How to Stop Getting Distracted by your work

Some thoughts on solving distraction
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Self Mastery
May 25, 2022
3 minutes

How to Stop Getting Distracted By Your Own Work

I've noticed there's a pattern every person looking to do anything experiences...

  1. desire.
  2. research.
  3. distraction.
  4. commitment.
  5. failure.
  6. repeat.

I've seen myself go through these stages many times.
But, let's focus on solving distraction.

What is Distraction?

We talk about distraction so much that we assume everyone knows what it means. Here's what it means to me...

"Distraction is the turmoil caused by thinking of what we could be doing vs. what we should be doing."

Distraction caused by your work is a perception problem.

KISS, the Solution

Make yourself less distracted by using a simple tool.

Remind your self to KISS.

KISS is an acronym that means "Keep It Simple, Stupid".

Anytime I need to focus on a new commitment and set other commitments aside I bring KISS back into the equation.

Here's how I KISS: I write down the ideas that have been bugging me.
TANGENT: This is where interstitial journaling comes in handy. Writing is a form of therapy.

Writing down what distracts you feels relieving because it feels like you can get back to it later. Often, I'll just forget that I wrote them down or read the ideas later and realize they were trash anyways.
TANGENT: Sometimes the ideas were good! If its good, I run that idea through the next steps in my PKM system to make sure it's being organized and acted upon properly. But, that's for another blog post.

Remember the Emotion of the Goal

To relieve distraction, I remind myself of why I'm doing something. Why you do something is always linked to an emotion.

The main "why" of most things is to fill a value gap.

"A value gap is negative space or inefficiency that we notice, and usually have an emotional affinity towards filling."

Value gaps are things that could be better. Once you see value gaps, you cannot unsee them. It's like one of those visual illusions. Seeing that gap everyday will bug you so much you have to do something to fill it.

Usually we just shrug these gaps off because we don't have time to fill them. We train ourselves to do this, but it's hurting us.

Eventually, we reach a point where we have too many value gaps that we want to fill, but can't fill because we're too emotionally spread thin. This is where distraction keeps us pinned down.

Emotions have immense focusing force, but also chain you down like an anchor. Remind yourself of your positive emotions daily, and you'll make natural progress towards filling your value gap.

To remove distraction and promote positive emotion, use KISS to reorientate, then remind yourself of how good it'll feel once you make progress towards filling the value gap.

Here's how to actively achieve this:

  • write a value gap filling game plan
  • write a list of emotions you'll feel when it's done
  • set a deadline for it's completion
  • review it everyday until it's completed

Zooming in and Out

When solving the distraction problem would should make ourselves aware of how often we zoom in and out.

zooming in and out is a term used to describe when we think at different "levels".

Zooming in looks like this:

  • Think of a car.
  • A car is a system of smaller sections: engine, turning, air filtration.
  • Those sections are composed of yet smaller parts. So specific I cannot name.
  • Eventually, we reach the smallest known parts which can be linked back to the idea of creating a car.

Zooming out would be the opposite. Think of a car. A car is a unit within a larger road network. Etc, etc, etc.

When thinking of our projects, goals, and achieving our desires, we should be aware of what "level" we are focused on. Are we too zoomed in or too zoomed out? Becoming aware of what level we are thinking on and what are current goals are helps us realign to the right level.

I used to run into the problem of being too zoomed out on my personal projects. Here's an example within my project management database within my Notion Life Operating System.

too zoomed out

By looking at ALL of my projects like this, I distract myself. To solve this, I programmatically zoomed in by filtering the projects using a "status" sorting system. I went through each project and tagged each one I would focus on as "active" and the ones for later I marked "on hold".

This is the result.

zoomed in just right

There's clarity of mind and focus to found by realigning how you think about things.

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