I was just doing some work on a personal finance thing. I completed one part of the job and went to my email to finish it and saw another email at the top of my inbox about something else, I clicked on that email, started dealing with that, and almost forgot to finish off the personal finance thing. This happens all the time to me. I am so easily distracted.

I got rid of my desk phone in my USV office several years ago because I cannot sit in front of my computer when I am on a call in my office. I have to do my calls on my cell phone and walk around my office, look out the window, or something else or else I will get distracted.

I struggle with distraction big time. It’s not just the attention deficit kind of distraction I just talked about. Distraction crops up in other parts of my life. The Gotham Gal is constantly on me about being distracted in conversations with her. And she’s right to be on my case about that. If she was not, I would be even worse.

I’ve been working on this for much of my adult life. I’ve made progress but the distraction urge still is very much front and center in my psyche and my unconscious. I suspect this is something I will work on all my life.

Some things that have helped me are the aforementioned coaching by the Gotham Gal, yoga, meditation (which I have not yet made a staple in my life but I’m working on that), and a general self awareness of the problem and the need to take as many distractions away from me as possible when focus is required.

I know that I will get a lot of suggestions in the comments for software tools, workflow routines, and other self improvement techniques that have helped others deal with this problem. I will thank everyone in advance for those, but I will also say that I’ve tried all of that before. And tools and techniques haven’t really worked for me. I have found getting into the root causes and developing self awareness and more serenity in my life has worked a lot better.

But I’m still pretty bad. If you find yourself on the phone with me and I sound distracted, I probably am. And please feel free to call me out on it. I would appreciate that.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. Adrian Bye

    when we did your interview a few years ago you weren’t distracted at all. i remember you being extremely focused

    1. fredwilson

      a video camera is a very effective tool to get me to focus

      1. Adrian Bye

        i think what bothers me about this post is the emphasis on your weakness.i really believe in exceptionalism. i think the west has placed far too much stress on trying to make everyone “equal” rather than using our strengths to be great. you’ve obviously done well, quirks and all, and i bet they contributed massively to your succeedng.

        1. fredwilson

          it feels like something i need to work onif that is a weakness, so be it

        2. LE

          It also bothers other people. So that’s why it needs improvement. It’s not about trying to be perfect. (Same reason you shower, it’s not only for you..)

        3. LE

          Giving people passes for annoying behaviors and habits (because they exceed well in other areas) also leads to primadonnas whereby the whole shebang can come crashing down and impact innocent parties.

  2. Avi Deitcher

    Ironic that I was working on solving a product packaging issue when the email alert for this blog post popped in and distracted me. πŸ™‚

    1. fredwilson


  3. William Mougayar

    Let’s re-frame the question: Are you easily distracted, or easily bored?You need a high intensity of interest in order not to be distracted. I get easily bored with things that don’t challenge me. I hate routine tasks, but give me a difficult thing, and I’ll stick to it and focus on it. My biggest distraction is AVC.com

    1. Avi Deitcher

      Do I guess that you are the type who despises peeling potatoes, washing dishes or cleaning floors, because they are SO DAMNED BORING??

      1. William Mougayar

        not really πŸ™‚ Then the challenge becomes – peeling a “beautiful” potato, getting rid of that dirty “stubborn” spot, etc. There is a challenge in every boring task, if you can find it.

        1. Avi Deitcher

          Wish I could say the same. Next time you want a challenge, I have some dishes and potatoes waiting for you… πŸ™‚

          1. William Mougayar

            wait a minute….a spectacular dinner must come first.

          2. Avi Deitcher

            That is a challenge. I don’t live in TO, which means it would be a restaurant, so no dishes to wash. And if you came and visited my home outside of TLV, there is no way I would let a guest wash dishes!

        2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          My neighbours farm in the alps – Absence of crops (hills too steep) mean that winter fodder (hay) is a premium. So for summer exercise I help rake hay (manually). It is hard / repetitive / hot and uncomfortable (insects, twisted ankles, sunshine) But I disappear into a zone where I try to optimise hay gathered per unit effort but nonetheless try to keep work rate high (ish) . Taking this approach – thinking about the task at a meta level alleviates boredom and can lead to mastery.

          1. William Mougayar

            Yup.”Il n’y a pas de sots mΓ©tiers, il n’y a que de sottes gens.”

          2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Ohh – I like that – works with Questions and Answers too

          3. Donna Brewington White

            “There are no stupid jobs, there are only stupid people.”For the rest of us. πŸ™‚

          4. William Mougayar

            You seem to like that one. Add it to your french repertoire πŸ˜‰

          5. JLM

            .Repetitive manual labor of the mind numbing nature — shining shoes, shoveling snow, working in the yard, chopping firewood, painting — is a way for the mind to rest.This afternoon I am planting azaleas to fill in some barren spots. I have been husbanding this labor for two weeks.I could not think if I did not rest my mind and I could not think as well if I did not do manual labor that I can see a finished product and progress from.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          6. panterosa,

            Think with your hands and eyes.

          7. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I love this statement. Keeper.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        It’s not just the boring part — it’s the opportunity cost. What more profitable and productive thing could I be doing with this same time and effort? And since recreational activities are at a premium, what more enjoyable thing could I be doing?I am married to someone who relishes physical activity. He actually enjoys housework — thinks of it as an athletic event — which completely baffles me, and yet I am thankful every day for this. πŸ˜‰

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          “What more profitable and productive thing could I be doing with this same time and effort?” OMG, this is basically a running theme song in my mind at all times. Sometimes I have to force myself to just goof off!

          1. Donna Brewington White

            You’ve got it bad, girlfriend. Must be an entrepreneur.So my note to self (and to you) is to at least somewhat redefine profitable and productive. Well, the profitable part is harder to redefine if we are talking revenue — so at least the “productive” part.You could maybe talk me into redefining profitable– sort of.Maybe we need a club to help us do this.

          2. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Like a club over the head? Or a membership club? Heh πŸ™‚

          3. Donna Brewington White

            Initially, I was thinking the latter, but…

          4. Avi Deitcher

            Hit me over the head with that club!

        2. Avi Deitcher

          “opportunity cost”. Yes! It drives me bonkers that I am wasting time doing dishes and being bored.I can handle that I am reading Bernard Lewis on the world of Islam or perhaps John Keegan on military history. It may not be productive, but it is fascinating and expanding my mind. But dishes? Wasteful and boring!

      3. Matt A. Myers

        Am I odd if I enjoy those? I find it is however difficult to do those tasks when I’m not grounded.

        1. Avi Deitcher

          Of course you are odd! Everyone here is. It is just a question of how.I like to say that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who know they are crazy and those who think they are not. It is the latter that ends up attacking a Wal-Mart or post office….

    2. Anne Libby

      It’s not my biggest distraction, but thank you, William, for the reminder to logoff and get going!

    3. bsoist

      I’ve given @fredwilson:disqus a hard time on several occasions because some of his posts send me into a pit of obsessiveness. My fault, though – not his. πŸ™‚

    4. LE

      I don’t think “the problem” Fred describes is manifestation of boredom. I get bored very easily as well. But I have no problem holding it together and don’t even come close to what Fred describes above.

    5. awaldstein

      Nicely said.Need to add to that though that building a business is an endless string of tactics, often grating and mundane, that add up a smooth path interspersed by recalibrating our actions from the top.Entrepreneurs are as bottoms up as they can be.Investors are by trade top down.Only the well healed or extremely lucky–and certainly not the entrepreneur in build mode–has the luxury to only do what is of interest on any given day.

    6. Laura Dierks

      Ah, I was just thinking that, too! Here I am posting instead of working on what I’m supposed to be doing!

    7. Pete Griffiths

      There is a danger in reframing the question in this way. Parents frequently describe their brilliant child as being easily bored and not sufficiently challenged when the kid actually does have ADD.

      1. William Mougayar

        True. I’ve heard that.

  4. Anne Libby

    +1 to yoga and meditation.

