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The Danger of Distractions

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

If you speak with almost anyone in the workplace today, they will say the same thing. They have too much work to do and can’t catch up. There are many contributing factors to this situation, but one of the biggest is the role distractions play in getting work done.

With many of my clients, I work with them to institute a quarterly business review. It’s a great way for an executive team to gain insight into the business's various parts and build accountability for the various functional leaders. It’s also a great way for those functional leaders to use their platform in those quarterly business reviews to identify business challenges. In those templates, I always include a slide titled distraction. The intent is to identify any concerns they have about variables that pull people away from the core work.

Distractions identified in those presentations can run a wide range. Here are some examples:

  • Construction in the building

  • CEO pet projects

  • CEO’s wife and her pet projects

  • Morale based on some recent company decisions

  • Conflicting messages from two different leaders

  • Customer complaints

  • Ongoing additions to workload

  • And many more…

Each of these has a solution, and in that quarterly business review forum, we talk about the solutions. Keep in mind the CEO is part of these reviews. If the distraction is ignored and allowed to continue, there is a cost to it. Life is about choices, and if a distraction is not addressed, it will have consequences.

Those examples are at the organizational level. This happens at the individual level as well. We are inundated with so many sources of input around us, whether co-workers, managers, peers, direct reports, social media, family, friends, clients, etc. It’s amazing we get anything done! For example, I recently had to write a strategic plan for a client. It was the second one of the week. I HAD to get it done, but I also HAD to meet with a partner for dinner. It was a long-scheduled dinner with out-of-town folks and involved other people too. I went a few minutes late to dinner to be able to work right up to the time I was absolutely needed, and while desserts and coffee were being served, I quietly paid the bill and announced I needed to leave. I had a great deal of pushback that would have made it much easier to stay. I knew they were going to be there for another long while, and I simply couldn’t give in to the distraction, so I firmly said I needed to leave because of this deadline.

There are a number of tips to help you manage distractions.

  1. Make a list of what needs to get done and prioritize it A, B, C. A’s need to get done that day without fail.

  2. Put yourself in a place where what you need to do is your only focus.

  3. Block your time in chunks. Work at your fullest potential and greatest focus during those blocks of time. In between those blocks of time, surface and briefly check-in on email, texts, and calls to address the fires so you can re-immerse yourself into a focused state.

  4. Remove items that allow people to reach you. In my case, I will shut off my phone while giving the most important people in my life a heads up to call my husband if there is an emergency. Everyone else can survive a few hours until I surface. This includes turning off email on all your devices because simply the chiming will call your attention to it.

  5. Break the task down and set small/near-term deadlines to drive productivity and manufacture focus.

  6. Every time your mind wants to wander, jot the idea down in your journal to provide comfort that you will come back to it but remove it from your thought process.

  7. Keep saying this mantra to yourself, “This won’t get done unless I do it. Just stay engaged and get it done so I can then do other things.”


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