To focus or not to focus, kind of a silly question

With dozens of simultaneous and constant distractions, how is one to focus and be effective?

You can write down your task lists, highlight your top 5 activities, schedule your day, use a day planner and any number of other forms of organization and planning. I still don’t believe you will be working (or playing) at anywhere near your full potential.

To skip to the point of this collection of words, you control most of your distractions or they control you.

Turn off your non-organic tools, toys and necessary technical devices – At lease for a few hours a day, completely off! This is primarily for the working folk, plan for it and then execute.

What do I mean?

Check your email one last time and quit the program, put your phone on do not disturb, turn off your cell phone, log out of instant messenger and turn off any other app that notifies you of facebook updates, new tweets, cool new instagram photos, important news bulletins, weather alerts and the other million possible interruptions.

All done?

Good, now go to the bathroom, grab that last cup of coffee or water and get ready to blow your own mind. If you can, shut your door or find a quiet place to work. With no interruptions, look at your list of tasks and put your collective focus on it and nothing else. For the next 2-3 hours, do just that. Whoever is calling, emailing, IM’ing, texting or in some other way trying to reach you, can either wait or seek you out personally.

Simple right?

Think of how many of these interruptions and distractions float by your eyes, ears and within your head long after the pop-up is gone. Compound these with the other huge distraction, LIFE. Kids, money, bills, taxes, family, health, temperature, noise, hunger and whatever personal relationships you happen to have going on at the time. Fortunately you can remember to breath during all of these interruptions.

For the record, I’m being a huge hypocrite writing this, but I am thinking about it and try to execute as often as I can. Even now I am ignoring my phone, email, facebook account and weatherbug telling me it’s snowing outside.

If you happen to be one of my wonderful workmates, please understand that this behavior and these activities are welcomed and encouraged. You won’t even need that get out of jail free card.

Cutting the white cable

Sometimes you have to take time to make time.

Sometimes you just have to cut the white cable.

What am I talking about?

Running a business, managing your department and making changes in general are all hard things to do while trying to keep things running smoothly, maintaining morale and ensuring success. You can do like most and plan it out, take your time and do all that you can to minimize distractions and interruptions, or you can “cut the white cable” as I like to say. The phrase comes from a task a few years ago of relocating our network room from one part of the company to another after 5 or 6 years of growth and adjustments and hundreds of cable runs. With only a few live cables holding up the completion of the task, I was left with two choices. Tone out and trace each cable in the building until I found it, taking anywhere from a few minutes to a few days, or cut the cable and see who screams the loudest. Rather than waste the time searching, the white cable was cut and we finished the relocation. Sure enough, about an hour later someone reported a lack of connectivity and we were able to quickly locate the source and connect them up with the new network room. Hours saved, no harm done.

Here is another example, many are likely familiar with.

Every day I hear from a certain someone that their computer is so slow, everything takes forever and sometimes it freezes up completely. Being a decent computer, just cluttered with stuff and programs installed over time, it needs nothing more than a good cleaning and perhaps a fresh install of the latest operating system. Most likely this fix would take a couple of hours, little more. When this solution is presented, all I ever hear is that “I don’t have time to do that”. Not to be a jerk, despite that being the perception when responding, but it is a simple bit of math to determine that taking a little time will generate a significant amount of surplus time. Each day I hear of 10-20 minutes of waiting, downtime and mounting frustration throughout the day. Considering this has been the case, complaint, response and result for a year or so, you do the math (I’ll do it too). Fifteen minutes per day, 5 days per week, 52 weeks per year. Sixty five (65) hours wasted waiting, daily frustrations and probably sixty five hours of additional complaining about the issue OR take a few hours and fix the problem.

There are a lot of situations where taking time makes time, plenty to discuss in later posts. One to think about a lot though is staffing and resource allocation. If you’ve ever said or heard “I don’t have time to hire and train someone to do that”, do the math for yourself or the speaker to figure out how much time would be saved if a little time was taken to train and delegate.