Taking Action Against Distractions

Distractions. While one might expect this is simple to define, I say it is anything but! Is social (virtual) networking a distraction? Is answering the phone a distraction? In my terms – with an eye on alignment between action and Strategy – I categorize these as distractions if they divert from Strategy, and as a necessary part of the day if they do not. You can only know this for you and your team if you have clearly defined your Strategy. I’ve sought out other opinions and below you will find the first of several guest posts. I hope you enjoy this post written by John Hagerman, COO of Ontend. – Lori

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and I’ve been busy working all day long, and I haven’t gotten one thing done that has moved my business forward an inch! I love to get things done, actually I live to get things done, you know, write the list, do tasks, and cross them off the list type of getting things done. Unfortunately, I’ve found that all too frequently getting lots of busy stuff crossed off my list means I’ve totally neglected what matters. This holds especially true when it comes to all the demands and enticements technology creates.

With technology being so ubiquitous – cell phones, PDAs, emails, texting, instant messaging, MySpace, FaceBook, LinkedIn, and blogs – it’s easy to find my days used up simply reacting and responding to all the tech clutter. At the end of the day, how much did that “busyness” cost in the way of missed connections, and missed business?

So I answered 153 emails, sent 211 text messages, read my top 20 rss feeds, posted to my blog, and updated all my social networks, but what did I accomplish? Did I have any authentic conversations with all those people? Did I build deeper connections? Did I collaborate and innovate and bring something fresh into the world? Did I move the needle? Or, was all that busyness just that, busyness?

Technology has multiplied exponentially the distractions surrounding us, and dressed them up to look like what’s important, but if you look at most of it, as I’ve been doing recently, you’re likely to discover that much of it was pointless time wasting. Emails and texts are usually only an exchange of information; they rarely rise to the level of honest communication, and almost never reach the level of genuine conversation and connection. Social networking and blogging might put my face in a bunch of places, and my words in even more, but they rarely touch another human to the depth a live, face-to-face or phone conversation can.

It’s easy to feel like all the noise I make, and receive, through all the channels around me, is making a difference, so I succumb to its temptations and joys at the expense of building a network of genuine connections to other living, breathing, human beings. That’s not to say understanding and using all these tech tools isn’t important, it is, but they will almost never contain the kind of Natural Energy and potential that is most abundantly available in full fledged human conversation will. Information can’t replace conversation, and conversation is a requirement of collaboration, and in collaboration there is always abundant energy.

So what should I do with it all the clutter? Each of us needs to find our own response, but I’m going to start with a couple of simple goals. First, instead of returning all the emails and texts, at least once a day I’m going to not return an email. In the time it would have taken me to compose an email I’m going to pick up the phone and actually call the other person and have a conversation. Second, rather than posting to a blog or a social network everyday, I’m going to skip the post once a week and have coffee or lunch with someone in my circle, not as a strategic move, but as a way to build a stronger personal connection, and to harvest some of the Natural Energy that that connection contains. It will recharge my battery and allow me to eat something more interesting that what the vending machine holds. Third, when I do have to use emails or texts, or other technology that creates a distance between me and the other person, I’m going to consciously work to invite the other person into a genuine dialogue with me rather than simply throwing information at them.

Will it move the needle? It may be hard to know for sure, but what I do know is that it will give me more spaciousness, more room in my psyche for fresh ideas and innovations to take root and grow. That spaciousness will also let me tap into the energy of human connections – something that, for me, will translate into a big push on the needle!

If this sounds good, try it, and let me know what it opens up for you. If you try a different way to combat the distractions and build connections, let me know that, too – I’m always open to discovering a better mousetrap.

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