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Much has been made of the Law of Attraction, the idea that what you think about enough will come true. I won't debate the pros and cons of this concept here, but there is a related topic that also deserves discussion: The law of distraction.
We hear about "don't text and drive," but what about the many ways modern living distracts us from reaching our goals and fulfilling our dreams?
Working as a business owner, my reputation is often based on whether I meet the deadlines of my clients. Why? Because what ultimately matters is whether the job is done, not that I "am doing" the work.
The same is true in our personal lives. We can work hard, but if we get distracted, we don't get stuff done. Dreams don't come true without pursuing them, and pursuit involves overcoming the obstacles that keep us from reaching our goals.
Whether your phone, a friend, or even a favorite show or video game, there is no end to distractions. Here are four methods I use to defend against distractions and focus on what matters most.
Method #1: Do the most important thing first.
When I go to bed at night, I end the day thinking about the most important thing that has to be finished the next day. If it's editing a book, it might be finishing chapter two. If it's a proposal, it might be to complete the first draft and send to client.
One of the quotes I have on my desk right now reads, "Done is better than perfect." If I wait until something is perfect, I will not finish. You may need to write these words where you can see them as well.
What gets attention gets done.
Method #2: Create your own urgency.
In school, you are conditioned to finish projects and papers according to deadlines created by your teachers. As adults, your boss may also provide deadlines. But in the rest of life, you are left to create your own list of what needs done and when.
- When and how often should I work out?
- What kind of budget should I have?
- Who should I date (or marry)?
- What career should I pursue?
- What should I be learning right now?
- When should I go to bed and wake up?
No one is going to tell you when to go to bed or when to set your alarm. You're not 10 years old anymore. You must determine your own priorities and put some steps in place to reach them.
Have trouble waking up? Set two alarms, including one across the room that requires you to get out of bed to turn it off. (I did this for years until I no longer needed it.)
And if needed, get some help in the process. A business coach, life coach, pastor, or friend can provide a level of accountability to better pursue goals and turn your questions into answers.
Method #3: Make your deadline earlier than the real deadline.
This was my number one advantage between grad school and my undergrad program. When I first began college, I simply turned in work when it was due.
But what about the times when I got sick, had to work, or a crashing computer deleted my assignment? I was late and lost points or had my work rejected.
In grad school, I decided to always make my due date at least one day before the real due date. Imagine the surprise when I turned in papers a day or two early for every assignment to my professors. This gave me an advantage over other students, allowing me to stand out from the crowd.
Plus, if I really did have a serious problem hitting a deadline, the professor would always give me the benefit of the doubt. Why? Because I typically turned in my work early.
The same works in life now. Turn in a project to your boss early and see what happens. Start setting your due dates a day earlier and discover how much more you can get done and how much lower your stress level is as a result.
Method #4: Being with the End in Mind
Stephen Covey popularized this idea, but the concept has existed for centuries. If I start each day asking myself, "How do I want my life to be remembered?" then it will change how I live today.
On a smaller scale, I can start a project with the end in mind. How should this proposal look when it's done? How many hours should be spent? I can work backwards from this point and schedule what needs done rather than being crunched to meet a deadline at the end.
It's up to you.
In the end, the law of distraction is up to you to defeat. Every Tweet, text, and notification, or every episode or game invite you can ignore to focus on what is most important in your life will help strengthen you as a person of purpose.
You can achieve your dreams, but dreams take work, including the work of avoiding distraction.