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PRODUCT.|PHILOSOPHY.|LIFE.

Interruptions and Distractions

When I sit down to work on difficult things, ones that involve dedicated focus and effort for an extended period of time (1-3 hours), or when I sit down to do something difficult like defining the plot of a book or thinking about the details of a product feature, there are two kinds of things that prevent me from doing my best work.

Interruptions and distractions.

For a long time, I used to think that the two are the same and was dealing with them in the same way. However, over time, I've realised that these are two very different things and need to be tackled differently.

Interruptions are external in nature - getting a notification on my phone or laptop while I'm working, someone walking over to my desk to ask me a question. While these are detrimental to focused work, these are easy to deal with. Most of the literature on the Internet is focused on dealing with interruptions. And this is something I do well. I don't have any notifications on my phone. I choose a silent spot where people can't reach me when I'm working on something that requires deep focus.

And that works well. It takes a little bit of practice, but it is quite easy to overcome interruptions.

However, overcoming distractions is an another story.

Distractions are internal in nature. It is the feeling in my head of wanting to check my phone or my email while I'm actively working on something. It is that wandering of the mind to topics that are not relevant to the task at hand while I'm working.

And dealing with distractions is not easy because I can't simply shut them off like notifications or run away from them like finding a silent spot where others can't reach me. Wherever I go, the distractions come with me because these are in my head. They are not removed from me.

Distractions arise for several reasons. We may be so used to being interrupted that we manufacture distractions when we don't have these interruptions. We may be working on something mentally taxing that the mind looks for an easy out to relax and seeks out a distraction.

Whatever the reason, it takes deliberate effort to train ourselves to overcome distractions.

One of the most effective ways I've found is through meditation. 🧘‍♀️

By spending twenty minutes everyday focusing on nothing but my own breathing, I train my mind to be comfortable being immersed in a single task, even when it is as mundane as breathing, and not seek out distractions.

Avoiding distractions is like physical fitness. If we don't work out regularly, we lose our fitness. But with a little effort and exercise everyday, we can make big improvements. 

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