On Distraction

CS Lewis quote distraction

I’m writing this from a busy coffee shop. The sunrise is startlingly beautiful, the coffee is strong, the music is groovy. Two police officers sit at a table within my sight and I’m trying my very hardest not to observe them too closely (nobody needs me getting tased today). To my right, a man is reading through the newspaper, underlining about every article (is he an editor? a newspaper man? WHY IS HE DOING THAT?). My phone pings with a new text message, the number of unanswered emails grows and grows and grows.

Now they’re grinding the coffee beans. It’s loud. It smells great.

Oh. Fantastic. My stomach just reminded me that I forgot to eat breakfast.

No matter where I turn my eyes, there is a distraction tempting me to stop my work and go into observation mode.

BUT I HAVE WORK TO DO! Deadlines and responsibilities. I have tasks to do for the school and a novel to finish editing.

So, what’s the solution?

Force all the distractions to stop? That’s not going to happen. Lock myself up in a room with no internet or windows? Yeah, I’d still doodle or daydream or take a nap (I mean…I don’t get to enjoy complete quiet all that often, you know?).

If I wait for the perfect, distraction free environment before I start to work I’ll be waiting forever.

What I need to do is just buckle down, put on my big girl shoes, and learn to work amid the distraction.

Oh, and close the Facebook tab. Nobody needs me to “like” their status that urgently.

Tell me, what are some of your strategies to shut out distraction? Are you someone who can work in a chaotic environment? What’s you’re biggest distraction? 

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12 thoughts on “On Distraction

  1. I make lists. Lots of lists. With time frames on them. Then I race myself to get them done within the time frame. It helps me focus, and even if I don’t make the deadline, I’ve at least made a lot of progress. Speaking of….back to work here too!

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  2. I thought when I retired I’d be living a life of leisure. God had other plans – lol. I’m so busy now – with two major deadlines rushing at me this week. What I am doing – is giving myself permission to complete the work – but taking care of me, too. That means not sitting down at the table and pushing through until every last detail is done RIGHT NOW (which is my instinct to do – but very counter productive for my physical health). I know that in the end it will all get done, and to the best of my ability, but it does seem strange for a) not to be yelled at all the time for not doing it NOW and having it more perfectly done than possible (which is what happened all the time at the office I worked in, my bosses were not *nice*); and b) it’s strange to be more gentle with myself.

    Saying all that – enjoy the distractions Susie. They are part of your life and just imagine what you will see in your observations. And even with those deadlines looming, know that you will always do your very best and meet your commitments. But YOU are just as important as those deadlines.

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  3. I can work in a coffee shop with headphones on and instrumental music to drown out the inevitable loud-talker. At home, if anyone else is moving around in the house, I am utterly distracted. So I close myself off in our sunroom, which, by virtue of it being a later add-on to the outside of the house and therefore essentially “outside” is the most sound-proof room we have. This keeps out the pets as well. It also helps to get up early and get to work before anyone else is up. For online distractions, I use Cold Turkey to block distracting social media or email.

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  4. I like this. I experience similar distractions at times. The environment you described with all the activity and people from different situations and such are sometimes the very source of my inspiration. I’ve had some of the best conversations in a coffee shop, the waiting room at the doctor’s office or in the line at the grocery store with folks who are complete strangers. I love those chance encounters with people who enjoy talking. People have always spoken to me freely about their lives, even when I’ve never seen them before. It’s great to hear their stories! (Now I’ve got to get back to writing because I’ve been distracted by thinking of all those people I’ve randomly met and their stories). 😉

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  5. I recently turned off all the push notifications on my phone for updates on facebook, instagram, twitter, etc. as well as my email notifications. None of those really need my immediate attention, but I always let them distract, so this has helped a lot.

    Cute new headshot, by the way. 🙂

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