There are so many distractions now that it’s very difficult to give anything your full, undivided attention. No matter how good your intentions, the potential distractions can be overwhelming.
You never remove your smartphone from your hand for any period. If it isn’t in your hand, it’s sitting on your desk next to you, your car seat, or your bedside table. Your laptop is always open, and if you’re like most people, the browser is always open. And if your computer is on with the browser open, chances are your email is open, and so are a few social sites.
Doing good work requires that you concentrate. Whatever you’re doing, do that and nothing else.
If you are processing your email, process your email.
I don’t process my email in the morning until I have done the most important tasks I need to complete. On Mondays and Tuesdays I let a lot of email sit unread while I am doing higher value activities, screening it on my iPhone to delete nonsense and trivialities and responding to anything that is important. But most people can’t wait to get into their email box first thing in the morning (for reasons I don’t understand unless your email is somehow way different than mine).
If you are going to process your email, go ahead and do it completely. Respond to every email that requires a response. Delete all of the emails you don’t need to keep. And archive anything that needs to be archived. Move all of the tasks out and put them on your task manager so you can do them later.
Make email your focus and give it all of your attention. Don’t do anything else while you’re doing it.
If you are Tweeting or using some other social platform, do that.
If you are going to go browse through the stream on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, stop everything and do it. Like whatever you are going to like, retweet whatever you are going to retweet. Update your status with something pithy and original, and hang around a few minutes to reap the rewards that come in the form of likes if you need to.
Give the social channels your full attention. And don’t do anything else while you are doing it. It won’t help you produce the results you want, and it won’t get you paid, but if you are going to spend your time on social, dive in so you can finish it.
If you are making calls, make them.
If you are going to make your calls, close the browser, turn off the social channels and give yourself over to the phone. Your efficiency will improve, and so will your effectiveness.
Maybe making calls isn’t your work. Whatever your real work is, do that work. If you need to write, write. If you need to create a spreadsheet and analyze numbers, make the spreadsheet and do your work. If you need to complete a report, develop a strategy brief, or whatever it is you do, do that and nothing else.
If you are engaging with another human being, be engaged.
When you are with a human being, be completely with them. Put your smartphone down or turn off your notifications (My phone has a do not disturb function. Yours probably does, too). Close the browser, and then close the laptop lid.
Give that person your full, undivided attention without checking your phone, your social stream, or your email. There is nothing in any of these virtual places that won’t still be there when you get back. Human interactions are where the real action is.
If you are honest with yourself, I’ll bet you’re a little bored with the social streams, and a little burned out from trying to keep up with all of the pings, dings, and notifications you receive. The truth of the matter is, it’s keeping you from doing good work, and it isn’t helping your real relationships either.
Doing exceptionally great work requires concentration. You can’t produce that quality if you are distracted and dividing your attention across your phone, your laptop, and your real work.