    1. Avi Deitcher

      I am curious about the opposite extreme, sports (especially team sports) that require focus to succeed: hockey, basketball, etc. Anyone with distraction issues find those helpful?

      1. Anne Libby

        I actually don’t see those as the opposite extreme. I think they all ask you to make a clearer connection between what your mind and body are doing, to be a little bit more “there,” wherever you are.

        1. Avi Deitcher

          That is a very good point. I have a hard time with meditation, though. It requires internal focus. Sports use external stimuli and structures to assist.I wonder if different people respond differently.

          1. Anne Libby

            There’s a meme out there that everyone should be meditating. Like everything else, it’s not for everyone.

          2. Avi Deitcher

            Heavens no! I pray 3x a day and it is hard enough to focus there. Like @pointsnfigures, good physical activity does it. The moment my skates hit the ice, everything else melts away.

          3. Anne Libby

            Ah, are you the person I was talking with last year who (also) broke a bone skating? I met Andrew Kennedy a while back, and asked him if he had recovered — and it wasn’t him!If so, I hope you’re fully recovered.

          4. Avi Deitcher

            It was! I it is so kind of you to remember and ask.It took 6 weeks of a cast and a few months of physio, but by the summer I was running, skating and hiking in the Canadian Rockies.Does Andrew play hockey?

          5. Anne Libby

            No! I think I met him when I had was recovering from having broken my wrist (skating), and had confused him with you.

      2. pointsnfigures

        I love to shoot baskets. I could shoot and shoot by myself for hours. I love the feeling of the ball leaving my fingertips and the sound of the cord when it swishes through. When it clangs on the rim, it’s fun to run and try to tip it in. And yes, it does help focus. Bike riding by yourself will do that too.

        1. Avi Deitcher

          I would… if I didn’t keep missing! :-)Puck in the net is what does it for me.

          1. pointsnfigures

            if you were in Chicago I could teach you. I would have you hitting free throws like nobody’s business.

          2. Avi Deitcher

            Don’t get there much, but I will take you up on it. Gotta be able to play with my high school sons!

          3. pointsnfigures

            Lacing up my gym shoes

          4. LE

            My stepson has a hoop on his door at home. But when I am there he chokes up and consistently misses the basket. So I finally told him “ok the idea now is to miss but come close not to get it in the basket”. Magically his performance (without the pressure of sinking the basket) improved. He made 3 out of 3 and after that typically made at least one basket. (He always sinks when I am not there but not when I am there so by removing the pressure he was able to reattain his “skill”).

        2. JLM

          .Flying at 7,000′ headed east with a little tailwind completely unplugs your mind and while intellectually challenging — it is a mind cleanse.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. Richard

            I hope so! πŸ™‚

      3. Richard

        Yep, the heart trumps distraction almost everytime. Love of the sport, the team. But think distraction is a problem, try controlling your heart!!

  5. awaldstein

    You and I both.Read this on a cross country trip a week ago about meditation and how it quiets the noise in our heads and how it plays to a truly busy, forward looking life.http://www.amazon.com/10-Ha…Good read. Got me thinking. Determining my course of action–that is if I don’t get distracted.

  6. Elliott Hauser

    “I have found getting into the root causes and developing self awareness and more serenity in my life has worked a lot better.”+1. There’s no easy way out. I think our brains search for the most interesting things they can find. We can mitigate that a tad with more focus from meditation etc. but I’ve found working on the most interesting things you can find is a great natural method of focus. Sometimes it takes a reminder that a person or topic is fact interesting. If they’re not, that’s a root cause that should be addressed quickly.

  7. Steven Kane

    This seems like an interesting post. Will finish reading it later.

    1. fredwilson


    2. William Mougayar

      you nailed it.i hope i didn’t lose you there πŸ™‚

    3. Kathy Pappas

      That would be a procrastination , not a distraction πŸ™‚

    4. kenberger

      i answered along the same meme on yesterday’s post !

  8. Andy

    Just wait until you’re wearing an Apple Watch. Then you will be wearing your notifications and distractions.

    1. fredwilson

      i won’t be wearing one. i can assure you of that.

  9. Sean Sebastian

    OT: Fred, you might consider using your platform to comment on the etiquette of opt in/out inre newsletters, marketing stuff, etc. Every single day I have to unsubscribe to multiple pieces I never signed up for – super annoying!

  10. Marissa_NYx

    You sound apologetic for being yourself ! Do you know how well you engage & hold conversations and lines of thinking during public interviews? You look & sound so totally absorbed in the moment. The audience becomes captivated with how focussed you are in those interviews. As to everyday life , we all get bombarded with stimuli, social , millions of thoughts , interruptions, lots of threads & lots of conversation. It’s a miracle we get anything done at all . Welcome to the new normal. Fred, you’re great. Just as you are.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s nice of you to say but i will just remind you that what you see in public is not the same as what you see in private and the longer the relationship the more you notice some things

      1. Marissa_NYx

        Ok. Are you ok?

        1. fredwilson

          Yes. I am great. And thanks for asking

  11. michael

    Two quick ideas — being distracted means weak engagement. Managing engagement is a skill. Jim Loehr has some very good thoughts on how to do this better. Key point – our capacity to be engaged is a lot weaker than we might imagine. And anyway, engaging (as in a sport) and disengaging (via boredom) are based on framework decisions about how much we indulge our inner voices. That is why mindfulness training helps.

    1. fredwilson

      great comment!

    2. Jonathan Lee

      Would you mind sharing one of your favorite pieces from Jim Loehr on this topic?

      1. michael

        Jim’s main idea is that you can train your engagement cycles in ways that are similar to the way athletes train their bodies. He lays this out in his book “The Power of Full Engagement”. He also points out the danger of engaging too long without rest. Our infatuation with enhancing productivity pressures folks to do this and leads to burn out and distraction. There is a deeper line of thinking at work as well. Csikszentmihalyi first brought this out in his 1990 book “Flow”. He gets into how to build engagement via gamification as a life design skill set. It is a must read.

        1. pointsnfigures

          That point about engaging for too long without rest is really key. Thanks for the book title.

        2. Megs

          I also love his book Stress & Recovery: Important Keys to Engagement. His books are great! I have learned to practice Transcendental Meditation which really helps you be aware and focused and re-enforces Jim’s point in his books. Great post Fred! As someone who codes and is always distracted meditation and self-awareness are in fact the only ways I was able to focus, the ‘tools’ out there just got in the way to be honest.

        3. Donna Brewington White

          Thank you!

    3. meredithcollinzzz

      That’s very powerful! Resisting self-indulgence is a much more empowering and positive way to frame it than, say, keeping your nose to the grindstone! I’m going to use that! Thanks!…so, I guess I should stop indulging myself and get back to work then!

    4. Donna Brewington White

      So true. Even something as basic as “active listening” skills helps and also gives the mind something to do while still remaining present. Really engaging with people …and even activities (as opposed to being caught up in the mechanics rather than really processing and being attentive and aware) makes a huge difference in maintaining my humanity.It’s all about staying present. Living the moments. Easier said than done, though.

    5. FlavioGomes

      this is akin to forgetting names so easily….

  12. Tom Labus

    I need to be distracted to make good market decisions. If I focus straight on I stink at it but if I distract and divert my brain, I get good ideas

  13. JimHirshfield

    “…coaching by the Gotham Gal…” Is _that_ what she calls it?#Diplomacy

    1. fredwilson

      no. she has livelier words for it πŸ™‚

  14. LIAD

    Hey!Don’t Belittle It. Don’t Frame it Negatively.It’s not distraction!It’s (paraphrasing my old twitter bio) – endless curiosity, constant fascination, thirst for knowledge, preference for action, excitement for life.

  15. Guy Gamzu

    I have exactly the same issue, so I guess I am the last person on earth to give advice on how to change it. But I do ask myself why we take distraction as a negative? There are two types of distractions: the one which ‘compromises’ efficiency (maybe) and the one that compromises relationships. I’d work on the later only. The first one is part of our creativity and imagination, it is natural and fun, and it let us cruise between the quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix.

