The Distraction Reaction

By Robert Goldman

May 21, 2020 5 min read

Remember when going to work meant you actually left your house?

Remember when you sat next to someone who wasn't your roommate, your spouse, your child or your doodle?

You tried to work, but it was impossible. You were constantly distracted by endless interruptions and meaningless conversations you simply had to overhear, all amid the cacophony of mumbles, bumbles, burps, sighs, curses and moans playing nonstop in the background.

How great was that?

But now you work from home, and all your annoying co-workers are working from their homes, too. It's a major downside of our new remote work style — if we want distractions, we have to invent them ourselves.

But, hey, maybe not everyone wants distractions.

Ashira Prossack, a writer for Forbes, sure doesn't. The workplace consultant recently published "6 Easy Ways to Overcome Work from Home Distractions." The article was clearly aimed at anyone who wanted to "overcome those distractions and take control of your work day."

For someone who wants to escape their workday, these ideas may be of limited interest, but here's what Prossack recommends for creating a distraction-free workplace, and here's what you can do to prevent it.

No. 1: "Stick to your regular work schedule."

If you want to replicate your "formerly normal working experience," keeping a familiar schedule and routine can help. If a "formerly normal working experience" is exactly what you want to avoid, consider switching it up. Sleep until noon, and spend the rest of the day tending to your sourdough starter. That starter is a major distraction. You created it, and now it demands constant attention and encouragement. It's your own personal Frankenstein monster, and, never forget, it's out to get you.

No. 2: "Put yourself in do not disturb mode."

Let the people you live with know when you want to be disturbed and when you don't. "You can use a simple red and green sign for do not disturb and available times," Prossack writes, "or you could also use a traffic light and add yellow as a 'if you really need me, I'm available' option."

This seems perfectly reasonable, though the difficulty of first stealing and then installing traffic lights in your kitchen, your study and your bedroom may seem challenging. On the positive side, when the police drive up, sirens screaming, to arrest you for vandalism, you've got a major distraction that will keep you from doing any work for three to five years, with good behavior.

No. 3: "Change your clothes."

To avoid distractions, you don't have to put on your work clothes. Instead, "Get dressed in something that's comfortable, but not what you'd wear to bed." If you are looking for distractions, wear your work clothes to bed, and when it's time to work, don't wear anything. You'll be amazed how many invitations you get to join Zoom meetings, mostly from certain nefarious but not uninteresting cults. If spending your day waiting for aliens to park their spaceship in your backyard isn't distracting, I don't know what is.

No. 4: "Plan and prepare your meals ahead of time."

Or don't. Keep nothing in the house except donuts — dozens and dozens of donuts. After a month or two, you'll be tired of donuts, and you can distract yourself by coming up with new recipes — Donuts a la King, Spicy Donut Wings and, my personal favorite, Barbecued Donuts. Bon appetit!

No. 5: "Turn off your phone notifications."

If you are trying to avoid distractions, "Simply put (your phone) on silent and leave it in another room." If you want distractions, buy an extra phone, or five. Answer every call, no matter whether you recognize the caller or not. You'll lose precious hours of work time learning about opportunities in penny stocks and the advantages of painting your house with mayonnaise. Just say, "Yes, tell me more," and you'll never get any work done, guaranteed.

No. 6: "Set timers."

The idea here is to set limits for nonwork distractions, like surfing the internet or watching your toenails grow. The timer idea is fine, but use it to set limits for the time you spend working. Working for more than 10 minutes at a time can be hazardous to your career. You might actually finish a project, and the boss would have no reason to keep you on the job.

If you're discouraged by your inability to create sufficient distractions to keep you from doing any work, consider all the precious work time you've wasted reading this column.

You're welcome.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: LUM3N at Pixabay

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