Distraction Is the Enemy of Productivity



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Consistent productivity doesn’t happen by chance. Productive people have a secret to their productivity: Eliminate distractions.

Were you hoping for something more complicated?

It isn’t complicated. Being productive requires the elimination of things that keep you from getting things done. Distraction is the enemy of productivity.

Productivity Is Not an Accident; It’s a Formula

The Formula for Productivity:

Productivity = Discipline = Completed Project

Completed project = (Work Time – Connectivity – Toxic Influences) engaged team support

No one just happens to be productive and get everything important done on time and budget. It takes Discipline to eliminate distractions. And Discipline results in a Completed Project. In other words, productive people use discipline to complete projects by eliminating distractions.

Eliminating distractions requires each of the three Ds:

  • Disconnect. They reduce interruptions to facilitate focus on the task at hand.
  • Detox. They eradicate factors that create challenges or obstructions to progress.
  • Develop. They invest in the right resources to facilitate a more productive environment.

Let me share a few examples in some different contexts to help illustrate what I mean.

Disconnecting Connects You to Your Work

When you need to focus, you need to disconnect from your “connectedness.” Several years ago, entrepreneur Sethi Maneesh hired people off Craigslist for $8 an hour to slap him whenever he got off task. It worked; he increased his productivity to 98%. He credits this to having someone keep him on track during the dull bits and to  bounce ideas off while working. Harvard Business Review’s blog published a post comparing the effects of our global connectivity to the delayed gratification marshmallow test from the ’60s. In that famous test, researchers presented a marshmallow to kids and asked them to wait 15 minutes to eat it. If they waited, researchers told them they would get a second marshmallow. The author compared waiting for the second marshmallow to resisting the urge to take in “blips of information” during your work.

You and I know that these blips can take the form of calls, texts, emails, meetings, status updates, pics, or tweets. When I need to get work done, I disconnect, doing the bare minimum of correspondence or browsing feeds to focus.

Detox or Derail

If distractions are the enemy of productivity, motivation is its best mate. When you feel motivated, you get projects done. Recently, I powered through the final stages of my next book, which has been lagging a bit over the past few months. Why all of sudden the productivity? Simple: I was motivated to get the bloody thing done!

However, motivation is a fragile thing at times. The slightest things can sometimes derail it, derailing productivity at the same time. Sometimes it is derailed by unavoidable problems, personal emergencies or health issues. Other times it is derailed by a toxic influence. I wrote a while ago about toxic employees and how they poison the culture at work with their demotivating banter disguised as “being realistic” or “playing devil’s advocate.” While there is nothing you can do about some derailing influences, ridding your work zone of toxicity isn’t one of them. So if you sense that there is a toxic influence derailing your productivity, create distance as soon as possible.

Develop Your Team

Another important factor for productivity is having the resources available you need. Having a team that helps pick up the ball and contribute to the project is a major part of success in productivity. My team provides support and insight that help keep us on track for our goals. I always say, none of us is as clever as all of us. We use the intelligence we have a group to make better decisions.

However, your team needs to be developed, invested in, if you will. Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini invested in his team to help them be more focused at work by raising everyone’s pay to $16/hr. He did it to “make sure they brought their best selves to work every day.” The idea was if his lowest paid employees felt more financially secure, they would be able to handle their job better than if they were worried about money. For your team, it might not be money that you need to invest to develop them; it could be freedom to make decisions or own a part of the project.

When it comes to getting things done on a consistent basis, it’s safe to assume that this is no accident. The people that do this on a regular basis have a secret – and it’s time the rest of us knew it, too.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Colin Shaw – View the original post

Published On: 11th Nov 2015 - Last modified: 6th Feb 2019
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