  16. Jonathan Lee

    I’ve found that taking 15 seconds to write down a desired outcome before I actually start to work on the computer has helped to improve my efficiency. I’m not certain that I get distracted less, but I redirect my actions and activities much quicker and have better outcomes because of it.I haven’t figured out how to apply this same technique to other areas of life; phone calls, conversations, meetings, but my computer time has definitely become more effective since I started using it.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s a good lifehack. i like it.

    2. bsoist

      Focus on the outcomes, then. Getting rid of every little distraction is not the point. Thanks for the tip.

    3. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      Brilliant – I also do this for EVERY meeting I attend – what is the miniumm beneficial outcome?, what is the dream outcome? – It tunes participation (even anecdotes) that are on point

    4. meredithcollinzzz

      This is also really good! I am so going to do it in about 90 seconds! I do a form of this for meetings and big projects, but makes sense to do it for more general tasks. I love to do research, but it can be a terrible time suck. If I define the desired outcome upfront, I can get a better sense of how much time (if any) is warranted for research. Thanks!

    5. Donna Brewington White

      Starting out in recruiting, when it was largely a dial for dollars exercise way back when, I was coached to write down the objective of my call and some points to cover before picking up the phone.

    6. Matt A. Myers

      Good exercise to get yourself into a zone.

  17. lisa hickey

    Here are some things that I have found helped extraordinarily well:”Hands Busy, Mind Free” — This is why walking around the room when you are talking on the phone helps you. (perhaps “feet busy, mind free” also works). It is also why, I bet, @wmoug:disqus likes peeling potatoes, some people are totally focused playing video games, or when I have a thorny problem to solve, I go on a bike ride.”Anxiety is worrying about the future” — An oversimplification: Anxiety is worrying about the future. Depression is focusing on the past. My guess is, you don’t even see yourself as particularly anxious—but you are very future-focused. Focusing on the future automatically gets you out of the present, and hence, more distractible. I would, however, ask yourself this—-is your focus on the future really something you want to change about yourself? My guess is not. So the question becomes — how can you still allow yourself to ruminate about the future, but decrease your anxiety when you do? I would allow yourself to tolerate a certain amount of distraction, and not let anxiety about the distractions distract you even further. Be present when you need to be. Be future-focused when you need to be. Internalize your recognition of the difference.”Conscious, deliberate distraction” — I find that when I am overwhelmed, I am more easily distracted. And when I am in state where I recognize being overwhelmed, I do this. I make a to-do list for one hour, broken up into 5 minute increments. That means I set a goal of doing 12 tasks in 1 hour. I list out every task, and keep one eye on the computer clock as I am working. Some are easy 5-minute tasks, some might be presentations or reports that I know will take me hours. But I only allow myself 5 minutes each before moving onto the next task. I find I can totally focus on *anything* for 5 minutes (and you’d be surprised at how much you can actually get done in 5 minutes with great focus). If, as I’m working on any one of those things I really get into the zone, and am truly and completely *un-distracted*, then I allow myself to finish the task. But as soon as I get distracted I have to move onto the next task on the list. At the end of the hour, I have made progress on 12 things that needed to be done (or one big task I had been putting off), and am almost 100% of the time feeling un-overwhelmed. (I realize this may not work for everyone, but it truly changed my life).

  18. JimHirshfield

    Are you any more distracted than your children? Curious if this is a “sign of the times” or “hereditary”

  19. David Feldt

    I would say that it’s a major strength. Don’t try to get rid of it. It defines you πŸ™‚

  20. Ronan Perceval

    Is this something that affects men more than women? Just wondering because my wife has just as much going on in her career/life as me but she doesn’t get distracted to nearly the same extent as I do.

  21. Colin Hu

    “If you want to abolish a habit, and its accumulated circumstances as well, you must grapple with the matter as earnestly as you would with a physical enemy. You must go into the encounter with all tenacity of determination, with all fierceness of resolveβ€”yea, even with a passion for success that may be called vindictive. No human enemy can be as insidious, so persevering, as unrelenting as an unfavorable habit. It never sleeps, it needs no rest. It is like a parasite that grows with the growth of the supporting body, and, like a parasite, it can best be killed by violent separation and crushing.”-The Power of Concentration by Theron Q. Dumont

  22. Erin

    Getting to the root cause of a distraction! Smart. There aren’t that many people who go that deep.

  23. panterosa,

    Have you read Flow? I’m reading it now and it lead me to this thought in my own work.If the time allowed for a task is misaligned then…too much time leaves room for restlessness, not enough time makes for frustration,and the right time brings satisfaction.It’s Goldielocks with a h/t to @bfeld on time chunking per task + concentration needed.Engagement fights restlessness, which fuels distraction (disengaging).

    1. fredwilson

      It’s at the top of my to read list

      1. bsoist

        Well worth reading. Your post about passion ( I think that was what you called it – the post with a pic of a 27 year old you ) reminded me of what I learned from this book.

      2. mobiusbobs

        I guess distractions are related to (lower) latent inhibition,”It is hypothesized that a low level of latent inhibition can cause either psychosis or a high level of creative achievement or both, which is usually dependent on the individual’s intelligence.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…

    2. awaldstein

      Just bought it–thanks.Honestly biggest distraction as a naturally born operator is having a startup in the house that is not my own. The energy becomes the pace of life and is smothering pieces of my own.Gonna either have to jump in or start something on my own again. Or both.

      1. panterosa,

        I hear you Arnold. The rhythms of activity are crucial to concentration. Remember that besides a startup (mine), I have a child in the house, the most effective distractors of all time.I’m really enjoying Flow. And reading it in tandem with a shrink to discuss behavior patterns of people, and the people around them, the internal and external struggles to control consciousness.

        1. awaldstein

          In the Kindle and will devour it next trip to the coast.More distracting to me to have the startup in the house that is not mine honestly. May potentially have to jump in.

    3. bsoist

      Great book. I put together a wild hack with cron and IFTTT to randomly remind me to record my flow number via SMS. I finally stopped it because it went haywire. πŸ™‚ I’ll have to dig it out and give it a shot again.

      1. panterosa,

        Sounds quite cool, when working!I have such high flow as an artist, and able to concentrate for hours on making, that the rest of work (managing) I find to be fast and choppy and much less satisfying. I know good managers like the flow of speed, it’s just I’m the opposite.

        1. bsoist

          I can relate. I have no problem focusing on some of the work I do. Unfortunately, there are other things I need to do from which I can be easily distracted.I can’t remember for sure, but I think I read about _Flow_ on Rohan’s blog.

  24. Ken Greenwood

    There is a concept called “Be Here Now.” It involves forms of meditation, so it looks like maybe some of your self-awareness (the first step) activity is on the right track.

  25. Guy Gamzu

    Funny. All the people who comment here emeead actually distracted from something else. Or maybe not. Who has a calendar entry to read Fred’s post?

  26. bsoist

    Self awareness is the all important first step! One can’t make any progress without a bit of self reflection – and it is so important to be aware of how our behavior affects others. My tendency to be distracted always bothered me, but I didn’t really start to address it until I picked up on how it affected my family.

    1. fredwilson


    2. Joe Cardillo

      The self awareness thing is big for me too. I think unhealthy distraction largely comes from when we think and feel outside of ourselves, in other words when we are not grounded. It’s also helped me a lot to get out of all or nothing thinking…making the best decisions and staying within myself is about momentum in the right areas (I think that’s a key that’s even less talked about than awareness).

      1. bsoist

        I will never forget the first time I read “integrity in the moment of choice” in one of Covey’s books. That’s the hard part, isn’t it. We can have all kinds of systems and hacks to make us more productive and less distracted, but when we sit down to do the work, we have to make the right decision at that moment.

