Productivity Rule #2: Control Distractions

Which Way You Going Billy?

Which Way You Going Billy?

A couple of weeks back we ran the ruler over Productivity Rule #1 – defining the exact outputs which you are responsible for. This week we continue with our mini-series on productivity – with a focus on how to control distractions. It’s not easy – as some recent email traffic will demonstrate.

Being Boastful: Now I hate to be boastful, but I just seem to be getting more and more popular.  The following letters from Olga, Elana and Katya are typical of the fan mail received of late. Scouts Honour: The original texts have not been altered in any way.  Justin Bieber eat your heart out!

“You have drawn my attention to a site of acquaintances. I hope, as I shall like you. How I to you in a photo? The truth – pretty? 🙂 But in a life I more nice!!! And as I cheerful, kind, sociable and fluffy! I like to go in for sports, read books, to listen to music. I love winter and summer. I do not love spring and slush. If I have interested you, with pleasure I shall tell about myself more in the following letter. I wait for answer on…” Olga

Yes, fluffy definitely works for me and I’m bursting to find out what Olga thinks about the autumn.   But, in all fairness, I want to play this game cards facing up. So, I will have to break it to Olga gently that the competition is getting hot….

 I am Elena. 22 years old from Russia. Share the year ahead with me! Let’s jump on our next stepping-stones. 

You can see some of my new photos. Get in touch soon! 
Will you be my Valentine? I’m waiting on you to touch out to me”.  

However, even with that level of seduction, Elena is not assured a place at the top table…

“Hello my name is Katya. I am 24. I am very friendly and romantic. I saw your structure and have decided to do record in you as I search for the friend on the Internet! I want to have serious relationship and it true. My dream is search for the man which will appreciate me. I like to get acquainted with unknown people. I am optimistic girl with sense of humor, who is looking for soulmate… I like to spend my free time on the nature. Al my life I like sport. When I was young I was engaged in gymnastics and now I engaged in aerobics. Al my friend say i cherful and sociable. I hope soon you message my inbox”.    There’s no response to that which is printable!

Intriguing Stuff: I also subscribe to the Quora Weekly Digest – which addresses centrally important questions like: “Why doesn’t’ Switzerland have slums?”, “What’s it like to be released from prison after a 25 year sentence?” and  “Is the fact that Superman wears his underpants outside his outfit, not inherently unhygienic?”  Then, of course, there’s You Tube (freebie guitar lessons), LinkedIn (“See what Jim has been up to”) and so on.

Real Work:  A recent survey by William Fry Solicitors uncovered the fact that over 80% of staff access social media sites during working hours. Could you blame them? Faced with these distractions and a ton of other cool stuff, who in their right mind would choose to do real work?  Some of this may even be driven by a new anxiety which Psychologists have labelled  FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – not being constantly up to speed with what’s happening). And that’s exactly the problem. Some of your firewalls and filters may get rid of the Russian love letters but I suspect that you are still bombarded with all sorts of non-essential crap. A client told me recently that he gets hundreds of emails every single working day. On the day we spoke, his backlog of unopened emails stretched to over 1,000. In his own words: “We are email abusers”. No matter how smart or efficient you are, no-one can possibly deal with this level of incoming noise.

In the book Accidental Leadership I looked at the issue of email and Internet usage for senior executives and the huge timesoak involved in dealing with this stuff. Here’s how the psychology works: The blinking ‘red symbol’ on your email icon shows that you have a new message. You feel duty bound to open this right away. It might be Bill Clinton asking you to fly a sortie to Mogadishu and sort out the trouble that has plagued Sudan for so many years. I know, I know. The last 138,000 emails you have opened have been nothing of the sort, but there is always the possibility that the next one could be über exciting. And on it goes…

Manage Yourself: If there is one BIG idea in leadership it’s this. You learn how to manage yourself first. Then you learn how to lead others. Managing yourself involves being able to clinically focus on what you need to get done to put real scores on the board. Without distractions. Without replying to Olga, Elana and Katya – regardless of how heartbroken they will be that their love is unrequited.

The first step in dealing with an addiction is admitting that you have a problem. Productivity Rule #2 is learning how to control distractions. Don’t allow the internet to dictate your diary.

Paul Mooney

PS Lighter Notes (non PC – sensitive types look away now).

IT’S A BOY” I shouted “A BOY, I DON’T BELIEVE IT, IT’S A BOY” And with tears streaming down my face I swore I’d never visit another Thai Brothel.

Executive Relaxation Time: Pumpcast News: Have a look at this funny video. This one courtesy of Ciaran Mulqueen who has a great sense of humour. Buying petrol will never be the same again….

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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