Starve Your Distractions
The ability to focus is a competitive advantage in the world today. Here are some thoughts on how to stay focused at work:
Build periods of solitude into your schedule. Treat it as you would any meeting or an appointment. If you don’t schedule and commit to solitude, something else will fill the space. One need not be Henry David Thoreau here; 15-minute pockets of solitude are very effective. If we spend our entire workday sitting in meetings and answering emails, it leaves little space in our minds to do the hard thinking that is essential to good decision making and leadership.
Analyze where your time is best spent. Most of us have meetings that we can afford to miss, and most of us underutilize our energy because we have not allocated time to reflect and be rigorous about our priorities.
Starve your distractions. Social media, YouTube, and the limitless possibilities of the internet hang over our heads. They tempt us to click links that take us to another five-minute video or article. Acknowledge the ways that the internet lures you in, and then intervene by logging out of your social media accounts and blocking certain websites during work hours — especially the ones you use for a quick distraction “when you have 10 minutes to kill.”
Don’t be too busy to learn how to be less busy. One of the biggest reasons we struggle to focus is because we fill our schedules with too many commitments and we consistently prioritize urgent tasks over important ones. Leadership development and training opportunities exist to enhance your ability to understand yourself better, to reflect, and to grow. Don’t let the tempo of work get in the way of good development opportunities (once in a while).
Create a “stop doing” list. There are only so many hours in a day. As your to-do list grows, you cannot keep accumulating more tasks. Solitude gives you the space to reflect on where your time is best spent, which provides you with the clarity to decide which meetings you should stop attending, which committees you should step down from, and which invitations you should politely decline. This is something that Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, has been advising people to do for many years.