        1. Joe Cardillo

          That’s a great phrase….and to your point, we are not safer because we figured something out. We are safer/happier because we were willing to engage in the figuring out, and continue to be.

        2. meredithcollinzzz

          Wow. This post is kinda making my head explode! Now, we’re bringing integrity into it! Very, very powerful. I will not forget that. Might even become my mantra. Thx.

          1. bsoist

            Hope it helps. According to Covey, the magic happens in that time between stimulus and response.

          2. meredithcollinzzz

            Yes, I guess you have to slip the “integrity” concept in there immediately following the “thrill” of a new email. Kind of like trying to remember that no matter how good bacon smells, I don’t want to eat nitrates. ;~)

    3. scott crawford

      Yep. Be here now.

    4. Kirsten Lambertsen

      “I didn’t really start to address it until I picked up on how it affected my family.” Me, too. Pretty humbling, actually.

  27. DCTech

    Distracted by Maggie Jackson is a good read on the topic.

  28. Paul Sanwald

    I also struggle with this. for me, it’s more about figuring out what environments I’m *not* distracted in. for me:- pair programming- solving very hard problem- on stage or gig playing music.- boxing (sparring)I think in a work context, pairing on a task is often a great antidote. I encourage everyone on my team to pair as much as they want to, and generally I find people that like it do really well with it, and get way more done than they would if they weren’t pairing. it’s not for everyone, though.

  29. JLM

    .In life, we often are tempted to focus on our perceived “weaknesses” in order to fix something we suspect needs fixing.In fact, the way to eliminate weaknesses is often to double down on our strengths and thereby starve out our blood supply to the temptations or weaknesses.What we feed thrives and what we starve dies.By this I mean do not work on your distraction tendency, reinforce your powers of concentration — which in my personal experience is simply being more disciplined about time management.For me, good time management entails not just the time but the task. I never really get more than six things done in a day. Took about 20 years to figure that out.So, I had To Do cards printed up with six lines (double lines so I could cheat) and every morning I identify what I hope to accomplish, prioritize them, budget the time for them.When something comes up that distracts me, I go jettison one of the magic six, substitute a new priority, set a time budget and voila. It forces me to be honest about the nature of the distraction or inflection point.I keep the cards which are blank on the back for notes. I can thereby see my tendencies over time.I tried mediation and was not good at it. I think I had a bias against it and I confirmed my own bias. Thinking, just garden variety thinking — most importantly in a place where I am super comfortable like floating in the pool — has worked wonders.I believe that people think way less than they think they do. If one were to catalog your periods of pure thought I suspect it is minutes per day and some days not a single minute.As to our vices — if they are legal, there is only the problem of how much is both enough and too much? Feed your vices in order to control their virulence. An unfed vice becomes an explosion and an explosion creates damage. A pinch of vice is a good thing.Fred Wilson’s discipline in writing this blog every day regardless of where he is located is not the work of a guy who has a huge level of distraction. On the contrary, it is evidence of an extraordinary level of focus and concentration.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. lisa hickey

      Two real gems here: “It forces me to be honest about the nature of the distraction” and “people think way less than they think they do”. On the second point, I believe it is ‘thinking which leads to actual actions’ that is in short supply.

      1. JLM

        .Thinking is an individual activity. Writing it down is documentation.Discussing it with others is deliberation. Made even more powerful when the other folks have also done some thinking.When entities formally engage in “group think” it is brainstorming. Companies and co-founders do not do enough brainstorming. There is a little technique at work here.What we think about, we speak about. What we speak about becomes the foundation for what we do. What we do defines our and the world’s future.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. karen_e

      Mark Twain helps us aim for two things before we graduate to six: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

      1. karen_e

        (This version sounds more delectably like the real Twain: β€œIf you know you have to swallow a frog, swallow it first thing in the morning. If there are two frogs, swallow the big one first.”)

        1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          Brought up on a mixed diet of Tom, Huck and some Kipling to balance.Thank you – Will use these.

    3. LE

      Fred Wilson’s discipline in writing this blog every day regardless of where he is located is not the work of a guy who has a huge level of distraction. On the contrary, it is evidence of an extraordinary level of focus and concentration.I disagree. My ddx for Fred’s behavior is that he is fulfilling an addiction as he gets reinforced by writing the blog everyday. Perhaps at the start (prior to fulfillment) he exhibited discipline in writing everyday. But that is not what keeps it going now. Or for this length of time.After all, I don’t claim that I comment on AVC because I am so disciplined (which I am). I do it because it has become somewhat of an addiction and I get rewarded by writing and reacting to things that others say. That’s the core and it’s really that simple.

      1. JLM

        .Discipline and addictions are bedfellows and they are both symptoms and behaviors.Discipline drives us to do the right things in, hopefully, the right way. Addictions may be the result of that same discipline.Like going to the gym to workout becomes, literally, a physical addiction.I actually wrote about that today. Entrepreneurs become addicted to the mojo of the startup world.http://themusingsofthebigre…JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    4. Guest

      1. JLM

        .It is remarkable the amount of stuff that was so damn “important” that left undone and aged well becomes totally irrelevant.I am, at times, ashamed of things I thought to be important.But then you have gray hair and whiskers, no? And we have been to the rodeo more than once.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    5. Donna Brewington White

      Great advice.”Garden variety thinking.” Love it! Real thinking though, productive, not just the mind wandering from thought to thought. Right?

      1. JLM

        .The wandering mind — the Facebook brand of thinking — is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the focused, orderly, microscopic, focused thinking that leafs through issue after issue and doesn’t move on until the topic is exhausted.I do it floating in my pool in the sun.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  30. mikenolan99

    Dr. Jules (my wife of 27 years) calls me out on the phone thing all the time… she calls it my “shiny object disease.”Walking and talking on the phone works best for me as well… as well as a clean desk. At least what is in front of me. The credenza behind me is a mess.

  31. Jon Michael Miles

    Hypnosis – a relaxed focused hyper-learning state.I have been reading AVC for at least five years and benefited from it enormously. I always hope to contribute and make a point of interacting. This is something I can actually say I can help with.My wife and I are both Certified Hypnotherapists and our clients love it and live by it.First, let’s briefly dispel and explain. Hypnotists break down into two types. Stage and Therapist. Stage is for comedic effect. Hypnotherapists, or as we call it, “Trance Based Learning” is person centric therapy and is designed to help rewire the sub-conscious mind for better living.The notion of the “sub-conscious mind” of course is a fiction. It’s made up. But it’s a useful metaphor that represents everything that is outside your current awareness. And that’s often what is driving behavior we say we want to change.Second, one thing I’ve come to understand is that all problems, are in effect the same problem. Once you get at that, the entire ecology of a person changes to their benefit. Symptoms are usually a vector of another issue, but they are also a way in so that’s good.Third, all behavior has a positive intent. Repeat -all behavior hashttp://twodragons.com/hypno…

    1. JLM

      .”…you cannot remove something with logic that wasn’t put there with logic…”This is the key to most things that really get under one’s skin like PTSD. Logic doesn’t work because it was not the result of logic.Well played!JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Jon Michael Miles

        Exactly. Behavior is rooted in emotion. That’s how you have to get at it.

  32. karen_e

    This seems like an extension of your recent beach post. It was good to hear you made a lot of time for yoga in LA.

  33. pointsnfigures

    Me too. (and me too with my wife). I resemble this post. I wonder if it goes to the core of the male ego to always want to “fix” things. Remember a counselor told me once that in his experience when he speaks with men, they want to be people of action. They want to fix stuff. Women talk more, and they tend to talk about ideas out loud several times, in several ways. But, they don’t necessarily want any action-it’s their way of sorting the idea out. He was a marriage counselor and this communication gap was a source of friction in relationships.Ironically, Soundcloud has been a total lifesaver for me. I turn it on, plug my headphones in, and turn off Twitter, email, messages etc and focus. It also helped me a lot to go to a co-work space (Nextspace.us) and just hang. It helps I am there with people I don’t know-because I stay focused. If I try to work at home-or in a place that everyone is familiar with me I get distracted.Sometimes it’s best to take a deep breath and just let it be. But I hate that frigging red dot with a number in it. I have a compulsion to get it to go away. But that distracts me!

