How To Eliminate Distractions And Get Into The Zone

How to Eliminate Distractions and Get into the Zone

It’s really hard to be productive these days. We are constantly experiencing distractions throughout our day, which makes getting into the zone seem nearly impossible.

If it’s not one thing it’s another.

We have to deal with clients emailing us for status updates all day long. Our phone doesn’t stop ringing. And Facebook keeps letting us know that private messages and new posts are continuing to build up unchecked.

How do we navigate the age of distraction to improve productivity?

Well, it certainly isn’t easy, but it is possible if you are willing to focus, follow a few tips, and work hard to get and stay in the zone.


Use Time Blocking to Your Advantage

At this point, we all seem to have a huge to-do list that doesn’t seem to get any shorter.

Why drive yourself crazy with this massive list that you know you’re never going to get done?

Sometimes a to-do list isn’t enough. Instead, we have to begin focusing on a concept called time blocking.

By blocking out certain amounts of distraction free time, we are creating a guilt free, productivity driven environment during the day that will allow us to get into the zone.

How do I accomplish time blocking?

Well, grab your entire to-do list and add it to your digital calendar, time tracking software like ClockSpot, or physical date book if you haven’t fully embraced managing your day on the computer.

By adding this list to your calendar or favorite piece of software, you can literally have a date and time scheduled to work on each assigned project or to-do item.

By scheduling these tasks on your calendar, you will take it more seriously and you’ll work hard to get things done without being distracted.

So, if you really want to get into the zone, you need to stop checking email, turn off your phone, put your butt in your chair and get to work!


Focus on Your Most Important Tasks First

When you really think about it, we usually only have a couple of important tasks that we absolutely, positively, have to get done each day.

So it makes the most sense to focus on those tasks early so that we can get them done and out of the way.

By working on our most important tasks first, and making them a major priority, we realize that the only way to plow through these to-do list items and get them done is to turn off all of our distractions and allow ourselves to get into the zone.

When you start focusing on the most important tasks early in the day, you will see massive improvements in your overall work and personal life.

By taking care of everything that is important early, you will alleviate stress and have a lot more free time available to take care of the little things that we all need to get done during the day that always seem to take up so much of our daily calendar.

Do yourself a huge favor and create a distraction free environment, turn off the phone and email and social media sites, and focus on your most important tasks and get them out of your hair as quickly as possible at the beginning of the day.


Wrapping It Up

Unfortunately, we all have to deal with unexpected distractions throughout the day. This is unavoidable because customers, employers, our kids, our spouse or significant other, and anyone else you can think of are going to need our help.

That’s why it’s important to focus on the important things early and do your best to work in a distraction free environment by minimizing outside influences.


Copyright: pressmaster / 123RF Stock Photo

Author Bio

Wendy Dessler

Title: Super-Connector at OutreachMama Wendy is a super-connector with OutreachMama and Youth Noise NJ who helps businesses find their

audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition. You can contact her on Twitter.

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The Hundred Ruble Fallacy

Better a hundred friends than a hundred rubles — Russian Proverb

How do you respond on hearing this? Perhaps you accept it as obvious, perhaps you see it as profound. In my view, it represents flawed thinking. You may as well compare barometric pressure to hockey scores. 

On the surface, the proverb places more value on friendship than money, which in turn suggests that an exchange rate is possible. As I write this, the ruble is worth about 3 cents, so a hundred rubles would be worth a few dollars. If you dig back in history, a hundred rubles was worth several hundred dollars. Either way, putting a price on friendship makes no sense. 

Let’s step back from the literal meaning of the proverb, back from the idea that you could create a graph comparing friendship to finances. Shouldn’t we value friendship more than money? Won’t our lives be better and richer with a big address book than with a big bank account? Isn’t that what the proverb is trying to teach us?

Perhaps, but even then you are making a choice. If such choices are inevitable, it is easy to choose your friends over your bank book. But is it necessary to choose one over the other? If not, shouldn’t you plan to have both?  

In Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, T. Harv Eker points out that while poor people choose one thing or another, successful people look for ways to have both. Why should we choose between financial success and friendship? Shouldn’t our goal be both?

In a broader sense, perhaps the real measure of success is the number of different things we are successful at. Eker is correct and shows us the hundred ruble fallacy. Don’t settle for one or the other. Don’t even settle for both. When facing a choice, look for the way to have it all.  

Next Action

Look at the decisions you make with this mindset: how can I achieve all my goals, not choose between them? 

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Mooi and the Goose

Pet shops and shelters will tell you the same thing: most people looking for a pet cat have the same criteria.

  • Kitten
  • In good health
  • Short hair
  • Male

On this list, Mooi was zero for four. She was a lame, long haired, four year old female cat suffering from human neglect and blessed with a litter of her own kittens. By the time I saw her at a kill-free shelter, she had already been priced for quick turnover. 

Pound for pound, there is no animal on Earth more dangerous than a cat, but here too Mooi was well below standard. With both back paws crippled by a birth defect, it took real effort for her to hop up on my lap. She may have weighed six pounds soaking wet — fully grown she still looked like a kitten. You will never find a cat more gentle or more friendly. 

Moot liked fresh air, so most days I let her outside for a few minutes of supervised play. One day she rounded a blind corner and spotted a large goose in the far lawn. This led to a brief play in three parts, one for each perspective.

I saw a bird far larger than my pet, but it took me a moment to think what that might mean. Mooi, equally friendly and fearless, bounced forward as fast as her crippled back paws would permit. Fearing the worst, I started running after her. The goose, suddenly aware of being seen, leaped into the air and flew off, leaving us watching as it winged its way to a safer location.

I watched the goose fly off into the distance. Mooi sat back and did the same, probably wondering what all the fuss was about. 

There is always an opportunity to learn from those around us, and from time to time I recall the lesson I learned from my gentle little pet. Don’t be a goose. Never be afraid to make a friend.

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What Willpower Won’t Do

Happy New Year! When I checked my weight this morning, the scale reported 153.8 pounds. For my height of 5’9″, this maps to a body mass index of 22.7 — perfect according to even my fussy primary care doctor. Even better, I’ve maintained that weight since ending a diet that dropped 35 pounds in 2011-2012. What I realized this year is that back then, more by dumb luck than insight, is the master key to long term success.
Willpower won’t power long term success.

My Process

I started out with a two-step approach that did call for a lot of willpower. First, I cut from my meals (and my snacks) the items that were totally self-destructive. A burger, fries, and coke can provide 1700 calories in a meal. Replace that with a grilled chicken sandwich, a small salad and water and your calorie count is at most 600. I used willpower to make good choices until good choices became a habit.
The second key was exercise. For me, exercise is also a two-step process: first you take one step, then a second, and repeat five thousand times (for 10,000 steps). This also took willpower at first, but after a few weeks, it became a habit and finally I enjoyed it. If I miss a day now, I regret it. I also know that one hour at a fast food restaurant destroys several hours of exercise. Correct diet can help you lose weight, correct exercise will make you fit. If you want both, do both.
What I didn’t catch at the time was that over time I went from applying willpower to adopting healthy habits, and from there to craving them. The most effective rule I had was don’t drink your calories. Today, I’d say make a habit of not drinking your calories.

Switching from Willpower to Habit

When it comes to goals, willpower eventually loses to the power of won’t. Buddha said “In the confrontation between the rock and the stream the stream always wins, not because of strength but because of persistence.”
Willpower can’t last long enough to power persistence. It can power you long enough to reshape habits and habits are the tools of persistence. Make a New Year’s Resolution to change your habits and use your willpower to get the process started.
Be the stream. If you want help plotting the course of your stream, I can help.
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I think asking better questions is the third most useful thing you can do. Answering them is second, acting on the answers is first. Acting on ideas is on me and I don’t expect a book to do that. If as book offers specific ideas I can use I give it five stars. This book gets four because I find it difficult to implement the broad ideas it offers. 

