Avoiding Distraction

We are masters at the art of distraction. In most of my coaching sessions lately my team has shared with me their difficulty in staying focused on the behaviors they know lead to success. This struggle is not foreign to me either. It is so easy for my attention to get distracted from what I know to be important for me to focus on and instead be pulled towards other interests. The world in which we live in is no friend in this battle. Today's media is especially gifted in creating a sense of "urgency" around every news story. They have mastered the art of distraction and created a need to "stayed tuned" to the latest and most up to date information regarding whatever they have deemed important on a given day. Without systems in place to help me stay focused on my priorities and high-payoff activities, I'm quite certain I would get very little done and what I did get done would be of poor quality. Knowing that this is a common struggle, I thought I would share six systems that I have in place to help me avoid distraction.

  1. My Life Plan helps me stay focused on my personal and professional priorities. In my life plan I identify my vision and purpose for each priority (account) and the behaviors that I need to engage in to help me make regular deposits into these accounts. The necessary behaviors are scheduled in my calendar, they are a part of my business plan, and I have a great coach to hold me accountable to them. I review my Life Plan monthly to make sure I am staying on track and engaged with the people that are most important to me. A great blog post on developing a Life Plan can be read on Mike Hyatt's blog, click here.
  2. I use a One Page Business Plan to manage my staff, my sales team, and help me be a contributing member of our management team at Prudential. My one page plan outlines my goals for the quarter, the activities that I must do on a regular basis to help me reach those goals, and the improvement projects I'm working on during the quarter. I love the one page plan because it summarizes everything that I striving for and need to do and is easy to read and reference. There are so many choices on how to spend our precious time each day. Having the one page plan helps me make the right decisions and stay focused on the high-payoff activities that ensure me the highest probability of success. A great blog post for creating your own one page plan can be found on Daniel Harkavy's blog, click here.
  3. My sacred Planning and Preparation Hour occurs every day from 4PM to 5PM. My goal is to stop work and to assess the days achievements and events. I look at my week ahead and start to make my to do list for the next day. I use this time to return my final emails and voice mails of the day. Most importantly though I mentally prepare for the next day so that I can focus my attention on my family when I get home. I don't want to be distracted when I am with my family and this hour helps me leave work at work. This one hour of planning and preparation has helped me be more productive at home and work.
  4. I work from a To-Do List each day. My list includes the people that I need to engage and the tasks that are most important to achieve on that particular day. I screen this list against my Life Plan and One Page Business Plan to make sure I am focusing a large portion of my time on the right priorities. There are days when the list is overwhelming and many of the items seem to lack a focus on my priorities, but that is okay occasionally. Brian Buffini taught me that we cannot win every single day but we can win enough days  to say we've won the week, and enough weeks to win the month, and enough months to say we've won the year. Perfection is not possible for us.
  5. My Calendar is King in my life. I schedule everything on my calender. My date nights with my wife, my coaching sessions, my drive time to different appointments, my weekend plans, client meetings, reflection time, literally everything. This helps me stay focused on what I must accomplish and allows me to spend time turning business off to focus on surfing the net, reading my favorite blogs, and doing other non-business related stuff so that I feel connected to the outside world. If I don't schedule time to check out then I am more likely to get distracted and sucked into "distraction" trap.
  6. I practice Candidness with everyone that requests a part of my time. If someone asks me if I have a minute, I am frank with them and tell them Yes, No, or not right now but I will at this certain time. It was really tough for me to do this at first because I thought I had to respond to everyone and everything immediately. By living my life in the tyranny of the urgent though I was getting nothing done and what I did get done was of such poor quality. My goal is to never be rude but always truthful with everyone making a request. Most people are happy to wait if you tell them when you can speak with them.

I do not enjoy being a master at the art of distraction. I would much rather say that I am a master at getting the right things done at the right time with the right results. As I continue to work on these systems and use different tools the more empowered I feel and the less distracted I am each day.

What tools or systems do you use to stay focused and not get distracted?

Make it a great day!

Coach Dan