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How to listen to the call to distraction

Do you ever sit down to accomplish a task and find that your mind goes everywhere BUT the task you’ve decided to work on? It’s almost as if there is someone that has a different plan for your time and you can’t help but give in to the temptation. Why though, is it a temptation at all? I never find cleaning my bathtub a temptation, until I’ve decided that I need to tackle this blog post. 😉

The tedious task list

Many of us function off of some sort of task list or calendar that splits up our day into different activities and objectives. Sometimes what fills this list or calendar are tedious activities that we know will bore us or not take much time, so we procrastinate until we feel the heat. The heat is time expiring on us and then we jump into action. It takes a great deal of discipline to stick to the agenda without faltering even a step.


I have found that when I give in just a little bit to the temptation to take myself off course, I end up sliding head first down a rabbit hole. One thing leads to another, leads to another, and pretty soon I’m waist deep into learning about the microbiome in my gut. Say – what?! That item was definitely not on my agenda for the day, but one thing caught my eye and I couldn’t stop following link after link and video after video. I love to learn! However, it can come at a cost to getting the items on my list crossed off. What’s a distractible person such as myself to do?

Hierarchy of needs

I often look at my work calendar as suggestions for my day. Let me explain a bit. I have mentioned before how I color code my activities for the week – well, these color-coded activities have a certain level of necessity involved in them as well. Take for instance a meeting. At a meeting people are going to depend on me to provide information, so these are non-negotiables. I need to show up at the time I am scheduled to attend and I need to be prepared for what I am providing everyone at that meeting.

Then I have other items that fill my calendar that pertain to my job duties of which differ in their level of immediacy. Since I have gotten pretty adept at my job, I know how long certain things take me to do and how much I can delay starting them. I definitely work around deadlines and those deadlines pretty much dictate the order of importance of my task list.

Making time for discovery

There are also things that I do on a regular basis that make me a better person and a better employee. There are things that I need to schedule into my day so that my personal development and professional development are given the time and energy that they deserve. These are the parts of my day that I tend to gravitate towards the most. Again, I love learning and discovering ways to improve myself so that I can be better at all the ways that I feel pulled to serve the world.

Making time for connections

The one thing that makes me drop everything and focus is person to person contact. If someone stops in to my office to talk to me or shoots me an email and asks to get my opinion on something, I’m all in. I make sure that I step around my desk, pull up a chair for them, and I listen. There really is nothing that tops the experience of sharing time and space with another person.

I believe that becoming distracted from our calendar or to-do list should serve as a signal to ourselves. Whatever it is that you’re avoiding doing is more than likely lacking in engagement, fun, or purpose. Is there a way to sprinkle in a few of these elements into your day to assure that you’re not chasing them down when you really need to focus on something else? Maybe this is playing music while you work (fun), or sandwiching a difficult or arduous and boring task with a tantalizing article on solar energy (purposeful) and a video on a new hobby you’re considering (engaging).

Keeping things fresh and exciting is a great way to meet the needs of your wandering brain.

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