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Re-write: 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."


A professional video editor 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."


So let's address distraction today. I am an expert at getting distracted. As an ENFP (Myers-Briggs Type Extrovert/iNtuitive/Feeling/Perceiving) my "MBTI prayer" is, "Lord, give me the power to focus on one thi--HEY! Look at that bird over there!"


Just yesterday, a video conference in the living room drew me away from my work. Afterward, I reflected on distractions:


1) Distractions are in the eye of the distracted. That call, my "distraction," was my son's Residential Faculty's work. She's in California, calling international students to see how they are coping with this new reality. 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 lasted over two hours. For 1/2 the time, I was back at my workspace, earplugs now in place. I also could have put on music, but I would probably start humming or singing along. Music's OK for other kinds of work, but not for writing. At least, not for me.


3) As a student, some of my best learning was done in the stacks of UC-Berkeley's libraries. I was supposed to be researching one topic but would stumble on, for example, a dedicated copy of Karl Marx's Das Kapital and spend an hour perusing its pages. Distraction led to learning.


4) I learned from my brother Blaze (also on the call yesterday) that due to his torn achilles last year, he's adept at working from home. We discussed strategies that will show up in future blogs that can help all of us who are working remotely.


Back to our Distracted Video Editor: If you could get your work done by noon if it weren't for your family distracting you, here are three potential suggestions: 1) Create and share your focused work schedule, kept to 45 or 50 minutes per hour. Family can interrupt all they want during the other 10-15 minutes. Go interrupt them! 2) Wake up 2 hours earlier than you normally do, and work while they're asleep. This may sound extreme, and you'll wind up going to bed earlier, but how much more productive might you be in the wee hours? And you really would be done by noon. 3) Make a list of 10 ways to limit distractions. Test your favorite one for a week. Repeat. Keep those that work. You will find ways to limit their distractions.


One more thought: Maybe work is the distraction and your family the main task. That video conference "distraction" was a highlight of my day. And while this might not be the "ideal situation," limiting and dealing with distractions could bring us a step or two closer to it.

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