Distraction from distraction by distraction

Ever Googled ‘dealing with distraction’? I just did: there are about 1,210,000 results. Actually, first of all, I Googled ‘distraction’ – 58.8 million results, in case you’re interested … but, sorry, that’s just a distraction from my point.

distraction from distraction by distraction ts eliot four quarters burnt norton

We can assume that lots of people search the internet looking for ways to deal with distraction. Several of my clients have talked to me about how to handle being distracted in the workplace or at home and we’ve found ways for them to combat the issue.

A client of mine – let’s call her Joanna – said something very interesting in one such session and I think it reveals something we’re not that keen on admitting about distraction.

‘I’m not even properly distracted,’ she said, ‘I’m distractified.’

‘You’re ‘distractified’? Tell me more about that,’ I asked, wondering what was coming next.

‘Oh, that’s just what I call it when I know that there’s nothing external getting in my way, it’s just me finding stuff to do so I don’t have to start the other thing. You know, like a sudden urge to tidy out the filing cabinet instead of writing up a performance review, or looking online for holidays instead of sending an email to my sister about why we’re not going to them for Christmas. That’s distractifying!’

With that one word, I think Joanna nailed what is possibly a major reason for distraction – we distract ourselves as an avoidance technique. I’m pretty certain that each of you reading this can think of at least one situation in which you’ve distractified yourself. Am I right?

This distractification – this intentional (although possibly subconscious) distraction – acts like a big fluffy blanket, protecting us from the task or situation we’d really rather avoid.

Why do we do it? All sorts of reasons: we may be scared, we may be unsure, we may be feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, or we may just be feeling a little bit lazy. The problem is that sooner or later, we’ll need to put down that comfort blanket and deal with the issue. So how do we do that?

I don’t think that there is just one answer to that question but here’s one idea: do a small task. If the issue you’re distracting yourself seems too big to tackle, just do a part of it. If it’s too scary to deal with, take one small step forward by speaking to someone else and enlisting their support. If you recognise you’re possibly being a bit lazy, try spending 15 minutes on the task and see what you manage to achieve.


Today’s pebble for your contemplation: are you distracting yourself from an issue or situation you need to tackle? What small task will you undertake this week to help you deal with it?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we can work together?

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