Reflection: Focus in the face of distraction! That was how a group I recently worked with described one of their most frustrating challenges.
They’re not alone in this. We live in an age of distraction. One research survey found the average time between interruptions in the modern workplace to be three minutes.
Not all of our distractions are created by others. The same survey noted that 44% of interruptions were self imposed. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies. We allow our grasshopper minds and our desire for novelty to lead us from here … to there … and there … and there, too!
Action: So, how do you make more focused progress in the face of distractions? You influence the things that are within your power.
Challenge the belief that a perfectly focused day without interruptions and distractions actually exists. As long as we tell ourselves that story, we will continue to feel frustrated as distractions come and go. We need to accept that interruptions are a reality – to work with them and around them.
Decide what you intend to focus on in the first place. Make a habit of picking your top three tasks for the day. Start with #1. Each time you are pulled off task, return to #1 until you’ve completed it or taken it as far as you can for the day. Only then move on to #2.
Stop distracting yourself. While you are working on task #1, put predictable distractions (other waiting work, your smart phone) out of reach and out of sight. During pauses in your progress, rest your mind and gather your thoughts. Don’t automatically reach out to fill that gap with a ‘Somebody needs me! I might be missing something!’ hit of email, text-checking or web-surfing.
Find a low distraction locale where you can work without interruption for 30-60 minutes. Perhaps your kitchen table after family has left and before you head in to work? Or an empty office or meeting room in your workplace? Some people find the background buzz of a coffee shop promotes focus. Find your spot and use it regularly.
Recognize that some interruptions are actually your reason for being there – to support, mentor, problem solve. Still, not every question has to be answered right now. Create a pact with colleagues that you will group questions for each other. Hold them until you have a few to ask at once instead of interrupting each other as each thought arises. Double up on questions and you halve the interruptions.
Every little bit of progress helps.
Quotes Of The Week: The more you focus, the more that focus becomes a habit. The more you practice focusing, the easier focusing becomes. – Charles Duhigg
The main thing is to keep the main thing a main thing. – Stephen R. Covey
You’ll never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks. – Winston Churchill
Resource Of The Week: Check out this article that delivers a roundup of Top 10 Ways To Defeat Distractions And Get Your Work Done.