Productive Distractions

Ab Brightman
2 min readJul 24, 2019

I think a lot about Long Work vs. Hard Work.

Long work refers to the kind of work where it takes time, sure, but its not really moving you forward. It’s about showing up, going through the motions, counting the hours, then clocking out. Nothing much has changed for you that day, but you did get paid.

Hard work then is framed as the opposite — the work of deep thinking and synthesising, of learning and testing it out. It has a big risk of failure because its success is marked not by ticking off the time taken, but on actually having worked out, and moved something forward.

Pretty much everything good in my professional life, ever, has come from hard work. But my god, isn’t there something so damn satisfying about getting to turn your attention away from the hard work you have no idea where to start — be that a new project, a proposal, or reply we don’t know how to word — towards productive distractions instead. The barrage of emails and other queries, or other safe ‘must be done at some point so might as well be done now’ tasks, like checking up on social media trends. Hit after hit of that productivity buzz.

And very quickly, all time that day, that week or that month, evaporates.

‘SEE’ we scream as the opportunities we sought to grasp float down the river without us. ‘I was being productive! This whole time, I was being productive! It wasn’t ever possible to have accomplished my idea AND keep up with the other things I am committed to. Things just aren’t fair like that!’

Well. The truth is things aren’t fair. But they’re unfair to the people who don’t have that autonomy over their work, or in their financial circumstances, to choose productive distractions over hard work. They’re not unfair to those of us who had the choice to watch opportunities float down the river knowing we didn’t do all in our power to stop them. They’re just really challenging.