    1. bsoist

      You know you can turn those red dots off, right? :)RE: always want to “fix” thingsWow! Do I struggle with that! I think I’m an excellent husband ( and if Terri were here, she’d agree – I swear ), but I interrupt her a lot because of my “I figured it out, let’s do this” personality. I don’t do it nearly as much as I used to, but it still happens – and I hate it.

  34. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Did you ever reach a destination and forget your journey as the driver of a car. If so you are experienced and normal. Our subconscious can regulate tedious physical task while remaining alert to threat (the child that chases the ball into the street).However,when in “autonomous mode” and we are expected to produce non-routine outputs from non-threatening inputs we all fail. – Gotham Gal bad date night with FredHint Fred – You need to avoid these !However the VC angle is interesting – In your case Fred I guess you could look at my company perfomance, sales channel and metrics in “autonomous mode” and speak sense while thinking about where to take Gotham Gal to Dinner, but would you see opportunity and would you lean in if you did (is big opportunity routine)?So what does that mean to someone who has to pitch a seasoned VC…An experienced VC will filter a pitch as Yes/No/Maybe with a low false positive but high false negative score. ( I do not expect investment from any particular VC but in general I expect rejections to be for poor reasons). Fortunately all VCs are not required only a select handful !A) Negatives (reject funding / stay in touch ) 1) False negatives – rejection for the wrong reasons (probably common) – Time constraints2) True negatives – Good reasons for not offering a term sheet – Essential BS filterB) Positives / Take another meeting (real interest)1) True positives are possible (but lead to work) and may lead to unicorns2) False Positives also possible (investments that go sour) – FOMO / Me TooThe interesting thing is that a “follow investor” is far more likely to have false positives and false negatives (precisely because they do not know a good thing when they see it. – They have not developed pitch “auto-pilot” and cannot because they assess risk/ opportunity on the wrong basisFor this reason I would want a very sceptical, contrarian investor – And THIS means someone who can lean in and focus *when they know they need to” but for much of the time may be a bit absent and possibly an occasional pain in the arse.It is notable that good university Tutors and great thinkers are often like this.

  35. Brandon G. Donnelly

    i think a lot more people are struggling with distraction these days. i’m starting to operate (on both desktop and mobile) with no notifications on — not even vibrations. i just can’t focus with constant interruption. managing the firehose has become important for me.at the same time, in some office environments, it’s hard to manage the people firehose. so many times i go to close down my computer at the end of the day and i find a few half written emails that never got finished because i was pulled away from my desk.

  36. someone

    one of the few advantages of wearing glasses is that I can reduce distraction by taking them off. I usually do this when I’m on the phone; otherwise, like you, I’m drawn to this email or that tweet or whatever.

  37. leigh

    I realized the other day when i was trying to write a client strategy, that i was being interrupted every five minutes. Something that should have taken me an hour to think about and move on from, wasn’t done after an entire morning. I have now put a notice on my door — working will be available to speak to you @ x time. It has helped immensely. Of course, it doesn’t stop me from reading my email, noticing an AVC blog post and coming here to write this. #babysteps

  38. mitmads

    Self-Enquiry may help. Here are the basics – http://www.happinessofbeing…. (Note: Lots of technical terms there. Take them out and still you’ll get a good framework). And if you want further details that site should have tons of materials.(Long time reader, first time commenter)

  39. Robert Heiblim

    A very modern problem I think many struggle with Fred. You are far from alone

  40. LE

    I have to do my calls on my cell phone and walk around my office, look out the window, or something else or else I will get distracted.For me it’s the exact opposite. I have to be at the “command center” in order to be able to type, take notes, verify information or get ideas. Even when the accountant called earlier and I was not in front of the computer I told him I would call him back when I was.

  41. LE

    the aforementioned coaching by the Gotham Gal, yogaSomehow I suspect that it comes across more like exasperation than coaching.

  42. LE

    And please feel free to call me out on it. I would appreciate that.What exactly is that going to do? [1] You just wrote an entire blog post saying that you know you have this problem and have struggled for years and haven’t been able to do anything about it.[1] Will make the person being dissed feel better obviously, that’s about it.

  43. LE

    Explains part of the reason that Gotham Gal gets annoyed when people approach both of you at restaurants. That would be independently annoying to many people (me included) but especially given your admission of “the problem”.By the way a salesman who had “the problem” once asked me to go to lunch. I almost turned him down because I was so sure he would get distracted and be looking at his cell phone and answering calls during lunch. Because he had done that other times when not at lunch. I was quite surprised to see that he held it together the entire lunch. I’m guessing he turned off the cell phone knowing that he had “the problem”. Good thing because I had already preplanned to bolt at the first sign that he took a call and said “this is important”. Short leash. That’s what Gotham Gal should do with you.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s what i’m afraid she will do! πŸ™‚

      1. LE

        I actually came –> <— this close to sending her an email with the suggestion. It’s actually not a bad strategy in general for women to follow with men on a wide variety of issues.On the opposite side, when I was going through my divorce, my wife was flipping out at my lawyer in a meeting (you know like she did with me).So the divorce lawyer (35 years in practice thousands of cases) gets up from the conference room table and simply walks out.No problems after that.Thesis: On an emotional level people are like animals and sometimes have to be treated that way.

  44. Laura Yecies

    Allowing yourself to be distracted, e.g. by the email v. personal finance is learned/practiced. When you resist that and practice focus that is learned and reinforced for the positive.

  45. ShanaC

    This sounds like me – sometimes the distraction, I realize, is emotionally driven, and figuring out what are the underlying emotions driving the need to be distracted helps kill the distractibility.Also, putting the phones elsewhere πŸ™‚

  46. riemannzeta

    What seems to me to be the smallest, simplest way to improve focus in a moment is to hold your breath for a moment or breathe out more slowly.Doesn’t even take the five minutes that meditation takes. Just catch your breath for a few seconds and then let it out.

    1. fredwilson

      yup. i do that a lot and it really helps

  47. Semil Shah

    When we had our long lunch last month, you didn’t seem distracted at all. I think you checked your phone at the end to see where your conference was. Thanks for that.

    1. fredwilson

      i’m good at that. meetings, lunches, anything f2f for the most part.it’s when i am alone with technology that the problems happen

      1. LE

        You had mentioned that when you are on the phone you need to walk around the office or you get distracted. You might also try putting on eye shades if you are at your desk.http://bucky.com/sleep-eye-

      2. Semil Shah

        I’ve been using “Clear” for iOS/Mac as a colorful, dead simple to do — I make sure to do one task, then “clear it,” then be diverted, and get ready for the next. Good music, helps, too.

  48. Francois Royer Mireault

    For someone who writes a ~500 words blog post everyday, you don’t seem to easily distracted and are probably in the top 1% of focused persons on this planet.I think the one thing that helps me is to think that focus or attention is like a muscle and can be trained. I like to think that whenever I go on a long stretch of uninterrupted work, it’s not only good for the work itself, but for my attention muscle. Like hitting the gym.This is a good book about focus.http://www.amazon.com/Focus

  49. Kim Nicol

    Presence takes practice. No one enjoys being with a distracted person — it just feels bad. Having someone’s full attention and presence feels like love, and connection.

    1. LE

      feels like love, and connectionExactly. Which is why people who are distracted bother me so much. Dates back to childhood and dad. It’s a hot button for sure. I would add to “love and connection” also “important”. (Meaning you are not important..) Hard to believe that people who are so easily distracted wouldn’t hold it together if the party that they were with was important enough, right?

      1. Kim Nicol

        Kids are the best at raising awareness of when we’re distracted πŸ™‚ They are super aware of when they have less than your full attention. I think, though, that most people aren’t being distracted *on purpose* — it’s often a habitual way of being. Which is to say: though it feels personal, don’t take it personally.

