The trick is to see distractions for what they are. By confronting them rather than succumbing to them, it’s possible to quickly shut them down and get on with tackling priorities.
When we feel good about our accomplishments we’ll contribute to the big wide world in a far more meaningful way.
Here are five ‘distraction actions’ that may serve to give the process a nudge.
Pedants may notice some repetition, please do not be distracted by this (!), often the trigger to a solution is in the phrasing.
1. Clarify your position
This involves looking at the part you’ve played in the issue, and being clear on the useful contribution you have to make to its solution. Quickly consider the issue from all sides and jot down any actions or thoughts that spring to mind.
The distraction may be the threat of a business downturn; it may be that a prospective customer won’t return your calls. The issue isn’t the issue, it’s the direction of your focus we’re pursuing.
The task here is to create some containment – package the issue and put it on the shelf. Agree when you’ll get to it and get back to your most important work tasks.
2. Determine your role
What role could/should you play in the issue? Look at whether you’re involved for the right reasons, or whether you’ve embraced something minor rather than confront a greater, more important challenge.
When we are fearful of an action in our business we tend to get distracted by things we are best to ignore. Ooh, is that another email, I simply must read it. Get the picture?
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3. Gain more perspective
It can be healthy to step back from issues a little and see them for what they often are – futile distractions that are doing little more than testing our resolve. Make sure you’re not falling into this trap.
Have a little chuckle at the absurdity of your thoughts and get back to work.
4. Think beyond the distraction
A good exercise can be to practice an instant pause, when a new distraction pops up. Consider for a moment: If I go off on this tangent/get involved in this conversation/start pondering this issue, where is it likely to take me and is now the time to go there?
Such mental ruthlessness is soon picked up by others and can dramatically stem the flow of distractions.
5. Set yourself a daily theme
This is a kind of night before ‘set the scene’ action and can work if you’ve been sunk in a pool of distraction for a while. As you’re shutting up shop, set yourself a theme for the next day. The challenge is to create a dominant feeling and hold it for the entire day.
Introduce boundaries to support your theme, such as:
- diverting your phone to voicemail for a period;
- only looking at your mailbox on two occasions;
- avoiding any negative or trivial gossip.
Daily themes work, just make sure it feels right and reward yourself for success.