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Taming the Distractions


I have written many times about FOCUS, the Power of Focus, exhorting readers to Focus on the Important Stuff and the importance of discipline to be focused.

The number one enemy of focus is a distraction … and they come in many forms.

If your goal is to be as successful as possible, then being as productive as possible is a great way to start.

Here are some things that you might want to do …

1.  Track how you spend your time every day for a week … if possible, do it in 15 minute increments.

2.  Identify how many hours a day you are working on “high return” tasks.

3.  List all of the distractions that keep you from spending ALL of your workday on “high return” tasks.

4.  Develop a plan to eliminate those distractions.

5.  Measure yourself a month later … and do the same again.  If you do this every month for 3 or 4 months then:

(a) you will absolutely be more productive;  and

(b) you will be developing a (good) HABIT of focusing on the right things.

You might even find that you can be more productive in less time!  Many people end up working much more than an 8 hour day, because they are not productive enough in their 8 hours.

Here are some tips for identifying distractions …

1.  There are the CLASSIC distractions …

Going for coffee runs (sometimes with a buddy) … REALLY?  Bring a coffee with you to the office, drink the coffee in the office (its cheaper, often free), use a coffee run as a reward for GREAT performance etc.

Interruptions from colleagues who want to chat.  Use body language to make it clear you are busy, don’t invite the distractions, suggest another time to chat (lunch time, after work etc).

Reading the paper (online or offline) … just do it at home.

Other online distractions, sports news, news feeds, stock tickers etc.  These should all be turned OFF … check before work, during lunch and after work.

Instant messenger from friends and colleagues.  A 21st century blight on productivity, that CAN also be a good tool.  Treat it like ANY other communication, if its personal do it away from the office, if it is not directly helping your productivity don’t do it.

Personal phone calls.  Emergencies aside, call your mom, spouse, friend etc outside of work hours.

2.  There are some no-classic distractions …

Other people’s work.  Sure help a colleague, but it should be a win-win situation.  If you are doing it then (a) you should be getting credit for it and hence it becomes “high return”; or (b) you should be getting help back.

Busy work.  Sometimes we let the administrivia of our job take over.   Take control of it and don’t let it control you.  Don’t do things twice (or three times) eg.  Interview notes … you scribble notes on a pad, then you clean them up in your notebook and then you enter them in the system.  Just learn to enter them into the system while you interview!

You priorities versus your job priorities.  We all have a tendency to do the things we like to do rather than the tougher jobs that need doing.  Its why recruiters read resumes instead of picking up the phone.  Its why sales people call on the same few people over and over again … instead of establishing new relationships.

Distractions can be tamed … and if you manage to do that you will be more successful, more productive AND have more time for yourself!