How to Deny Distractions and Be More Productive

May 1, 2009

The news blares about Wall Street and the latest corporate dramas. A celebrity’s story of woe captures the attention of everyone in the 24-hour news cycle. Coverage of floods or hurricanes dominates the airwaves. Your company is rumored to be merging or down-sizing, and you wonder about your job. Or good news–your local team advances in the playoffs or is preparing for the big game.

All of these stories can also crowd our minds and conversations.

While not all are negative, all are, in the end, distractions from the goals you have for yourself and your organization.

Here are some ideas and suggestions to help you deny the allure of the distraction, both personally and as a leader, and move toward the results you truly want.

Your Sphere of Control

At the heart of this advice is that it makes no sense to spend too much time or effort on things outside of our control.

Concerned about Wall Street? Move your investments or call your representative. Those things are in your control.

Feel for the victims of a flood or other natural disaster? Organize a fund drive, make a donation or go and lend a hand. Those things are in your control.

In both of these cases (and a hundred others) watching the coverage for hours while fretting and worrying is of no value–to you or the situation.

The goal is to keep your focus on things that are inside of your control. When you operate within your sphere of control you will reduce your worry and stress and almost automatically re-focus yourself away from external distractions.

Things You Can Do

Beyond focusing on your sphere of control, there are a number of specific things you can do to help you deny the distraction. Not surprisingly, all of them are in your control…

  • Limit your exposure. First and foremost, limit your exposure to the distraction. You may love your home team, but do you really need to watch two hours of coverage and read every message board for days before the big game? Does your television really need to be on CNN, CNBC or the Weather Channel all of the time (or on at all)? 
  • Focus on a goal. Think about why you want to achieve the goal. Reminding yourself of your why is a great way to re-engage and re-ignite your passion for that goal. That passion and excitement is a great distraction-deterrent.
  • Remember your purpose. Above your goals is your purpose. What are you trying to accomplish? How do you want to make a difference? (And will watching the news for 30 more minutes, or standing around the water cooler for 10 more minutes, serve that purpose?) 
  • Focus on serving others within your sphere. Even if you don’t know your purpose, and haven’t considered your goals, a fast track to denying distraction is to focus on others within your sphere of control. How can you help them be less distracted? How can you lend a hand? As a leader, how can you best help them?

Things You Can Do as a Leader

The last bullet point was a great lead in here. Being a good example of denying the distraction is a great start, but beyond that there is more you can specifically do as a leader, including:

  • Acknowledge the distraction. No need to be in denial–people care about the distraction and/or it has captured their attention. Let people know that you understand their concern or worry, but that you have resolved not to dwell on it–and you want to help them make the same choice. 
  • Change the focus. Put the focus on the team or organizational goal or latest project. Their minds will focus on something. Give people an alternative to the latest distraction. 
  • Change the conversation. Once you have acknowledged it, you can purposely tell people you won’t be talking about the distraction. Pick a new topic–like your goals or anything more positive and inside the team’s control. 
  • Create development opportunities. Times of distraction are great times to help develop the skills of others. Delegate a task, process, or responsibility; provide people with a chance to try something new. Done well, they will grow and their focus will naturally shift to the new challenge. 
  • Engage people in goal setting and goal achievement. Perhaps it’s time for new goals or challenges. Don’t just provide people with a goal; get them involved in the goal setting and goal achievement process.

This advice will help you and your team work through any type of distraction large or small. The next time you sense your mind and focus wandering, consider these approaches to get yourself–and your team–back on track and on your way to your goals.

Potential Pointer: External distractions will always exist, but you have control over how much they distract you. When you re-focus your attention to what is in your control to change and re-adjust your gaze on your goals, the distractions will diminish, and your success will accelerate. 

© (2009) All Rights Reserved, Kevin Eikenberry and The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Kevin is Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. To receive your free special report on Unleashing Your Potential go to or call us at (317) 387-1424 or 888.LEARNER.

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