10 Distraction-Free Days – Part 1

Published November 18, 2009 in productivity - 1 Comments

10 Distraction-Free Days 1

Original image by santo rizzuto

I have a lot on my plate, right now. So much, in fact, that I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed these past few days and I found myself wasting time more often than not. To give my productivity a boost, I’m starting a simple 10-day challenge. In this first post, I describe the problem and how 10 distraction-free days can help me make good progress.

Too Much to Do

Maybe this kind of situation is familiar to you: I find myself facing such huge tasks that I don’t even know where to start. And it can feel like even if I start, I won’t ever get everything done anyway, so what’s the point? At least, that’s the excuse that pops up in my head every so often.

It reminds me of the (thankfully) long past times of having to prepare for a big exam on a subject I was no good at. Sitting in front of a pile of documents and books, knowing that I should read through all of them and process all of the contents, but not knowing where or how to begin felt very disheartening.

I am feeling the same way now, but it’s even worse because there are no deadlines and no exams. Since I am self-employed, there are no goals if I don’t set them myself and I am accountable to no one other than me.

Advanced Procrastination

While I am putting off the work I really should be doing, I’m not procrastinating in the usual, expected and easily identifiable ways. I have long eliminated the typical distractions that are most often the cause of putting things off: I don’t have a TV, I don’t have a Facebook account, I haven’t played any videogames in quite a long time, I don’t spend much time on twitter (as both of my followers can attest to…) and while I occasionally thumbs-up websites that I like with StumbleUpon, I rarely feel the urge to actually stumble the web for hours on end.

Reading that, it may seem like I must be the most productive person on the planet, but as it turns out, I have simply taken procrastination to the next level. I have the very bad habit of postponing work that is really relevant and important by working on things that are much less important (but easier).

For example, I find myself tweaking the design and performance of one of my websites every so often. Now, this really is something that needs doing. The website in question is currently much too slow to load and slightly ugly. I definitely need to fix that.
But not as much as I need to acquire new reseller contacts for my offline business. And certainly not as much as I need to get some shipping issues sorted out for that same business.

So, what I’m really doing is distracting myself from the big, important tasks, by fidgeting around with small, insignificant stuff.

The Challenge

I decided to start a small challenge to help me get back on track. 10 Distraction-Free Days goes like this:

  • Clear my desk and workspace and keep it completely clear for ten days.
  • Eliminate all of the “usual suspect” distractions for ten days.
  • Eliminate all of the “advanced procrastination” for ten days.

The first task is what I need to do to remove physical distractions surrounding me on my desk and in my office. This is something I’m doing as a bulk action today (I actually already started with this yesterday – there’s a lot of clearing up to be done). Once everything is cleared off, I will keep it that way for the duration of the challenge (hopefully longer).

The second point isn’t my main problem, but I still need to cut out some habits like hanging around in forums too often.

The third one is a bit tricky, but here’s the solution: Whatever I do must have a clear purpose and I need to know the outcome of what I’m doing. Instead of randomly working on something or other until I get fed up with it and move on to the next thing, I want to be clear about the goal of each action I take. Think of it as micro-goal-setting.

My intention is to spend the majority of each day working on my offline and online businesses. I will also keep up my exercise routine and I will keep doing blog-posts (but more deliberately than usual). When I am not working, I want to spend my time away from the computer. Reading, writing, setting my goals and other things can all be done offline.

I’ll post an update or two as the challenge is in progress and a final report once I’m done.

Okay, that’s all. I’m off to go be productive now.

  • Take the first step–no more, no less– and the next will be revealed. Remember this always and you will succeed. 🙂