Silence the internal noise. (Don't let curious questions and future tasks derail current work.)

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Silence the internal noise

Before I write this, let me check if I got a response to my question yet.

Oh, and I needed to order more paper for the printer.

And there are those three unchecked boxes on my to-do list. They’ll only take me about five minutes each and they’re just nagging me!

Even if you use your calendar to schedule “focused time” to get your work done, you’ve certainly faced internal noise. You can shut your door, turn off your phone, close all messaging apps, and silence all notifications.

But you can’t silence the interrupts from your brain.

And here’s the lie: “If I don’t take care of them, I won’t be able to focus on the work I’m scheduled to do right now.”

I called it a lie, but it may actually be true for you. (It sometimes is for me.)

But it’s true only because I have behaved as if it is true.

When we willingly turn aside from our scheduled work to address internal distractions, we’re training ourselves to be even more distracted by them in the future. We feel the reward of a minor question answered, a minor task completed. And we condition our brains to need that reward.

And we start to crave that reward.

To reverse the trend demands discipline. And a strategy.

When I’m tempted to veer from my scheduled work, I have questions to ask myself:

1️⃣ Is it crucial to address this intruding question or task?

2️⃣ If it is, is addressing it right now more important than doing what I had said I would do?

3️⃣ If not, is it captured somewhere so I won’t forget it?

4️⃣ If not, can I capture it now?

Most intruding thoughts stop at question 1 or at question 3. Very rarely do I suddenly remember something crucial that must be done now. And most of the time, the things I need to do are captured somewhere.

I’m still learning to make those four questions a habit.

What’s your strategy?

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