How to stay laser-focussed by handling distractions more powerfully

Do you ever end the day frustrated with the amount you have achieved, or irritated with yourself for wasting time on the wrong things?

No matter how organised you are, we all face a constant stream of opportunities to shift focus away from our planned work. 

Whether you have a number of requests for your time, or it’s your own mind that keeps distracting you, a system for handling distractions can ensure you spend more time “in flow” – playing to your strengths, being sufficiently challenged, and seeing immediate progress. 

You’ll also set yourself up to work on the priorities that drive you and your business, and feel a sense of satisfaction with your achievements.

What kind of distraction is this?

Firstly, identifying, and secondly, understanding the nature of distractions creates the necessary space for making a choice for how to behave when they arise.

At Horizon37, we have found it helpful to work with clients to categorise their distractions as CRIDs, SNODs, FUDs and DIFs. Let me explain!

CRIDs (CREDIBLE, IMPORTANT DISTRACTIONS)

CRIDs are good. They are Credible, Important Distractions. CRIDs are usually worth attending to.

CRIDs are Credible, Important Distractions that will further your goals. Image credits: Unsplash

CRIDs will further your goals, and they probably need attending to right now, by you.

Case Study:

A CEO client was behind on some planned recruiting to build her senior team. She was anxious about recruitment because she had spent the week instead talking with stakeholders about an emerging market trend. This “distraction” had arisen when one of her investors called to ask for some important evidence on how the company was responding to this trend. She judged that this would influence the next funding round, and raising a new round of investment for the company was her number one strategic priority. A breakthrough insight for her was to accept her choice to tend to the “market trend CRID”, and then to think creatively to manage the delay in recruiting.

“CRIDs will further your goals, and they probably need attending to right now, by you.”

How to handle CRIDs

The most helpful way to handle CRIDs is to make a very strong choice about whether to accept or reject it. If you accept a CRID, it’s important to own your choice, acknowledge that it is more important than other things you could be doing, and stop being hard on yourself. Two tips for staying in control:

  • First, over-communicate, with yourself and others, about the CRID and what you are doing about it.
  • Second, manage the fall-out of what you are now not doing instead – even if that just means noting it on your to-do list or planning in your calendar when you will come back to it.

Another client identified a CRID whereby he had given a few minutes of his time to unstick a problem for his tech team. His most talented senior programmer asked for his input on a decision that, once made, allowed her to continue with the planned tech development. Our client had been able to make a big impact on his team’s productivity by accepting this CRID.

SNODs (“SAY NO” DISTRACTIONS)

SNODs are bad. They are “Say No” Distractions. They will eat up your time and leave you frustrated.

SNODs are distractions that eat up your time and leave you frustrated. Say No to these. Image credits: Unsplash

SNODs might turn up with some urgency and drama, but they won’t further your goals and you are not the person to deal with them, at least not right now.

Case study:

A leader recently described in coaching how two senior colleagues had had a big argument and both stormed off home demanding that he, as CEO, “sort out” the other person immediately. He had felt anxious and angry with their behaviour, and afraid that one or the other might quit. So he dropped everything and had long conversations with each colleague in turn. He listened to them vent, he tried to convince them to calm down and speak with each other. But ultimately, deeply frustrated, he threatened “consequences” if they did not fall in line. On reflection, he realised that both needed time to calm down and by wading in he had only escalated tempers, as well as disempowering the pair to deal with the conflict themselves. It turns out this was a SNOD. If he had carried on working on the Board update he was preparing he would have made far better use of those two hours.

“SNODs often turn up with urgency and drama, but they won’t further your goals – and you are not the person to deal with them, at least not right now.”

Another client, with an extremely creative and impulsive style, described how she had inadvertently caused great upheaval across her senior team and was managing the fallout of a botched product launch. What had gone wrong? The day before the product launch she had scoped out a brand new feature that she felt could double their market penetration. This was a SNOD because of timing. By sharing this idea with the tech team, she distracted them from focusing on the product launch.

