This dog is the spitting image of our dog Bear, who (along with our two children) provides us with an endless string of distractions.

When you are working on a creative project, like writing a book, there are hundreds of ways to deal with distractions, and those fall roughly into three categories:

  • Moving towards
  • Holding steady
  • Moving away

1. Moving Towards

Just as in the meme about the stolen car, sometimes a distraction is really a warning that there are more important things at stake in the world outside your productivity bubble. Fire alarms and texts in ALL CAPS from your boss or clients fall into this category. Some distractions are best met by moving towards them, managing them, and then returning to the job at hand. You will return to your work with a clearer mind and make more headway than if you had tried to continue to write wondering if the house was on fire.

Whining children and lower-case texts from your boss or clients require more discernment. The key is to decide if moving towards the distraction is the right response. If so, take action decisively. Negotiate a win-win or at least a compromise, and return to work. It is the indecision that will burn through your resources faster than anything.

2. Holding Steady

Sometimes a distraction is an invitation to grow your concentration. Concentration is a muscle that grows stronger with use. Shinzen Young, the founder of Unified Mindfulness, speaks of distinguishing between foreground and background awareness. Allow the distraction to come to the foreground of your awareness…breathe and allow it to be without resisting the distraction. Then see if you can shift the distraction into the background while still maintaining a sense of non-resistance towards the distraction. This should free up enough of your attention to keep your work in the foreground and maintain your sanity. This is easier with the hum of an air conditioner than a barking dog, but with practice, you can grow your concentration skills.

3. Moving Away

Sometimes you just need peace and quiet. Shut the door. Put the noise-canceling headphones on. Move to the next room. Get in the car and drive somewhere else. For the sake of your sanity and your work, you need to move away from the distraction. The key (just as in Moving Towards) is to decide and act…and the sooner the better.


If you have any helpful ways of dealing with distractions, we would love to hear them. Please put them in the comments below.

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