The Main Reason You Aren’t Writing? Probably Distraction

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It’s impossible to write well if you are distracted (says I, who is currently writing this while watching the subpar episode of The Office where Jim buys Pam a house).

Resisting distractions is hard and it saps our willpower. (That obviously explains why I ate three salted nut bars while writing this: no willpower left.)

So how do you get rid of the distractions, sit down to write (or read or whatever), and do it well?

(That last part about doing it well is key,  by the way. I’ve produced all kinds of garbage while watching TV. I’m not bragging; I’m confessing.)

I suggest we try creating environments where multitasking isn’t the default. We have to build space and time where distraction simply doesn’t enter the equation.

Easier said than done, of course, but I do have some strategies for doing that. You can read about what I’m trying to do in my article “Distraction Is Keeping You From Writing: Three Ways to Foster Deep Thinking and Improve Your Writing.”

Should you trust me? Probably not. I just paused to watch this video of babies talking to each other.

How do you build distraction-proof areas in your life?

 

Do You *Do* Productivity?

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I have a secret vice: It’s productivity self-help literature. I read everything about it because I secretly believe that there’s some elusive–but ultimately accessible–method for producing more and more and more and more.

I’m here to say there is definitely a method for producing more. In fact, there are many methods. It turns out they aren’t so elusive, nor are they particularly hard to implement. Many of them work very well.

But I recently realized I’m asking the wrong question. Yes, I can be more productive, but the bigger question is should I be more productive? And if so, at what? All work isn’t good work.

I wrote an article about my new anti-productivity mindset for The Ascent. Here’s a snippet:

When we talk about productivity, we lack the language to even interrogate the concept because we’ve built virtuousness right into the definition. We can’t examine, critique, or even question productivity without accidentally endorsing laziness, a cardinal sin in our culture. Questioning productivity is like trying to make an argument against generosity or kindness.

Anti-productivity is all about questioning what we are doing so that we can ensure we’re doing the right things.

What anti-productivity look like? Well, let’s talk about it. It’s about time.

The Toxic Workplace: When Work Blows

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Have you ever worked in a toxic workplace? In some cases, a single toxic person can make going to work every morning feel like descending into the depths of hell.

Did you know that incivility is the gateway to toxic culture? The uncivil behaviors that we all learn to live with–like the co-worker who is perpetually rude–build up and then create a culture that’s so toxic, nobody wants to stay in it. And those who do are burned out and do less work.

We’ve become inured to incivility because we just expect it. For instance, a million years ago, I worked in a shoe store on commission with a person who would tell customers that the rest of us were “new” and “didn’t know much.” She used that as a way to build her credibility so customers would ask for her. That’s incivility.

In another job, I had a senior co-worker who regularly asked me for personal favors (outside of work hours). If I said no to a request–like the time she asked me to take her to the airport at 4 am–she would pout and tell me that I “owed” her tasks at work to make up for this. That’s incivility.

A friend told me about a time she’d sent out an organization-wide email about the death of a colleague. She’d accidentally included a very small typo in the email that didn’t change the meaning of it. A co-worker called her and told her that she was unprofessional and should be ashamed of her shoddy work. That’s incivility.

So what can we do about incivility? We can kill it. We can refuse to stand for it. Here’s an article I wrote about how to do that.

What incivilities have you encountered? Have you been uncivil? (I admit that I’ve been guilty of incivilities.)