Blake Smith

create. code. learn.


the hard truth about distractions

We know that others can create distraction, but why are we so quick to point at others? It’s true, your coworkers can make too much noise, or interrupt you too many times, but this doesn’t seem to represent the more prevailing and more damaging case. This isn’t the primary reason for becoming distracted.

No, self-created distraction is usually what happens. We distract ourselves of our own free will. When a difficult problem arrises is our first reaction to sink our teeth in, or do we choose to be distracted? There is a brief and fearful moment that happens before starting a daunting task, where you only have a narrow window to decide how focused you’re going to be. The trajectory of the entire job depends on this decision. If we’re doing challenging work, these are choices we have to make constantly throughout our day.

When you do the quick flip to twitter or the quick flip to email in between thoughts you’re choosing to be distracted. You’re electing to let yourself not wrestle with the hard problems. This isn’t to say that twitter or email are bad. They’re terrific tools that connect us and make our lives better. What’s important to ask yourself is, Am I being intentional about this? Am I choosing to be distracted for a valid reason or an invalid reason? Am I trying to walk boldly towards the problem, or am I choosing to simply avoid it and be distracted?

It’s the scattered mind that has trouble working. These scattered distractions chop up your stream of thought into unsatisfying bite sized chunks. Hard problems don’t get solved in unfocused bite sized pieces. This is the enemy of serious work. This is the enemy of the programmer, the designer, the tester, and anyone doing work that requires serious focus.

It’s a decision you have to make. You have to be intentional about it. You have to want your work so much that you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone, embrace the silence, and create the work you were meant to do.

about the author

Blake Smith is a Principal Software Engineer at Sprout Social.