The Eagle Blog

Shiny Object Syndrome

man about t step into a hole because he is distractedYou have a job to do.  The nature of the role, from the most junior to the very top, does not matter … because the same principles apply whether you are the CEO or the most junior administrative person.

In your job there will inevitably be tasks that will directly fulfill the most important part of your mandate.  If you are a salesperson for instance, those tasks that will lead directly to a sale are the most critical activities.

There will also be lots of activity that “needs to be done” … but is not critical in nature.  Let’s call this busy work.

Finally there will be tasks that bring absolutely no value to your role … let’s call these time wasters.

To be your most productive you need to maximize the time spent on critical activities, and minimize the time spent on busy work and time wasters.

One of the biggest time wasters is what I call “shiny object syndrome” … distractions that take your focus away from the critical activities.

If you are a salesperson, or even a CEO … here are some of the very common types of “shiny objects” that distract us.

1.  News.  We have alerts on our phones, every news channel known to man on our computers and we know within seconds if anything happens around the world.  This is a HUGE time waster.  It is not critical that you know an election result in some far off country within seconds of it happening … for most of us, reading about it the next day will be just fine.

2.  Sports.  Very similar to the news.  Does it really matter whether you find out a score as it happens, or later when you are driving home?

button demonstrated ADD3.  Old colleagues.  “Did you hear Joe landed at XXXX?”  Really … is that worth interrupting your focus?

4.  Interesting web sites, software and other tools.  I’m sure your company has people whose job it is to keep up with tools and advancements that could help your company.  If you hear of something pass it along.  Don’t take your precious time away from critical activities to meet with sales people, get demos, read about new stuff … get the Coles Notes of relevant “stuff” when it makes sense.

5.  Opportunities Outside Your Scope.  In any business there is a “sweet spot” that fits with the company offerings, and there will be many opportunities at the periphery of that “sweet spot”.  Focus on what you do best and avoid being dragged into the long debates about just how you might twist yourself out of shape to get this “great opportunity”.

6.  Easy work.  When you are in the middle of a tough task … maybe its cold calling, or dialing to get meetings, or responding to people you know will be difficult … you can be VERY easily distracted.  A colleague suggests a coffee, an interesting conversation in the next cubicle, literally anything can distract.  Be disciplined to finish your task and reward yourself with that coffee afterwards!

7.  Gossip.  One of the realities of most offices, and a huge distraction.  Stay out of the gossip and do not get drawn into long conversations with colleagues during productive work time.

8.  Other people’s jobs.  You might think you can do it better.  You might have done that job previously.  You might rely on that person to do their job, and be frustrated.  BUT … if you are doing their job then you are NOT doing yours!

9.  Other people’s business.  Sometimes we get enamoured with other businesses that look “more interesting”, “perhaps “sexier” or “newer technology”.  It is always a good thing to help others in business, but there is a fine line that is easy to cross which will see you spending more time on other’s businesses than your own.  Not a good thing!

10.  Boredom.  If you are not challenged in your role then you will be easily distracted.  Boredom is a state of mind … and has little to do with your role.  Any role can become more interesting and challenging if you are willing to put in the effort and the focus.

FOCUS is critical to success … avoid shiny object syndrome at all costs!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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