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

I want to discuss how we talk about distractions.

Specifically, I want to focus on how we use language to promote the idea that distractions just happen to us, and how we’re powerless to stop them.

Take this example sentence:

I got distracted by Reddit and lost a couple of hours.

This sentence implies that Reddit is a nefarious tempter who steals my time and attention. It pretends that I lack agency.

If I were completely honest with myself, I would re-write it as:

Reddit is way more interesting than my project for work. So I spent two hours looking at cute animals and arguing about politics.

The re-write makes it clear that distractions are something I seek out.

Take action: Employ language that puts you in the driver seat. Acknowledge that you choose how you spend your time and that distractions are something you look for.

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