Beat Distraction with a ‘Later List’

A ‘later list’ is a great (and extremely simple) little tool for people like myself who are afflicted and easily distracted by ‘Shiny New Object Syndrome’!

One of the perils of being self-employed and, as such, immersed in the online world, is being constantly bombarded by things that other people are doing. When we see these things, it can be so hard to resist feeling like we should do or try them too… Ideas for new things to do, equipment to buy, apps to download, platforms to learn, tech to set up, marketing strategies to try, images to take, workshops to attend, services to offer… the list goes on. They pop up ALL the time, and it’s so easy to get derailed by them.

Of course, it could be that you genuinely like what you see, and know it could be beneficial to you, so you want to incorporate it into your own business – not a bad thing. However, just as often it can be a feeling of FOMO, that if it’s working for someone else, then you should be doing it too – which isn’t necessarily as great – just because it works for another person doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right or will work for you. Usually we feel a sense of panic that we might not remember to do it, so we switch to looking at it now, before we forget about it.


Beat distraction


Either way – whether this ‘shiny new object’ is something you should or shouldn’t try – chances are, you don’t need to do it RIGHT NOW – there are other things you’re already working on, that you’ve already identified as priorities, that you need to finish first. Let’s be honest here, often our intense desire to check out something else is simply the fact that switching focus to a shiny new thing is much more appealing than sticking with the boring / difficult / time-consuming task that we know we should be doing right now but don’t really want to.

This is very much me. Whenever I feel resistance around a certain task, you can bet your bottom dollar that within 5 minutes I’ll have seen something that I ABSOLUTELY MUST LOOK AT RIGHT NOW. Usually this involves starting something new, researching something new, planning something new… you get the idea. My work history is littered with half-finished projects derailed by my pesky mind struggling to finish it and instead finding something new to get started on instead.

However, in the last couple of years I’ve found a nifty (and so-simple-it-barely-counts-as-a-tactic) solution!


Beat distraction


So what should we do instead? In my experience, this comes down to two main actions:


1) Create strategic medium term plans that identify your current priorities


This is where we break down our long term goals into practical and achievable milestones, with associated clear actions that we can actually implement. These then form the basis of our weekly and daily plans. This way, we know we’re always working on the tasks that will best move us towards our desired goals. You can do this in whatever way works best for you – lots of people like to do quarterly planning, but I do this personally via 6 Week Masterplans.

[My 6 Week Masterplan process is included for free in The Shutterhood – a recorded version you can tackle yourself at any time, plus we also do it together live every 2 months – but you can also buy it as a standalone resource from my Library]


Beat distraction


2) Create a ‘later’ list


If we’ve completed step 1, our medium term planning, we can relax in the knowledge that for the next few weeks, we’re working on exactly what we should be working on, the things that will most benefit us and our business. Therefore, anything new that pops up, unless it’s absolutely essential, can and should wait until we’ve finished our current 6 week plan.

As mentioned above, often we worry that if we don’t look at it now, we’ll forget all about it. Therefore, a simple solution is to set up a ‘later list’ to capture these things so we can make sure we remember them without letting them derail us from the tasks in hand.

All it is (literally the most simple thing ever), is a list that says ‘LATER’ at the top of it. You then list on it any/all of these things that pop up. Personally I have my ‘Later list’ in Trello, which is where I do all of my daily / weekly / monthly planning. But at its simplest it could just be a piece of paper kept next to your desk, or a Word / Notes document kept on your computer desktop. It just needs to be instantly and easily accessible.


Beat distraction


Whenever you get an idea for something new you’d like to do or look at, first ask yourself, “Is it absolutely essential that I do this right now?” If ‘yes’, then ask yourself, “Is it more urgent than what I’m currently working on?” If ‘yes’, by all means press pause on your current task and switch focus. However, if the answer to either of these questions is ‘no’, write it down in your ‘Later’ list but DON’T start exploring it or starting it now – continue working on whatever task you had originally planned.

Then when you next do your medium term planning and are deciding what to tackle next, you can take out your ‘Later’ list and see if there’s anything on there that could or should be a priority right now. If so, you can include it in your next medium term plan and tackle it intentionally and strategically, but if not, you can leave it on your ‘Later’ list until a suitable time arises.

This way, you’re not worried about losing ideas, you’re capturing them all and potentially still actioning them, but you’re sticking to your strategic plans, doing things at the right time, and not letting shiny new things derail you.

Do you have a ‘later list’ or are you planning to set one up?

Anna 🙂








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Manchester family photographer, for down-to-earth, adventurous, big-hearted families all across the North West, London and UK

Creative, documentary family photography in Manchester, Liverpool, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, London

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