Choosing Your Distractions

This is a Community Contribution from Mike Vardy

Some people need silence to be productive. Some people need music. Some people need an extreme amount of light. Some people don’t need anything specific. Some people don’t need anything at all.

To anyone who falls into one “some” category, they are not likely to fall into another. There’s a subjective nature to working environments. The same goes for distractions.

For example, I can actually watch certain television shows in the background as I write. Now, it depends on what I’m working on, but generally when I’m creating content I can have the TV on and have it actually spur me on as opposed to distract me. I know well enough which shows these are (I’m looking at you professional wrestling), so I don’t put on shows that demand my exclusive attention. I also don’t try to work on stuff that demands the same kind of attention from me when I’m watching wrestlers defend championships either.

As I write this, I’m listening to music — music that has lyrics. I know a lot of people listen to instrumental music if they are going to have any on at all, but I can work either way. I also work fine with silence…but I generally save that for when everyone is asleep (before 8am and after 10pm), and that’s when I can get the “heavy lifting” done.

Distractions come in all shapes and sizes.  They can vary, depending on where you are and what you’re doing. Time of day has an impact on what you can not only do, but what you can take in. I find that the morning is my “set up” time for the day, so I like it mellow at first before I kick it into high gear. When I do kick it into that gear, I find that my musical selections tend to kick up a notch as well, both in terms of genre and volume. Depending on how my day goes, I find that the occasional distraction is warranted.

What are the things that distract me no matter what time of day it is? Email and social media sites are the usual culprits. But I’ve learned that the reward of getting stuff done is more valuable than reacting to stuff not done yet  (email), or hearing about what others are doing (social media). That’s not to say I don’t check in every once in a while, I have just decided that it will be only “once in a while” as opposed to “several times a day.”

If you’re not able to be productive (a la GTD), one of the things you need to do is a Distraction Check. If you find that silence isn’t helping you, try playing some music. If instrumental music doesn’t work, try some with lyrics. Maybe put on the television in the background while you work on low impact action items to see if you slow down at all. Change up your atmosphere. Mix it up.

Keep in mind that the more you discover what distracts you and what you can work with or around, the better equipped you’ll be to perform in different circumstances and environments.  This knowledge can also serve to “childproof” your working habits, as I’ve learned from personal experience.