sunday I began to see how this was an isolated event. It wasn’t a signal that I am a bad person or that my whole life was going down in flames. It merely meant that I was tired and needed some time to relax.
When it was time to get back to work the next day, I felt refreshed and energized. I jumped right back in to pick up where I left off with the same enthusiasm as I had before.
“Taking a break can lead to breakthroughs.”
— Russell Eric Dobda
If you’re struggling today, take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
If you’re normally self-disciplined, it might be time to let yourself waste a little time and jump right back into things tomorrow.
And if you’ve been having a hard month or year, don’t worry, you’re only human. Your goals will still be here when you’re ready to try again.
Maybe that break is just what you need to feel inspired to crush your big aspirations like never before.