In the time it took me to outline this post, I checked email twice, requiring me to respond to four messages, none of which were urgent or critical. I checked text messages twice and responded to three of them, none of which were urgent or critical. I went down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos a couple of times, costing me about an hour of productivity.
In what should have been 20 minutes of work, I compulsively interrupted myself at least 6-7 times. What’s more, the cost of these interruptions goes way beyond the added amount of time to finish this post. They distracted my train of thought, reduced the quality of my writing, thus creating the need for more edits and revisions.
I’m confident none of us saw what we’re living through now coming. There’s a lot of data out there about how we humans react after periods of time in isolation. What I’ve noticed myself during my time is that the interruptions become more compulsive. It’s like you don’t know how to distract yourself anymore, especially if you’re not working on work, if you know what I mean. You have to go to great lengths to stop yourself from keeping the habitual distractions from happening and even to stop creating new ones. It feels like you’re in some kind of digital Twilight Zone, where the process of doing anything significant, important or even simple, seems fruitless and even pointless.
I’m very active on Social Media with two Blogs, two YouTube Channels, and a Podcast. I really enjoy the entire process. But, since the advent of COVID-19, I’ve been having to pay attention to my attention and focus on my focus. There’s simply too much down-time being forced upon us and if you’re not paying attention, it can motivate the creating of unhealthy habits and distractions that will most certainly bleed over into the working environment whenever things start opening.
These distractions aren’t just unproductive. They create more work than they replace.
For those in leadership positions regardless of profit, nonprofit, corporate, small business, etc., you have an amazing opportunity to reflect and re-examine what habits and distractions were diminishing your Personal Leadership Effectiveness before COVID-19 because you weren’t aware of them. If there were ever a time to raise your self-awareness to those habits and distractions, that time is now.
Our attention spans are dwindling. Anxiety and depression are on the rise. We’re becoming increasingly intolerant of people with opposing views, and less patient when the things don’t go our way, which is probably the way it feels to millions of folks right now. However, leaders can’t afford to feel that way, especially in public.
There are many fronts on which your attention is being assaulted. There’s a massive surplus of stuff to pay attention to. The more there is, the more difficult it is to choose what to focus on and stay focused.
So, think of what I’m suggesting as a Distraction Diet.
First, consciously limit the number of distractions you’re exposed to. In other words, consume less information.
Second, find highly reliable sources of information and then build your personal infrastructure (daily routine) around them. It’s not about quantity anymore. It’s about quality. We live in a world with infinite information and opportunity. We don’t grow by knowing or doing more. We grow by focusing on less and doing it better than the rest.
Third, assess yourself to determine what kind of leadership style you default to in a crisis. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know that? We all have subconscious habits we default to without even thinking that are either helping or diminishing our effectiveness. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know which was which?
Personal Leadership Effectiveness is the skill of governing and leading oneself. How’s that working for you now during COVID-19?
Truth be told, the more important question is How will it work after you’re liberated?