I very recently arrived at the conclusion that distractions are a good thing. I am aware that this statement conflicts with the latest prevailing wisdom which admonishes multi-tasking, I nevertheless suggest that focused distraction can be very productive.
Let's assume I'm working on some business analysis. Sometimes the analysis is in response to a specific question, meaning that the analysis already has clear assumptions, objectives and desired results. I call this Type1 analysis, I’m merely validating what the requestor already feels or knows to be true. Sometimes this analysis automatically bubbles up to Type 2 analysis when my analysis proves the requestor’s assumptions were wrong – ouch. According to my spectrum then Type 3 analysis is white space analysis, there is no pre-determined outcome, no reconciliation, no fact finding mission. Type3 analysis starts with a blank sheet of paper. It is here (Type 3) where creativity and energy play heavily. It is here, ironically, where distractions, focused distractions, are vital.
So here I am with a blinking cursor, no direction. Where do I start? What do I have? I have questions. What else? I have data. Great, now what? It is at this particulate juncture that I noticed something peculiar – my mind started wondering. “Wonder if the US won...?” “Let’s check the blogosphere.” “I really enjoy writing, but when do I have the time to write?” “I should watch less TV, I could probably be more productive.” Here is where the focused of focused distraction comes into play. Instead of feeling guilty and admonishing myself for checking the news reels or blogs, I’ve begun, lately, to open a separate blank document and start writing or journaling about a topic or issue that’s of interest. Then, at some point during the writing or journaling, my mind will start to wander back to the business analysis. It’s crazy, I’m actually distracted from my distraction! The next thing I know I’m linking my analysis questions with the data and starting to construct a valuable piece of analysis. Best of all, the analytical side feeds off the creative side and vice versa; i.e. you need a disciplined, analytical approach to put together a cohesive, structured piece of writing just as much as you need creativity to find the correlation and interdependence between multi-variable pieces of business-specific data.
Some life improvement hacks call this right-brain, left-brain optimization. Some folks like to listen to classical music to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain; some like to exercise, while others simply get up and go for a chat by the water-cooler. I say embrace whatever distraction it takes to keep the creative and analytical juices flowing in tandem, so long as the distraction is constructive and of mutual benefit. Finally, I’d recommend giving yourself a time limit, even white space analysis has a deliverable.
What is the difference between being comfortable versus being complacent? I have no idea, so I challenge myself. Challenge my thinking, my parenting, my husband-ing; attempt to challenge my assumptions and my understanding of things. I won't get it right all the time so I welcome all constructive feedback. The goal? To "...be satisfied with life always but never with one's self." (George Jean Nathan)