What Has Your Attention Isn’t What Needs Your Attention

The reason I created the Outcomes Planner is that Time Management (which is really “Me Management”) is the difference between success and something less. Being able to know what your most important outcomes are and devoting your time and energy to those things before doing anything else will radically change your results.

But there is more to producing the outcomes you need. You also need to remove distractions. Let me ask you a couple of questions as a way of diagnosing whether you are distracted, or more likely, how distracted you really are.

  • When you are working, is your email open or closed?
  • How long did you wait after waking up to look at your email?
  • How far is your smartphone from you right now?
  • How many apps do you allow to provide you with a notification?
  • How long after waking up did you check Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram?

One of the primary reasons salespeople don’t produce the results they need—or the results they are capable of—is that they are so distracted that they literally don’t do the work.

Things That Are Not Sales

Let’s start by looking at email. Most people I know work with their email open, as if the most important work they have to do each day is answer email. Not only does it pull their attention away from the most important outcomes they need to achieve, because most of the emails are work-related in some (often small) way, it feels like work.

If you work in sales, you have two primary outcomes: 1) create new opportunities by scheduling appointments with prospects and clients to explore change, and 2) capture (win) those opportunities. Everything else is simply a commentary on those two things. It’s not that you don’t need to deal with your email, but rather what is your priority. Your work is not answering email.

I am sticking with salespeople here as we wade into a tough conversation about the smartphone. The smartphone is designed to make you more productive, but some of the apps make that next to impossible. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter are designed to control your attention in the very same way that a Casino is designed to separate you from your money. These apps, and others like them, are not products that you use; your attention is the product these companies sell to advertisers.

When you add in notifications for every text, email, direct message, and flight status (one I refuse to turn off), you have allowed a single device to have more control over your attention than any device deserves. Have you recognized how much power this small device has over your attention?

Are You a Poor Example?

Now, I am turning my focus to sales leaders, leaders, entrepreneurs—and anyone else in a leadership role with one single question: Are you providing the people in your charge with an example of the behaviors you want to see from them? Or, alternatively, are you not all that different than they are?

If you are with a client, your phone is turned off and your email is closed. When you are in a meeting, you aren’t checking the social site every 12 minutes. You are right to give your client your full focus and attention, but that being true, why then would you not give the rest of your most important priorities that same respect?

Want to do twice as much work in half the time? Follow this plan:

  • Close the browser and your email.
  • Turn off all notifications and put your phone on Do Not Disturb (if you have kids, put them in your favorites list so their texts and calls come through even when your phone is on Do Not Disturb).
  • Work for 90 minutes on what is most important without checking email, the smartphone, or the social apps.
  • Recognize how much work you completed and how good that felt.

If what has your attention doesn’t deserve your attention, shift your focus to the bigger outcomes and avoid making small choices.

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