How to kill distractions

Strategies for staying focused when it matters most
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Main point: Killing dis­trac­tions is hard, but achiev­ers can kill dis­trac­tions by focus­ing on the out­come they desire, which active­ly destroys oth­er inputs through real­iz­ing what’s at stake.

You and I know we have the abil­i­ty to be focused and atten­tive, yet it’s easy to get derailed from a feel­ing of progress. While a web­page is load­ing my com­put­er screen, I can be tempt­ed to check email or Face­book. If we’re in line at the gro­cery store, we can check in to see if we have any noti­fi­ca­tions on our phone.
If you are suf­fer­ing, like me, with a sense of being pulled in a mil­lion dif­fer­ent direc­tions, even at the times you’re the only one in the room, here’s the deal: we aren’t tap­ping into our abil­i­ty to CHOOSE focus.

Choosing focus

I know that this idea can sound super obvi­ous and duh. But it’s about real­iz­ing how our brains work and then mak­ing sure we behave in a way that our brains are made for.

We are made to attend

The lizard brain creeping in…

Our amagly­la tells us that con­flict, silence, or bore­dom is to be avoid­ed. That’s why we reach for our phone or plug into a dis­trac­tion — we don’t want to avoid the con­flict that is at hand.

But we are flawed. The con­flict that we’re avoid­ing isn’t as bad as we think it is. Seri­ous­ly! It’s not. And even if it is pret­ty hairy, we can fig­ure out our next move, even if that next move is to under­stand what we can’t con­trol.

David Allen is famous for say­ing “you have to think hard­er than you think, but not as hard as you might think.” The idea here is that fear of con­flict usu­al­ly sab­o­tages us, but we have the agency to remind our­selves that we aren’t being chased by a tiger. If you take a moment to just think a lit­tle bit hard­er and fig­ure out that next step, you will not only get clos­er to achiev­ing the desired result, you will also have a deep­er sense of men­tal clar­i­ty and less stress.


Take a look at the things in your life that have been stag­nant for some time.

  1. Ask: Why have you not been able to make any for­ward momen­tum on that item?Well because I am afraid of it tak­ing for­ev­er to fig­ure out — there’s so much I don’t know — I don’t want to fail — What if the same fail­ure hap­pens again like last time — What will peo­ple say or think?
  2. Deter­mine: Is this your lizard brain speak­ing or your delib­er­ate brain?
  3. Focus: Those rea­sons were most like­ly your lizard brain speak­ing. Is it pos­si­ble for you to “fin­ish your think­ing” on this item for a few moments?
  4. Fin­ish the think­ing
    • Attend: Put your mind on the desired, not-yet out­come you’d like to achieve
    • Inhib­it: What things are you not going to do to ensure you can focus? (INHIBIT DISTRACTIONS: Face­book, Email check­ing, Text mes­sages, Noti­fi­ca­tions, etc)
    • Remem­ber: What will achiev­ing this out­come bring you long term? What are your moti­va­tions?

We have the ABILITY to be focused.

We can CHOOSE to be focused.

We can CHOOSE to elim­i­nate the dis­trac­tion and work on work that tru­ly mat­ters.

Whether you real­ize this or not, what you’re deal­ing with is an emo­tion­al sit­u­a­tion — it’s impor­tant, emo­tion­al labor. Where­in you must iden­ti­fy what is dis­tract­ing you and work to deter­mine why you believe in any par­tic­u­lar moment that oth­er thing would be use­ful to you.

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