Eliminate vs Manage Distractions

December 19, 2012 by John Andrew Williams

Eliminate comes from the Latin ex- which means out and limen which means doorway. Literally it means kicking whatever it is out of the doorway.

Manage is derived from the Latin manus which means hand. Managing is literally a hands-on approach.

The word distraction comes from dis which means away from and the root tractus which means to drag, and incidentally we have the word tractor which drags stuff.

In my own life I have two modes for dealing with distractions that drag me away from the work that I need to do. The first is managing them. I have to keep them at arms-length and deal with them at some point. This is only for distractions that are vital or necessary.

The second is to eliminate them. Put them on the other side of a doorway and shut the door.

I was working with a high school student who was a junior. He was struggling to get the grades he wanted. He was getting a 3.4 GPA but wanted a 3.75 GPA and wanted to know how to get better grades.

The ironic part was that the television wasn’t in the same room as his office, but his desk was situated so that he could still watch the television from the other room.



I was so impressed I wasn’t even mad. I was so amazed at the student’s ingenuity to stick to our guideline that we agreed on in his life coaching session – no tv on in the room while doing homework – yet still watching the tv.

Here’s the guideline I found works best in my own life and in the lives of the teenagers I coach: if the distraction isn’t critical – eliminate. Put it on the other side of a closed door.

If it’s sometimes critical – then manage.

It’s helpful to know what kind of distraction we’re dealing with and the options eliminate/manage. What are your top distractions? And how do you deal with them?

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