Scattering is wonderful. I have been scattering for the last 40 days or so (evidence: lack of regular posting to this blog). First, I threw myself into an unexpected short-term project. Loved it. Learned a lot, got to present to a brand new type of group. Felt great. Next, some new, great books have been coming out so I have been very happy to: order, break them out of the Amazon box on sight, and slip into my favorite chair and cut loose. Cutting loose is reading a few chapters and then racing to the appendix to see what books the author turned to to get the book done.  Ah, the discovery of a book (or two) I was unaware of so off I go to: order the book(s), breaking them out of the Amazon box (rushed shipping), etc.  Great times, the free reading process continues. Life can’t get any better.

Wait! Life can get better!  I decided that I wanted to get some other projects done and that would make my life better.  The only way I can get those things done is with regular, mainly daily work. One good life got remembered (my pleasurable free reading) and another (my projects) got forgotten and in fact, never got a chance to live. Off my path for 40 days. Not good.

All of this—the short-term project and the free reading—are all related to my target area  and that is where I was seduced. What could be wrong with working and studying in this area?  It’s not like being distracted by something totally unrelated to my field. What’s the big deal? Simple question (and answer) did this activity prevent you from working on your goals? Using another analogy, did eating 2,500 calories of fruit and vegetables keep you from your 1,800 a day calorie target? But fruits and vegetables are good for you, what could possibly be wrong with eating calories in excess of your diet target as long it is food that is good for you?

Handling Scatter Seductions

-Know that “good things” can knock you off your goal path as effectively as “bad things”.

-Build in time for the good things but keep them under control.  If you can’t get to them today, put them on the list to be looked at later. Put the stuff into a stack so you know they are waiting for later.

-Save the good things for quick, simple rewards for hitting regular small targets on your path.

-Book good things blocks that can be entire weekends, a week, a vacation, etc. Know that it is coming and enjoy the anticipation and, for heavens sake, don’t feel guilty when you are finally free to do it!

-Put out a clock if you are going to take a dip into the good stuff between working on your other goals. Decide upon a limit to the dip (i.e 1 hour only) and mind the clock and hold to your self promise.

-Look at your beliefs around: focus, scatter, productivity, goals, pushing yourself for greater skill, excellence, etc.

-Ask yourself frequently: Is this new interest/project/book/etc. really related to my goals?  Do I really have to pick it up now or can it wait?  What are the benefits of waiting on this scattering temptation?

2 thoughts on “The Seduction of Scattering

  1. So very pertinent for me right now. Thank you. I must say that I have learned a lot to help me improve my time management skills by using a time tracker app on my android phone (Gleeo). The fact that its on my phone means that I’ll actually use it and I don’t show it to anyone so I’m completely honest with myself. And, well, I’m horrified at how much time I waste and how much time I’m “scattering.”

  2. Great post….have to remind myself to stay on track all of the time. I also think that many creatives(artists) are abstract random in their learning styles which is part of the issue but also a strength in the way we put ideas together.

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