        1. LE

          Which is to say: though it feels personal, don’t take it personally.I think that’s difficult simply because it’s a “built in” of human nature. Almost like blinking when someone motions toward your eye.

          1. Kim Nicol

            Yes, it may be our default setting — we humans are wired for story-making, and creating meaning out of experience, and especially as children we often co-relate things that aren’t quite so.Example: We don’t receive the full attention of a parent, and we experience this as, “This person doesn’t love me, because if they did, they would give me their attention, because that is what one does for someone who is important and beloved.” It’s rarely even an articulate thought, more like absorbed as a deep cultural norm. And, perhaps it is more accurate that the person doesn’t give full attention — not because of how they feel about you — but because they simply don’t know how. Or their mind is heavy with worry they cannot see past.We build meaning using the perspective we have at the time, and it makes perfect sense as we work to order our world and understand the levers and forces within it.And so — we do have this reflex, as you say.And yet — we do have this ability to raise our awareness, to shift our perspective, to consider that perhaps it has been a terrific misunderstanding.This is the freedom, the liberation, that comes from meditation and mindfulness practice. The ability to see the same things in a new way — which changes everything. It gives you room to choose new meaning, to see new possibility.This is what Viktor Frankl points to in his observation:”Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”When we build our awareness — our mindfulness — we increase our ability to see that space. And in so doing, grant new freedoms to our selves.

          2. LE

            And, perhaps it is more accurate that the person doesn’t give full attention — not because of how they feel about you — but because they simply don’t know how. Or their mind is heavy with worry they cannot see past.Well but we know that if something or someone really important was in front of them they would focus, right?So what we are saying is I want to be that important to you. A women wants to be more important than “the game” and so on. [1]And yet — we do have this ability to raise our awareness, to shift our perspective, to consider that perhaps it has been a terrific misunderstanding.That is correct of course you can numb yourself to the “pain” if you want to call it that but then that also enables the other person and actually makes them behave more the same way. That is the slippery slope as I see it.Of course in some cases it does pay to do that. Years ago someone in the same business neighborhood “screwed” me out of a deal. I made a conscious effort to not care that he did that. You know why? Because if I didn’t I figured I would have to pass him on the street for the next “n” years and have to look the other way. So I ignored it and forgot. And it was a good strategy because I did pass him on the street the other day and didn’t have to look the other way and/or feel uncomfortable. The ability to see the same things in a new way — which changes everything. It gives you room to choose new meaning, to see new possibility.Exactly. I call this “perspective”. That is one of the benefits to listening to the wisdom of older people or to those that have gone before you. They can tell you things that bother you and things that you think are important aren’t important and to not be bothered by them. And sometimes that type of help, if you want to call it that, actually works.”Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”Fwiw my father survived the camps. Much of the comments I make on AVC (not sure how long you have been around here) are from things that I learned or observed as a result of his experience there. Not things he told me (he didn’t really talk about it) but the way he operated and acted and so on.[1] For example my wife is very very occasionally short with me. Always when she is under a great deal of stress . However it’s so infrequent it doesn’t bother me. But I’ve had the same exact behavior bother me greatly in people who do it more frequently. Because I can’t keep giving them a pass and getting treated that way when there is the appropriate amount of positive interactions.

      2. Kim Nicol

        Also – people love the way they know how to love. This includes parents. They love they way they know how to love – not necessarily the way one wishes to be loved.

    2. andrew thomas

      I agree presence takes practice. I think Fred is on the right track with self awareness and meditation. The book, “The power of now”, has helped me to be more mindful. If you find it too spiritual or hokey.. I suggest “The inner game of tennis”

      1. Kim Nicol

        Yeah, meditation is a great way to strengthen one’s mindfulness muscle. I tell my students — there are LOTS of ways to meditate, so it’s ok if an approach or technique or tradition doesn’t work for you. You’ve got to test drive this stuff, figure out what works. Saying you meditate is like saying you exercise, or eat breakfast — it really doesn’t give you any info πŸ™‚ Lots of ways to do it.

  50. Donna Brewington White

    I find that I too am easily distracted to a point.As a student I took copious notes to help keep my attention focused on the lecture and I find myself also typing notes on the computer during calls.What I was not aware of prior to marriage was what my husband refers to as the tunnel. I get so focused that I just disappear into a zone and time stands still. I have stayed up all night working on things and it can be exhilarating. This is what I have had to learn to become aware of. And to choose that focus rather than to be overcome by it. Any problem has the potential to draw me in and I must resist that siren lure.I know, typical unmedicated ADD.

  51. kenberger

    aha- headfake noted with this post: the naming pattern turns out not as D*ation, it’s now D*tion, or maybe even further globalized. Maybe it’s just D*.If so, too many d-words sometimes associated with venture capital come to mind that aren’t so polite in mixed company πŸ˜‰

  52. kirklove

    You may be one of the most easily distracted people I have ever met. You’re also one of the most curious. A definite corollary there.

    1. fredwilson

      cause and effect. which is which?

      1. kirklove

        Continuous loop rather than bilateral.

        1. fredwilson


  53. Nick Grossman

    I’ve been doing mindfulness practice w a therapist for the past 9 months and it has really helped me with this issue.the tools & techniques can help, but I’ve found that mindfulness practice + meditation helps bring a meta awareness which can be a really strong foundation for working on this

  54. Charlie Graham

    First things first. I noticed all of your posts this week are Single D-words. Did I miss the theme and does that mean next week is going to have posts like “Engagement”, “Exercise”, “Experiment”, “Equality”, and “Epiphany”?Second – and more relative to this post – I have the same problem. You mentioned you wanted the “core reason.” A lot of the comments here have focused on boredom. I don’t think that’s the case. For me, a key trigger for my habit of distraction is not boredom but the craving to be “up-to-date” or in-the-know on all important issues. For example, I am most likely to get distracted if I feel like this is a chance a new email arrived (or news appeared) with important information that I need to know right away. This is exasperated by all of the notifications I get. When I see “2 new” by my email, I know there is something new and am eager to find out if it is something I need to act on right away. Almost always the answer is no, but since there is a chance I might need to do something, I always have to look.So for me the solution has been two things;1) make it harder to get triggered about information that is not urgent like turn off your Internet. (You are doing this by walking away from your computer). Then it is at least not as top of mind and feels like “work” to check.2) Have a trusted system to get alerted if something really urgent comes along. (I.e. keep text messaging alerts on and have your wife or co-workers or whoever text you URGENT if it is something needed right away.). For me this takes away the craving since I know anything else I come across will be non-urgent.It’s tough and I am still so bad at getting distracted – but when I really need to focus I do those two things and it generally works pretty well.

    1. fredwilson

      i decided to write posts this week about topics that start with D and end with tion

      1. Charlie Graham

        Ah. I missed the “ion.” Love the self-imposed constraint. Definitely encourages you to be creative and probably easier to start writing as well. Maybe a good future blog post topic?

        1. fredwilson

          i came up with it two blog posts in, while i was thinking about what to write weds morning and noticed the similarity on the headlines for mon and tues

  55. Laura Dierks

    As I’ve watched my son and daughter struggle with the “focus” that is demanded at a young age in our culture, it’s made me look in a different light at my “failings” and my husband’s behavior in this area. The reality is we are very hard on ourselves and what we expect. We bring into the 21st century what would have been our “unfair advantage” as hunter-gatherers of the past.How can we use these to our advantage now, and not “fail” at our modern tasks? There *are* a plethora of tools but I find that I just try to find what works right now and not worry too much about its longevity in my toolbox. I’ve gone through a lot of them. My best continues to be a paper list in front of me at all times and a pen to check things off … and yet I still can’t resist trying Slack because, gee, I need something new to learn and fiddle with πŸ™‚

  56. Asim Aslam

    Yea no software tool advice from me. I think distraction is a natural part of life. You have to make a conscious effort when focusing on a task. So for instance when at the gym, I leave my phone in the locker room. Or when writing code, I put on my headphones to eliminate overhearing conversations and contributing.As you say, developing self awareness has helped. This is really the key and I’m just reaffirming it.

