9 Ways to Distract Yourself with Work

January 25th, 2010 § 0 comments

There are a million things you can do right now instead of doing something important. How do you choose?

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

We are faced with unlimited choices in modern society.

There are millions of paths we can go down. One of the biggest questions inevitably is: which path do I choose?

Choose the one that is most important.

The most successful people I know aren’t on Twitter for two hours a day, they don’t watch TV three hours a day, and they certainly don’t own a Wii.

If you know what your important priority is, good. I applaud you.

If you don’t, your first priority needs to be figuring out what your priority is. Go on a vision quest. Lock yourself in a room. Read books. Anything until you have some idea, because until you’ve figured that out, it’s really hard to find an excuse to turn Lost off and do something worth your time.

What is important to me.

I have a little important project that I want to share with you: I’ve been working on a e-book on being minimalist.

Around a month ago I realized that I was writing too much material for this site, I had to publish it somewhere more important to me. An e-book seemed like a good choice. I hope you’ll agree.

I’ve never been a published author before, so I’ve been a bit nervous about how this e-book would turn out. So far I’ve been very surprised though. The words are just flowing out of me.

The e-book basically covers the minimalist journey that I’ve undertaken over the last year. It explains in detail the experiences I had ridding myself of my possessions, quitting my day job, and beginning to live and work from anywhere.

I hope this e-book will help a few more people take this rewarding journey.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll be sure to give you updates as the e-book progresses.

Obviously working on an e-book is hard. I’ve spent countless hours (probably in the hundreds) writing, designing, copyediting the final text. I want it to be perfect.

The constant threat of distraction.

Seth Godin writes in his new book, Linchpin, (aff link) which comes out Wednesday, the following:

“By forcing myself to do absolutely no busywork tasks between bouts with the work, I remove the best excuse the resistence has. I can’t avoid the work because I am not distracting myself with anything but the work.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this paragraph as I spend the hours making my e-book happen.

Many people would find something else to do, but I choose not too. I choose to make something important, a text that I hope will help people.

I could have watched TV, gone shopping, or had another cup of coffee. I could have complained about how hard it was to come up with ideas, or asked a dozen people to give their opinions on whether I’d fail or not. But I didn’t.

None of these things would have helped make this e-book a reality.

Here are a few techniques I’ve put into play to avoid distracting myself from the work.

  1. Incentives. Finish X before you’re allowed to have another coffee. When the going gets tough, I like give myself a little somehing that I’ll get once I’ve spent two hours working. Like I can’t have another coffee until I finish this blog post.
  2. Sitting in silence. Force yourself to sit in silence until your work is done. This is very difficult for many modern people, who are constantly updating the Twitter and digesting information. Don’t let yourself fiddle with a random thing until an idea comes to you, because it won’t come if you fiddle. Sit in silence until the idea comes, you’ll find that they come far more frequently.
  3. Continuing to do the work. When no ideas are coming, It’s important to keep on creating. There’s a common myth that creativity comes in waves, and you just have to catch the next one when it comes. Creativity doesn’t work like that though, so most people sit staring out a window waiting for the daemon to strike. It doesn’t just strike, you have to work for it. Sit and work for 30 minutes, and eventually your work will transition from crap to magic over that time.
  4. Take yourself away from distractions. If you’re having a hard time concentrating, consider moving away from distractions. I’ve been doing this by going to a coffee shop in Brooklyn, but there are endless other ways. Sit out in the back yard. Go work on a mountain top. Disconnect your Internet.
  5. Make everything else done first. I have two things that need to be done before I start working, the dishes and my email. I clean all of my dishes, and answer all of my email before I work. This is harder if you have a bottomless to-do list. I’ve programmed my life to have very few things that I’m required to do every day, so this works for me..
  6. Don’t allow multitasking. Don’t allow yourself to flip between Twitter and Facebook and chatting with your friend while you’re working. When you are creating something great, there is no way that randomly tweeting during the process will help make it better. Dividing your attention is project suicide.
  7. Recognizing the importance. I honestly can’t work on projects that don’t care about anymore. I’d rather starve than make another widget. The promise that I’m creating a work that is important in this moment in time has really kept me going. Are you working on what something that you feel is important?
  8. Deadlines. I’ve set the expectation that this my project must be done by the end of next week. I could have given myself an open deadline, but I feel like I’d then spend endless hours aiming for perfect. There is no perfect, there will be flaws, there will be things I wish I had said differently. The most important thing is to ship this project: 1, so it can start making good in the world; 2, so I can start on my next project.
  9. Off time. I don’t let myself do any work between 5pm and 10am. I know that sounds rediculous, but I’m convinced that workdays are too long, and we spend a good portion of them wasting time by procrastination and pointless busywork. I limit my work day, so I feel that I can barely get the goals I’ve set out to do. I finish the work without distraction, and then I stop. I read a book, I spend time with my girlfriend, I go for a walk, I cook dinner. The next day I can work again. The one exception is that I let myself write material at any hour of the day. Ideas come to me, I can have them finished and into Evernote in 15 minutes.


Here’s one more thing that occurred to me recently, I thought I’d share:

We’ve been taught over and over again that great work comes from thinking incredibly hard for a lot of hours. This doesn’t make sense to me.

I don’t think great work comes by thinking really hard about things that are hard to think about.

To be honest, this upcoming e-book is based on my experiences. The techniques that I’ve learned and employed. They are natural to me, because I’ve mastered them. If I was writing a book about something I didn’t know about, it would be difficult and I’d have to think really hard. I would make my brain hurt. But I know this stuff, so it comes naturally.

Great work doesn’t come from overworking the picture box in your pre-frontal cortex. It should just flow out of you without prior contemplation. It just comes out of you onto the page.

Important work should come naturally.

I have a guest post coming up on Zen Habits, in a few weeks (not sure exactly, Leo has a long guest post cue because of his site’s popularity) which deals more with creative flow. It’s quite a privilege to have a post up on Leo’s blog, I can’t wait until it posts. I hope you’ll subscribe to Zen Habits, if you haven’t already, so you don’t miss my post.

Anyway, it’s really important to remove anything that will stop you from achieving flow with the creation of your project. Distractions kill great work.

How do you remove distractions? What great work are you creating?

If this was helpful for you, please help spread the word in any way that you can. The buttons below are two good options.

Thank you.

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