Dealing with Distractions

Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.

A reader asks for advice on how to deal with distractions. If you, too, have difficulty putting aside distractions, here are a few subjects to investigate for the source of the problem, along with some possible solutions.
Which goals fall by the wayside?
First, let’s look at what goal you get distracted from accomplishing. What is the purpose or goal of that “to-do”? Is it a compelling goal? Is it your goal, or really someone else’s? For a mundane, but common example, let’s say your to-do is to get your messy desk organized. If your purpose for cleaning up your desk is so other people won’t think you are a slob, then that’s just a should, and not very compelling. It really is someone else’s goal, not yours. No wonder you are easily distracted from it! If, on the other hand, your purpose is (i) to get a burst of energy from releasing all those little worry strings tied to every piece of potentially important paper lost on your desk, (ii) to be able to respond promptly, decisively and effectively to challenges that come your way today (leaping tall buildings in a single bound) because you know how to quickly put your hands on every piece of information available to you, or (iii) to avoid repeating the embarrassment you suffered yesterday when a client called and you couldn’t find her file well, those goals sound significantly more compelling. It is easier to keep motivated and on track when we have vivid outcomes in mind. So the next time you have a to-do of reviewing a deed of trust or a routine set of responses to interrogatories (yawn), consider the purpose of your review and the outcome you desire. Ask yourself a few questions: What’s important about this task? What will I be able to do or enjoy when I finish this? What negative consequence can I avoid if I complete this promptly? If you can’t think of a compelling outcome, maybe you need to dig a little deeper and broader about the whole question of whose goal this is.

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