Here are articles on distractions

Be present: Put down your #@*($& phone!

I’ve noticed that more and more, people walk around with their phones glued to their ear or to their hands. They stand in the middle of hallways with the phone pressed against their ear, as if their life depended on it. They block stairways, staring entranced into their smartphone as it delivers some absolutely vital nugget of information or entertainment, without which their life would come to an abrupt and bloody end.


In a few short years, the cell phone has become the ultimate “Somewhere Else is Better Than Here” device. The problem with that is that you’re actually living here and now. Important things are happening here and now. When you’re in public, or around other people, get off your cell phone. Put it on vibrate. Even better, turn the darned thing off. Pay attention to what’s happening around you.

Friends of mine who are parents can’t do that. They literally can’t turn the phone off. They have all the symptoms of an anxiety attack at the thought of their kids being unable to reach them for more than three to five minutes. Really? You’re that worried about your kid? Why? Is he or she really so incapable of coping that you can’t turn your phone off? How will they survive when you die someday? It could be today. You could be chattering so intently on your cell phone that you step off the curb in front of an SUV going 90 miles per hour in an attempt to make it to a gas station before they run out of gas.

If you’re really worried about your kids, make sure they’re in a good school, surrounded by peers who will encourage and support them. If your local public schools suck, cancel your cell phone contract and use the money you save to put them in private school. Keep them away from swimming pools—kids mostly die in swimming pools, and their cell phones won’t work under water, so the cell phone won’t save them, anyway.

In short, come back. People are trying to walk by you as you stand transfixed playing Angry Birds in the middle of the hallway. The friends you came with are just two feet away (staring into their smartphones, too). Bring them back. You have a life. You have a world. And you’re missing it!

Google destroys productivity

Google is trying to “organize the world’s information,” presumably to help us be more productive. But they make their money selling advertising. By definition, ads are things that distract us from what we’re trying to do and entice us to go shopping, instead. Whether or not the thing we’re shopping for is related to what we were doing is irrelevant; ads knock us out of the Zone in favor of shopping.

Even if we don’t click on the ads, if you’re like me, their mere presence is a bit of a distraction. Especially if they are animated or flashy or move.

As I discuss in chapter 4 of my book, restore focus by eliminating distractions. Use a plug-in like Firefox AdBlock Plus to eliminate as many ads as possible. And while I appreciate the convenience of Google products, if you find yourself getting distracted because you’re living in your Web browser, close the browser and use desktop applications that don’t pull you away from your task at hand.

Ignore that software upgrade notice … for now

Many programs check to find out if they have an available upgrade when you run them. If so, they have a little upgrade notice that pops up then and there to tell you. Helpfully. This is convenient, courteous, just-in-time behavior, right? Wrong.

When you start up a program, there’s a 99% chance that you’re starting it because you want to use it. You have some task that requires the program in order to accomplish. You’re in work mode, with a specific goal in mind.

That’s exactly the wrong time to distract you with a software upgrade notice that forces you to think about a choice: Not Now, Install, or Cancel (what does cancel even mean in this context?). If you should decide to install now—after all, who’s going to remember later—then you’re treated to six hours of debugging when this minor upgrade from v 5.62 to v5.63 accidentally wipes out your hard drive. Your original task gets lost.

As a user, don’t let upgrades hijack your mind! Adopt a simple, yet effective habit: when a piece of software offers to upgrade, immediately jot down at the very end of your to-do list, “Upgrade silly program” and choose Not Now. Then treat the upgrade as you would any other to-do item: do it only when it fits into your schedule. If it’s an urgent upgrade, fine, put it on your calendar for a free time block today or tomorrow. But keep your focus on the task and hand and don’t let upgrades hijack your mind!

(Author’s note: This blog post was inspired by an offer for me to upgrade that interrupted my train of thought for a blog post I was going to write. Sadly, I don’t recall what the original post was going to be. See how those offers can knock us off course?)