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

Years ago, I had a coworker I’ll call Benny. He had 1,000 Facebook friends and injected himself into others’ drama. When colleagues asked for help, Benny would say, Sure, after I finish crafting this message of support for a Facebook friend. And dozens of friends needed “messages of support” every single day. Benny was a modern-day Mrs. Jellyby.

As a prank, someone changed the company network so that Facebook visits got forwarded to a Strawberry Shortcake website. Benny was furious. He worked, like never before, until he found a way to connect with his Facebook friends.

Long story short, Benny was wildly unproductive and didn’t last long at the company.

Personally, I’ve struggled not to get embroiled in my previous company’s rollercoaster: layoffs, an acquisition, and more layoffs. And 2020 has given me Covid-19 and a national election to worry over. These twin forces continually threaten to pull me into the maelstrom of Twitter “doom scrolling.” But I can’t do anything about any of these things, so it’s best not to get sucked in.

To be clear, you should take care of the people around you. Just don’t use others’ drama to distract yourself from work.

Take action: Limit the amount of drama you involve yourself in.

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