When Distraction is Good – O’Reilly Radar – Insight, analysis, and research about emerging technologies
Distraction is getting a bad name. This past month, I’ve been heads down on a few projects and noticing something I’d not been very conscious of before now. When I get “stuck” or when I reach a natural break point on a piece of work, the menu of potential distractions includes everything from email and telephone calls to getting food, socializing and more.I did an informal audit. Sometimes I would check email. Other times, I would pace, get a glass of iced-tea, or walk outside for a few minutes. When I did the latter — any activity that was quiet, reflective and receptive, I would feel refreshed. I was open to receiving an insight and to being in the moment. When I returned to the project that had momentarily stumped me, I would enjoy new energy. I started calling this receptive distraction. Receptive distraction is any sort of distraction that creates mental space.
When I went to email, however, I would “spin out.” That is, I would completely lose track of what I had been working on and get immersed in all sorts of other issues. I started calling this deceptive distraction. I thought I could take a short break and crank out a few emails, but it took longer to do the emails than I thought, and longer to get back into my project afterward.