You and I don’t need a desk in a soundproofed zen meditation garden. We need a way to do work even when we’re distracted — because the world will always be distracting.
That’s why today I want to share 3 of my most effective approaches for dealing with distraction.
BTW, this is about more than being exceptionally productive. It’s about developing the Mental Mastery to draw hard boundaries in your work so you get what you need to be done while leaving ample time to enjoy your personal life.
1. Understand distraction is human nature
When most people plan their day they say, “I am going to work straight from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with absolutely zero distractions.” They try to be crazy disciplined.
Then, as soon as they get a little distracted or they fall behind their perfectly planned schedule, their day goes completely off the rails. Next thing they know, they’re lurking their high school crush’s Facebook, texting their friend for a spontaneous coffee date, and checking movie showtimes for the early afternoon. They go into a downward spiral and can’t get back on track.
In psychology, they call this the “what-the-hell effect.” It’s just like when you go on a diet, things are going great, and then you slip up and eat a piece of cake, and say, "Well, there goes my diet for the day so what the hell, I might as well eat the rest of this cake and this pizza and this box of cookies.” The difference is Top Performers understand that getting distracted is human nature. They accept it’s going to happen, and they don’t beat themselves up when it does.
2. Build in a distraction buffer
Once you accept that you’re going to get distracted, then you can plan for it. Something I’ve found really helpful is building a buffer into my day.
Instead of scheduling my day down to the minute and leaving no room for error, I make sure I leave a couple of hours every Wednesday and Friday so that I can catch up when I do get off-track. (Not IF — WHEN. It will happen.) I feel so strongly about this that we’ve instituted a company-wide policy of “No Meeting Wednesdays” so everyone has a one-day buffer to catch up on work during the week.
3. Indulge distraction, then refocus twice as hard
Here’s the last thing I do to deal with distraction — I just let it happen! I indulge it! This is what I did this morning when I couldn’t write. Instead of pushing through and forcing myself to write, I decided to take a break, indulge the distraction and actually go watch an episode.
But here’s the key. Once I indulged my distraction, I pulled the Google Doc back up on my computer, refocused, and worked EVEN HARDER the rest of the day to make up for it. There’s something really powerful about being able to indulge in fun things that crop up — whether that’s a show, a friend, or an insanely beautiful day you just can’t pass up. And yet, after you’ve indulged, having the confidence to know you’ll buckle down and finish the work. It’s like that metaphor of the tree and the reed. When a storm comes in, the tree fights it and snaps. But the reed bends with the wind and gets right back up after the storm.
So there you have it — 3 of my most brutally effective ways to deal with distraction.