  57. gregorylent

    distraction is a great thing .. it is the sign of being able to function in multidimensional realities .. embrace it .. anything it interferes with is simply a lower order level of functioning .. distraction will take you to the ultimate attraction .. the Selfand yes, meditation helps

  58. ericfranchi

    Hey Fred, I find that working on my iPad Air restricts my ability to be tempted by distraction. You can only work in one app at a time. Switching requires you to consider whether you are really done or want to stop working in a single application. Plus it’s very easy to control notifications.

  59. Rob Underwood

    When thinking about the choice of VC vs. entrepreneur, I’ve often wondered if a bit of ADD isn’t a necessary part of the former job, or at least a common trait. I’d think you’d need to always be sort of interested in something new, and something else, something over the next hill. Perhaps it is the ADD-ness that might make someone more inclined to want a portfolio of companies (i.e., projects) than just a single one?I also get easily distracted and pulled down rat holes. And deadlines are a great way to get 10 other critical things not related to the deadline done! But I also notice that I tend to fill my bucket of to-dos to a point of overfilling and then will groove for a week or two on switching between 4 or 5 big things. I find that the switching between very different things helps me frame the other tasks/projects. Maybe that’s why I went to a liberal arts school.

  60. Brendan Cottam

    How to uncover the root causes would be an amazing post, Fred.Thanks for sharing this one.

  61. AlexHammer

    You seem very focused to me in all of your interviews. Of course the great ones (such as yourself) want to become even greater.Temptation is all around one to be distracted from work. Perhaps it is a little bit like dieting. If one builds small snacks (hopefully healthy ones) into one’s routine, then one is less prone to be susceptible to the binging that can occur when one’s willpower is finally overwhelmed.There is a bit of serendipity to innovation and success, so a small amount of distraction IS adaptive and helpful – but overall, agreed, self-discipline and lack of distraction rules the day.

  62. gorbachev

    I’m the same.The way I’ve decided to deal with it is to ALWAYS, ALWAYS write down anything important I have to do in a task list. I use Wunderlist for it for personal things. At work we’re using Jira.Wunderlist is great for this, because it’s platform agnostic…there’s a client available for any platofrm (mobile, web, desktop), so wherever I am I always have access to it.

  63. Josh Gordon

    I hope no-one mentioned this earlier, but for many of us, it’s just a question of recognizing the fact that you drop everything to tackle an incoming email because you’re ADDICTED. Your (and my) brain gets a little bit of a dopamine reward (the identical ones we get when we eat chocolate or have sex) every time the phone chimes or a pop-up springs up on the computer, and we learn to anticipate – and crave it. One way to tackle it then, is the same way you’d tackle breaking any other type of addiction: increase the pain associated with the addiction – like painting your nails with a bitter substance if you’re a habitual nail biter – or increase the reward associated with avoiding it, or countless other methods. Which, alas, all all easier said than done πŸ™‚ But recognizing the addiction is a first step. Maybe we can form an EA meeting (email anonymous). My name is Josh, and I’m addicted to email!

  64. Joe Marchese

    We live in an attention economy, where we all compete for attention. Great insight from a view that was prescient: β€œWhat information consumes is ratherobvious: It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth ofinformation creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attentionefficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consumeit.” — Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon, 1971.True in 1971… extend that wisdom into the world today.

  65. Alejandro Cosentino

    All of us are in the same boat Fred. This is the malware of our times feed by all of people/companies what want to get a piece of our attention. My best recommendation is to strength your will to keep focus. I practice sports or activities that help me on that such as tennis, ski, riding horses or playstation πŸ™‚

  66. Joe Marchese

    “…if you are having attention problems, the best way to deal with it is by admitting it and then saying, β€˜From now on, I’m gonna be in the moment and more cognizant.’ I said not long ago, I think on Twitter β€” God, I quote myself a lot, what an asshole β€” that really all self-help is Buddhism with a service mark.” — Merlin Mann

  67. gbattle

    A simple technique I use to improve focus/mindfulness is close your mouth, and think about the cadence of your breath through your nose – the slight cool inhalation of air and the gentle warmth of air on the exhale. The cadence of your breath is both relaxing and a fast way to reconfigure your brain via your own biorhythm. Just my $.02.

  68. John Wiseman

    Daily meditation FTW. Whether it’s 2 minutes or 20, make like Nike and just do it. Like yoga, the more regular the habit, the more you feel the benefits.

  69. andrewparker

    You already mentioned this in your post, but for me the answer is exercise. If I really push hard in a morning (has to be *morning*) workout, then I have have a clear mind that focuses well throughout the day. If I skip a workout, then I’m much more easily distracted (and agitated too). Yoga sounds great; the best answer for me is aggressive cadio, typically running.

    1. fredwilson

      i agreefor me its biking

  70. Pete Griffiths

    It’s an extremely common problem. Do you have diagnosed ADD?

  71. Donna Brewington White

    This explains why GG does the driving. A distracted driver creates a scary experience for the passenger.

  72. Maura Rodgers

    The comments and feedback to this post are just awesome.As you mentioned Fred, I think meditation and self-awareness is key. I trained myself to meditate to help me fall asleep faster and stay asleep – as my mind would easily wander off on all the things I needed to do… Now, I can fall asleep in seconds. My friend also recommended the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris about taming that incessant voice in our heads and reducing stress through meditation, which I just started. It’s a quick, funny read.On getting stuff done, I am a list maker. To help me focus and minimize my wandering :), I make a list each week and then each day to help me focus on the most important things I need to accomplish. I even schedule “answer emails” on my daily lists because if I open a message, I like to respond right away. I also try to outsource the things I find boring, so I can give my energy to the things I am good at and find rewarding. I can’t do that for every situation but when I can, it helps me not spread myself too thin and reduce stress.

  73. Jake Baker

    Thank you so much for writing this. It’s incredibly useful for someone so successful and visibly driven from the outside to share and be open on topics like personal struggles with distraction and similar challenges. I am very grateful to this insight into your personal situation as it significantly helps to normalize personal expectations. Said differently, everyone is human, even when it’s hard to imagine for the good and the great.This line in particular resonated deeply for me and my experience:And tools and techniques haven’t really worked for me. I have found getting into the root causes and developing self awareness and more serenity in my life has worked a lot better.Would you have any advice or resources you would point to for “root cause” investigation, the creation of serenity, or how to become more self-aware? I’m approaching 30 and in the process of starting my own business, and I think many entrepreneurs, particularly on the younger end of the spectrum, think that chaos and intensity and emotional health are things for the older generations – sort of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”…I’d be very curious to learn more of how you have made these changes in your own life, and how you advise portfolio company CEOs to do the same while still juggling a relentless focus on growth and business.If post-Cali beach Fred is much more introspective in this way, I say AMEN and bring on more soul-searching!

    1. fredwilson

      my friend, former business partner, and CEO/Entrepreneur Coach extraordinaire Jerry Collona said this to me in a private email today which addresses your question directly. He sent it privately to me but its so good, i could not help but share it with you (and thus everyone here at AVC):Consider this…maybe distraction isn’t the point of inquiry. Leaving aside the possibility that you, like so many of us, have attention deficit tendency (as opposed to *disorder*) enhanced by too much information flow, maybe the distraction is a form of escape:”I don’t want to feel what I’m feeling. I don’t want to experience what I’m experiencing.” So your mind (and your eyes) go for a walk.The next time you sit in meditation, consider noticing when the distraction starts to occur and without labeling it “bad” (“But I’m still pretty bad.”) be curious about it:What were you thinking/feeling before you were distracted?

