Space Invaders – Distraction 101January 19, 2023
I talk a great deal about focus in my book, The Power of Consistency. And for good reason. It’s what the best athletes, the best leaders, and even the best salespeople have in common. As a matter of fact, athletes can find themselves in “The Zone.” It’s a place where all motor functions seem to be on auto-pilot. The ears shut out noise, the eyes get tunnel vision, and the mind tells the body it is impervious to pain and that it will succeed. The body only knows what the mind tells it, and it powers forward knowing the shot will be made, the pass will be caught, the goal will be scored and the race won. Zero doubt.
It’s easy to mistake that for mere confidence. There’s a bit more science to it than that. The mind is recognizing a pattern that the body is going through. It knows the athlete has repeatedly practiced the skills needed so much (consistency) that it no longer needs to remind the body what to do because it is so ingrained that the bones, ligaments, joints and muscles work on their own. That mentality (mindset) is there because finding oneself in the “zone” is only possible with the strongest belief that the outcome is all but guaranteed. It’s one of the purest examples of mind over matter, and it’s difficult to truly understand it if you’ve never experienced it.
One Man‘s Focus Is Another Man’s Distraction
How can we create enough focus to find ourselves in the “zone” when it comes to our professional lives, our careers? In the beginning of implementing any system, there are struggles and quite the learning curve, especially if we have to break old habits. The athlete has practiced his routine enough to be able to put on blinders to distractions that would hinder his performance. Can we do the same?
There are nearly countless individual distractions that take us out of our main focus and delay outputting our best effort and result. We can cover some of these in a future episode, but here are a few that come up either in the office, or in the work-from-home environment.
- Phones– The number ONE source of misspent time at work.
- Social media – Scrolling through for “just a minute or two?” Who are we kidding?
- Websites and clickbait – We will read “Top 10 cities for retiring” or “Is your home value dropping? Click here to find out…” We can become addicted to news also, especially when big events occur, like bad weather, war, or pandemics.
- Email – It can wait. It really can.
- TV – Ugh. Everyone else is talking about the new season of the show. Maybe I’ll just put it on in the background…
- Snack breaks – There is a real phenomenon called Boredom Eating (aka distraction eating). We eat when we’ve lost focus on our task and are looking for a time killer. And a scale killer if we’re being honest.
- Family member interruptions – “Mom, Carol pushed me because I read her diary and told her she misspelled some words and can’t have a boyfriend until she’s older. Mommy? Mom? Are you listening?”
- Attempting to multitask – Enough said.
- Miscellaneous – Visitors, pets, roommates, solicitors. Etcetera.
Is NOW the time to clean the kitchen or can it wait until your task is done? Is NOW the time to get an oil change or are you doing it because it’s less painful than making a particularly challenging sales call? Is NOW the time to do my taxes when they’re not due for 3 months?
Make a system that works for you. That may involve eliminating distractions and being honest with yourself about stalling. We easily notice when children stall, so take a long look at your actions to see if you’re guilty too. Are you able to recognize the ways you delay progress? Have you ever taken the time to think about your work process?
Until you have complete self-discipline when it comes to managing distractions, there are some resources to help. There are even computer apps and phone apps that will block whichever websites you want need to take a break from. It can also block distracting apps while you work. The app has a timer on it that lets you have your website or app back in an hour or two. (There are even apps for blocking work after you’ve clocked out to ensure you have a good work-life balance.)
Setting priorities is also crucial. Without it, even our routine tasks can become distractions, as they will leapfrog the more important tasks at hand. Here are a few points to consider.
Can you still fulfill all your priorities for the day without leaving anyone out? Is there something that can’t be missed or that is time sensitive?
If your child’s school festival only happens today and you said you would take her, then block out that time as busy and give her your full attention. Prepare an out-of-office voicemail that can be turned on when needed, or an auto-text response letting them know you’ll be able to respond in a few hours or tomorrow.
And if there is a work emergency during your family time, set up a system where co-workers and customers know you’re unavailable but can text “Urgent” in the header of a text or subject line of an email. Have a full plan for dealing with emergencies when they come up, especially after hours or during an activity you cannot miss.
Is Time Even Real?
If you have children, you know what I mean. One day your daughter is off to Kindergarten and the next day she’s graduating. But when it comes to work, there is a theory about time called Parkinson’s Law.
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. The term was attributed to Cyril Northcote Parkinson in a tongue-in-cheek essay he wrote in 1955 for “The Economist.” He supposes that it will take someone exactly the same amount of time to complete a task as the given deadline. If you have a week to complete it, we tend to do enough daily work on it to have it done in 7 days. If the deadline is 2 days, we also stretch out each task to time it to be completed in 2 days. Or we begin at the last moment and cram like we’re studying for the History test tomorrow.
It doesn’t always mean the work takes longer, as we sometimes fill in the extra time with lower priority tasks, or we allocate more time to things we’ve been ignoring by working too much (family, date nights, hobbies, etc.) The same time theory may be true for end of the month quotas, where we finally meet our goals on the last day of the month. It’s as much a mystery as the Bermuda Triangle.
But here’s the reality. Once you recognize this in yourself, you can game the system. If given a 5-day deadline, you can begin to focus on completing the task FIRST, and THEN use the extra time to do all the other things on your list. And if each task brings you a commission, then turn in your work sooner and go get a new commission. This is the way sales associates become consistent in their growth. It’s how to avoid the pattern of a good first month and then a dip in the numbers afterwards.
Make a Schedule, Create a Routine
When working from the office, we are expected to follow the shifts given to us, the old 9-5 routine. But working from home may allow us to manage our time to better fit our lifestyle and goals. What do you want from the day? To finish, or at least make a dent in 5 tasks? To spend 2 hours with the kids or your spouse? Are you normally a night owl? Do you work best in the early morning hours? There may be an opportunity to fulfill all of your goals on a given day without over-stressing.
Plan breaks, including short breaks, lunchtime, stretching/walking, long breaks and something to look forward to, etc. Are you at home with your spouse/partner? Consider staggering your workload to allow one of you to entertain or teach the children while the other completes work with fewer interruptions.
Create a plan for tomorrow’s workday before you go to bed tonight. Make sure set-in-stone appointments are kept and at least make a general outline of the next workday in order to avoid overlooking anything. Create goals for the day and for the week and update your progress.
Mind over matter, remember? I’ve taught thousands how to develop a Prosperity Mindset, one that consistently delivers positive results and thrives in the face of adversity. A Prosperity Mindset does not allow external conditions to determine your destiny. Much like the athlete, it shapes our thought process.
When you have a given thought, a signal is created in your brain that chemically creates a corresponding emotion. The emotion drives you to take some action or another, which generates a corresponding result. Therefore your emotions and actions (which create your results) are a reflection of your thoughts. If you’re struggling to get control of your thoughts to focus on the task in front of you, you may hit your productivity ceiling far too soon.
There is a causality between getting your thoughts under control and creating a mindset. It’s the chicken and the egg. One cannot successfully exist without the other. When you have developed your Prosperity Mindset, you’ll have the building blocks for success. And traction for all future endeavors.
Stay tuned, as today we focused mainly on office and work-from-home focus. We’ll talk again soon about how to maintain focus on the way to a demo and at a house call, and how focus matters more than ever in front of the customer.
Wait a minute. You aren’t reading this article right now before your work is done? Are you?!
To find out more about the Proserity Mindset, check out my Online Training.