Able Was I, Ere I Saw…Oooh, Shiny



Distractions. You know what they are? A mar on a panorama.

A panorama of productivity, aglow with embers of ideas that are fanned into a flame by motivation. It can be a beautiful sight—unless our attention is diverted elsewhere. Then our motivation evaporates till there’s nothing left of it. No trace, not one carton.

As a matter of fact, even on my way to type this article, I got sidetracked. My mind was filling with clear ideas, which would soon become a cohesive blog post. I opened a browser, with Google Documents as my destination. I mentally rehearsed my phrasing while the home page loaded…making sure I remembered the exact wording I wanted to use, preparing to head to GoogleDocs…and…oh…what was that headline on the home page? *Click.*

Ooh, shiny.

“Able was I, ere I saw…[Fill in the blank].”

So what zaps your momentum? Often, we don’t even realize what does it to us, even when it happens. All we know is that a few minutes ago, we were raring to go—now, we’re listening to a symphony of crickets chirping in our empty storehouse of ideas.

Zeroing in on triggers can help. For example, try filling in the blank:

“I was able to do this before I…”

…Checked social networks? Made that phone call? Folded the laundry? Some men interpret nine memos. For me, it’s handling e-mail. It’s not always a matter of wasting time in worthless activities—every item on that list is a viable task. But some tasks, by their nature, are more mind-numbing than others.

So, are we doomed to distraction?

No, it never propagates if I set a gap or prevention.

The key is in recognizing which activities fuel our motivation, and which ones drain it. Take a few days to analyze your work and thought patterns. Notice what your most productive thought-times are, and what commonly sidetracks you from putting those thoughts into action. Then reschedule the lulling tasks for another time. For instance, if managing your inbox zombifies you, then save e-mail for the hours when you could use a mental break.

And when you determine the times that your idea storehouse tends to runneth over, use self-discipline to focus on that alone. Don’t nod. Say “no” to other requirements till later. And resist the shiny.

Then enjoy the spoils of productivity. Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?

I thought so.


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© 2008 Christine Taylor

No Responses to “Able Was I, Ere I Saw…Oooh, Shiny”

  1. Oh oh 1st comment. Crap. I just did it to myself. I had a great comment and got distracted by the shininess of being the 1st commenter. Which by the time this posts, it may be #2 already. Ugh.

    Anyway, yep. Get distracted easy unless I’m totally on task. Sometimes though I do my best work when I’m splitting between short bouts on this then that. But yes, we all have our triggers. Mine is when the email comes in. I’m getting better at batching it though. Also getting twitter replies slows me down. Oh, that reminds me I have unanswered tweets. :)

  2. What gets me is the TV. I have every intention of editing four chapters, but I browse through the movie channels and what do you know? There’s an Arnold Shwarzenegger flick on. Oooooh shiny. I’ll just watch until this happens. It happens and then oooh shiny, I’ll wait until that happens, that’s really cool. Next thing I know it’s 11pm and I’m not getting any work done tonight……

  3. LOL :-D Is there a way I can Stumble *just* your comment? ;-)

  4. I meant that for Todd, but it counts for Douglas, too! You guys made me smile! :-D

  5. Ah, this blog describes me too well! T_T I need to grow some focus.

    I couldn’t resist the shiny. I clicked on it. Too bad I hid a boot.

  6. Hehee :-D

  7. i tried this before, of analysing my own work and tried to reform myself but it never continued over to the second week… :)

  8. I know, it’s definitely a challenge. :-)

Your comments are welcome