As a leader, you have a plan or plans to achieve objectives. Your principal focus is on turning those plans into tangible, measurable reality. You have a list (or several) and an agenda. And then, invariably, the world intrudes and makes demands upon you which will cause you to lose focus.
You'll multitask. You'll have to break your stream of thought to address an unrelated issue that just happens to come up. You will become increasingly distracted, unfocused and you will lose momentum. You may feel overwhelmed. Your plans have been scuttled and you are in a sort of crisis management mode.
You have let one or two things happen...
1) You've allowed your priorities to be restructured (because of either your high level of distraction or because of your inability to concentrate) because you've gotten lost in a problematic detail and lose sight of the battleground. You are subconsciously avoiding the most important "critical inch" of linear effort that is required of you (and playing around the periphery instead); and/or;
2) You've allowed other individuals to commandeer your important agenda in the interest of helping them accomplish the items which are highest on their respective priority lists. This keeps pulling you off of the highway and onto winding sidestreets.
You now have to make two course corrections, and each will require discipline...
1) Divide your day and your tasks into specifically-timed intervals so that you cannot get lost in excessive detail and defer the prize that can only be maintained by doing those few, but most crucial things. Take breaks to restore your energy. Train yourself to assess yourself hourly to see how much of your priority work that you've gotten finished. Learn to push certain details off to the side, to be addressed later instead of constantly letting them take your eyes away from the telescope and forcing you to squint into the microscope; and,
2) Learn how to say "no" when other individuals attempt (even in good faith) to pull you away from what you had planned to do so that you may help them...often at great expense to yourself and your accomplishments. If it is a matter of an emergency, that is certainly different; but you will find that most of these interruptions (and if you were to count them, you might have as many as eight or ten daily!) are not emergencies which require your immediate attention. Some of the most successful people I have had the opportunity to work with in business systematically put 'requesters" on the spot by asking very direct questions.
"Is this an absolute emergency?"
"Can you find someone else to help you with this?"
"Can this wait? What is your deadline?"
Rather than just saying "no," asking questions of this sort give others a better perspective of what is important and what is not. Your time is precious. You must constantly be vigilant in how you invest it, and you are obligated to regain control of it by demanding that it be respected. This time "triage" and key focus process can only become second nature if you are conscious of just how much there is to do, and just how little time there is in which to do it.
Douglas E Castle [http://aboutDouglasCastle.blogspot.com]
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An article follows, courtesy of Guy Kawasaki. This article was originally published in the American Express Open Forum.
Top 10 Steps To Reclaim Your Life From Distraction
Guy Kawasaki Co-Founder, Alltop -
Peter Bregman is strategic advisor to CEOs and management teams and author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done. According to Peter, people are interrupted, on average, four times an hour, and the more challenging the work, the less likely you are to go back to it after the interruption. In other words, we are most likely to leave our most important work unfinished. [Read Entire Article]