3 steps leaders can take to control distractions and get more done

Do you want to control distractions throughout the day? Can you be present in the moment? How can you maximize your focus? Here are three steps to help you get it done. You’re heard them before, but it’s time to take action.

We’ve all read a lot about time management, which is defined as the ability to use our time efficiently. Now attention management takes it one step further. It’s optimizing and controlling our mental engagement. In other words, we choose what gets our attention, and we learn to control distractions.

Step 1: Have Clear Priorities

There is a famous quote by Patrick Lencioni, “If everything is important, then nothing is”. What are the top three to five most important tasks on your to-do list? Stephen Covey, author of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” shows how to segment this in the well-known Eisenhower Matrix.

Quadrant 1 is for the activities that require our immediate attention. Some of us feel that we’re in this Quadrant all day long putting out fires and spending every moment “in” the business.

Quadrant 2 includes the activities that are important for the continued health and growth of our companies, and this is where we should spend time working “on” the business. Strategic planning, team building, talent development are  ideal examples.

Quadrant 3 are tasks that need to be done right away but can definitely be delegated to others. It’s not crucial that we are the ones who must be involved in completing the task. How often do you find yourself bogged down with tons of emails, answering all the questions, being included in every meeting? These tend to be a huge drain on our productivity.

Quadrant 4 includes the activities that are the real productivity killers. These might include all the notifications coming through on our phone and computer, social media, junk mail and anything else that doesn’t contribute toward our goals and even our core values.


Step 2: Reduce and control distractions

Clearly, technology is a 24/7 distraction for many of us. How many times a day are you checking your emails? Social media sites? But the real distractions are others around us. Yes, they’re our team members, clients, family and friends. Have you set up boundaries? Does every contact require a Quadrant 1 – Urgent and Important (drop everything) – response? What if you set standards for yourself, communicate those boundaries and then focus on protecting your time?

Step 3: Single task

Research shows that multi-tasking is not only less productive, but it also raises stress levels, drains our energy and, ultimately, it takes us longer to complete tasks. According to a University of California Irvine study, when we divide our attention across multiple activities “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the original task”. When we focus on single-tasking, we’re concentrating on doing one thing at a time for at least 30 minutes. Bringing full attention to this single activity not only results in higher performance, but can also be much more rewarding and help you control distractions.

It’s time to improve your attention management. Together, we will boost our productivity and become more effective leaders.

Jill Belconis is a strategic business coach and RealTrends contributor.