If your life is anything like mine, there are days distractions swoop in and take over. The actual to-do list taps its fingers on the desk, waiting, but the minute I start one thing, I’m sidetracked by the need to do something more urgent. Looking back, I’ve found that the urgent item rarely turns out to be more important than the original.

Distractions are everywhere in our noisy world. I had no idea how much time I spent online until my computer crashed. At first, I felt antsy and anxious. Then I realized the world would not come to a screeching halt if I didn’t check my email—or Facebook–16 times a day.

Distractions are sneaky, too. If we’re not paying attention, we get swept along. Sometimes, even a to-do list distracts us, because the weight of all those undone items crushes our momentum.

When I found myself suddenly and unwillingly unplugged, it brought me up short. Things shifted. Priorities fell into the appropriate slot. Focus came back.

And then came the big breakthrough. I’d been avoiding my work in progress because I knew the beginning wasn’t right. Worse, I had no earthly idea how to fix it.

I’d been using distractions as a convenient excuse for not dealing with the problem.

Florida finally got some much-needed rain this week, so I had an unexpected day off. I opted to clean my office.

Normally, that’s a clear avoidance technique, but this time I turned it into something useful. Something deliberate. While I was sorting and rearranging, I mulled over my story. About what was wrong with it. And how to fix it.

Like the big light bulb we see in comic strips, the answer finally popped into my head. But only after I’d let my brain chew on it awhile, without obsessing and stressing. After a big sigh of relief and a huge, “Yes!” I’m ready to move forward again.

Used right, distractions can be a good thing. Have you found that to be true in your life?