How To Avoid Distractions?

Written By John Sonmez

Avoiding distractions… How nice would it be if we had a magic pill that would do all the work for us, huh? Imagine if we could take a pill and get 100% focused all the time?

Well, due to the fact that it won't happen, we have to face the facts: distractions exist and we must learn how to deal with them. How can we make sure we will avoid distractions and focus on what we need to do? Is there a proper strategy that will make you more productive, ignoring the most distractions you could possibly ignore?

Watch this video and find out!

Transcript From The Video

John Sonmez: 

Hey, what's up? John Sonmez here from Today, I have a question about—what was it about? Oh, yeah. Oh, look at those waves over there, how to avoid distractions. That was pretty damn cheesy, but, you know, there we go. So this is from Shriharsh Amur, I think. I think that’s—I don’t know. Maybe I'm pronouncing it right, maybe I'm not. He says, “Hi, John. I'm a student and I take a lot of courses and also have to study. My day is very busy. So as soon as I get up, I plan my day.” That's good. “But almost everyday, something goes wrong and my plan doesn’t work out.” That happens to everyone. “My question to you is as you have experienced and as you are also very busy, how to not get distracted and do a lot of things in a short span of time?”

Well, listen. This is the magic pill that will solve everything in life. So you got a few things right here, which—I mean planning your day out when you wake up, that's good. It's even better if you can plan it the night before. Make sure when you do, you look at your calendar. Okay? This is one thing, a quick tip, is a lot of plan out their day and they don’t look at their calendar, which is kind of silly because if you got appointments, if you got meetings and you got stuff like that, you need to know that. It seems pretty obvious, but you can't assume you're going to have 8 hours to work in an 8-hour work day. You got to be realistic about that.

The second thing I would say in avoiding distractions is you got to assume that there's going to be distractions. There's going to be things. Now, it doesn’t mean that you accept defeat. It doesn’t mean that you say, “Oh, well. I guess I'm just going to get distracted.” No. You're going to hold the line, but you got to be practical and pragmatic at the same time. What that means is and I borrowed this—I've mentioned this book already today, I think, but it's called “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I think this is where this idea first came from, from Stephen Covey, and he talks about this idea of big rocks.

I think he gives this example of feeling a tube or a glass container with sand and then with smaller pebbles, and then bigger pebbles and the big pebbles don't fit, but then he does the opposite way where he puts the big rocks first and then the smaller pebbles and then the sand, and it all kind of fits in there. That's how you got to plan your day. That’s how you got to plan your life.

What is the big rock? What is the big thing that matters most? There's actually a good book that sort of talks about this. There're 2 books, actually. I get the 2 books confused, so I'll just talk about both of them. One of them is called Essentialism which you can check out here and the other one is called The One Thing. You can check out here. I think it's The One Thing, the author talks about this idea about essentially what is the one thing that you could do today that would make everything else either irrelevant or easier, or more effective. Okay? You got to figure out everyday, you need to have a big rock. What is the one thing that you need to accomplish that's going to move the ball forward? Yes, you've got this to do list. Yes, you've got all these stuff on there and you need to get that. Getting that stuff done is “important,” but, again, 7 habits will also help you with this about the four quadrants of determining what is urgent and important versus what's important or not urgent, and what is not important but is urgent and what is not important and not urgent. A lot of times we spend in stuff that's urgent but not important or even just not urgent and not important. That's just the stupid stuff. If you're thinking about these rocks and you're thinking about what's really important and what's really going to make the difference in your life, what's really going to make the difference in your career.

For example, I’ll give you an example. For me, I'm working on writing my new book. If you want to sign up to get free copies of the chapters when they're released on my blog, click here. It's called The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide. To me, that's what's going to move the ball forward more than anything else. Right? Well, there's 2 things. That's the number 1 and then number 2 is doing YouTube videos everyday because I'm trying to really grow the YouTube channel.

So I have 2 kinds of big rocks. I got 1 really big rock which is everyday I sit down, and the first thing that I do is I write about a thousand words, I write about for an hour in my book. That's my big rock. I get that done everyday and I do that first.

It doesn’t matter if other shit happens during the day because it's going to happen. It's going to distract me. It's going to cause problems but I've already gotten the big rock done so the ball is moving forward no matter what. I'm making progress in my life on the big important thing. The other thing that I do is the 2 YouTube videos today so that's always—I'm making progress everyday. I'm getting the book done. I'm getting the 2 YouTube videos, and so I'm definitely making progress, right?

