This is part of my Tech Workers' Guide To Distraction Free Work

Sometimes life feels overwhelming between work and family life. There’s so much to do, and I worry that I’ll forget something. And that worry is a distraction.

You see, our brains are good at generating ideas but terrible at remembering lists of information1. A To Do list gives me a place to record a list (or a list of lists!) of everything I need to do. Then I can stop worrying about stuff falling between the cracks, which allows me to focus on important things.

In addition, I feel good every time I cross something off my list. It’s that same feeling I get when I complete another level on Candy Crush.

I make a new To Do list each workday with a blue pen and legal pad. I know, my age is showing, but that works for me. You may prefer to keep track of things digitally. For example, I worked with a man who used several Trello boards, and that worked for him.

Take action: Make a To Do list, and then your brain can relax. Plus, you’ll get a small hit dopamine every time you cross something off.


  1. “Getting Things Done” by David Allen 

Tech Workers' Guide To Distraction Free Work

Common Problems

  1. How Do I Stop Endlessly Researching Topics And Get Stuff Done?


  1. We Want To Be Distracted
  2. Proximity Matters

Practices: Just Say No

  1. Just say No
  2. Stop Looking For Drama
  3. Beware Of Taking On Extra Responsibility
  4. Make an “I won’t do” list

Practices: Say Yes

  1. Track your distractions
  2. Stay focused with a To Do list
  3. Make a “Big Rock” list
  4. Follow the 2-minute rule
  5. Try the Pomodoro Technique
  6. Make a list of questions

Practices: Control Your Physical Environment

  1. Find your Den of Productivity
  2. Eliminate distracting belongings
  3. Limit disruptive noise
  4. Listen to music
  5. Silence your phone

Practices: Control Your Digital Environment

  1. Close your email
  2. Leave social media
  3. Close your browser tabs
  4. Limit distractions from Slack
  5. Try an app blocker

Practices: Get Organized

  1. Make project documents

What do books say about distraction free work?

“You could try to pound your head against the wall and think of original ideas — or you can cheat by reading them in books.”
Patrick Collison

  1. “The Obstacle Is the Way” on handling distractions
  2. “The 4-Hour Workweek” on eliminating distractions