They say that we live in the Information Age. That may be true, but many days it just feels like the Distracted Age.
From the time we get up in the morning until we lay our heads on the pillow at night, we’re bombarded with information from countless sources. Advertising, email, voice mail, texting, Twitter, Facebook, TV, radio, iPods, iPhones, blackberries… the list goes on and on.
And yet, the problem isn’t so much the amount of information; it’s that it all seems urgent. This sense of urgency makes it hard to tell what we really need to attend to now, what can be delayed, and what can be ignored altogether. These constant interruptions make it increasingly difficult to focus on the task at hand. Which, in turn, makes it increasingly difficult to stay focused on winning.
That’s why I keep a sign in my office that says, “Of what you do today, what will have an impact a year from now?“
If you read my blog on a regular basis, you know that I’m big on visual reminders as a way of staying focused on the goal. This sign is perhaps the most important one I use because it reminds me that what seems urgent today may actually have little impact on the big picture. It reminds me to pause for a few moments, review what I have planned for the day, and make sure I focus on those tasks and activities that support reaching my destination.
Regular readers also know that I love to ask “what if…” questions to get people thinking differently and looking at the world from new perspectives. So here’s a few “what if…?” questions for you:
- What if you started each day by taking three minutes to ponder whether what you have on your agenda for the day will really matter a year from now?
- What if you paused briefly to get really clear on the progress you will make towards winning, including what you’ll do today and, probably more importantly, what you won’t do?
- What if you made a habit of organizing your day around winning rather than around interruptions and things that seem urgent but really aren’t?
I can hear the excuses already: “I’m too busy!” “I have too much to do!” Or, “I don’t have time for that!” But the fact is we have the same amount of time others have and have always had. We just allow ourselves to get distracted much more easily.
Granted, the technology that pervades modern life and puts built-in interruptions at our fingertips colludes with this. But we’re the ones who decide what we direct our time and attention to and what we ignore. And that’s why taking the time to organize our day around winning is so critical. The mind follows what we focus on. And when we focus on winning, we dramatically improve our chances of achieving it.
When we get clear on winning, we can make better decisions. We’re not so easily distracted because we know what needs to get done. We can discuss winning and share it with others, so that we can measure progress in a myriad of ways. We can give more productive and impactful feedback. And we can align others to our vision of winning without invalidating our thoughts on their performance.
Here’s the tricky part: organizing our day around winning doesn’t just mean getting better at time management. It does us no good to work more efficiently on the wrong things. Instead, it’s a process of starting each day by identifying the highest priority tasks and activities that deserve our attention, and then refusing to let the onslaught of interruptions interfere with what we need to do.
Obviously, some interruptions require immediate attention. Suppose, for example, your best customer calls and says they’re about to take a hike due to poor service. That would certainly fall under the criteria of making a difference a year from now. When you apply that criteria on a daily basis, you’ll be amazed at how many tasks, activities, and interruptions can fall by the wayside with no ill effect.
The one trait that ALL winners share — whether in business, sports or personal life — is they focus on the right things. Pausing to organize your day around winning will get you focused on the right things and drive the results you need to achieve in order to win.
Call to action: Make a commitment tomorrow to start your day by pausing to ask: will what I do today make a difference a year from now? Try it for three days and see what happens.