Direction Helps Counter Distractions

November 28, 2023

Tell me if you can relate: you have a week staycation coming up and you are going to accomplish so much: deep-clean the house, catch up on everything, make big headway on your business vision, restructure your finances, get all your systems organized.

And it's only Friday afternoon when you actually start working on your business.

I get this. In my year of travel and less responsibilities, I thought I'd have all the time I needed to produce everything I wanted to.

That has not been the case, and recently, I've felt paralyzed about even starting to execute on my bigger vision for what I'm creating.

Direction and distractions

The main reason for the recent lack of progress?  I haven’t picked one main project to focus on, and therefore ever-present distractions sabotage efforts to even start/do much of anything.

​This Guardian article​, written just 5 years ago, feels like it could’ve been written decades ago for how the volume and prevalence of distraction in our lives.

I don’t know about you, but “continuous partial attention” seems to be my default state. Happily doing one thing, I suddenly remember that I need to order my niece’s birthday present.

Must I do it this second? No. But it seems so innocuous and quick and important, that I might just do it real quick.

One distraction leads to the next and an hour passes without any progress on the thing I said I was going to focus on.

There’s been no grocery shopping, dishes to do, meetings to attend, bathrooms to clean, etc.

But there have been logistical things to stay on top of, a NYC Christmas trip to plan, dinner to coordinate with the friend I made at the laundromat, things to research about upcoming tours, people at home to stay in touch with, and on and on.

Point is: there is always something to distract you from the thing you really want to do, or from picking which thing you want to focus on.

Maybe you’ve been wanting to:

  • Start that business you’ve been talking about for years
  • Get serious about writing your first book
  • Read more (a Tunesian friend I made yesterday read 150 books last year on top of her busy I.T. job 🤯)
  • Prioritize sleep
  • Finally get serious about money management

It is tempting to wait for conditions to be ideal, to have everything done, and to have hours of undisturbed time. But this year has taught me it just doesn’t ever happen.

As I go about my own entrepreneurial and life repositioning, I’m re-wrapping my arms around the thought that something done—anything done—is better than nothing done.

And small, focused actions really do add up.

My financial pivot came when I picked a single direction: get out of debt, and fast.

All my energies could and did naturally get behind that one specific goal. And things like budgeting became natural, empowering, helpful.

So here's your invitation to do something about the thing, even if we are in the thick of the holiday season and things are busy.

Could you find or make 10 minutes a day to start writing? Or start researching email service providers for the business you're going to start? Why yes, yes you could.

Will you eat the whole whale in a single sitting? Certainly not.

But can you start eating the whale? Yes. And enough bites over time gets that big fish eaten. (Thanks to Shel Silverstein for his how-to-eat-a-whale idea from the poem “Melinda Mae”).

And even if you decide as you pick up momentum (this is very real for me—more to come in the future) that you actually want to eat a different whale, you’ve moved, lived more fully, tried something, wrestled, and grown to the place where you're ready for the bigger dream.

If you’re tired of waiting for conditions to be perfect, I’d love to have you join me in choosing and prioritizing one thing that matters to you, then intentionally work to give into distractions less.

A few tactics I'm trying:

  • Set a timer for focus work.
  • Jot down the things that pop to mind so I can remember them and prioritize them later.
  • Keep scratch paper handy with 2 columns for tally marks, one for Team Distraction and one for Team Focus. When I have the thought to (for example) check my phone notifications and don’t, Team Focus gets a point. When I have a thought to see if my iPad needs charging and do, Team Distraction gets a point.

What one thing will you focus on and what tactics will you implement?

P.S. If you want some oldie-but-goodie thoughts on picking your direction, check out this blog post. A version of it made it into Dear Fellow Spender even.

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