Category: Distraction

How interruptions destroy your productivity…

By , May 8, 2012 5:22 pm

“I’m embarrassed to admit that I was the cause of many of my interruptions. I didn’t realize that I was opening the door and allowing them in! On average I was being interrupted about every 15 minutes… No wonder I was working a 75 hour week! I’ve now learned how to fight back.”

John, Senior Manager and Client

I started coaching John two months ago when he was constantly staying late and working weekends trying to keep up with his heavy workloads.

He felt overwhelmed, out of control and extremely tired.

As we started working together, I realized that his workloads weren’t impossible. So why was he overwhelmed and unproductive?

The constant interruptions were distracting his concentration and killing his productivity…

Here’s what John realized:

  • He was inviting interruptions throughout his day because he was accessible to everyone all of the time.
  • He was at the mercy of other people’s phone calls, emails, demands and agendas that interrupted him constantly.
  • He relied on extra time to do HIS work: early in the morning before work or after work when he was most productive because no one else is around!
  • His day was filled with distractions and followed this pattern: start-stop-start-stop-start-stop-start-stop-start-stop-start-stop (No wonder he was exhausted!).

John could see a pattern of how constant waves of noise and other people’s demands were eroding his productivity. Even casual conversations broke through any pockets of productivity. He’d get distracted and then find it hard to concentrate back on the task. John worked out that he was only being productive 2-3 hours each day! No wonder he was staying late or working into the evening!

Here’s the thing…

There are many reasons for interruptions – 95% of them are not necessary.

Here’s how to fight back and stop interruptions impacting on your day by protecting your Zone of Productivity

 

1. Work alone. If you’re always being interrupted then you’re constantly mind shifting between tasks. It can take up to 20 minutes to get back into your Zone of Productivity. It’s difficult to focus on what’s important and you end up wasting time. Book a room. Go to a coffee shop (That’s where this article was written!). Work on important things away from any distractions.

2. Limit your access – Stop being ‘nice’. If others ask questions and you’re always there to answer, they don’t have to think for themselves. You teach others to rely on you. Let them figure it out and make the decision. Your accessibility reduces their productivity as well as yours! Teach people how to treat you. ‘Open door’ policies are admirable but they are not practical ALL the time! Create and communicate some ‘closed door’ time too so you can get important things done.

3. Role model productivity – Leadership is NOT about how many hours you work! You don’t have to be available ALL the time. Nor do you have to be first to arrive and last to leave! Get clear on your High Value Work and schedule time to get this done. Be selective, set boundaries and let people know when you’re not available. Leave work on time at least three days a week.

4. Turn off communications – If you’re scheduling time to work alone on a project, then turn off all communications with the outside world: phones, SMS, email etc. It’s easy to become distracted by device addiction. You get to choose when you answer YOUR phone and emails. Don’t teach people that you’re available 24/7 – it’s not realistic!

5. Set a timer – People will steal as much time from you as possible and some like to talk because it’s better than working! Signpost how much time you have available at the beginning of a phone call or meeting and stick to it. If a person needs longer then they can schedule an appointment with you. Doing this helps keep the conversation focused and on track and keeps interruptions to a minimum.

Decide to be productive and fight back against interruptions. You have more control than you think.

 

 

Why business meetings are painful, boring and unproductive…

By , March 28, 2012 6:27 pm

“Bad meetings, and what they indicate and provoke in an organization, generate real human suffering in the form of anger, lethargy, and cynicism. An while this certainly has a profound impact on organizational life, it also impacts people’s self-esteem, their families, and their outlook on life.”

 

~ Patrick Lencioni, Author

 

Have you ever attended one of these?

“I could get my work done, if I didn’t have to go to so many pointless meetings!” ~ John, a coaching client. He went on to summarise that most of the meetings he attended were unfocused, lethargic and boring, but a necessity of business life.

I can remember attending many meetings in my corporate life that were frustrating and pointless. Yet I was told that had to endure them because it was part of my job.

I remember a low point once where ‘Fun’ was listed as an agenda item and we were actually forced to ‘enjoy’ a team game as part of a meeting. Have you ever pretended to have fun? – It’s counter-productive. If you ever get to this stage you need to step back and explore WHY you’re contemplating this as an agenda item in the first place. It might be because of some of the reasons below…

Why are meetings so painful and unproductive?

