It’s true that some distractions can be beneficial to your creativity. Getting immersed in something that’s related to your creative work or doing something that lets your mind wander can help you be more creative, and can often result in some better ideas.
This isn’t always the case, though, and you need to be able to distinguish the difference between distractions that are actually benefiting you and distractions that are holding you back from working as you need to.
For example, if you’re writing a science fiction novel, and you’re running out of ideas, it could be beneficial to watch some science fiction shows with the pretense that you’re trying to come up with new ideas.
It can help inspire you and show you things that you hadn’t thought of before. In this case, the distraction is beneficial. It helps you gather new ideas and gives you a bit of inspiration that you can channel into your work.
However, if your job is to come up with a more efficient system for your job, then a science fiction show isn’t really going to be that great of a diversion. Instead, it’s just going to eat up your time and make you less focused on the task at hand.
Distractions that have nothing to do with what you’re doing are often not that helpful, but that’s not always the case. If you were trying to come up with a new logo for a company and you were sitting outside letting your mind wander, that might not have anything to do with the logo directly, but it can still be a good way to open up your mind to new possibilities.
In this case, even though it’s not related to your work, it can still be pretty useful. One method of determining whether or not a distraction is beneficial to you is to keep a sort of distraction journal.
Log the amount of time you spent with each distraction and make note of how many quality ideas actually came out of that time you spent. If you spent 3 hours watching a show and only came up with one decent idea, it’s probably not that worth it and is just eating up your time.
If one hour spent outside produced three or four decent ideas, however, that’s a different story. At that point, that could be a worthwhile distraction that’s actually helping benefit you relative to the amount of time you spent on it.