Finding Focus in the Age of Interruption

How do we get work done when the tools we rely on for productivity also deliver constant interruption? This is the first in a series of posts about regaining focus and driving productivity. Look for more tools and strategies each Monday!

I am in Orlando at a technology conference in a room filled with 400 computer geeks. Who says Greystone doesn’t know how to party! During the keynote address, I noticed something that appears to be the new norm in society.  An iPhone rang. This isn’t out of the ordinary of course, it was what happened after the phone rang that was interesting. As the responsible party tried to silent the phone I noticed the ringing was causing a domino effect. Other people were pulling THEIR phones out of their pocket and checking them as well. Their phone sucked them into pointless emails, text messages and FaceBook posts. That Pavlovian response demonstrates how we are now immersed in the Age of Distraction. Whether we want to take part or not.

When the first iPhone came out 9 years ago I searched Craigslist for weeks trying to find one. Since then, I have had a device that contains a world of knowledge within arms reach. I can now control my thermostat, lights and sprinklers. I know exactly what my friends are doing at all times. I can even find out what Tim Tebow is doing these days in case Trevor Siemian doesn’t work out for the Broncos.  Every time I do one of those small tasks I am overcome with a sense of astonishment. Did I just turn on my sprinklers and find out that Tebow is now with the New York Mets (yep!). It’s awesome because I can do some much from just about anywhere. But as we have become more connected a sense of concern is balancing. The always-on connection distracts from what is right in front of me.

Ask your family, friends and colleagues what their biggest productivity challenge is. They’ll likely tell you it is the increasing number of distractions they encounter. The constant notifications that come from our computers, tablets, and now, even our watches. The always-on connectedness that drive our lives.
As long as our attention focuses on the urgent and the incoming, we can’t be at our most productive. We can’t do our best work. With these interruptions, we can’t make meaningful progress toward our goals. We react only to the urgent tasks and situations while. We neglect the ones which are essential. It is those essential tasks that develop into amazing opportunities. Opportunities to improve your life and the lives of everyone around you.
Over the next few months, we are going to dig deeper how to overcome our urge to react to distractions. We’ll explore strategies for focusing on the essential tasks and most productive work. We’ll learn how to manage technology, instead of allowing technology to manage you.

ABOUT TRAVIS:

Travis Hankins is the Director of IT Consulting. He is a husband and soon-to-be father of twins. Travis has developed a passion for learning about deep work, diligence and focus.  He enjoys playing with Apple gadgets, watching college football and trying to grasp the fascination of craft beer.