Traction or Distraction: 6 Ways to Stay Focused When No One is Looking

Parkinson’s law states that work tends to expand to fill the time allotted for it. 

People tend to overestimate what can be done in one year and to underestimate what can be done in five or ten years.

My favorite method of having my shit together is using a capture tool— can be a notes app or a physical notebook, I use both: capture every outstanding task that there is for you to do.

You can absolutely mix in personal errands like passing a bill or calling your mom. Life is holistic, and any time you move forward on having your personal life in order, you’re adding premium fuel to your productivity tank. 

I’m no good to anyone else if I’m not taking care of myself. And when they do get to see me I’m ripping them off giving a half ass experience of me with my mind on the crap I didn’t do.

The most useful muscle for you to develop in business and life is simply to do what you promise by when you say you will. But what about when no one is telling you what to do?  What if you have no one to promise anything to?

In my 23 years of working for myself, the hardest skill for me to master has been to be independently accountable to myself.

With no one to manage you, you’re constantly faced with the temptation to fuck around. With time and consistency, you can train yourself to be known as someone who completes things on time or in advance.

But don’t take my word for it… let my girl Marie break it down.

Traction or distraction: you get to choose from moment to moment

Most people agree that scrolling endlessly on social media is a huge distraction and time-suck. So it seems logical that we need to shut off our phones to be super productive, right? 

If you get sucked into scapegoating technology, you may miss discovering the real culprit of your time suck.

There’s actually a lot more going on under the hood when it comes to being distracted according to Nir Eyal, the author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

“To understand what is going on when we are distracted, we need to talk about triggers – stimuli that spur us into action or tell us to do something,” explains Eyal. “These come in two forms. External triggers come from the outside world – think pop-up notifications on your laptop. Internal triggers, like feeling bored or stressed, come from within.”

That’s why technology alone can’t be blamed for distraction. In reality, the root causes of distraction are internal.  At the root of distraction is always about escaping something uncomfortable.

There are hundreds of tools available to help you manage your time as an entrepreneur. Try some out and find the ones that work best for your unique situation. Below are my top six.

1. Document your habits for a week.

Most of our lives are on auto-pilot. Very rarely are we living into a created, unique experience. 

It takes 66 days for a habit to be cemented into your routines.

We structure our lives to avoid new, uncomfortable experiences. Thus we develop safe, predictable routines. 

Rarely do we sit down and examine our routines and practices and intentionally craft them with the objective of helping us THRIVE.

Change is always hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.

Robin  Sharma

Next time you notice yourself getting sidetracked, grab your capture tool (a pen and some paper, white board, notes app etc.) and write down what you are feeling and what situation triggered that feeling.

Triggers can either lead you down the path of traction or distraction. The former pulls us forward, triggering us to pursue our goals and ambitions. Distraction does the opposite; it drags us away from those goals.

After you’re aware of your triggers, you have more control over what allowing yourself to be distracted by and what happens next. You won’t be at the effect of a subconscious whim.

2. Create boundaries for self-care

Habitually prioritize taking care of yourself and never allow yourself to get exhausted.

Plan quality time for yourself. If you are not taking care of yourself, everything else will suffer. This means you will want to kick things off by setting aside enough time for

You’re never going to “get it all done.” So putting off self-care over work will only make you less effective and resentful.


  • sit-down meals
  • a good night’s sleep
  • hobbies
  • relationships

You need to be your own biggest advocate and clearly distinguish boundaries between work and a rich personal life that nourishes you.

If you work for 5 strong hours a day, don’t feel guilty taking time for yourself.

3. Evaluate your work space

Distraction is a often symptom of a dysfunctional work environment.  

If you’re working from home, carve out a space for yourself to work in peace.

4. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. By the yard, it’s hard.

We mostly procrastinate when what we are attempting to accomplish is unfamiliar and we have a fear of not getting it right. Or when we’ve set goals higher than we’ve ever achieved in the past. 

I’m not going to go outside without exercising for years and then try to run a marathon. Unrealistic goals, while they may seem “inspiring,” will actually hurt your chances of success.  

To keep up momentum, it’s important to set small, easily achievable measures to give you a sense of accomplishment. Breaking down work into 25 minute chuncks and setting a timer with an objective to focus on only one IMPORTANT task in those 25 minutes. Then take a break. And so on. It’s called the Pomodoro method. Create a bookmark for easy access to this free, effective tool.  


5. Secret games are seldom won

It’s lonely at the top, so you’ll need to rely on your community for support.

Give yourself deadlines and make them public.  Use social media to announce your goals.  

The American Society of Training and Development did this study. And they found that you have a 65% chance of completing a goal if you commit to someone.  If you have a specific accountability appointment with another person, this can actually increase your chances of success by up to 95%

Team up with another like-minded entrepreneur, or “accountabili-buddy” and have a weekly call to intentionally support each other.  

If your buddy knows what you’re up to, and next week you’ll be reporting back to them how it went, you’re more inclined to stick to your plan and do the damn thing.

If week after week you avoid completing one thing in particular,it’s time to delegate it or cross it off your list. 


6. Always answer your work calls

This one may seem basic, but it’s amazing to me how many professionals just neglect to answer their phone or return calls.

This is one good reason to have a separate public phone numer for your business if you’re a solopreneur working with a cell phone.

The ‘work call’ is the one distraction, or interruption I will allow with the exception of an unsolicited sales call.

The temptation to send calls to voice mail and just deal with them later is real. Unless you’ve ensconced yourself in a hyper-focused monk mode bubble– don’t get in the habit of putting off conversations.

The personal standard it took me years to foster is: if it’s a work-related call, pick up the phone.

Conversations make things happen, so every time a client calls, you should see it as an opportunity to strengthen the relationships upon which your business is built.

Make a habit of staying in communication, especially when someone is expecting something from you, no matter what it is. No matter how insignificant it may sound. If you told someone you’d do something, and fail to deliver, the thought of it will weigh on you as you try to accomplish anything

The energy it takes to avoid an unpleasant conversation slows you down and drains you. And it’s never as bad as you fear. 

So don’t be a saboteur. Have that conversation. 

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