[from Guilty Pleasure to Energy Vampire]

In weight management we talk about knowing personal triggers. Triggers are those foods – often of the over-processed variety – for which it is not humanly possible to eat a reasonable serving (the book SALT SUGAR FAT details the engineering of processed foods). For me, Twizzlers and Doritos fall into this category. Because I know how I’ll behave around these foods, I usually don’t buy them. If I’m at a social event and these are being served, one strategy is to not consume even one. Sometimes avoidance is the the only way.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it’s completely appropriate to indulge. I use behavioral techniques (i.e. consciously deciding to avoid) so that my lizard brain doesn’t have too much control. The more advanced part of my brain knows that I function better (physically and emotionally) when I avoid these foods!

So what does all of this have to do with reclaiming time…?

Sometimes the lizard brain wants to take over when it comes to how we spend our time. I have a time-related trigger when it comes to the television. For example, on a Saturday afternoon, I say I’m only going to watch one episode of HGTV, but before you know it, four hours have passed and no essential activities have moved forward. (By ‘essential activities’ I mean weekend preparation that circumvents weekday chaos.)

So the tip here is just to identify your time-related trigger. Do you experience any time-trapping activities from which you have difficulty pulling yourself away? For you it could be social media, or video games – or maybe it’s TV (as it is for me)! After time and practice you get better at knowing when the time warp activity is exactly what you need versus something you are just using to avoid a bigger project or chore. Additionally, sometimes these vortex activities are perfectly fine as a *break* – but certainly you will be better served to engage in the break as a *treat* after you’ve done some real work. The reward of the activity will be more satisfying.

We likely have time related triggers at work too – triggers that keep us from engaging in key tasks and projects. Social media, extended water cooler chats, and web surfing can be time traps. Sometimes we have to avoid key individuals. Maybe the trigger activity is gossip.

In terms of what’s happening with our consciousness, note the research on flow. A quick definition of flow, cited in one of Daniel Pink’s books, “flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity…”

Trigger activities can lead to this sense of flow. One can become fully immersed and energized by engaging in Facebook or online games or <fill-in-your-guilty-pleasure>. There are built-in rewards and satisfaction derived from how we engage. It makes sense that we are drawn to trigger activities especially when less pleasant tasks or projects need attention.

In the book, Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi he speaks of the dark side of flow. I believe the following, quoted from his book, is especially true when applied to trigger-related guilty pleasures.

“Almost any enjoyable activity can become addictive in the sense that instead of being a conscious choice, it becomes a necessity that interferes with other activities” … and “…enjoyable activities that produce flow have a potentially negative aspect: while they are capable of improving the quality of existence by creating order in the mind, they can become addictive, at which point the self becomes captive …”

What activities leave you in a mental fog or lead to malaise? Which need to be avoided and which require exercised control?

Side bar: There is nothing intrinsically wrong with any of the activities used as examples in this post. And I only have slight moral issues with foods engineered to make us fat. But I do feel that it’s too easy to let every day modern conveniences and/or distractions contribute to mental fog and even depression or malaise. Historically, overdosing on conveniences/distractions has not helped me move towards growth and creativity and I believe it contributes to a sense of ‘drift’ or lack of purpose for many. All this being said, when I do indulge in TV, Doritos, or Twizzlers I am to be deliberate about the choice and not simply operate by default.

About Linda Stacy

Linda is a Boston-based Productivity Specialist and author of The Whole Package Professional: The Definitive Guide to Productivity, Success and Fulfillment in Business and Life. She created the LivingBluPrints System based on her experience as busy professional in the management consulting industry, an entrepreneur, and years of research, training, and living her best life.

Linda brings her transformative Productivity Workshops and On-Site-Seminars to corporate audiences, entrepreneurs, and hyper-busy professionals.

When the time is right, connect with Linda (linda@livingbluprints.com | 617.512.9572) to help you or your team build your blueprint to succeed in 2017!

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