Distraction can be a welcome break in the intensity of the day. It’s okay to take a moment to recap on the weekend sports match or arrange for a meeting about a problem that needs multiple points of view. Distraction can also be viewed as unwelcome and be interrupting to the day especially after the main activities wind up being sidelined. When larger chunks of time are taken up by being distracted by one thing or another, that time is no longer available to give to the things that are most important to the business.
It’s this type of unwelcome distraction that Businesses Leaders primarily focus on improving and eliminating. When we are distracted, aside from feeling a sense of letting ourselves and others down, the number one consequence of succumbing to a stream of distraction is that the business doesn’t have a chance to grow. There is a certain amount of time needed to spend on developing products, adding value to client or customer experiences, tightening operations, improving profitable financial transactions etc, and distractions or interruptions often stop/start that process.
There will always be situations which require immediate attention and are deemed as emergencies such as the computer servers crashing, eftpos machines no longer working, floods and generally incidents that are unforeseen and out of our control. Then, there are situations which don’t require attention by a Business Leader at that exact point in time. Times when other people call to ask a ‘quick’ question (because it’s easier to ask right?) or those interruptions which start with “can you help me with…?” are what we will examine.
Redirecting the traffic
Human nature is such that when a problem does occur we tend to want to ‘fix it’ straight away and in order to do that we look for the most convenient and fastest road to take first. As a Business Leaders, you’ll need to work in the “zone” time target more and more in order to grow the business.
As soon as you are taken away from that important activity, it could take over 20 minutes to regroup and pick up where you left off1. If there are only 4 people who interrupt a Business Leader during the day, it equates to losing 1 hour and 20 mins of time to regain the original activity, on top of the actual time taken by each person, which could be 15 to 20 minutes per conversation. It’s surprising to most people to learn that 4 people asking you a simple question, could potentially take away over 2 ½ hours of time!
To retain relationships in the business, whether it is on site, in the office or with customers and clients the best approach to clawing back valuable time is not to completely block other people and devices out, but to redirect them.
Simple ways to redirect your stream of distractions with:
If you have the staff on hand, then nominate a person in your business and literally hand them your mobile phone. As unnerving as this is, it will save you hours! That person can now filter your calls and you can allocate a time later in the day/week to return the call.
The easiest thing to do in the world is...turn the incoming mail alert sound off. Or better still, close your emails down and only open them for 1-2 hours per your day.
- Social Media.
Pre-schedule posts through social media tools which handle more than one medium at a time. Use ‘out of hours’ to send personal snapchats, pins, selfies, texts or tweets. You won’t suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) because you have trained your followers to know your posts will occur at regular intervals. Social media can be a vortex of time, so bloggers beware!
- Other people.
This extends to anyone who feels the compulsion to knock on your door or chase you down the driveway when you’re on your way to an appointment. A terrific sign to hang on an office door is “before knocking, provide a solution”2 it will certainly provide you with a solid block of concentration. The added bonus is the business will start to source solutions and even resolve their issues without involving the Business Leader.
- Feeling overwhelmed.
If you’re in the middle of a mammoth project then it’s only natural to feel overwhelmed and “snowed under”. Break down each section of the project with activities and start a small To-Do list. The list will provide clarity and consistency and reduce the stress levels associated with feeling overwhelmed. Knock off the things that take a few minutes3 and soon you’ll find those little “wins” will all add up (the 1 percenters count!).
Ask yourself “Is this the best use of my time?”. When feeling as though you are being pulled in a direction which isn’t developing into a fruitful interaction, this is the time to apply this question to yourself. More often than not, the answer will invariably be “no”.
Another area to work out is your circadian rhythm or natural peak times of alertness4. Some people are suited to very early morning intensive thinking whereas others prefer the evenings or afternoons. Ensure that time is given the highest priority in your schedule.
Without a shadow of a doubt a Business Leader will get the most results by simply delegating the level of distraction that they experience on a daily basis. Delegating distraction doesn’t require any capital investment, additional resources or high levels of expertise and knowledge. It requires discipline. Once mastered, this skill will be the lowest costing and one of, if not the highest yielding asset that a business can have in the shortest amount of time.
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2 Blanchard, K. A, Oncken W., Burrows H., (2004) The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey. HarperCollins USA.
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