Lead Your Life

Leadership, Awareness, and Growth

Single Biggest Distraction May 19, 2011

Your time is one of your most important resources.  Maybe your most important.  So why do we give it away so freely? 

Someone peeks their head in your office, and you find yourself in a 5 minute conversation about Gray’s Anatomy or worse, the weather.  Your email reminder flashes every nan0-second letting you know, that yes, your email is continuing to spiral out of control.  You respond instantaneously to every page, text, phone call, email, or “wazzup” in the hallway.  You begin web research only to find that within 5 minutes, you are reading the breaking news on some sex scandal in congress.  Every meeting you attend has 10 minutes of fluff at the beginning, 5 at the end, and at least one rambling story in the middle.  And don’t even get me started on the unraveling thread of facebook, twitter, linked in, etc. 

It’s all TIME.  And it’s precious.  And it’s the thing we all say we don’t have enough of.  And yet, we give it away.

How does this happen?  It would take a PhD in psychology to unpack that answer, but the bottom line is this:  giving away our most precious resource – time – is a choice.  Whether we are conscious about that choice or not is irrelevant.  In fact, all of our explanations for why are irrelevant as they are simply justifications for allowing distractions to feast on our day. 

Now consider that research shows that it takes the human brain, our supercomputer, 15 – 20 minutes to get back into the groove.  In other words, you’re in deep thought analyzing your P&L or laying out a killer marketing piece, interruption comes, and you’re at half mast for the following 20 minutes.  It’s not just the 5 minutes of idle chit-chat you’ve lost – it’s 25 minutes.  Research also shows that the average US worker reports 6 interruptions / day (not including their constant toggling back and forth to email).  At 20 minutes each, that’s 2 hours every day that is given away to distractions that make no difference to the results you dream of creating. 

That’s staggering.  And a call to action.  For those of us worried about offending someone, this data alone should be compelling enough to get past that hangup.   If you want to know how impactful this is in your week, count your distractions every day.  Multiple by 20, divide by 60, and that is the # of hours tossed out the window.  Better yet, categorize your distractions.  This will allow you to develop a plan to handle them so you feel good about your approach & you are ready when the next distraction happens. 

If you struggle asking people to cease & desist their morning monologue about last night’s TV marathon, script it.  Say it in a way that makes you feel good & accomplishes the goal.  If that doesn’t work, try compassionate bluntness.  “I know you are busy, as am I.  These conversations really interrupt my flow of thought, and thus, I’m asking for your help in stopping them.  We can always talk about The Bachelorette at lunch…”  Tada! 

Taking back our time so that we can stay on track with our mind’s engaged & on fire is not a luxury – it is a necessity for high performance.  We all have time drains… little holes in our day that time simply evaporates.  Be honest about yours and eliminate them.

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One Response to “Single Biggest Distraction”

  1. Jason Juarez Says:

    I hope you don’t mind me using this in a meeting. It is a very common issue and difficult to approach at times. I like the being blunt part. It seems to work the best. Muchos Gracias.


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