Scroll to “YOUR ANTI-DISTRACTION RECIPE” to start beating distraction right this second.


1. a thing that prevents someone from concentrating on something else.
2. extreme agitation of the mind.

With a little help from my friends…

So I’ve been using this app, Fabulous (not an ad), and it’s all about using scientifically backed strategies to change its users’ mindsets. Whether it’s exercise, finances, or focus, the app’s notification schedule and level-up experience has been designed to keep building stamina.

I’ve been doing pretty well. I’ve basically ingrained the habits of sticking to my morning and afternoon routines, and am (fairly) gradually moving towards fixing my nighttime routine as well.

The most recent challenge I’ve decided to set myself on the app is to do with deep work.

For the unfamiliar, it’s a term coined by Cal Newport, who suggests that deep work will “make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship.”

Deep work requires the elimination of disruption, and essentially getting lost in the designated project for a specific amount of time – enough to burrow into your stores of inspiration so that you can produce something truly pride-inducing.

There are a few deep work duration options on the Fabulous app, so I’ve started with the 25-minute one. When you start a new challenge or journey, as they’re called, you receive letters along the way, giving you information about how to improve. The deep work letter focused on how distraction has become an addiction – we crave that hit of ‘newness’, but it means we’re left with a lot of unfinished tasks.

Um, this is me. And it’s possibly you, too. Something we may or may not have been lamenting for years, but feel helpless in stopping.

I decided to use the app for this issue today, as I’m behind on marking my students’ essays – I’ve honestly been absolutely dreading it. Yesterday, I managed one student before saying I’d had enough, and moved to watch Stepmom instead – granted, a movie I’ve been telling myself to watch for at least 10 years, so crossing that off my list was an achievement in itself.

Baby Liam Aiken as an aspiring magician was the greatest surprise, ever.

But today, I decided to set the timer and I did almost two whole sessions – marking 9 essays in about 45 minutes. Not too shabby. 5 minutes an essay, which was actually my goal.

I’m currently doing another focus session to work on this blog post – I used the first 30 minutes to work on my novel, and struggled with that, so am now on here, a place I have been wanting to populate with words for months since purchasing the damn thing but, alas, have not been able to follow through on.

There’s 26 minutes to go – I’ve set myself a full hour which, in hindsight, is probably not where my focus muscle is trained up to handle just yet – and I’m feeling it. I’m feeling the resistance.

Resistance, that old chum

In this moment, Zen Habits comes to mind. The War of Art, too. As I’ve spent more time reading the former (something I aim to rectify before the month is out), I’ll draw your attention to what Leo Babauta says.

He says we should sit with our feelings of resistance and respond to them with curiosity. What are the concrete feelings we’re experiencing, in this moment?

Well, for me, I feel a bit flighty in my chest – as though I don’t have time to waste on projects that will probably go nowhere. Namely my novel, and this blog. This isn’t how I feel about these projects, though, when I’m not in the arena trying to wrangle them into existence.

I also feel silly once I become conscious of my resistance – because 23 minutes left on the clock is not, in the grand scheme of things, a long time. It’s less than 2% of my day, and I’m struggling to stay here and will my brain into a creative state? The shame I feel in these moments has really, if you think about it, just become another opportunity to waste time and tread water instead of swimming towards my goals (an apt metaphor for an aquaphobe, but that’s another post).

Your anti-distraction recipe

So what we’re going to do to combat this ever-present threat of distraction and anti-productivity, Reader, right now – because yes, there’s no time like the present – is this:

  1. Decide on a project we want to work on for, say, 25 minutes.
  2. Think about the distractions we’re probably going to face. Come up with some solutions, and write them down.
  3. Put the solutions in place – be it removing yourself from chatty relatives, placing earbuds in your ears, taking deep breaths to calm yourself down, or putting the phone on Flight Mode.
  4. Place a notebook or piece of scrap paper by our work space.
  5. Set the timer, and some background sounds designed to help us focus.
  6. Start working.
  7. Every time we feel resistance: pause the timer, write down the timestamp, and just sit with the feelings, writing down any thoughts we have.
  8. When we’ve calmed them down, temporarily kept them at bay: reset the timer and keep working.
  9. Get to the end of the designated time frame and rate our session. Reflect. Two questions to consider:
    – Do I think I could handle this length of time again?
    – If I need to decrease the time, what would be more realistic in helping me develop a habit?
    – What obstacles might I be able to deal with better next session?
    It’s easier to get the habit going and THEN tweak the difficulty, not the other way around. For instance, I know that I won’t be setting my clock for a full hour next time. I’m not ready yet. It makes me dread the next time the app asks me to do it again.
  10. Repeat the next day. Go for the X effect. They say that if you have to do this at a stupidly low time frame for a while then that’s what you have to do, and I’m inclined to agree. I have whittled my attention span down so much, it’s affected the way I watch films. A lot of the time I avoid tasks of any nature due to how long I estimate they’ll take. This means missing a lot of opportunities for growth and progress, and that’s a problem, particularly when you have goals that require delayed gratification.

You did it!

So that’s it. You’ve just used 25 minutes of your day to prove to yourself you can get something – anything – done, without too much internal pressure. It’s great to have an ideal image in your head of who you’d like to be – 4 hour mega writing sessions are my dream – but you’ll never reach that utopia if you don’t accept your current state first. It sounds trite, but it really is the kindest and least energy-sapping thing you can do for yourself.

Let’s slowly get these systems in place, and start kicking our goals. I’ve got 17 minutes left on my clock. I’m going to go back and work on my novel.

What are you going to work on next? Let me know in the comments.