How to handle SNODs

Handling a SNOD also requires a strong choice to be made. If it’s a real SNOD you’re going to choose to say no and own that choice. Your challenge here is to simply say no without drama or stress.

FUDs (FUN DISTRACTIONS)

FUDs are Fun Distractions – when you get side-tracked with something you find easier/more enjoyable. 

What’s interesting is that many FUDs can be both good or bad, depending on when they pop up! Good FUDs can be nourishing. Bad FUDs can be inappropriate and sabotage your good intentions. 

FUDs are Fun Distractions where you get side-tracked with something you find easier or more enjoyable. They can either nourish or frustrate you, depending on timing. Image credits: Unsplash

Nourishing FUDs might include exercising, chatting, reading an article about your hobby, social media, or playing a new game. You might emerge from a FUD energised and satisfied, and ready for the next task.

However, if you find yourself checking Instagram when you are “supposed” to be writing a new sales pitch, then feeling guilty about it, that’s probably an inappropriate FUD!

Many FUDs can be both good or bad, depending on when they pop up.

Case study:

When working from home, multiple CEO clients have mentioned that family members (often children or partners) might come into the room. Depending on timing, sometimes this distraction can be fun and rejuvenating. Other times, it might purely be a distraction – but then there is guilt associated with saying no.

How to handle FUDs

FUDs need assessing every time. What will you achieve by accepting this FUD? If you feel low energy, stuck or frustrated, consider whether a time-bound period with the FUD could be healthy and take you closer to achieving your goals. Then say yes wholeheartedly and don’t feel guilty about taking this time out.

On the other hand, if you know it’s a time/energy sink and you have an important task to complete, try saying no to the fun distraction for now (and communicate that to the person and yourself), focusing back on the task for a X amount of time, then rewarding yourself with the fun distraction later when you can relax.

DIFs (DO IT FAST DISTRACTIONS)

DIFS don’t need doing now, but they do need doing. They are things you can put in your calendar for later, or on the To-do list with a booked time to work through your To-dos.

A big one here is emails. If you feel like you’re drowning in mail, you’ll feel unfulfilled, you’ll waste more time, and be less unresponsive.

If this is you, delete ruthlessly. Fire out more “five-sentence emails”. Pick up the phone when it could be dealt with in three minutes, ask if they have three minutes, and state your purpose of your call within the first ten seconds. 

DIFs are Do It Fast – a yes, but not necessarily right now. Image credits: Unsplash

Remember, everyone else hates emails too. Not every email needs a reply. Default to delete/archive – don’t let emails languish in your inbox. 

How to handle DIFs

DIFs must not derail focussed work. Minimise multitasking/context switching. Put yourself in the zone. Switch off email/text notifications. Set an alarm for when the task should be complete to help you focus. 

BEING AT PEACE WITH YOUR CHOICES

Once you learn how to spot a CRID, SNOD, FUD, or DIF, over time you can build new habits and behaviours for handling them. The aim is that, in every moment, you are confident that you are spending your time wisely. Like with muscle training, you need to practise this repeatedly.

“The aim is that, in every moment, you are confident that you are spending your time wisely.”

Spending 20 minutes being angry with yourself after a 5-min FUD indulgence is not ideal! We are all human and we all fall for the allure of the FUD, the SNOD or even the mis-classified CRID sometimes, despite best intentions. Acceptance is key.

PUTTING INSIGHT AND GOOD INTENTIONS INTO PRACTICE

Does this all make sense but you’re not sure how to make it real for yourself? One of the best ways we know to follow through with your good intentions is to surround yourself with empowering supporters!

Image credits: Chris Montgomery at Unsplash

If you’re already part of the Horizon37 alumni community why not register for the next monthly Refresh Workshop? If you’ve been introduced to our work by our alumnus, then badger them for a guest invitation! And if you’re keen to discover how you can join from a standing start, get in touch with us here.


This article builds from Katy Tuncer’s original post on the subject at:

https://the-goodcoach.com/tgcblog/2017/10/23/powerfully-handling-distractions-by-katy-tuncer

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