The Distracter Factor
By Mary Ann Bailey
Two of the most common complaints I hear from
my clients when they are having trouble accomplishing
goals are "I don't have enough time, and
I'm just too busy." Although there may
be some truth in these statements, I don't think
they adequately explain why people have difficulty
reaching their objectives. I believe that there
is something else that keeps us from achieving
what we want - and it is what I call the Distracter
The Distracter Factor comes in all shapes and
forms and its sole purpose is to do whatever
it takes to keep us distracted and diverted
from successfully reaching our goals. Some of
the more obvious strategies it employs are television,
video games, movies, and naps. How often have
you found yourself frittering away your time
watching TV, playing video games, or just "zzzing"
out on the couch?
Most of us, however, can recognize when we
are using these kinds of activities as an escape
or distraction from something more important
that we could, or should be, doing. But the
Distracter Factor can also employ more subtle
It can trick us into believing that busy work
is actually important work. It can lead us to
think that as long as we are doing things, we
must be accomplishing something valuable. It
doesn't matter that somewhere along the line
our attention has been diverted to less meaningful
tasks such as answering e-mails, browsing the
Internet, engaging in long-winded conversations,
or running unnecessary errands.
How often have you found yourself at the end
of the day wondering where all your time went
and why you haven't gotten more done on a specific
project? You know you were really busy, but
somehow the one goal or task that you really
wanted to get done somehow seems to have fallen
through the cracks, or has been the victim of
your distractions. This is the Distracter Factor
But the most toxic ramification of the Distracter
Factor is that it can lull us into accepting
the fact that we actually don't have the time
or energy to achieve our goals, and that what
we have accomplished is fine because we at least
gave it a good try. It gives us permission to
settle for less, to play small, and to sell
ourselves short - all under the guise that we
are working hard and doing the best we can.
So, how does one protect themselves from the
Distracter Factor? How can we make sure that
we are staying the course, focusing our time
and energies on our priorities and not getting
sidetracked by its diversionary tactics?
The following exercise offers one strategy
for managing distractions and accomplishing
Choose one thing you want to accomplish
in the day. Start with something small -
something that can be completed within 1-2
hours. Be very clear about what it is you
want to achieve. Write down your intention
and post it where you can see it.
Set a time schedule for accomplishing
this task. How long will this project take,
and exactly when during the day are you
going to do it?
Once you begin working on the task, observe
what happens. Where does your mind go? Where
do you see yourself getting distracted?
What other activities do you think about
doing? Where do you get off course?
When you find your attention being diverted
to other activities, gently bring yourself
back to the task at hand. If you honestly
need a break, then take 10-15 minutes and
give yourself permission to do something
totally different. It might be useful to
set a timer, so that you don't go past the
15 minutes. When the time is up, return
your attention fully to your task.
Repeat this exercise with other small
tasks. Observe your actions as a scientist.
Be objective, not judgmental. You will soon
see how you are using distractions to keep
you from reaching your goals and experiencing
true success. As you become more aware of
your distraction habits, try the exercise
with larger, more complicated tasks.
The important thing to remember is that the
Distracter Factor only has power when you are
not aware of its existence. Once you are able
to recognize the strategies it uses to divert
your attention, its power disappears because
you now have the ability to self-correct and
keep yourself on course until you reach your
Mary Ann Bailey, MC, is a
life coach who specializes in working with people
going through midlife career transitions. She
is also the author of the recently published
book, "Changing Course, Changing Careers".
Visit her website at www.baileycoaching.com
to read more of her articles and to learn how
coaching can help you make the changes you want
to make in your life.