Time Management

3 Actions That Overcome The Distractions


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.

Pexels-photo-mediumLet's Get Focused!   Here are the THREE ACTIONS I promised to give you.  They come from a statement that I use whenever I catch myself drifting off priority.  I say out loud: 


"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


Top Ten Ways a Leader Benefits from Listening

The leaders that have the most profound influence on their organization are those that have the respect, trust and confidence of their people.  We've discovered that those leaders have gained that level of influence through the intentional practice of being personable, producing valuable results and listening to their employees.

When I ask leaders who demonstrate a strong ability to listen what they consider to be the key difference between hearing and listening - the resounding anwer is attention.  

"You can hear whatever you want to hear, but when you give someone your attention, that's when you really start to listen." 

Asked to consider what the benefits of listening would be to a leader, and the answers reveal an attitude of honest communication and a culture of empowerment.  Here are the answers that I receive the most often and I highlighted in the article/video series Leaders Listen.


• Makes the leader approachable

• Ideas are generated.

• Concerns are identified

• Gauges alignment to priorities

• Reveals your blind spots

• Empowers others to problem solve

• Improvement to efficiency and execution

• Time management

• Reduces conflict and stress

• Trust is cultivated and/or measured

What are your employees trying to tell you?  Your influence will be greatly enhanced the moment you begin to listen like a leader.  

I'd like to give you a special resource that I've created based on the listening behaviors learned from industry and community leaders.  There are 5 Key Tips on how to improve your listening skills and a personal development worksheet to help you put it all into practice.  Click here for more info and the downloads.

~ Steven Iwersen

How to Manage a "Not My Job" Attitude and Be More Successful (Part 3)

Business Leaders have an attitude and a way of behaving that gets results.  Many of them are successful because they are very clear on what not to do.  They can confidently say, "That's not my job."  In previous blogs I introduced to you the first two methods that can help you do the same.  First, Think Like a CEO.  Secondly, Inventory Your Workload, Prioritize Your Worth.  Let's look briefly now at the third method that business leaders practice.

Dominate Your Space, Delegate with Grace

    Dominate your space!  Make a commitment to be the absolute best in your position.  Calendar your time around your highest priorities.  Don't waste your precious time and talents on things that are best managed by others.  Give your utmost efforts to those things you know will bring the greatest return on your investment.  I ask myself everyday, "Is this a $5 Million activity or a $500 distraction?"  Yes that may seem like an exaggeration, but the extremes help to keep the focus on what my work really means.

    Delegate with Grace.  Everything else that is on your list is your responsibility.  But, it could be accomplished by people who are smarter, better skilled, or more inclined to the task than you.  Let them do it and report to you the progress and outcomes.  The sooner you appreciate the value and worth that others contribute to the goals, the sooner you will generate a momentum that achieves those goals.

The most value that you gain from doing this is the time to practice the fourth method: "Doing What No One Else Will Do."   We'll cover that in the next post.

TIME FOR PERSONAL ACTION -  What distractions are keeping you from your best actions?   What should you be delegating to others?

Let me know what comes to your mind as you answer those two questions.


-- Steven


How To Manage a "Not My Job" Attitude and Be More Successful (Part 2)

Business leaders that practice a "not my job" attitude start by focusing their thoughts on the most important issues.  The best way to get that focus is to "Think Like A CEO or Busines Owner."  (Check out part one of this series right here -  GO!)  The second method is to:

Inventory Your Workload and Prioritize Your Worth

Here is a practical exercise to help you accomplish this.  Sit down and write out every task, objective, responsibility, expectations of yourself, expectations others have of you, projects, meetings, etc....  You have to have a complete inventory of what you do, should do and what you wish you could do. 

Once you have that completed, set it aside for a couple days. 

Then schedule 20 minutes with yourself (or if you have an assistant include them) and ruthlessly prioritize that list.  Don't over think this exercise.  Put a check mark next to the items that are "strictly your responsibility" or fit solidly within your strengths.  Resist the urge to check off every item.  Leave it alone if it can be done by another person or even automated.  

Create a new list of only those things you checked as priorities. 

Circle 3 to 5 items that you know are your best investment of mental and emotional energy.  These have to be proactive activities that create momentum toward the desired results.  Get focused on your most valued contribution.

Getting your list down to the absolute essentials will help you get up to speed on your greatest worth.

Consider these two questions:  What do you need to view differently if you are going to think like a CEO?  What are the essentials in your workload and expectations?  

If you're getting tired of fighting fires and always having to be in a reactionary posture - get clear on your answers to the questions above.


--  Steven

PS - Stay tuned for third method -  Dominate Your Space, Delegate with Grace.


Six Key Words That Improve A Leaders Influence

IMG_0638The words you use influence the quality of your leadership.  Every single day we are engaged in an exchange of vocabulary.  Somehow the expressions we use forward our cause and produce favorable results.  The words that we hear are just as important, giving us a glimpse into others intentions and understanding.

Words are vital to a leader.  Strong, visionary, disruptive, encouraging, cautionary, and even the unspoken.  The words help us to lead. 

I want to suggest some words that you might not speak aloud, but should keep in mind as you relfect on your responsibility as a leader and the example that you set.  These are words that will enhance your influence and effectiveness.

