“Interruptions are in the eye of the interrupted.”
This was a key point in The Attention Age Doctrine, and one that really struck a nerve with many of my readers.
Information that you think is important to your business, may simply be an interruption to your business goals.
Trouble is, you won’t realize whether or not the information is important until you’ve given it your attention.
Since the release of The Attention Age Doctrine, I’ve received countless e-mails and blog comments about the distinction between an “interruption” and a “distraction” as it relates to business efficiency. While there are “dictionary differences” between the two, I’ll just give you my quick analysis.
An interruption is external. It’s a break in continuity, something unexpected that “pops up” and causes you to divert your attention. Examples: Someone calling your name, an e-mail alert on your computer, a ringing phone, a raindrop falling on your head, a bowling bowl dropped in your lap. Interruptions grab our attention by diverting our focus.
A distraction is internal. It’s an emotional disturbance that requires our own compliance. It’s your mind thinking about lunch options while you are in an important business meeting. It’s a gaze out the window to watch the birds fly by or the feeling that you left your iron on in the laundry room. There’s an underlying cause for distractions that divides our attention in a subtle way. Distractions may seem like harmless “white noise,” but they can be quite, well, distracting.
Workplace interruptions and distractions serve one disturbing purpose: They take us off course. Every time we “follow the bouncing ball,” our business goals get pushed aside.
By taking your focus off the “big task” of what your business needs (more on this in a sec…), your vision becomes clouded, your message muddled, your decisions diluted and delayed.
What’s even worse is that it becomes a habit. You end up conditioning your brain to respond in a similar fashion in the future. In essence, you are re-wiring your brain to work against you [I’ll share the research that supports this notion, and how you can re-condition your attention, in Part 2 of the Attention Age Doctrine, coming out next month.]
Look, there’s a real reason why many racehorses run with blinders on. It’s so they’ll stay focused on the task at hand – winning.
So why is it so difficult for entrepreneurs to do the same? Why don’t we work with blinders on, avoiding interruptions so we can focus on growing our business and achieving our goals?
Maybe it’s because you love being in the race more than you love achieving the results. You enjoy the “busyness” of your business, but are unwilling to get serious about doing what it takes to succeed. You’re allowing distractions and interruptions to pull you away from your business goals.
My coaching clients often ask: How can I avoid the interruptions that are distracting me from my work?
An easy answer is to work in solitary confinement, but that has its own downside. A better answer comes from asking a better question: Why am I allowing myself to be so easily distracted?
No one makes us answer e-mails. There is no law, under penalty of death, to respond immediately to instant messages or a ringing telephone.
We can avoid interruptions and distractions if we want to do so. So why do we allow this to happen?
It’s always easier to blame an outside source for our troubles – a computer, a colleague, a PDA – rather than take that terrifying look inside ourselves to see what is lurking among the cobwebs.
Are we are our own worst enemy when it comes to distraction? Are we the cause of our own interruptions that take us off the path to success and down a spiraling path toward procrastination and diminished productivity?
Think about it for a moment. Each time you sit down in front of the computer you should do so with an ultimate goal: task completion. But getting from Point A to Point B in your business is rarely a direct line of progression – at least, that’s what you’ve been telling yourself.
The demands on our attention are infinite, but our attention is finite. So we have to keep focused on the goal of winning.
Every time we turn our attention away from our purpose – task completion – and toward something else (i.e., reading e-mail, mindlessly surfing the Web, chasing butterflies, chatting on the phone), we imperil our business goals and do our customers a great disservice.
We can choose to blame technology, our neighbors, family and friends, but really the blame is our own. It is our own refusal – note, I did not say “inability” – to eliminate the interruptions and distractions that cause frustration and prevent us from achieving ultimate success.
By allowing interruptions to sidetrack us – by giving in to the pull of distraction – we simply delay our primary gratification: the knowledge and pride in a job well done and the financial reward that comes with it.
Instead of doing what your business needs you to do, you end up doing what you want to do.
Let’s put that in perspective. You may not want to change diapers, but your children need you to do it. You may not want to pay taxes, but it’s probably a good idea to complete them on time each year. In both cases, you just have to hold your nose and get it done.
Successful entrepreneurs (in the right business) love their businesses. They shouldn’t “have to” do the job; they should “want to” do what is best for business development and ultimate reward.
This creates another immediate concern:
Do you know what your business really needs of you?
If not, all of the time you waste through “distraction” may really be the fault of your own “indecision.” You must decide what your business needs from you (in a step-by-step list of tasks) and eliminate the interruptions and distractions so you can get it done.
Two days ago I attended a networking event in Texas that will most likely go down in history as one of the biggest gatherings of influential men and women in business and marketing. It was hosted by my good friend Stephen Pierce. Some of the powerful people in attendance were T Harv Eker, Jay Abraham, John Reese, and Jeff Walker; Tim Ferris, Armand Morin, Russell Brunson, and John Carlton; Mike Filsaime, Tom Beal, Jerry Clark, and Shawn Casey; Eben Pegan, Mike Litman, and Dave Lakhani; Janet Switzer, Yanik Silver, and Lori Morgan Ferraro.
At the event I had a great conversation with Internet Marketing legend John Reese. Besides getting some great marketing advice from him regarding our upcoming seminar in February, we also compared our approaches to getting our work done. And we both had a similar approach.
We both think about the goal we are trying to accomplish and list all the steps we need to do in order to accomplish it. Then, we get to work. John said (and I agreed) that often people get sidetracked or procrastinate because they haven’t taken the time to layout all the steps they need to take to accomplish their goals.
The list of steps helps grab and focus their attention.
Early radio and television programs used to be interrupted by breathless announcers with a familiar refrain: “We interrupt this message to bring you a special announcement…” The message grabbed your attention and wouldn’t let go until you absorbed it, at which time you were “returned to your regularly scheduled programming.”
It’s time to get clear about what you need to do, focus your attention and “get with the program” of working on what matters.
So, why are you not achieving your business goals faster?
Do you have an interruption problem, a distraction problem, or an indecision problem? (Share your thoughts on this here)
Sometimes introspection can be a painful journey of discovery, but one we all must take.
So do it right now, right here… Then get back to work!