…Because they are! – Acceptance that part of the process of doing business involves the tedium of attending meetings. You have to go through the ritual of attending to get the job done. Many people believe that meetings are bad in every company so it’s just the way it works in business. Brace yourself and just get on with it! We’ve got used to hating them!

Lack of ownership – Participants attend with the mindset that it’s something that is done to them rather than taking RESPONSIBILITY for the role they play and how to get the best outcomes. Mediocrity and complacency sets in. You show up because you feel you have to. You’re a silent observer and the meeting becomes passionless and dull.

Little or no leadership – Ineffective meetings happen because of the approach and attitude of the people leading them. The leader models and influences the attitude and approach of those attending. Sometimes it becomes a forum to exercise the ego of the highest ranking person in the room. The focus is lost as individuals drift off-piste to satisfy their own agenda or because they’re bored! Participants aren’t sure of their role: should I be debating? Discussing? Brainstorming? Or listening?

Boring – If you had nothing else to do with your time, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to spend it in a dry, tedious un-engaging meeting with some people that you might not even like that much! Sitting and listening for long periods of time to uninspiring content is monotonous. Every one moans that it’s boring – but no one does anything about it. It’s a ritual to attend every week. People are scared to give an opinion or challenge – so they sit like nodding dogs. Poor decisions are made as a consequence. Awkward situations are avoided by staying quiet, nodding where appropriate and writing your weekly shopping list!

No structure – The regular staff meeting is a classic example of this. Weekly? Monthly? Where everyone gets together for an unfocused random discussion about everything! There’s little clarity about topics and there’s no context for discussion. Individuals literally check out.

Pressure and anxiety – Most people have loads of other things to do. Attending a bad meeting only amplifies the anxiety and pain. Focus on the meeting is lost and you start thinking about how you could use this wasted time. If it’s a conference call – you’re probably multi-tasking doing your emails at the same time! You’re not used to sitting still and doing just one thing at a time so it’s easy to get distracted.

Recognise any of these?

Harvard Business School a few years ago claimed that over 50% of meetings are a waste of time…

Here’s the thing…

It’s possible to make meetings compelling, engaging, interactive and productive. It starts with changing the mindset of those attending and involves a little re-thinking on how to manage them effectively. Here are some of the benefits: Better decisions, improved morale, shorter time away from your desk, better results and increased value.

Which meeting would you rather attend?

(More tips soon on how to make meetings engaging, interesting and productive)

 

 

Not making any progress with your goals? Try these six steps…

By , March 21, 2012 9:10 pm

“My life is one long obstacle course, with me being chief obstacle.”

Jack Paar.

I’ve come to realise that learning and success is NOT about doing more.

And often, the one key thing that gets in my way… is me!

Growing is about taking action towards your goal and completing things.

I started working with a new client this week (Jenny). She began our session by describing how disappointed she was with the progress of her year so far. She blamed constant interruptions for her lack of productivity (on reflection, she realized that none of these were necessities, just bad habits, a lack of boundaries and not being selective – we’re now working on these together).

Jenny’s great plans for the year had all fallen away since January. She’d not made any meaningful progress and was back telling the same story she’d been telling everyone last year: how unfair everything was and feeling sorry for herself that she had no time to make anything happen.

Then she started ‘should-ing…’ Her conversation was peppered with “I know I should be more…”

It’s difficult to be fully present and focused on what’s important when you have many demands on your attention. You become distracted by the noise of interruptions and it’s hard to get BACK ON TRACK.

These distractions can become valid excuses (an alibi) for not achieving your goal. Over time your goal remains an idea as things begin to fall away.

Jenny was exerting a lot of effort and energy to maintain her alibi and at the same time she was creating self-imposed disappointment and grief. Her alibi had become more attractive than taking what was perceived to be a more difficult path towards achieving her goals. She put extra demands upon herself and baled out with excuses instead of taking action.

Most of us are undisciplined in our approach and it’s easy to become distracted and unfocused. When we’re under pressure we move out of our left-brain – logical thinking, into the right brain - emotive thinking and it’s difficult to be rational from this place.

