Why we like distractions

Just when it really matters and we should really do what we are about to do we are most vulnerable to distractions. How come? And what can we do about it?

Distractions allow us to delay the moment of truth where we need to show who we really are, what we can really do, where we need to expose ourselves, prove ourselves, and ultimately face the mirror of reality. That is why getting started with important matters is particularly hard. When we are about to do something that is important, we are most likely to procrastinate. So we don’t need to face others and ultimately ourselves. We procrastinate to protect ourselves.

We might get rejected. We might get no response. We might find out that we are not as great as we hope to be. And while we procrastinate, others advance. This is why it so hard to start with that novel, publish that blog post, make that call, or write that proposal.

The only way to fight that fear is focussing. Focussing no matter what. Focussing against all odds. Focus to get started, then get it done. Starting and finishing need courage. There is no app or tool that will give you courage. But there are environments that encourage distraction. And there are environments that encourage you to focus.

People ask us often “What good is that focused writing app you are obsessing about? There is nothing in there.” Precisely. Nothing but plain text. Because that is what you focus on when you write.

If you want to get things done, avoid excuses and focus. Focus on the job. Forget yourself. It’s not about you. It’s about getting the job done. Avoid busy apps, loud environments, distracting habits… and people that give you excuses to waste time.

It is less painful to underachieve when not really trying. You can then blame it on externalities. “It’s Facebook’s fault.” “I didn’t have enough time.” “It was just a try.” When it matters go with Master Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.” By cutting externalities from the start—those distractions—you’re forced to get it done. Once you’ve started, the hardest part is behind you. You build something, rework it, refine it. It gets better the more time, courage, and devotion you put in.

iA creates digital products. We run small design studios in Tokyo, Berlin, and Zurich that serve great clients around the globe. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive brief summaries of our articles and interviews.