by Dr. Ginny Trierweiler, Leadership Coach
This post is one in a series on developing the discipline and habits of rock star leaders. This is the second post on building clarity, focus and productivity.
How you spend the time you have dictates what you achieve in life. Using your hours to work towards the outcomes you value the most will help to not only bring you success, also to sustain that feeling of fulfillment that comes from accomplishing what matters most to you. —Tony Robbins
In the last post, we addressed 1 of the critical habits leaders need to build focus, clarity and productivity. In this post, we will address another very important habit to develop—that of growing, and fiercely protecting, your attention span. In these times, we cannot leave this up to chance. Our world is too highly distracting and you simply cannot be a highly effective leader if you are constantly struggling with your attention span. How can you deal with this challenge?
Build up your attention span, and fiercely protect it. These days, we absolutely must develop habits that minimize distractions and protect our attention spans. Too many people spend their days multi-tasking (read distracted). Multi-tasking, or otherwise working distracted, seriously reduces our leadership effectiveness, our ability to get things done, and our joy and sense of fulfillment in our work.
- Protect your time as if were money. After all, time is money! Close your door and work without interruption during the day. That “open door policy” for leaders means staff can bring any issue to your attention; it doesn’t literally mean you are sitting around all day just waiting for people to come talk to you! Close your door, put up a Do Not Disturb sign, put an out of office message on your email.
- Identify and manage distractions that interfere with getting your work done. We all face more challenges than ever in this area these days. The most common? Email and cell phone.
- Break the habit of leaving email open and reading and responding all day. It’s too distracting and is a terrible time-suck. What can you do to manage your email in a more disciplined manner, to free up your time, energy, focus of attention? Some people respond to email once per day or once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
- Manage the distraction of the cell phone. Research shows that our cell phones distract us and interfere with our focus if they are present, even when we’re not touching them or looking at them! What is your best strategy to manage the distraction of the cell phone?
- Minimize clutter. A cluttered environment is proven to reduce thinking clarity and productivity for children and adults alike. What is one action that would most help you to minimize clutter and noise in your work environment?
- Consider journaling your interruptions and distractions for a week so you know what you need to change.
- Rather than allowing yourself to be constantly reacting in a distracted way all day, take regular planned breaks throughout the work day to clear your head. A good routine is to do a 30 second stretch or walk to the bathroom every half hour. Another is to engage in just 2 – 3 minutes of vigorous exercise every 3 hours. Research shows that most people are more productive when they take regular breaks rather than working straight through for hours without breaks.
What is one way you can better build and protect your attention span? How will that make a difference in your functioning as a leader?