January 9, 2019 at 7:40 am #2316
There’s an old English idiom that reminds us of the consequences of doing things in the wrong order. It’s that we put the cart before the horse.
To modern ears, that may not make a lot of sense. That’s because most people don’t use a horse and cart anymore to transport their families or to go shopping. In the days before the automobile, this was common. People rode horses, or they used them to pull a wheeled container where they could sit, and where their purchases could be kept as they traveled from one location to another. If the distances were relatively short, then an open cart, called a trap, was used. For longer journeys, stagecoaches and covered wagons were the norm. (You’ll know this from all the Westerns you’ve watched.)
In every case, the horse was in front. It was always pulling; never pushing. The cart had value, but if it was in front of the horse, then no one went anywhere. Progress was only made when the horse and the cart were in their rightful place.
In business, your work is the horse and distractions are the cart. Distractions will always take you away from what you should be doing.
Often, they’ll consist of legitimate activities – things that you need, such as food, exercise, and rest; but if you do them at the wrong time, then you’ll diminish the likelihood that you’ll get your work done.
How can you get things in the right order?
By making distractions a reward. When you do that, you defeat their power. That’s because they are no longer taking you away from something.
When you’re distracted, you’re pulled from what you ought to be doing towards something else. But when the distraction becomes a reward, then the pull goes away.
Most people undervalue distractions. They tell themselves that their motives are wrong because they want to do something else. Doing so demonizes legitimate activities and makes you feel guilty when you engage in them. If you struggle to relax, for example, and you undervalue the need to go on vacation once in awhile, then you’ll not only find it hard to take time off, but you won’t be able to recharge your batteries while you’re away. That’s a recipe for a nervous breakdown. You aren’t invincible, and it’s foolhardy to pretend that you are.
The problem is not the distraction itself. Instead, it’s the timing of it. Any activity is a distraction when you do it at the wrong time. You could go so far as to say that if you’re working when you should be relaxing, then your work is a distraction.
Have you ever thought about it like that?
If you make your distractions into a reward – something you “get” to do when you’ve finished your work or whatever it is that you’re supposed to be doing, then you’ll make progress toward your goals and feel good about yourself as a result.
What cart gets ahead of your horse?
January 9, 2019 at 6:24 pm #2403
Dr Rick AllenParticipant
Interesting thought Bruce. I have a great deal of trouble taking time away from work (as I am supposed to be doing now)but have never given thought to work being the distraction. It seems I have not only had the cart before the horse but have insisted on pushing it uphill.
January 10, 2019 at 12:05 pm #2442
I struggle to relax, Rick, and I think that you’ll relate to this.
Apart from cycling, and I concentrate quite a bit even when I’m doing that, everything I enjoy doing when I’m not at work requires just as much brain power as the work itself. So when my brain is toast from work, I’m stuck. I don’t know what to do.
And it’s not like I can go to bed at 2:30 or 3 pm.
If you remember that a distraction is nothing more than something that draws you away from what you should be doing, then you’ll be fine.
The hard part will be deciding what you should do. Figure that out first.
January 10, 2019 at 12:37 pm #2452
Dr Rick AllenParticipant
Today’s MasterMind Call just added to my frustration (in a good way)Most all that I do is related to everything else in some way, so yes my mind seldom shuts down.
January 10, 2019 at 12:49 pm #2453
It’s probably counterintuitive, but it’s worth compartmentalizing your thoughts and activities as much as you can. By that I mean that you need to be able to switch off one thing you’re doing, and switch on 100% to something else. For one thing, you’ll do a better job on the task at hand, and for another you’ll be fresh when you come back to what you were working on before.
Cal Newport, who I’ve mentioned before, performs a short ritual at the end of his work day. He’s an IT professor, so you won’t be surprised when I tell you that his mantra is, “Shut down.” LOL
When he tells himself that – and I think it’s out loud – it’s a signal to his brain that work is finished for the day. You may find it beneficial to do something similar.
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