Eliminate Distractions with a Distraction Inventory

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In a previous blog post, we discussed an approach to achieving laser-like focus on the things that matter most. But that’s only half the story.

The other half is eliminating the temptations and attention magnets that pull us away from what really matters. You know, the times when you go to look something up and see the trending headline and you figure it won’t hurt to check it out for a moment — and that moment turns into fifteen or twenty minutes. Or you plan to get started at a certain time, but then see the mess you’ve been meaning to clean up and decide now (on your way to scheduled work) would be a great time to clean it up and get the house in order. Or, while strolling innocently through the kitchen, you see those cookies staring you down. Or anything that diverts you from the important activity you planned.


Context for Eliminating Distractions

Let’s start out by recognizing that if you are not planning what the most important thing is to do and setting time for it, then you don’t even have a path for success identified. In this case, the distractions can’t even be recognized for what they are since they’re not pulling you off track — you never had a track to start with.

And your rudderless drift through life will deliver you precisely to a random destination of nobody’s choosing. Desired aspirational destinations require sacrifice and deliberate action. Transformational progress requires design and discipline.

But even if you do have a purpose and objective and have designed time to make it happen, you can still be thwarted by time trolls and diversion decoys.

And THAT is why you need to take a “Distraction Inventory”.

This is a process in which you identify the routine temptations that suck your most valuable resources — time and attention — away from the actions that will move your life forward.

Identify these time traps.

And kill them.

But these things are sneaky, and just sitting down to list them will leave most of them undiscovered. Some seem so harmless and insignificant. And many of your most frequent distractions will seem justified.

Some of these are still productive and worth doing. But they are NOT what you have prioritized and planned.

The true superpower is to do what you tell yourself you will do, consistently. Any of these temptations, if important enough, can be scheduled for a time of their own.

Show yourself the respect to fulfill the commitment you made to yourself for this instance and for this priority. It was prioritized and scheduled for a reason — a reason given a lot more thought and consideration than the random temptation that just popped up.

Prove to yourself you have the discipline to achieve big things, which requires follow-through on commitments to yourself. Build the skill, the muscle, to deliver on your own game plan.

Creating the Distraction Inventory

Since distractions are good at hiding themselves, create your “Distraction Inventory” in real-time as you uncover each of them throughout the day. If you start out keeping this list on a mobile device but end up not capturing them every time, then switch to keeping a pen and notepad by your side at all times. Yes, a paper notepad. It has to be quick and convenient.

Every single time you go to do something and get diverted, add that diversion to the written inventory on the notepad. All of them. Repeat intruders are entered each time, for each instance. Do this for at least a week. Two or three weeks is even better.

Then aggregate all of them into a digital tool of your choice. Here, each is listed only once with a number afterward for any repeat intruders — the number is the count of times it occurred in your tracking period.

Then organize them into categories to simplify and make interpreting them easier. The specific categories would depend on the list, but in general they could be categories such as “Work” distractions, “Health” distractions (for diet and fitness), “Family” distractions, and so forth. If you use the PPV system we’ve covered on this channel, your Pillars would be a good place to start for your categories.

List the distractions with the highest numbers (the most frequent intruders) at the top, so the worst ones are listed first.

Now you have clarity on the most egregious perpetrators. Now you can take control over these culprits who, until this point, have had control over you.

This is a moment of liberation.

Awareness is a big step toward a solution.

How to Use the Distraction Inventory

You can take many courses of action to terminate these guilty time bandits. I’ll name a few, but we’ll continue to explore more in-depth in future blog articles, newsletters, and videos.

In the PPV system’s “Daily Startup Routine”, each morning we identify not only our short priority To-Do list for the day but also a clearly defined “Not To-Do” list. This is a custom list for each day, based on the distractions that have been most harmful in the recent days. We define this list each morning to remind ourselves to be on the watch for them. And when you see them occur in your day, you recognize them for what they are. Refuse to do anything that day you have listed on your “Not To-Do” list.

Also, take your overall list and pin it somewhere highly visible in your workspace. Review it daily. Study it so often you memorize it. Soon alerts will go off in your head when ANY of them start occurring.

Remember that any of these can be scheduled if they too are important enough, but they are to be planned for their own time. They are not to take over time dedicated to other priorities in your life.

If after that you’re still struggling with them, raise the stakes. Set up consequences for each time you fall for one of these distractions. It could be a monetary expense you commit to incurring each time — such as donating a set amount of money to a family member or friend or charity. Or some other cost you impose upon yourself — such as push-ups or no Netflix time. It could also be a reward you give yourself when you go an entire day successfully avoiding your list of distractions. You get the idea. have someone close to help implement and dispense the reward and punishment.

Make it fun. Build accountability into your life.

This “Distraction Inventory” will take you a long way. It can radically change how you control your focus and attention in your day. Give it a try if you’re having a hard time with distractions, and just about all of us are.

The next level up from this is full-on Time Tracking, which we will explore in a future video.


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