One of the biggest challenges facing business leaders today is how to control their environment. We are more accessible than ever before because we no longer have to be near a landline for people to phone us, we can see our emails on our cell phone, and an increasing volume of business communication is being channelled through other mediums like text messages and social media.
Research tells us that around 28% of a person’s day is lost due to distractions. That means that almost one-third of a person's day is spent thinking, 'now what was I just doing?'
The fallout of this is we rarely get the chance to complete what we have started and we end up commencing work earlier or finishing later in order to compensate for this. Over time we can lose our ability to focus and concentrate on single tasks. Dr Adam Fraser suggests that scientists are now talking about a condition called ADT or Attention Deficit Trait. This is where adult's brains during the day are mimicking a child’s brain with ADD. They don’t actually have ADD but their brain acts like it does at work, where they can’t focus and start a lot of things but complete very few of them.
In your business, there is no reward for partially completed tasks. I would estimate that often, 80% of the value associated with a task or function is only realised in the final 20% of that task or process. Dr Fraser suggests the following to help increase your focus and therefore productivity:
It is a myth that doing more than one thing at once is more effective than completing one task at a time. Multi-tasking actually slows us down and stresses our brain.
Manage your attention
When most people are doing a task, their attention starts to wander off and they think about doing other things. The practice of focusing your attention on whatever is in front of you is known as being 'present'. Practice losing yourself in whatever you are doing. Likewise, if you are having a conversation with someone, totally emerge yourself in that conversation and don’t let your mind drift.
Business is built on relationships and the greatest compliment you can give another person is your undivided attention. In his book “Blink”, Malcolm Gladwell found a surgeon’s ability to be “present” with their patient determined the likelihood of a patient suing them in the event of a mistake occurring. Managing your attention can have huge benefits for business.
Dr John Maxwell states that the greatest challenge facing business leaders today is how to manage interruptions caused by technology. Remember it is ok to switch off notifications on your phone, even turn off your phone if you are undertaking a task that would be seriously impacted if you were interrupted.
As the world becomes more connected, people's expectations around time to deliver information has increased significantly. Normal things in business have grown to become emergencies. A key part of every interaction is to manage expectations and be clear about communication timeframes. Give yourself the time you need, rather than overcommitting.
Maintaining focus is a daily, perhaps even an hourly discipline however the paybacks of focusing on what you are doing are huge. Are you proactively managing your focus, or allowing your schedule to be dictated by distractions and external pressures?