To set the quote into context here's an excerpt from Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by H. Murakami.

There was little left to do but lean up against a wall and count the change in my pockets. For someone in my profession, know how to kill time is as important a method of training as gripping rubber balls is for a boxer. Although, in any strict, it's not killing time at all. For only through assiduous repetition is it possible to redistribute skewed tendencies.

I would interpret as it takes lot of effort (assiduous repetition) to replace (redistribute) bad habits (skewed tendencies) but it's does not seem to fit here.

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    It's presumably a translation, so it's hardly surprising if some of the expressions used don't seem very natural. – FumbleFingers Mar 28 '16 at 15:39
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    As FumbleFingers pointed out, it's a translation. Worse, it's a translation from Japanese, and the non-European languages have even more difficulties in translation than European languages. This might be better suited to the Japanese Language site japanese.stackexchange.com – WhatRoughBeast Mar 28 '16 at 16:16
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    I think it's a typical noir play on words, replacing a well-known expression with procrustean synonyms: old habits die hard. – Dan Bron Mar 29 '16 at 14:12
  • Could you first get that passage translated into proper English, then re-phrase the Question? – Robbie Goodwin Jun 24 '18 at 21:12

When your head is al over the place, doing a simple task that requires your attention is a means to gather your thoughts.

Like Holmes judging something as a three pipe problem; keeping the pipe burning requires just enough attention to distract you from distractions and stimulate a calmness of thought.

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