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Distract!


Vocabulary.com defines distraction as "something that takes your attention away from what you're supposed to be doing. ... Distraction comes from the Latin dis-, 'apart,' and trahere, 'drag.' So distraction is when you're dragged away from your task or from your worries."


Distractions can be a real drag!


In response to my most recent blog, a reader commented, "If working at home was completely without distractions (e.g., wife and child), I could easily start most days super early and be finished with work by lunchtime. That would be a very ideal situation."


I promised that reader to address distraction today, and I will. But first, a true story: As many Ax Readers know, last year I made a change. I'm still writing blogs and posting them on the AMT Group website, but now I'm following up and sending to a wider audience "Re-writes," where I take the original 3-4 minute post and cut it down to a 2-minute read. Hence, this Distract is supposed to be the first draft. But it's actually the second draft because–get this–I got interrupted, distracted, and when I came back to publish, accidentally overwrote all the text with an image and now am starting anew. I am an expert at "Getting Distracted." And at starting from scratch.


You see, as an ENFP (Myers-Briggs Type Extrovert/iNtuitive/Feeling/Perceiving) the "MBTI prayer" for me and my type is, "Lord, please give me the power to focus on one thing at a ti--HEY, look at that bird over there!" Now to be fair (or positively biased) to myself, the distraction today was a most welcome video conference "check-in" call I overheard in the living room, a call between my son and his high school dorm's Residential Faculty (RF). An RF is just like a university dorm's Residence Assistant (RA); but whereas an RA is an upperclassman, RFs are paid staff. I couldn't help but hear them chatting, and wanted to touch base myself, and then when my brother Blaze and sister-in-law Alyssa joined the call from shuttered-in-place California, I was hooked for nearly an hour.


During and after that hour, I realized a few things about distractions:


1) Distractions are in the eye of the distracted. If something "drags me away from my worries, I thank that something. I would rather do almost anything than "worry." As a previous Ax Reader wrote, "Concern is good. Worry not so much." Plus, in this case, that call, which was my "distraction," was the RFs work! It's not the activity (video-conference), but the person who decides what is and what is not a "distraction."


2) I can do something about that call and other "distractions." The call wound up being over two hours. For about 1/2 of their call, I came back to my workspace, put in a pair of earplugs, and got to work. (It was a really good draft.) I also could have chosen Airpods and listened to music, but I'm one of those who's more likely to be distracted by music (I find myself humming or singing along) than letting it be the white noise that works for many others.


3) I recalled my university days. Some of my best learning was done in the stacks of UC Berkeley's libraries, when I was supposed to be researching one topic but would stumble on, for example, a dedicated copy of Karl Marx's Das Kapital and spent an hour combing over its pages. That kind of thing happened more than once, I promise.


4) I learned from Blaze that due to his torn achilles last year, he's extremely adept at working from home. We discussed several strategies that will show up in future blogs and that can help all of us who are doing much more work from home these days.


There were a couple more learning points but I'm coming up on 4 minutes and I promised to address the reader who said his life would be ideal if it weren't for the distractions of his wife and child. Just kidding! I know he didn't mean it that way, even though I first took his comment almost that way. (Not as bad as the couple friends I have who say that "business would be perfect if it weren't for employees and customers.")


To R.S. (still basically protecting your guilt or innocence by hiding your full name): If indeed you could get your work done by noon if it weren't for your family distracting you (and I agree you could!), here are a couple of things to try out: 1) Let them know your "focused" work schedule, and limit that to 45 minutes per hour. They can interrupt you all they want during the other 15 minutes. This assumes you have at least small space from which you can work. AMT Group's office for its first year and a half was a futon storage closet in Nakano. Even a closet can work. 2) Wake up 2 - 3 hours earlier than you normally do, and work while they are asleep. This may sound extreme, and you might wind up going to bed a lot earlier or taking a nap during the day, but how much more productive might you be in the early hours? Then you really would be done by noon (or even earlier). 3) Make a list of 10 ways to limit your distractions. Test your favorite one or two for a week. You will find a way to limit their distractions. And remember, you're working to support them, right? Maybe work is the distraction and your family the main task? Just a thought.


That's it for now. It was of course a "drag" when I lost that draft, but it's happened before and just like that time years ago, the second draft came out much quicker than the first, and I like it more. I hope you do do. More tomorrow as the series of Remote Work continues!

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