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Eliminating Distractions is Easy.

OK, maybe it’s not “easy”, but there’s certainly no magic to it. Books upon volumes have been penned about this fairly straightforward topic; books full of hacks, wisdom and tricks that will help you maintain your focus and not get sidetracked. But I’ve got some news for you, Jack…

It’s entirely up to you. Anything that you allow into your peripheral vision while you’re hammering away on that big proposal is, yep, your fault. That said, it’s time for a little thing the Russians call “tough love”.

When people in this day and age refer to distractions, most of the time they’re talking about computer-related things. Mind-yankers like instant messaging applications, Facebook, your fantasy underwater basketweaving team, etc. You need to relegate things like this to your discretionary time (obviously). And if you want to remove them as distractions, you have to get freaking guerrilla about it. Removing them from your bookmark toolbar in Firefox isn’t going to cut it (as you probably already know), because the temptation is too great and the satisfaction is too immediately had.

One way that I’ve found is effective (for web-based distractions, at least) involves editing what’s called your hosts file. This file is pretty uniform across most computing platforms. I won’t go into the under-the-hood parts of doing this, because people smarter than me have already done so. Suffice it to say, this is pretty much as ninja as you can get for getting a handle on distracting websites, mostly because undoing it involves a not-so-simple series of very calculated steps. The idea is that because it’s not a super-simple system to circumvent, you’ll give yourself a few extra seconds to realize that you’re deliberately wasting time. Hopefully, that’s enough.

Now, for applications – instant messengers, games, and the like – uninstall them. If you can’t be trusted to leave Spider Solitaire alone for an entire morning at the office, get rid of it. Your cousin Timmy isn’t going to die if you don’t talk about the Sox game over AIM. Save that crap for when you get home and get back to work.

Ultimately, it comes down to a decision. Nobody is reaching across your desk and opening Yahoo Chess while you aren’t looking. If you want to get your attention back, you need to take charge. If, deep down in your soul, you don’t care about wasting time, then you’re probably not reading this anyway.

Come to think of it, you’d better be reading this over a nice single malt scotch at your desk at home :)

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