Activity - a state of action.  A leader is action oriented.

Congruity - consistent and suitable to the priority. A leader is intentional in their actions.

Industry - steady attention to business. A leader is aware of the opportunities and dangers.

Alacrity  - promptness in response, cheerful readiness or prompt, brisk. A leader is responsive.

Priority - most important consideration.  A leader keeps focused on what matters most.

Futurity - future state or time (a future event). A leader thinks ahead.

Does your day to day activity reflect these key words?  Would the people you lead be able to claim that you are a person of these words?

What words would you add to the list that could make for better leadership?

How to Solve the Real Problem to Problem-Solving

“Where am I going to find the time to get everything done?”

“It is just not possible to get any time to myself.  I’m in endless meetings or being constantly interrupted.”

“Management wants me to ‘think outside of the box’ and find some creative solution to this problem.  Right!  My schedule is too busy and brainstorming is nothing but a source of frustration.  People come up with ideas that I don’t have the budget for or the time to implement; and then they get mad because I don’t follow through on their ideas.”

This is starting to sound too familiar, isn’t it?  Leaders have a tremendous amount of responsibilities in these challenging economic times and the demand to be creative is a constant expectation in the equation.  


The time factor is not the only problem though.  There is a more pervasive distraction that is hampering our ability to use our imagination and unleash the creative potential of our thoughts.  It is the product of our fabulous information age and advances in technology.  The real problem is noise.

Yes, “Noise”.

Stop right now and observe what’s going on around you.  What noise can you identify?

Most of us could list the noise we hear - the buzz of lights, computers, people talking, etc.  And yet, the noise that drowns out our ability to think creatively is more than that - it includes:

  • the access to the internet,
  • the stack of papers on the desk,
  • emails,
  • cell phones,
  • social media (Facebook, Twitter, LInkedIn, Pinterest...)
  • the caption feed running along the bottom of the screen while you watch the news,
  • text messages,
  • that to-do list.

All of these, and so much more, are constantly pulling for the attention of our thoughts and crowding out the power of our imagination.

We need to find ways to UNPLUG from the noise.  Do you remember all the "cool ideas" you thought of when you were a child?  Where did you have those ideas?  People tell me those ideas came when they climbed up in a tree, were on a swing at the park, or reading at the library.  No crowds, no noise, just quietly thinking.

Think about this - great ideas often occur to us in the shower!  Right?  I'm sure that's happened to you.  And it's because there are fewer distractions.  

Consider this great advice from Carlos Santana from a recent interview published by Forbes

“Your imagination is like a muscle. If you take the time to just sit down and just close your eyes and imagine things, it’s like a muscle you develop. That’s why it’s good to turn off all the computers, TV and noise and just sit with yourself for a while. You can get beyond the noise and you get to hear this voice. This voice sounds very different than all the other accusing voices or guilt voices and fear. Once you start hearing this voice, it is very soothing, gentle and is very non-accusing. And then you can expand upon the ideas and make them a reality.”

I really appreciate what he says about the “voice...soothing, gentle...non-accusing.”

If you want to solve the real problem to problem-solving ELIMINATE THE DISTRACTIONS. You can recapture your child-like ability to imagine, to dream and to create.  Here are some quick actions to overcome the distrations:

1) UNPLUG for a while each day and TAKE A WALK.

2) LEAVE the technology on your desk.

3) CARRY A NOTEPAD and a pen.  Yes, the old fashioned tool of paper and pen.

4) LISTEN TO and WRITE down the ideas that you hear in your thoughts.  The physical act of expressing those thoughts in your mind and watching them develop into visible elements on paper is enlightening.

5) TAKE A WALK and TALK.  Have a creative person join you.  Talk about ideas, not about events or other people.  Steve Jobs did this all the time.

Develop that muscle.  The next time you go into a problem solving meeting, you’ll be better prepared to lead the solutions.

- Steven Iwersen

Time to Get Focused on What You Want to Do

What do you want to do?

I remember Zig Ziglar speaking to a crowd of business leaders and he asked the question: “Do you tend to get more done the day before you leave on vacation, than on any other day?”  The audience members looked at each other, nodding their heads and laughed.  Of course we do.  The reason is two fold.  First, we are anticipating something desired and enthusiasm triggers energy.  Second, we become exceptionally focused on the work that is essential.

TAP INTO THAT ENTHUSIASM.  Your vacation may not be scheduled for tomorrow, so you can't tap into that enthusiastic energy.  That's not a problem.  Identify another goal or reward that makes you smile - something that you can enjoy in the next few days - and get it on the calendar.  The anticipation is a form of inspiration.  (Oh, before I forget, do you have a vacation planned for this year?)  

GET EXCEPTIONALLY FOCUSED.  One of the tools you can use effectively is the minds "priority filter".  You focus on what is and is not essential.  You do what must be done and schedule what can wait.  Notice that I said schedule, not put off.  You also filter the interruptions. The phone calls and emails are briefly prioritized, responded to or delegated.  The person who drops by just to chat is politely acknowledged and redirected.  Exceptional productivity starts with an exceptional focus.