Distraction has become one of the most common reasons businesses are losing performance hours. Thomas Davenport a world renowned expert in analytics and business process innovation stated:
“Understanding and managing attention is now the single most important determinant of success”.
I used to be one of the most distracted people ever! I considered it to be a gift that I could juggle tasks and then return to them and complete within a deadline. However, as life offers more distractions and performance is more important due to socioeconomic factors, the ability to focus on one task at a time with no distractions has become more important.
A study by Gloria Mak here showed that the type of distraction did not really make a difference to the completion time and the task in hand was usually also completed on time. However the results of the distraction was an increase in stress, higher frustration and time pressures.
All of the above can result in less accuracy and leaving the task to the last minute can cause huge frustration to business leaders.
This ‘just in time’ mentality, particularly common in heavily targeted environments, causes excessive stress throughout whole teams and businesses. Every leader's dream is that the team performs regularly throughout the month so that they can see a step-by-step increasing the figures to hit the month on target. The fact is we are humans, we have many external influences distracting us during the days, weeks and during the month, driving us off track. So how do you encourage your teams to focus when they have so many distractions happening around them?
There are two ways to work on this. The first is to remove all the distractions. The second is to teach people long-term how to ignore the distractions and in that moment of choice to move towards their target goal. Here are some techniques that can help you as a Manager and Leader encourage your team to choose to focus on their targets and tasks.
Use The Pomodoro Technique
Named after a tomato as this was the shape of the timer Francesco Cirillo who invented the technique used. This focus methodology encourages removal of all distractions. Notifications for social media, email should be switched off and a 25 minute focus on 1 task should be carried out to a timer. This technique does not encourage the person to make a choice about the distraction. It removes them all entirely.
However, long-term, could it be better to teach people that they can choose to ignore their social media notifications and other distractions being put in front of them? Then make a choice to focus on a task in front of them. Here are some options for teaching awareness of attentional hijack.
Focus On Becoming More Mindful Of Choices And Outcomes.
Embarking on a group coaching session which encourages people to start taking notice of when they become distracted is a great first step towards focus. When people start noticing where their attention lies on a minute by minute basis this encourages them to start taking control and have the ability to make a choice about where their attention lies. Increasing the ability to focus in that “moment of choice”.
Keeping An Attention Diary Or Journal Of Distraction.
This can encourage people to start noticing when they get distracted. For example simply keeping a tally of the number of times you move away from a given task in half an hour can demonstrate to your people how often they are distracted. Then having a conversation around how long it takes them to re-engage with the original task can be interesting. In particular roles which require lots of document reading mean that the person quite often has to go back and re-read the same document multiple times. Demonstrating how important focus in this kind of task can be and how much time can be saved purely by choosing to pay attention to the task.
As the study above states, lack of attention and focus causes high levels of stress and anxiety and this is a perpetual circle which is causing many people to break down in their current jobs. It is also causing underperformance where otherwise there could be excellence performance. Especially now, it is particularly important to learn how to prioritise, focus and understand how attentional hijack can affect performance productivity. However, the most important outcome could be the effect on happiness and peace within your people’s minds.
For a conversation about how a group or individual coaching practice can help your team maintain focus please connect with me at caroline@successCL.com