Monday, September 13, 2010


There are two kinds of people in the world: those who get distracted from time to time, and those whose environment is unending distractions and interruptions. Either way, we all need to deal with distractions. Recently, the GTD (Getting Things Done) Virtual Study Group discussed distractions. Here are some ideas I picked up.

One of the fundamental ideas of GTD is getting everything out of your head. Internal distractions are nothing if not stuff that pops into your head. While washing the dishes or browsing the web don't seem like things you ought to put on a list, you can eliminate them as distractions by doing exactly that.

Interruptions (external distractions) come from emails, phone calls, or people showing up. Truthfully, this is your life showing up, just not at a convenient time. In such cases, you need to deal with both the activity that has been interrupted and the cause of the interruption. First, put what you were doing or a reminder of it somewhere you will come back to it. GTD suggests an Inbox when at your desk, a folder otherwise. Actions triggered by the interruption get noted, filed and processed the same way. Note cards you can keep in a stack are a good idea if you are on the move.

Sometimes, even with lists, you cannot get engaged in whatever you are supposed to be doing. This can mean you need focus at a different level. If you are unable to do something, maybe need to look at or update the plan. If planning isn't helping, consider your goal. If that doesn't help, should you be doing this at all?

The VSG comes with its share of geeks, myself included, and a couple geeky software ideas were also mentioned. One which works on both the PC and the Mac is Rescue Time at Since it records what is done when on your computer, it makes you aware of the distractions you yield to.

When all is said and done (or not), sometimes we just need a gentle nudge to get back into focus. Other times, you just need to shut up and get back to work.

For information about Getting Things Done, check out the book of the same title by David Allen. More information is available at The GTD Virtual Study Group holds periodic teleconferences which you can join live or hear on Podcasts at Further information is available on Facebook, Google Groups, or emailing Tara Robinson via

Jay Elkes

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