I picked up the book because I heard Tim Ferriss interview the book’s coauthor, David Heinmeier Hansson. Hannson is better known as the inventor of the development framework *Ruby on Rails and the cocreator of Basecamp. The interview gives a glimpse of how Basecamp operates as a company.

If you want a book on business philosophy written by people who walk the talk, it would be difficult to find one with better credentials. Fried and Hannson live the ideas laid out in the book in their operation of Basecamp, where they apply the lessons daily. What lessons?

  •  Be proactive. 
  • Be economical. 
  • Don’t fall for excuses, especially your own.

The good news: the book is a collection of brief essays, all 1-3 pages long. You can read them at your convenience and in any order. The underlying messages are simple and clear.
The flip side: if you are looking for prescriptions or details, look elsewhere. This book is not procedural and doesn’t offer a recipe for success. The closest it comes to recommendations is advising you on what to not do:

  • Don’t but led what you don’t need.
  • Don’t hire people you don’t need.
  • Don’t borrow when you can avoid it.

One chapter I particularly liked was called Reasons to Quit. It offered a collection of several useful questions:

  • Why are you doing this?
  • What problem are you solving?
  • Is this actually useful?
  • Are you adding value? 
  • Will this change behavior?
  • Is there an easier way
  • What could you be doing instead?
  • Is it really worth it?

There are nuggets of wisdom here worth checking out.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson


1st Edition

ISBN-13: 978-0307463746, ISBN-10: 0307463745

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The time had come–the time to take charge of my weight, my health and my life. This was five years ago, October 2011, and I weighed about ten pounds less than I had a year earlier. Ten pounds is progress, but the goal was 40 and something new was clearly called for. I needed to recommit, to be persistent in achieving my goal.

“In the confrontation between the rock and the stream, the stream always wins,not because of strength, moy because of stremgth but because of persistence.” ~ The Buddah

I believe in persistence, but it was clear that I also needed to be consistent. I’m not an expert in health, diet, or exercise, but I do know a false choice when I see one and I was looking right at one.

The false choice: Do you want to lose weight or be fit?

Losing weight meant improving my diet. This would be simple because my diet was horrible. Improving fitness was equally simple because I was a die-hard Sofa Spud. Simple yes, easy not. I knew that the only reasonable choice was both. It was time for a plan.


four-levels-of-supportWhen it comes to weight control, there are four levels of support. When it comes to weight loss, there are four levels of support. As you work your way down the list, they bring in more expertise, more people, more resources and more expense. The key is to go down the list as far as you need and no more. I started by trying to figure out what I could by myself.

There are lots of books on the subject of weight loss, each offering its own spin. Each of them worked for someone, but each disagreed with the others. Failure rates were abysmal — my personal failure rate 100%. I decided to take the extreme common sense approach  I use for almost everything: first, get out of my own way — stop doing the stupid, goal destructive things guaranteed to produce failure.



My plan from 2011

Item 2 on my list, eliminate unhealthy snacks, is an implementation of the idea to stop doing stupid things. I balanced it with item 3, selecting smaller portions and better choices. Even in fast food restaurants, the choices you make can add up to hundreds of calories. I adopted a quote from Tony Robbins as a reminder.

“Nothing tastes as good as healthy, fit and vital feels.” ~ Anthony Robbins

I chose walking as my exercise of choice. I have never been an athlete and I enjoy walking. A friend inspired me with his own walking program, which included listening to audio books. My version of it included and eventually evolved into self-growth programs and podcasts.

Another key element of the plan was consistent measurement. I selected an app to measure walking distance, record the calories I ate, and track my weight. I directly addressed both sides of the false choice: weight and fitness.