      1. Jake Baker

        Thank you for the response and for sharing this. I should have guessed the great @jerrycolonna would show up in your answer.Meditation has been a major source of change/progress for me on this topic. I never would have believed it in advance of getting into it (“too mystical… no way!”, but it’s been so true for me.It’s hard to articulate, but meditation has allowed me to learn how to (occasionally) not immediately judge/label thoughts and actions in the moment they occur, which has been amazingly beneficial. It feels like a superpower.

      2. Ann Greenberg

        I always tell myself (and others) to notice where the mind wanders; the mind wanders because it is telling us that “there” is where our focus should be (both big picture, as in career, and smaller picture, as in task list.) I believe distraction is actually a helpful key to following intuition, finding our true passion and figuring out what is truly puzzling to our deepest selves. If, for example, we have a deep emotional ‘distraction’ that keeps beckoning to our mind, its best to take the time to turn towards the ‘distraction,’ address and resolve it. This frees us to go down other pathways. Distraction is the mind processing very quickly – and reminding us of things we must address.

  74. Supratim Dasgupta

    Now I will write something for which i might get beaten to death on this post.Distraction as an effective tool for focus.What we perceive as Distraction by our conscious mind is actually focusing for our subconscious mind. Means if something is so boring that we get distracted, then doing that stuff is not worth it in the first place.Let me give an example. I didnt submit travel expenses for whole 1 year. Everytime I set out to do it I got bored and gave up. Yearly company deadline is 365 days so I had to submit expenses or lose all that money. I got paid close to 45K which I immediately moved to savings. I would not have saved this 45k had I expensed regularly. So what happened is while my conscious mind was prompting me to expense regularly, my subconscious mind was telling me that its more worth to do it all together year end and get the money in bulk.Human mind is complex. When we get bored and distracted, it sometimes means that job is not important in first place.(something that conscious mind doesn’t realise). The things we dont get distracted doing are the things we truly enjoy & should focus all our attention to. That maynot pay our bills in the beginning but we surely will put a dent in this universe.Just my opinion, Distraction is a powerful filter for what is truly important. And no am no expert on human minds!Ofcourse this does not apply to cases when we are talking to our wives/kids

  75. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I’ve experienced a lot of success with giving myself “permission to focus.” It’s a reframing of the situation. So, it’s not that I’m “bad” and need to “improve” my focus. It’s that I’m working hard and trying to juggle a lot of things (which is fine), and so I give myself “permission to focus” on this phone call (or whatever it might be) and ignore email, Twitter, etc.Sometimes granting yourself the same compassion and understanding that you might show someone you really care about is the secret sauce. By giving yourself permission to focus, you’re actually taking care of yourself πŸ™‚

    1. Donna Brewington White


      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        πŸ™‚ I have to credit my beloved acting teacher, George Morrison.

  76. Twain Twain

    Maybe you simply have a multi-tasking brain that needs diverse stimulus rather than a brain that’s sequentially focussed?The latter isn’t satiated unless every part of a To-Do has been completed step-wise in one go.The former involves a person doing parts of a To-Do, transitioning to another To-Do that’s midway being completed and then yet another To-Do that’s at another stage of completion — with each To-Do being done better because your brain’s flexing with things that have been learned from one To-Do that can be applied and cross-pollinated with the other To-Do.At least, this is the positive way of self-managing distraction/boredom.I find that if I have to do something technical and hard, I’ll push through the distraction/boredom until it’s satisfactorily done.If I need to do something creative, though — like copywriting taglines — I’ll flit around (watch completely unrelated YouTube videos, read emails about databases, go for some retail therapy, catch a random bus with no defined destination and just people watch) before my brain’s “in the mood”.I’ve also logged the specific times when my brain’s more in the mood to do some things rather than others. For example, between 15:00 to 16:00 would be the worst time for me to write technical specifications but it’s a great time for me to interact socially.

  77. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Just saw this and had to leave here: Treadmill Desk Improves Memory and Concentrationhttp://digest.bps.org.uk/20…ha!

  78. Cynthia Savage

    Fred. i read your posts every day. thanks for being so transparent. you rock. a couple of our team had this exact issue and found neurofeedback to be so helpful. we even bought a machine to use because it is easy to do at home. see http://www.zengar.com for an explanation. if you want to try it we will send you our machine free of charge. it will help you stay in the moment. all the best. cynthia [email protected]

  79. Matt A. Myers

    I fucking love this post. I’d love to share with you a few things that helped me with focus and removing distraction/avoidance patterns. I’ll shoot you an email and we can arrange a phone call? I won’t even bring up I Live Yoga! πŸ˜›

  80. TeddyBeingTeddy

    Ritalin is the Magic bullet.

  81. OurielOhayon

    Totally resonates. Here is a thing I have done and changed things big time. I turned off notifications off my phone. Small change but huge impact. No need for meditation or whateverBut here is the bad news. Watches are going to make our life much worse

  82. Nikhil Krishnan

    Distraction is probably one of the number one productivity killers, and it’s interesting because a lot of new tech makes consumption of information so fast and easy that it’s become an expectation in every day life. I think the best example I’ve seen of this is here:http://www.nytco.com/the-ti…The Times Rolls Out One-Sentence Stories on Apple WatchPeople want news in such bite size portions that a headline is now considered information processed. I definitely suffer from distraction (pretty sure coming onto this blog is a distraction from something I was supposed to be doing), but think its just getting worse over time with younger generations

  83. george

    Curious If you enjoy reading two books at the same time, rather than concentrating on finishing one at a time?

  84. Ale

    You should try getting more sleep. I am ten times more easily distracted when I did not sleep enough.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s so hard for me.

  85. blakeelias

    Fred, if you’re looking to make meditation more of a staple in your life, I’d recommend the Art of Living workshops – http://www.artofliving.org/…. They’re taught all around the world, including in NYC.I did my first program with them at MIT, where I’m an undergrad currently — a student club had organized a workshop and brought in some of the best Art of Living teachers in the US. Completely transformative experience, and so helpful for getting a lot done in a fast-paced environment. Because of these workshops, there is now a growing community of meditators at MIT!They teach extremely powerful yoga & meditation techniques which instantly take you to an extremely deep level. These techniques cultivate a joy of living in the present moment, and you can practice them daily on your own. Many long-time meditators report that these techniques have made their regular meditation much much deeper. And when you get to such an awesome level of experience, distraction just melts away. Making it a daily practice becomes effortless at that point, too!They have some awesome children’s programs as well, which teach leadership, service and techniques to gain a meditative mindset in order to get the best success in life. Take a look at Art of Living’s youth programs if you want your kids to learn some of these tools too! Eg. here’s a summer leadership program for girls, happening this summer: https://www.facebook.com/ev

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks. I will check them out

  86. Jonathan Shapiro

    One big reason we are distracted is addiction. We are addicted to the dopamine hit we get everytime an email pops up or we get a new tweet or text notification. According to the neuroscience, dopamine isthe hormonal payoff we get for finding potential reward. And it makes us feel really good…even if foronly a moment. Note, it is not released foractually getting the reward. SO,eliminating the opportunity for finding potential rewards should reduce our distraction. So like all addictions, the answer is botheasy to do and hard. The easy part issimply knowing to turn off distractions (your email client, your phonenotifications, etc.) when you start a project. The hard part is actually putting this into practice. What if the deal of the century gets textedto me as I am talking with Fred about the previous deal of the century?! This gets easier if we accurately assess theopportunity cost of focus. The tonguefirmly in cheek example I think makes the point. The real opportunity cost of focusing for 30minutes or an hour is likely not much. Inaddition to moving your desk phone away from your computer, try actuallysilencing all the notifications (aka distractions) while you work. Couple thiswith Jonathan Lee’s taking 15 seconds to write down the goal and we may all beable to form the habit of managing distractions.

  87. Marissa_NYx

    One more thing – I am a regular of kinesiology. It clears the energy and sets your intentions, you just lie there and have a chat with the kinesiologist . It is life changing.