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All sizes | Gov. Sarah Palin in Dover, NH | Flickr - Photo Sharing!My martial arts teacher played an interesting trick on us in class on Saturday morning to illustrate the powers of distraction and diversion. Right in the middle of a lesson, he highlighted – briefly – some relatively recent news story about Sarah Palin.

The effect was as predictable as it was powerful: a number of folks got derailed from their physical training. You could see written on the faces of a few folks that they had fallen down a very deep hole in their own minds, caught up in something completely unrelated to the training. Their training suffered as well, and had they had that level of distraction and diversion in a real self protection situation, they would have been so mentally wrapped up in knots that a six year old with a popsicle stick could have taken them out with ease.

Ask yourself this: when you saw the tweet and the title of this blog post, how did you react to it? Did you react with curiosity? With anxiety, cheer, anger, sadness? Did it set your mind down a path based on your feelings that was unproductive? Did it distract you from what you were doing?

Distraction and diversion are two of the most potent enemies you’ll ever encounter in your work day, in your training, in your life. They can sap all of your energy in very short order or take you far off the path you’re supposed to be on. Every moment of every day, media (mainstream and social) are willfully attempting to distract you from a course of productivity and divert your time, energy, attention, and money in order to boost profits, garner attention, or use your energy for their own means. I did it to you with the title of this blog post, and there’s a better than even chance I was successful.

What saved me in class and what saves me on a regular basis are the lessons of “I see what you did there” and looking for the lesson. These powerful tools keep me in the game and keep me on target, putting my energy, time, and attention where it needs to go. I felt it on Saturday in class – I heard my teacher mention Sarah’s name and the context of the news story, but almost immediately my own mind echoed back “I see what he did there” and I was free of the trap.

How much time and energy do you lose every day, every week, on stuff that doesn’t matter? Take a moment or two to write “Look for the lesson” and “I see what you did there” on an index card and place it near your workspace. See if it helps you become more productive and defers your thoughts, good or bad, about Sarah Palin until it’s actually an election cycle.

Bonus round: Watch the replies when I tweet this post with the post title. The people who fail at distraction and diversion will be the ones reacting to the title without having ever read the actual content. Make note of who falls into the trap and is easily distracted just by the title and make note of who escapes the trap by focusing on the actual content. If you’re hiring for someone in a social media role, you probably want the latter as an employee and not the former.

Double bonus round: Watch the comments for political remarks to see who completely missed the point of this post or is so trapped they can’t escape even when it’s pointed out that this is a trap!

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