Handling Distractions from Numero Uno

Handling Distractions from Numero Uno

You’ve finally gotten to where you can handle distractions from associates, only to find that you are the cause of some of your distractions.

But, you may be thinking “so what?” and you may be on to something. Like Sarah McLachlan says in her song Angel, “I need some distraction.”

She’s right: We all need distractions from time to time. I am not one of those anal productivity nerds that believes you need to be productive every minute of the day, and that distractions are always a bad thing. An occasional mindless distraction can relieve an over-taxed mind. Some distractions even lead to creative insights.

But, everything in moderation, right? Right.

The problem is that today’s lifestyle makes it too easy to become excessively distracted. Many of us live with a computer for hours every day and pack a cell phone or CrackBerry 24 hours a day. Just these two gadgets make excessive distraction all too easy.

I’m not going to pretend to have any magic solutions to this problem. It is doubtful that there is any one-size-fits-all solution.

I’ll mention a couple of things you can do, but I primarily just want to draw your attention to this issue. By being aware of it, you have better control of it than when you are not aware of it.

Plus, for those of you with children, even adult children, this might motivate you to discuss this problem with them. There are so many sources of distraction available to young people today, so that distraction is more likely to be a problem for them.


If you are frequently distracted, to the point of it interfering with getting done what you need to do, you may want to check out this article on ADHD (ADD). Also, if you have issues with procrastination, you may want to check this primer on procrastination.
Some Examples

I’ll give you a few examples to illustrate what I mean by distraction.

I’ve already mentioned the CrackBerry, but it is probably the most significant distractor we face. Whether the actual device is a BlackBerry, iPhone, Windows Mobile or Palm Smartphone, or another smartphone type, we all know how easily we get distracted by them.

Another common source of distractions is using your browser to check news updates. Lots of people check news sites several times a day, to see what the markets are doing, and to just keep up with the news. Nobody wants to feel like a dork who does not know what is going in the world.

It doesn’t take very long to do this, and you could probably check the news a dozen times a day without it costing you more than 10 minutes total. Except a few of those times you notice a related video on one of the news sites and decide to watch it. 15 minutes gone. Then, down at the bottom of the video is a related link to an in-depth article, so you click on it and start scanning it.

It mentions a book, so you click the Amazon link and begin reading the reviews to see if you want to buy it. Another 10 minutes later, you’ve ordered the book and realize you’ve got 5 minutes to walk to another meeting.

And, if you are glued to the computer several hours a day, like I am, there can be other sources of distraction. For example, for me, I get distracted because of my hobbyist interest in coding.

I will see an article on how “gzip compression” can speed up web page loading, and off I go spending hours on the topic, asking Thomas for his thoughts, testing out some of the recommended methods on my test server, and so on.

I can easily spend a day on this sort of thing (and have), and it serves no value for me at all. Right now there is simply not enough server load for me to even bother my head with this sort of thing, but I am sucked into it because it is new to me, gives me a chance to learn, and so on.

Okay, Enough Examples. How Do We Solve This?

I mentioned earlier that there are no catch-all solutions to this problem. Differing personality types require different ways of dealing with this. For those of you with exceptional willpower, just my mention of this problem is enough for you to solve it: just by being aware of it, you will solve it.

For the rest of us, being aware of the problem helps some. But for most of us to deal with this effectively, we have to erect some sort of barrier between us the and the distraction. One way to do this is to schedule as much of your day as possible.

Even if you don’t have a day full of meetings, make appointments with yourself for specific tasks and projects. And then commit to keeping those appointments. That way, you don’t leave a lot of time for distractions. As to the CrackBerry problem, one (hard-to-do) solution is to just turn it off at certain times, such as the weekend, or at least part of the weekend.

Another way is to schedule some time for the distractions. This is what I am currently doing. I now give myself an hour per day to “chase code” and I resist doing it at any other times.

Admittedly, these are simple-minded solutions, because I am a pretty simple guy. Perhaps you have some other solutions. Regardless, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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