Distractions are an enemy to our creativity today. We are hit from multiple sides in a typical work day from the onslaught of problems, demands and information. It is relentless and without a strategy to protect our attention, we can lose immense productivity as well as miss opportunity.
A typical day can be chaotic when dealing with knowledge work. We don’t know what demands will be placed upon us. Too many people have easy access to our attention with email, social media, phone and the array of other online marketing which can easily distract us from what matters.
I place a premium on execution and strategy. It requires a lot of focus in order to be creative. Thus, I have had to develop some strategies over the years that make sense for helping to drive focus and execution in the midst of information demands. Here are some of them that I hope will help you as well.
- Separate your time. Our minds merely tread water if we are flitting between tasks continually. If you handle your email in a block of time rather than ongoing, you are much more focused and able to knock them out. If you have a time for working long on specific projects like writing, coding, proposals or planning then the focus allows you to drive towards higher quality of results and completion. A trick I use is to give myself 30 minute blocks so I have a deadline and a singular focus.
- Turn off. Many problems can get solved in the subconscious. Your active conscious mind is amazing at providing attention and pushing towards resolution. However, your brain has a fantastic way of organizing the pieces apart from emotion for creative solutions. Time, space and peace are required. Try unplugging from being online or via your mobile email. Go out for a run or walk. Remove yourself from the hectic problem environment. When you refocus, there will be fresh perspective, a clearer path and less cycles treading water in your mind.
- Simplify everything. Cluttered desks, lots of paper, too many visuals in your work environment – these are all distractions. Structure your work environment to have the bare necessities. After that, simplify further. The less things you have to manage, the less your mind has an open loop which impacts your focus. It’s why you feel clear after cleaning your workspace. There’s a natural mechanism at work in our psyche that creates drag on our productivity when things are messy or unresolved.
- Be ready for anything. You are not in control of your problems or of people. But, you can be ready. When I get frustrated, I can usually pinpoint it back to some need to control my environment or people. The reality is that I am not in control. The best I can do is to be ready. That means keeping my mind prepared for action. I nurture a deep wealth of knowledge from reading. I try to live gratefully and express gratitude with others. I keep things simple and ready for execution. I don’t know what problems I will face today or tomorrow, I just know they are coming. The best I can do is ready my mind, tools and relationships for action.
As we journey down this experiment of the new economy further, the distractions will increase and will likely outpace our strategies for attention. Without vigilance in this area, it is difficult to move the ball forward. We can end up in a state of reaction rather than moving forward with action.
My value is directly tied to my creativity and execution. Distractions are the enemy to my value and well worth a focus of strategy that will curb the onslaught. Guard your own environment so you can maximize your ability to deliver. It is directly tied to your success.
What strategies work for you?