Figure out, when you plan, figure out what are the big rocks and put that first and make that the very first thing that you do. I did this interview with Pinal Dave who owns a blog called It's a huge, huge blog. He said that everyday—and he's written a blogpost everyday for like the last, I want to say, is it 10 years? It's either 8 or 10 years. It's something like that. It's very, very long.

When I did this interview with him, you can check out the interview, it's in my course on How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer. I also have an interview with Bob Martin and Jeff Atwood, a bunch of really cool guys. In this interview, he said that what he does every morning is before he brushes his teeth in the morning, he writes his blogposts. He's not allowed to brush his teeth, not allowed to get rid of his stink breath, until he writes his blogpost. That's worked for him for like, what, 8 or 10 years or writing a blogpost every single day. He said he doesn’t go to bed at night and for some reason he missed it.

Do that. When you wake up in the morning, be like, “Okay. Whatever my big rock is, nothing is stopping me. I'm working on that first.” Then the other stuff is—you'll usually find that, you know, the 80/20 rule, that there's one thing, that big rock, that's going to give you 80% of the effectiveness or the value out of your life that's going to move the ball forward and the rest of it, that 20% is going to give you that 80% effectiveness. The rest of it is not so important. It's not that critical. It's not that critical if I miss answering emails for a day. It doesn’t really matter that much. If I miss writing my book even though it's not necessarily urgent, it's going to prevent me. In a year, it will have hurt. I wouldn’t have made the progress I need.

That's the first thing. The second thing I would say also is make sure that when you're planning your day, when you're planning out your schedule, that you put buffer time in there. I listened to this talk at this conference that I was speaking at. I think it was the Code Writers Workshop. This woman, I can't remember her name, but she was like—she was talking about being on time and being punctual. She said, “You can always be on time.” She said she uses buffers. She said there is no excuse for it. She says that you don’t want to show up too early, but what you do is wherever you're going, you show 30 minutes early and you have something you can do like your Kindle with you or emails you can answer on your phone, or something that you could do during that time so you're there already. So traffic, it doesn’t matter what traffic did, you're going to be there. You're 30 minutes early and you spend 20 minutes doing something. You're not just wasting the time, but you've planned—you've got activities for these buffer zones for when you have them like reading or something like that and being prepared for them. That was a brilliant suggestion, but you can do with your life, is you can plan out stuff. You got 8 hours in the day, don't book 8 hours. Are you crazy? How many times have you done that and it doesn’t work? Right? You're never going to get all that stuff done. Book like 6 hours. Start with 5 and put buffers in there, so that you've got that slack time in there. That's going to help you as much as possible. Then I think we could talk about this all day long, but I'll wrap it up here.

As far as avoiding the distractions, that's just a habit that you build. Actually, there's a video on How I Plan My Week. You can check it out here and I used to Pomodoro technique to avoid distractions, and I basically focus for 25-minute blocks at a time just focus on the one task. No interruptions. No distractions allowed. Developing that habit is what helps me to avoid distractions.

It's more critical that you figure out what the big rock is and get that done than it is that you like fill your day totally with productive stuff and don't get distracted. I mean you still want to do that, but first, in order of priority, first, figure out how to schedule your day so that you do get the big rock done first. Then work on setting up buffers so that you've actually got the time to get—that you're doing realistic planning because if you have an unrealistic goal, there's no better way to be demotivated than to have something that you know that you can accomplish an unrealistic goal. Then third, use something like the Pomodoro technique. Work on focus. Work on eliminating distractions as much as possible and developing that habit.

Some of you that are at the advanced level, you need to focus on the third one, on the focus. For most people, they can get more benefit out of 1, and 2 out of making the big rock and making the buffer time then they can add the third one. Once you've got those then bring the third one on.

I hope that answers your question and this is a good question. Distractions area always a problem even for me. I still have to work on this. I still have to focus. The battle is fought anew everyday. It doesn’t matter. You still have to bring your A game everyday. You're never going to get to this point where you're like, “Oh, I can just focus,” until they invent that miracle drug that just makes you super focused. I know some of you think you know what it is, but let's not even go there.

If you like this video, click the Subscribe button below. Focus, focus! Don't be distracted. Click the Subscribe button and on your 5-minute Pomodoro breaks, you can watch my videos so that you're not distracted. That's a good use to that 5-minute timer. That downtime when you show up for the meeting 30 minutes early, in your car for 20 minutes you can watch me rattle on. Talk to you next time. Take care.