The difference this time, not expressed in the plan, was to shift my lifestyle. The plan was to introduce walking as a daily habit to continue indefinitely and to permanently cut out the calorie-rich snacks and foods that had dominated my meals. So what happened? On the small scale, I missed my target. On the large scale, I achieved my goal.

Missing on the Small Scale    

You can see from the graph that I missed my target by either a few pounds or a few weeks–missing my goal on the small scale. On the larger scale, I brought my weight, my exercise and my eating under control and five years later I still do. The Buddah was right. The stream always wins.

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Why I Use Twitter

If you will permit an obscure StarTrek reference, Twitter has been the self-sealing stem bolt of social media apps–it seems like it should be useful but I didn’t really know what for. Now, perhaps, I have clue. Some of this is a bit technical, but if you hang on I will try to get you through safely.

Why Twitter Is Different

Facebook, LinkedIn and other applications create networks of two-way connections: mutual friendships, trusted connections, etc. By contrast, anyone can follow you on Twitter without your permission. Posting vacation photos on Facebook for your friends makes sense; why would this interest a stranger on Twitter? Even if it does, the 140 character limit is very limiting.

You can offer an ad for a product or service, butt this doesn’t seem like a good user case to me. Even on television, the programs attract the watchers, not the ads. You can point to an article or something to entertain, but where is the payoff? If you are building a brand this may be useful, but you need a lot of content and lots of followers. You can buy followers in quantity, but that doesn’t help either.

Why Not Buy Followers

Soon after you start a campaign on Twitter, someone may offer to sell you thousands of followers quickly at a rate of pennies per follower. This may seem like a good deal, especially compared to physical mail, but it isn’t.

Twitter makes it possible to generate huge numbers of dummy accounts that nobody uses our looks at. A computer script can create thousands of accounts and have them follow you with almost no personnel time. These are not engaged followers. They are computer generated robots that do nothing except attract money for the person running them.

Before we give up on the idea entirely, let’s assume this isn’t a complete fraud. Let’s assume that there is a real person owning the handle who might have an interest in your message. In that case you have another problem–the limited life of a tweet.

I just ran a quick search on the lifespan of a tweet. In this unscientific sampling, one source estimates 18 minutes, another 24. Unless a tweet is deliberately labeled for someone, the chance they will see it is vanishingly small. Twitter policy prohibits reposting the same tweet. Even is someone follows you and reads their feed every day your tweet may well have fallen out the bottom before it was seen.

What You Can Do

So, where does Twitter fit in the scheme of things? My latest thought is as a thank you, to acknowledge someone specific in a way that does some good.

For example, imagine I got value from a podcast I listened to. I can thank the podcast host publicly, include a link to the podcast for others, and provide benefit to all. Since the tweet has the Twitter handle for the host, it greatly increases the chance it will be seen. This increases the chance of retweets, which increases their visibility and yours.

The better you curate the interest of your twitter community, the stronger and more valuable it will become.

Nothing says thank you on Twitter better than a retweet. I think there is a difference between retweeting out of some obligation or agreement and sharing a tweet you find interesting. As your list of followers grows, you are creating a community connected by a common interest. The better you curate the interest of your twitter community, the stronger and more valuable it will become.

You can find more ideas in an interview Janna Yeshanova (@JannaYeshanova)  published with Twitter expert John Sparks (@IamJohnSparks) at

Jay Elkes shares ideas at and on Twitter as @jayelkes

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Rosalind Winton’s Link From The Past

My project to produce a movie from my book Love Is Never Past Tense led me to Stage 32, an online community of 500,000 creatives. When I started to engage with them, an editor invited me to write a…

Source: Rosalind Winton’s Link From The Past

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Raising Your Standards

Success is about staying consistent. Staying consistent is about standards. Poor standards limit success. If you raise your standards, you raise your consistency and your success–the triangle of success grows.

