One Distraction At A Time: Strategies That Work

Eliminate Distractions: 2 of 4

A messy desk is a distraction. Clean and organize it for greater focus and energy.

You have your list of the things you put up with: something that distracts you, diverts your attention, and robs you of time. (If you didn’t read the first post about distractions, you can read it here, and download the worksheet, What’s Bugging You, to use as you eliminate one distraction at a time.)

Did you notice a pattern on your list? Are you more inclined to be distracted by things, events, other people, or yourself? Is there one big thing, or a lot of little things of one type of distraction that, if eliminated, would free up the most time for you? You’ll benefit most by taking care of that (or those) first.

Step 2: Strategize

Step 1 was to create your list and become aware of the things that are robbing you of time. The next step in the process is to decide what you want instead of what you’re putting up with. Then to choose the strategy you’re going to use to eliminate or change it.

We use the D3 Rule to eliminate distractions: Do it, Delegate it, or Dump it. Sounds easy enough, sure, but it can be a challenge, especially when it comes to other people’s behavior. And each type of distraction requires its own strategy. Distractions regarding things and people each require a different approach, so let’s take them one at a time.


Things are usually the easiest type of distraction to eliminate. It can often be ‘fixed’ with either a repair or replacement (Do it). And that can be done by you or someone else (Delegate it).

The stacks of newspaper in the garage need to go to recycle, and the distraction is gone. Organize your desk and no more distractions. Change the burned-out light bulb, and the distraction and energy drain disappears.

The broken tile in the foyer, though, is going to require replacing the whole floor. You’re just not ready to invest in that. Instead, you accept that the time isn’t right for the repair, decide you’ll put it on the list for a future date, and move on (Dump it).

When I say Dump it, that means you let go of any energy drain you’re experiencing whenever you see the broken tile. Accepting that it’s not going to be fixed or resolved right away, and you’ve chosen that path, means you can let it go and not be distracted by it anymore. It’ll take some practice to let go, but you’ll have the skill mastered in less time than you think.

If, on the other hand, you find the broken tile still has a hold on you, you haven’t dumped it, and you’ll need to go back and decide how you’re going to handle it. Maybe finding a suitable replacement tile for the short term will do the trick until you’re ready to replace the entire floor.

Dumping means letting go; that there’s no energy loss or distraction for you around that item. This holds true no matter what type of distraction you’re eliminating.


We all get caught automatically saying yes when invited to events, both business and personal. Often we’d have preferred to say no.

I had a client, Betsy, who sat on the Board of Directors for a non-profit organization. She dreaded the meetings every month. Not only did she lose time for travel and the meeting itself, but she also lost time before the meeting. For two days before meetings, her attention was diverted by having to go to a meeting she hated, and she couldn’t focus on anything else.

Her choice was to step down from the Board (Dump it). It allowed her to reclaim 16 hours of her time every month. She no longer felt drained days before a meeting. Betsy reclaimed her time, and as a bonus, her sense of humor and purpose returned.

That’s not such an extreme example. It happens more often than you can imagine.

Do you have business events you’ve accepted invitations to but dread having to attend? (For me, it’s almost any networking event with a room full of people.) Often there are other people you could ask to go in your place (Delegate it). Your business will still have a presence at the event; it just doesn’t have to be you.

If you find it’s something you have to attend and can’t delegate, the strategy is to create a “game plan” for yourself to participate in the event without losing energy (Do it). You might plan on staying for only a specific amount of time. Or maybe only long enough to meet one or two new people. Who knows, you might find you’re enjoying yourself and stay for the entire event.

If dumping it is your chosen option, contact the event sponsor and have your name removed from the list of expected attendees. No explanations are needed, and you don’t have to justify yourself. You find you won’t be able to make the event is enough.

Ideally, of course, you learn not to accept invitations too quickly. Practice giving yourself time to consider whether it’s something you really want to do before you commit. A simple, “Let me get back to you on that” goes a long way.

Eliminate Distractions Part 3 deals with other people, perhaps the greatest challenge when eliminating distractions and tolerations.

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