"I find myself using huge amounts of time on distractions, going for whatever strikes me at the time. And then I feel bad, even lost, about not getting things done and not really living life. I must escape this trap I'm setting for myself!"
In evolutionary terms, distraction could be a survival benefiting action. It could be instigated from the thought/belief that "There could be something out there that would help my survival" and "I am scared of missing it because I might not survive." In a way this relates to the constant seeking of "hope" (that I will survive better), from the possibilities that one might just discover if one does something other than spend time on what is being done. (It related to "the shiny object" syndrome and the unrealistic desire to Have It All.) It could also be from a "need to be stimulated" (instead of bored and/or unstimulated), as those who were stimulated survived better, and were therefore more able to pass on their genes. A distraction could also be a "looking for" a way to escape from boredom, non-stimulation, something that seems hard or does not feel good doing (like studying, for some people). It could be a need for "relief" or "escape", like the need to get rest or to avoid the unpleasant feeling of doing something believed to be "hard" or from the negative thoughts that are stimulated by working on something (like repairing a problem, a relationship, or working on anything that has a possible negative survival connotation). [The primitive mind selects "thoughts" based on "association", not actual truth or reality.] The "aware", trained person sees his impulses for the primitive survival mechanisms they are and looks to see if it should be followed or not for one's best good. The impulse to go do something else might have worked fairly well 10,000 years ago, but we have to ask "will it work now for what I (my higher mind) want for my better survival. (This will be further dealt with in my book, which is upcoming as of the writing but may be out when you read this: Smart (and easy) Self Control, link to it from Books.)
Distract: To cause to turn away from the original focus of attention or interest; divert.
If one wants the high payoffs in life, diverting one's attention to zero, low, or harmful distractions creates a tough, low payoff life - much of life is wasted.
People live 30% of the life they could, wasting the other 70%.
"But, but...I can't help it."
Bullbleep. Sure you can.
PLENTY OF DIVERSIONS - AND A HUGE COST
Today's gadgets and social networks providing so many stimuli to react to that one can just live in a state of distraction, of aimless wandering and responding as if a Pavlov's dog, searching for stimulation, trying to fill a hole with cotton candy - never getting anywhere...
This is not a pretty picture. It is eating lives away with wandering and meaninglessness. We are losing our ability to concentrate and focus for long - losing one of our most powerful abilities.
We are becoming from the bottom up agewise a nation of kids and adults suffering from ADD (" attention deficit disorder"), which used to be called lazy thinking and immature behavior. It used to be called at times "a low attention span". No parent should accept that (if there is no true brain disorder). All those affected by a low attention span should read that article and solve the problem(!!!!).
USING ONE'S HIGHER BRAIN!
The inability to direct and concentrate one's thinking leads to the inability to run one's life effectively and to learn what is needed to have the skills to be effective. See also Predictor Of A Child's Success.
In such cases, people are failing to engage the higher brain, which is where our intentions are created and our thinking, planning, and problem solving skills have us producing more of what we truly want in life. It is directed high thinking that has created our prosperity and differentiated us from the animals.
Can you focus for a minute without something running you in order to keep the focus?
RUN BY SEEKING "RELIEF"
There's TV, which is especially alluring when I am tired or when I am directionless and need to just find something to fill the hole, to fill the available time. (Called "killing time" - sadly, as it is the stuff that life is made from.) "I find myself just sitting down in front of the TV to eat and then I stay glued to the entertainment box" - actually, per all studies, this leads to a state of mild depression within a 1/2 hour.
SOLVING THE "PROBLEM"
Yes, we do want relief from our anxiety or antsyness, but it is best to remove the cause rather than just keep blowing our time trying to deal with the recurring symptoms! (See Enabled by confusion or a complete lack of what to do next, what would be beneficial and life enhancing or life supporting.
The solution always comes back to having a directed agenda where one is managing oneself. How train to do that, how avoid getting lured away or drifting.
Learn and implement Calm Coherence, a source of power in life, where one maintains calmness and higher thinking, so that one is "together" and "in charge".
Not having tasks seems so overwhelming, time-collapsing, causing a sense of helplessness and lack of control.
A mess in my office.