Here’s how to make meaningful progress and get BACK ON TRACK:

1. Re-align to your goal - Get clear on WHAT you want to achieve and WHY you want to do it. Write down your intention and keep this in a place where you can see it regularly.

2. Stop avoiding – Decide that you’ll no longer use excuses to keep you from your goal. Look out for convenient excuses that have taken you off track in the past. Do something that you’ve been avoiding today! Write down your excuses and turn them around with an action step instead, then go make it happen.

3. Not interested in the easy way out – Let your sub-conscious know that you’re no longer taking the path of convenience. Be your own cheerleader and congratulate yourself for having the courage and determination to move into feeling uncomfortable. Be open to making difficult choices rather than the usual easier ones. This is how you’ll create success.

4. Create a process - Write down what needs to be done. Create a system or process for things to happen – one step at a time. The only way you’ll be successful is to have a plan and follow the plan. What is the next step? Have discipline to follow the steps one at a time, as this will create momentum.

5. Take conscious action – Take small action steps consistently and make it a habit. Consciously check in weekly with your progress and schedule dates and times in your planner to keep things moving – little and often.

6. Get some support – Shifting habits and creating new ways of working requires discipline and persistence if you’re determined to achieve your goals. In other words – You have to do the work! Hiring a coach is a great way to invest in your success. A good coach provides a high level of support and guidance to help you get BACK ON TRACK as you get clear, claim your power, take action and create new outcomes in your life and work.

NOW is the time to get Back on Track, re-align with your dreams, get strategic, and start to make things happen!

What’s your next step?

What’s Distracting You?

By , February 22, 2012 7:43 pm

Doing something unimportant well doesn’t make it important!”

Tim Ferriss

Have you ever closed down your email box on an evening only to find a half written reply you started earlier that day? You totally forgotten about it because you were distracted by something else, that took you to a different place!

The reality is that we have so much to do and it’s very easy for us to get distracted. Our attention is splattered; we lose focus and become too thinly spread over a wide surface area of things to do.

Where exactly does your Attention go?

Here are four ways we get distracted.

1. Everything is URGENTIn his book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey describes the difference between two main factors that define an activity as IMPORTANT and URGENT.

URGENT These actions and activities are often bright, shiny, attention grabbing objects that are in your face! They jump up and down and say ‘Hey! Look I’m here! Do me NOW!’ They might be things that you enjoy doing such as any excuse to make a coffee, checking the Internet or going Facebook. It might be checking your emails and getting sucked in to responding to each one, instead of what you’d planned to do that morning.

IMPORTANTis all about your Intention – Actions and activities that move you towards your goals and priorities.

Here’s the thing…Urgent doesn’t necessarily mean Important.

Urgent grabs your attention because it’s louder and what’s important can become drowned out by the noise.

Defining these can really help you to recognise when you’re becoming distracted. You can re-focus your attention onto what’s important.

2. Over complicating stuff – It’s easy to over complicate something and get sucked into too much detail because of panic or you perceive the thing to be such a huge deal. We can get caught up in the drama.

A few Years ago, I started creating a tele-seminar: “Are You in Business or in Busy-ness? Four Ways to Get Your Life Back on Purpose.” I unconsciously got sucked into the detail and wasted time creating some beautifully visual mind maps for the call. It was an audio presentation and no one was going to see them! Because it was a big deal, I made it so big in my head that I added more Busy-ness to it than I needed to.

3. Avoiding things - Are you inventing things to do to AVOID what’s important?

I used to be the Master of avoidance in my life. Rather than address an unhealthy relationship with my partner, I focused on traveling, rescuing more cats, studying for a Masters Degree and becoming a School Governor for our local Primary School in the village where we lived! I was distracting myself from the real issue: the relationship. I added more stuff to my life to keep me busy. None of these activities would ‘fix’ the relationship. They just distracted me.

4. Lack of clarity and direction – When you become distracted your attention scatters because you lose focus of your Intention. You take unconscious action (or inaction) because you become lost and confused. You lose control and feel that everything is imposed upon you. You settle and survive and accept things as they are. You stay stuck.

What’s distracting you?

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