Distracted Productivity
Parent Tips

Distracted Productivity

As I started reading Chris Lehmann and Zac Chase‘s book Building School 2.0 the other night, I quickly came across (it was in the Foreward, so before any of the book had actually started) some very real insight into these two very impressive men. It was written by their colleague, (who is also very impressive and has a TEDx talk) Diana Laufenberg. She wrote about all the work that went into writing this book while “minimizing the administrivia that can overwhelm the job and focusing on how to craft meaningful experiences, how to support the students and ourselves appropriately, and how to build the systems that would foster this environment” (2015, xiv-xv).

That is a lot of work. Typically when we have so much work, when we reflect back on how we accomplished it we say things like “I worked really hard,” “I was laser focused,” and “I worked efficiently and did not let anything distract me.”

And this is certainly the advice that we give to people when they have a lot to do. “Work smarter, not harder” and “You just have to manage your time well and focus.”

And sometimes that is true and that is good advice.

However, we can’t all be machines and work efficiently all the time. Sometimes I need more than a 5 minute break to reboot. Sometimes I waste my precious time watching dog videos on YouTube!


However, I often feel bad when I haven’t been “efficient enough” like when I’ve taken a longer break than I actually meant to or when I spent too long answering emails. I want to be perfect and I’m not. That’s hard.

So while I was reading the Foreward, I was relieved to hear some real talk from Diana on her amazing work with these two highly productive people:

Our workflow was definitely unusual. We spent (too) many late nights working around Chris’s desk, cycling between watching West Wing clips on YouTube, sharing thought-provoking blog posts, quoting pithy tweets, being full-on ridiculous, and cranking out the work. I could tell you that we were efficient, but I’d be lying. Effective, yes, but efficient, no…. [I] had to stop and question not just whether the work was getting done, but whether our work honored the people we were working and learning with along the way. We were the model of distracted productivity and it was grand.

This is how real work gets done!

We are productive, but we embrace our humanity as well.

We are not machines! Embrace it!

Be productive, but don’t beat yourself up when you need a break or a laugh. Enjoy your work. Work with people and don’t worry that the journey is twisty instead of linear and clear. That twisty road, full of conversations and bonding and human relationships may seem inefficient and not needed, but it actually helps productivity. We need other humans to help us and keep us motivated. We need those relationships. We need those breaks.

It struck me that we expect our kids to be the epitome of efficient too with their very hectic days. Let’s give our kids and ourselves a break. Allow yourself and your children time to be humans, not machines.


Lehmann, C. & Z. Chase. (2015). Building school 2.0. Jossey-Bass A Wiley Brand: San Francisco, CA.