Distraction: How You Get off the Right Track and Get Back On

I sat down at my computer today intending to update my website with speeches I will be doing.

Just say no to side trips.

Just say no to side trips.

Instead of going directly to my work, I opened my email. Big mistake! 

In one email my step-sister recommended Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, a book that could help me on my journey as caregiver for my mother with Alzheimers. Instead of going to my real work I thought, “I’ll just quickly order the Kindle version.” After I’d ordered it I noticed that it did not appear on Kindle on my phone. Another problem to be solved! And, a possibility for distraction.

Had I not been aware of the more important goal, posting my speeches, I could have gone further down that rabbit hole, trying to make sure I had the book. I could have wasted another 30-60 minutes trying to get that book to show up on my Kindle.

Instead I paused. In that pause I asked myself, “What is most important right now? “What is the best use of my time right now? Solving the Kindle problem was definitely not most important. So, to get back on track, and not lose sight of the need to make sure the book did download to my Kindle, I wrote Being Mortal on a post-it note and put it where I could see it on my desk. That note would remind me to fix that problem later, after I’d accomplished some important items on my to do list.

How often do you get snagged by a compelling yet unimportant task in the grander scheme of things, chewing up time on tasks that won’t get you where you really want to go? You may have the illusion that you’re working, when all you’re really doing is enjoying a nice side trip, avoiding important tasks.

Before you sit down to work, identify your big rocks, those important tasks that if done will move you forward. Then, when a tempting side trip shows up — and they will, you can remind yourself that it will cost you time, brain power and energy. With that awareness you can postpone the trip until after the accomplishment of some important tasks. By the way, side trips make great rewards for completion of important tasks, but only if you limit the time you spend on them.

Beware of side trips! They eat your time and keep you stuck. Keep your focus on your big rocks, and enjoy the ride into greater productivity, well-being, and enhanced self-esteem.