On Doing The Work (And Disregarding Distractions)

If you wish to find a distraction, you will always find one.

In today’s world, it’s easier than ever to distract ourselves.

Notifications, the news, email. Oh, and you can quite literally contact any person you’ve ever introduced yourself to… in a matter of seconds.

But if we really sit down and think about it… why do we distract ourselves?

It typically boils down to a lack of willingness to do the work.

I don’t say this to preach.

Hardly.

I say it because I have firsthand experience with distractions. How I will open a new browser and type “tw” or “gm” into the URL bar if my Freedom.to app isn’t turned on. How if my phone is in the same room while I’m in the middle of a book, I’ll pick it up instead of reading.

What do I hope to gain by these distractions?

Well, it’s not a thought I even have control of.

I mean, I’m not sitting here thinking, “Gee, I should check out my messages right now.” Nope. It happens without even thought. Which makes it dangerous (and a tad bit scary).

It happens when I’m only slightly bored… even just for a second.

The Problem with Distractions

Distraction doesn’t just take us away from the present moment. Distraction also makes it harder for us to get back to whatever we were attending to in the first place.

Here’s what I mean: say your mission is to write a new article for your website (okay, maybe this example has some basis in my reality).

The vortex of social media pulls you in. So, you mindlessly go to Twitter. No big deal. Except… you lost that moment and you made it harder for yourself to go from Twitter back to writing your article.

That one decision now impacts two separate realities: (1) the present moment when you’re not doing the work and (2) the future moment when you have to figure out how to pull yourself out of Twitter and back to the work.

Many people do their best work on airplanes.

It’s because there are no distractions. It’s just you and your device. You and the work. And that leads itself to incredible, magical happenings. You suddenly become focused. Your mind doesn’t allow the possibility of you doing anything else except that which you need to do. And you get more done.

See, how your brain works is:

“I could do the work, or I could go on Twitter or I could check my phone or I could pick up that water bottle and take a sip.”

You are constantly asking yourself: “What will give me the most enjoyment in this moment?”

That’s why it’s important we understand what distractions are: a short-term fix. The real joy we’re searching for? It’s at the end of a long workout, completing a hard session of writing, or doing the task you’re actually supposed to do.

Why is this true?

Well, it’s because we typically value what we do in proportion to the amount of work we put into it. The bigger the scope of the project, the prouder we are when it’s complete.

And distractions are the way for us to put off doing what we need to do, even for just one moment.

Distractions are easy, and the work is (sometimes) difficult.

But only one will give us the long-term happiness we seek.

So, we’re doomed?

Of course not.

The Solution to Distractions

There are three big solutions I’ve found that tends to get rid of distractions and let us focus on doing the work.

Optimize your environment

Your environment is either working for you or against you. Always.

One reason why so many do their best work when on an airplane is because there is only your laptop and your tray table. The tray table is clean and perfect fits your laptop.

Zero distractions.

So what are ways you can optimize your environment?

Here are my suggestions:

  • The previously mentioned Freedom.to is an incredible app that I’ve used to help write many of the articles on this site.
  • Clean your work area. For some reason, the clutter on a desk actually seems to clutter our minds.
  • Put the task you want to work on. The computer serves so many different functions. You can optimize your environment by opening the document you need to be working on the night before so that when you open your computer the following morning, it appears right away.
  • Put your phone in a different room. Yes, your phone is making you dumber.

Do it right away

If you want to get something done, do it immediately.

When I started my 60-minute meditation challenge, I knew there was going to be resistance at first. Sitting alone with my thoughts for 60 minutes is a scary proposition when you’ve never done it before (I hadn’t!).

So, I decided I would do it first thing in the morning. It worked out well.

Resistance gets added as we go throughout our day.

You have a conversation with someone, they tell you about a new Netflix show you’ve got to watch, and all of a sudden you’ve pulled out your computer and you’re halfway through the first season.

By doing it right away, you can get what you need done before others take you down other paths.

Use accountability

Accountability is perhaps the most underrated force in the world.

Think about the most disciplined person you know. And be accountable to them.

Tell them, “I will write blog posts for the next six months” or “I will work out four times a week.”

If you want, you could even utilize the reverse bet.

What is a reverse bet?

Quick five step process:

  1. Set goal (an internal action you can control)
  2. Tell a friend
  3. Write a check to a cause you hate (with a significant amount of money)
  4. Give the check to a trusted friend
  5. Tell them to cash it if you fail your goal

Where To Go From Here?

Distractions will always exist and you’ll always be able to find one.

But if you can find ways to optimize your environment, do it quickly, and use accountability, you will be better able to handle the modern world.

Get after it.

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