In the end it all comes down to YOU – the greatest distraction in your life is you, no one else does it to you, we do it to ourselves and then more often than not fail to take responsibility for the fact we have distracted ourselves from the task in hand and prevented seeing it through to completion.
It’s all well and good knowing where distractions come from and what they are all about – how about managing them and knowing how to fix them in a way that helps? We are all different, each one of us has quirks and nuances that are very personal to us. Not all of the ideas below will work for you, many you will have tried before but have neglected them in recent times. It’s up to you to manage the things that distract you and then your performance can improve.
• Digital Down Time – in today’s business world and environment the smart phone or tablet is with us at all times and that means it is always a potential distraction, asking questions of your focus and challenging the need to get in the zone and deliver. Switch it off at specific times of the day, or simply put your phone on silent and then place it face down on your desk so you can’t see when the green or red dot starts flashing to say there is a notification of something!
• Block websites / Access times – there are times when you of course need to be online and connected to the big world outside – consider a time during the day when no social media is allowed. Many companies have tried to block social media sites from their firewall – this can work both ways, staff leave because they don’t want to be part of a nanny state company and they can always use their own data on their phones etc. By contrast social media can become a resource to work from and with rather than a distraction to prevent focus, use one of the many apps to track and understand how much time your team actually spend on the web during the day and which sites, it might surprise you, it might not all be bad news.
• Delay or set up allocated times for synchronisation of emails – three times a day only at 8am, 12am and 4pm works for some – you may have just twitched at the mere thought of doing that. Of course, if you are waiting on some correspondence then you can manually override that setting. It does work because it means on just three occasions during the day your inbox fills with emails. Then you are into the classic time management process – Do it, Diarise it, Delegate it or Delete it. Done! How much time and focus could that save you?
• Regular Breaks – we all know we should take effective breaks, be that a walk around the park, trip to the gym or a power nap. We can achieve more in a 3-hour window having blown off some steam rather than just sitting staring at a screen when it’s just not working. Seeking out and finding clear head space is all the difference that you need on some days, sadly it doesn’t work every day, but that’s life and we need to adapt and flex as required.
• Create well aligned objectives and goals – if you are on purpose and in total synchronicity between what you are doing, what you believe in and where your moral hunger sits, then unsurprisingly performance goes up and distraction become less of an issue. Clearly the converse of this is when these areas are not in the right place, not working in the correct organisation or consistently underperforming – make it work for you and if it’s not the right place change it, you are in control of that. even if it does take a bit of time.
• Tracking – FAFFometer – where are you spending your time, energy and effort? Is it on the client activity or social media grazing when work should be taking place? You can get a copy of the FAFFometer at www.stopfaffingabout.com It’s a simple timesheet for yourself and surprises many people when they are truly honest completing it.
• Focus is a choice – when working with a teenager with more challenges in their life going on between friends, partners, teachers and parents the question was asked,” Why are you choosing to distract yourself?” It’s not a Freudian level of question but is enough to ask the counter part of the question, “Why are you choosing not to focus / to distract yourself?” The answer isnt always an obvious one and on this occasion came back with self-limiting beliefs, self-sabotage, fear of failure, imposter syndrome and many other interpretations. Focus is a choice. Make the choice and if you need help from others, then ask.
• Give and receive feedback – an insular focus will give you one outlook and view on the world by being open and vulnerable with peers and your support network you will gain all sorts of insights into the world of your performance. The added bonus of giving feedback makes you become aware of the performance of others, their nuances and issues and how some will overlap with yours making you feel more human.
• Recognise – Regroup – Refocus – Always take time to review what is and isn’t working for you. Just taking a step back to recognise what is going on will then open the gateway to regroup and consolidate and then refocus. Time away, time on holiday, time just contemplating – give yourself the gift of time to just be!
• Some say distractions help us cope with pain when things go wrong, we can get caught up in something else rather than deal with the challenge at hand. Being afraid of the outcomes of our choices, actions or inaction, be they successful or not manifesting a distraction doesn’t prevent the pain. When this happens go back a point and look at the review area, it does take a bit of time but that is an investment and can make a huge difference on your sanity and performance.
• Consequences for getting distracted both formally and informally within the workplace or in your personal lives. We are used to incentives and rewards when we do things well, conversely when something hits the fan as a result of our distracted performance where we have dropped the ball or missed a deadline there are repercussions. When we spend too much time listening to the negative voice and looking for negative feedback we can head into a world of guilt and self-flagellation, where we deserve to be punished – flip it over and focus on the positive effect of a coffee once you have completed ‘X’ or similar – make it fun and you will be more likely to do it.
The Law of Distraction is not an illness, it is a condition that we can manage better than we do. The key element with all areas of distraction is YOU – you are the good cop, bad cop, time thief, social media grazer and the reason for your successes. Take ownership of both sides of the equation and get support around you that works for you. Having a coach works for some, a buddy, a peer group – when you own the situation you take responsibility for the outcomes, putting you in control more of the time.