A daily challenge that business leaders must be overcome. The reality is we have already lost precious time today to distractions that have nothing to do with our priorities.
If this article is distracting you right now, bookmark it and come back later for the THREE ACTIONS that effective leaders use daily in order to stay focused. If you have time right now, keep reading.
I asked a group of leaders to create a list of the most common distractions in their lives. Here's the list they agreed upon:
- Email - up to 25% of the workday is managing email.
- Meetings - On average, business leaders spend 18 hours a week in meetings.
- Visitors (Scheduled and Uninvited)
- Telephone Calls
- Internal Politics
No surprise, right? Those are the same ones we juggle in our businesses.
It also shouldn't surprise us that there is price we pay as a result of the distractions. The price is measured in dollars. We like to avoid the monetary reality by hiding it behind other explanations - lost productivity, emotional drain, decline in morale, etc... But there is still a real cost. Researchers claim that US companies suffer a loss of over $500 Billion annually due to lost productivity. Now, wait just a moment! I know, it's easy to gloss over that number because it is so massive; and there is no way it can apply to us. But it does.
(Please, don't waste your time calculating the financial loss you suffer on a daily basis. Instead, start practicing self-discipline and graciously lean into your priorities.)
Here is the big surprise to most leaders. The major distractions that consume our time are not the ones listed above; but the ones that subtly influence our ability to stay focused mentally. Here is a short list:
- Checking emails/text messages during a meeting or multiple times an hour while working at your desk.
- Scanning documents unrelated to the conversation your having on the phone.
- Taking visual inventory of who is in the room while someone is speaking to you.
- A cluttered desk or office. (That pile of paper is taunting your brain).
- Scrolling through social media to see how many "likes" or followers you have, all while your colleagues OR family are talking to you.
None of us want to admit that we do these. But we do. It's easy to get distracted.
Cognitive control is the discipline that separates excellent leaders from average leaders. When we stay focused on the current priority until it is completed, we create greater value. Staying focused on the agenda during a meeting, we multiply the investment of those represented in the room. Staying focused on the conversation with the one speaking to us, eliminates the need for another meeting later to clarify something we missed and it validates the personal worth of that person.
"If it distracts - delete it, delay it or delegate it!"
Delete It - A good one for electronic or visual distractions. Turn off the notifications. Eliminate unnecessary apps from our phones. Don't read the unessential emails and unsubscribe from resources we didn't sign up for or haven't read in months!
Delay It - We will think of things that need to be done (i.e., a call to be made, a document to sign, an idea to brainstorm, etc). Schedule these for later. Put these on the calendar or make a list for review.
Delegate It - It might need to be done, but it might not be our task to do. Yes, we are still responsible for the accountability and it's completion; but there are people around us that are waiting to do their jobs! Let them.
Here's the Reality Check: "Divided attention will not produce multiplied success!"
Let me know how you overcome the distractions.
- Steven Iwersen, CSP