How to stop wasting your time on distractions

If you're reaching for the remote, bottle or credit card more than ever now, here's how to gain back control and break everyday habits.

Learning how to stop wasting your time on distractions can be tough. Let’s face it, Netflix is awesome and a glass of red can be super fun, but when we start to use them as a way to feel better or distract ourselves from challenges, the addiction becomes its own problem.

The most common illusion to control would be when we become addicted to things that are normal and socially common and not inherently bad. Like scrolling endlessly on Facebook or jumping online to buy another pair of those yoga pants.

Right now a lot of things feel out of control, so if you're drinking more than normal, being impulsive, are part of the 17 per cent rise in online shopping sales or being more of a perfectionist than ever, cut yourself some slack.

Last time my girlfriend and I moved house, it was the standard stressful stuff plus a bit more. On top of lugging boxes and having electricity and internet connected, we both wanted the new place to really be ‘us’.

So we shopped for dinner plates. We both gave each other all the time we needed to pick up and  put down ones that weren’t exactly right—because we knew amid uncertainty over whether tradesmen would show up and if our bed would fit up the stairs, choosing plates was something we could control.

Sometimes I have a stressful day at work, where I get worried about the outcomes of things, maybe have a couple of challenging conversations with people.

I go home and I just want to rest, and can’t be bothered applying what I know to myself. I’d rather just zone out and defuse my stress by letting TV wash over me.

Thing is, I never feel better after watching TV because it's a false sense of control. I'm not changing anything, just giving myself a distraction that prolongs the inevitable.

So learning how to stop wasting your time on distractions that give a false sense of control isn't about control at all.

It's about how regularly we feel good or feel okay without having to do anything to feel that way.

It's how regularly we feel good when we're not trying to control the outside world but how we feel about the outside world.

And it's simple to know if you have a challenge. Are you glued to Netflix or Facebook or having a drink because you feel out of control and you're trying to get a sense of it back, or because you enjoy them and feel awesome?

Here's my four steps to knowing how to stop wasting your time on distractions. Next time you feel challenged and are looking for a false sense of control, try this:

  • Do nothing. Sit for ten minutes with how you feel. Breathe. That's all.
  • Start talking it out with yourself. Turn it over in your mind, poke a mental finger into how it would feel not to do the thing, or write it out on a bit of paper.
  • Do something to move your energy, like dance, jump around, play wrestle someone close to you. Do something a little bit silly. Sometimes if I need to change how I feel, I hide somewhere around my house and jump out at my girlfriend. Yeah, it's dumb but it's fun and it switches the mood and we both have a laugh.
  • If you can, get another person's perspective. Sometimes you're trapped in your emotions around something and you can't see logically. You can only see it emotionally which is like looking through muddy water. There is a danger with perspective though: make sure you get it from someone who has their stuff together and will validate but not advise you.

At the same time, remember nobody is perfect, everybody is human, and it's really hard to feel in total control all the time. So it is fine to give yourself a break.

Just know pulling on the tracky daks, cracking a family block and taking a trip down the social media rabbit hole won't fix what you're really worried about.


One of Australia's leading coaches, trainers and speakers, and head facilitator at The Coaching Institute. In between mentoring thousands of coaches and leaders all around Australasia and helping others build incredible culture, Matt is passionate about fitness and music. His healthy office lunches whipped up in five minutes are the stuff of legend

Matt Lavars life coaching
Matt LavarsThe Coaching Institute