We Love Our Distractions

I am sitting here writing this Blog, with the TV on, with a
football game being played. I don’t know who is playing, New York I think. I don’t really care. I’m writing
a Blog. At least I am trying to write a Blog. In the next room my wife has the
stereo on (utilizing Pandora – Michael Buble…I think…). I’m still trying to
write a Blog. I could probably turn off the TV and close the door and get more
focused on the task at hand, but that would mean that I would have to fully
focus on what I am doing. I don’t know if I can do that anymore.

I think back to when I am in the office and wonder if it
would be any easier to do this there. But then I think of how often my phone
rings. I always have to answer it. I don’t know why. I immediately prioritize
the ringing phone above almost anything else I am doing at the moment. I get
very, very few calls that are ever worth the interruption, but when I ever do, I
am usually answering them by the first ring.

I also think about my Instant Messaging. That seems to be
going off all the time. Everybody must feel that they must be using it these days. It makes me
wonder what we did before we had it. I can’t remember ever getting any  important information or messages via IM, but my hope springs eternal in that I will, so I always stop what I am
doing to see what someone else wants on IM.

I also have a door on my office, but I seldom close it. It
has a glass window in it so people can look in and see if I am there anyway.
People have a tendency to stop by and just come in to talk to me. It doesn’t
seem to matter to them what I am doing. They just walk in. Sometimes they
actually bring work with them, as if it is work that is more important than the
work I was already doing. Sometimes they just bring their coffee cup, which is
obviously more important than whatever I was doing before.

We won’t discuss email at this point. We all have
acquired an email habit / addiction that requires a “fix” at least every 5-10 minutes
lest some critical spam-like solicitation sit idle in our mailbox beyond its
freshness born-on date and we miss it. Have you ever been in someone’s office
when they start reading and responding to their email?

Not seeing someone feeding their email habit would be like
going to lunch with people and not seeing them texting or remotely reading
their email on their smart-phone. You would have a better chance of seeing the
tooth fairy than seeing people neglect their smart-phones for a full lunch hour.
Besides, messing with our smart-phones provides us the opportunity to show
everyone that we are with just how important we are and how crucial our input
is to the well being of the business.

Are you seeing a trend here? We all seem to love our
distractions. If we didn’t, we might take a few steps to reduce them, and focus
more on what we need to be doing. I am just as guilty of it as everyone else,
but I am trying to take a few steps to improve how I cope with the situation.

I have read that we become “dumber” when we multitask. The
average IQ of a man drops about 15 points when we multitask. I actually
believe this one. It means that senior management must multitask far more than
anyone else in the company had even suspected. It also means to me that when it is time to get
something done it is also time to turn off the IM, shut down the email and
close the door to the office. I admit that you can’t disconnect from the world
for extended periods of time, but the world can definitely get along without us
for an hour or two while we focus on getting something done.

I think it is also time to reintroduce the telephone to the
conversation. IM and email are not the media to use for conversations. If you
have to reply more than twice to an electronic message, it probably means that
the phone would be a better faster way to communicate. Use it once and get
done, instead of innumerable electronic messages of one type or another that scream
for our attention and distract us from what needs to be done.

We are goal oriented people for the most part. We like to
work, and then see the results of our labor. I think my wife likes to mow the
yard because she can see how good it looks when she is done. Many of my
neighbors have asked me how I convinced her of this idea, but I digress a
little here. The idea is to set smaller attainable tasks that can be handled
within manageable time periods. This way tasks can be accomplished in manageable
segments which reduce the opportunity for distraction and interruption.

These are just a few of the ideas that I think I will need
to implement in an effort to regain control of my day, and to get better
focused on the tasks I need to get done. They may work for you too. You may
have some other ideas and suggestions as well. The idea is that we all probably
could stand to reduce the number of distractions that we have to deal with as
we try to conduct or business.

By the way, the football game is still on, and I still am
not sure of the score, or who is playing, and the stereo is now playing
rock-n-roll Christmas songs…..

When in the Rough…..

I like to
play golf, but I am not a good golfer. I like to watch golf on TV hoping that I
might learn something that might help me. Mostly what I learn is that the guys
who play golf on TV are so much better than me that I would have to be a much
better golfer just to be able to figure out what I could learn from them.

I was
watching the end of the year golf tournament from California and I actually did
pick up something that I think is useful. Usually the only announcer that even
remotely interests me is David Feherty, who is responsible for such great golf witticisms
as “…That ball landed as softly as a butterfly with sore feet.”, but I digress.
The announcer today was talking about one of the great golfers playing who “had
all the shots”, but was trying them in all the wrong places.

That is to
say the golfer had the capability to hit the ball 240 yards on the fly over the
water to the green on a par five in two shots, but probably shouldn’t try to do
that from a downhill lie, in the rough, behind a tree. Sure enough, when he
tried the increased difficulty shot, he didn’t execute it, and compounded his
problem. He went from trying to make an eagle, to struggling (and eventually
failing) to make par.

The comment
that caught my attention was that with the talent that the golfer possessed,
and being so capable of executing a standard shot so spectacularly, was not to
try and execute a spectacular and risky shot from a difficult position (in the
rough, behind a tree) but rather to execute a good shot to put the ball back
into a standard situation (the fairway) and then executing spectacularly from

Even for a
relative hacker like me, this meant working on “course management”.

There will
always be difficulties encountered in golf. There is always a risk – reward associated
with how you deal with them. However, difficult situations are just that,
difficult to deal with. It is always possible to make a bad situation worse.
Sometimes it is better to take your short term medicine, put the ball back in
play where you have a chance of “executing spectacularly” from a easier, more
familiar situation and making par.

So, even with
all of the golf allegories, we can look at “course management” when it comes to
running our businesses. The idea here is that in many cases you may find yourself
or your business in a difficult position, where the best course of action may
not be to immediately “go for the green” and try to immediately recover the
situation. The correct course of action may in fact be to take you and your
business out of the difficulty and to put yourself back into a “normal” or “standard”
situation where it may be much easier, and therefore much more probable to execute
the “spectacular shot” and achieve success.

sometimes is best made as a two step process. The first step is to get out of
your difficulties and back into a standard position. The second step is then to
use all the talent available to you to execute that step to success.

On the other
hand, when I am out on the golf course, I find it incredibly hard to remember
these types of lessons. I seem to just want to hit the ball…hard. Maybe that is why I am not such a good golfer.