Culture and Society

How to Tame Distractions and Get More Work Done

You’ve just arrived at work and realized that you’ve forgotten your smartphone at home. Suddenly, it feels like the world is about to end. I’ve lived this nightmare and so did one of my colleagues last week. With her agitation approaching the spin cycle by lunchtime, she went home to fetch it. Problem solved. No missed calls.

It’s too easy to blame our dependency on technology.

It’s not the technology that we’re addicted to. It’s the ready access to information that’s always available to us, just one click away. We can’t help ourselves. As humans, we’re wired to seek out new information, just as our ancestors scoured the landscape for food and water. As business professionals, our curiosity gets the better of us.

Our lives are increasingly disrupted by digital technology and it’s no secret that our attention span has gone out the window.

Goldfish can focus longer than we can.

There’s always another email to open, voice mail to answer, or article to read. With our current internet use estimated at 1,846 minutes per week (that’s 30.8 hours!) among Canadian adults (Canadian Media Usage Trends, IAB), it’s a dependency that we must learn to manage for the sake of effective problem solving and critical thinking.

It’s not the technology that we’re addicted to. It’s the ready access to information.

As we’ve shifted our news, banking and even social interaction to digital, we’re left with little time to fit in our priorities at work. But fit them in we must. Countless books have been written on the benefits of a good night’s rest, exercise, and mindful meditation to help improve our focus. While these are all good coping skills, we’re still left with distractions back at the office from which no amount of deep sleep can shield us. So how do you tame the onslaught of emails, phone calls and meetings?

At our agency, we’ve introduced two new habits to help our circus troupe increase their focus and build resilience.

Focus 30

We’ve set aside 30 minutes every morning at 9:30 as our time for deep thinking. No interruptions or conversations. Heads-down work, just like
in school when the class was given an assignment. After completing a one-month trial, we surveyed our staff and the majority told us that they
find Focus 30 to be helpful in getting important work done.

Meet Free Zone

Ever been in meetings all morning that stretch right into the afternoon, leaving no time to eat, catch up on emails or simply recharge? After experiencing this for too long, circus declared the noon hour to be off limits for internal meetings. Some staff use this time to have lunch together, to run errands or go for a brisk walk outside to energize and reset. Others opt to use this time for more deep thinking.

As a business owner you fund your priorities, whether it’s a new ERS, office expansion or new business development. So why not invest some time to help your staff increase their focus and be more productive? Review your schedules, talk to your team and help them find a way to tame distractions and get focused. Please let us know what ideas you come up with and send us an email. We’ll read it right after Focus 30.