Darren Hardy recently posted a video with his thoughts on the value of consistency in achieving success. I think that ‘s only true if you can consistently raise your standards to their highest level. It is easy to be consistent at a level that doesn’t achieve success.

As a programmer, my first programs were good enough to meet my client’s requirements and my boss’s expectations. If I had stayed consistent at it, I would have achieved a limited version of success. Many of my peers did exactly that.

I started to recognize a model within the programs I wrote. I could copy a program that was already working, delete its unique features, replace other items in the original program with their analogs for the new one, and write the unique part of the new program. An inventory update program became the start of an accounts receivable update program. This cut my writing time in half and was f my standard practice for a while.

Then I realized that changing the “inventory” identifier to “account” added no value but introduced changes throughout my model. I could apply the changes consistently or eliminate the labels and make the code itself consistent. I did neither.

Instead, I eliminated the labels and pulled all the consistent code into a standardized set of modules. Then I built a new standard reference program to tie the pieces together in a standard way and built a utility to make changes needed in the reference program. This package became my new standard, and with it a complex update program became a consistently reproducible process anybody could use. I had a new standard, a new level of consistency, a new measure of success. Work that took weeks could be dome in minutes.

Hardy’s video refers to the familiar story of the tortoise and the hare. It is a great place to start. To that familiar race, let’s add a puppy, who at birth can barely move and needs his mother to survive. Day by day, his consistent growth makes him bigger, stronger, faster.

Success can be achieved by being consistent, but only if the level of consistency is high enough (a good enough standard) and you have enough time. A rabbit lives twelve years, a dog  twenty, a tortoise two hundred. How much time do you have for success? How long do you want it to take?

In our competitive world, yesterday’s high standard may be barely adequate today and irrelevant tomorrow. The world is littered with standards that have been made obsolete — VHS tapes and floppy disks being obvious examples. Continuous improvement needs to be a goal we aspire to even for our standards.

Continuous improvement needs to be a goal we aspire to even for our standards.

I was never an athlete as a child and spent most of my adult life as a couch potato. A few years ago, I changed my habits, raised my standards, and lost 35 pounds. They stay off because my new standard is high enough to maintain my weight. If I want more, I need to raise my standard. Perhaps you do too.

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The Greek king Sisyphus was punished for his hubris by being required to push a heavy boulder uphill, only to have it roll down the hill so he had to do it again and again. He had no choice. You and I do.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins discovered several differences which made companies great. One which you can do for yourself is to develop a stop doing list. We all do things that are counterproductive because we don’t know better. The stop doing list is for When we know better and combine to do then anyway out of habit

What we should stop doing is different for each person, but one indicator is to look for activity that is taxed and controlled. Here are some examples you can start with.

Stop Smoking

Smoking is overwhelmingly stupid on any level you want to consider. If you are smoking, it should be at the top of your stop doing list. Apart from well documented health risks,the direct cost of one pack a day is $2500 per year.

Stop Playing Lottery

If a lottery ticket is an occasional impulse buy, fine. No, not really, but I am more concerned about habitual purchases. A friend of mine’s parents put ten or twenty dollars a week into the lottery. They may have helped fund the state school system, but he is still funding his own way through college.

Watch Your Latte

In Automatic Millionaire, David Bach shows how a daily Latte over the length of a working life hanse huge impact on money available for savings and investment. The majority of that windfall comes from creating passive income opportunities from money not spent on coffee, but step one is curbing the habit itself. Substitute any recurring expense for coffee and do the math yourself.

Your Own Habits

Are you eating things you know you shouldn’t?

Are you wasting time on projects you don’t care about?

What are you doing that does not make sense?

Next Actions

Make a list of things you know you should stop doing, then develop a plan to stop doing them. Give yourself reasons to stop and develop ways of breaking the routines that are part of the habits. Worry about what you’ll do instead later. For now, think about what you should stop doing and how that alone can improve your life.

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