“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.”
Christopher Columbus (Italian Explorer)
“One way to boost our willpower and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us.”
Daniel Goleman (Author, Emotional Intelligence)
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”
Jim Rohn (American Businessman)
Your focus is like a fire.
At least mine is.
Sometimes it rages out of control.
It gets blown by the wind here and there until it’s ravaging the open plains of my brain.
Sure, I’ll eventually get control of my focus again.
But then I have to deal with all the ash — the ash of distraction.
Your focus is special to you.
It’s distinct and specific, just like your own personality.
It’s also strong and easily spread, like a fire.
And like fire, it can become wild and destructive if left unchecked.
But, if channeled correctly, it can bring you warmth, happiness, and success for a lifetime.
The key is learning how to protect yourself from distractions, especially from distracting people.
Why Protecting Your Focus Protects You From Failure
We live in an environment where fast paced, high productivity multi-tasking is the norm.
Offices are open spaces with phones ringing, machines buzzing, and people rushing through like rats in a maze to the end square of cheese… or in frenzied circles.
There are few office doors to create space for focus and to minimize the distractions of external stimuli.
Unfocused people create distractions for focused people.
In and out of the workplace.
In our personal lives we are inundated by social media, electronic messages, voicemail, actual phone calls, and interpersonal relationships.
We manage time with families, partners, and friends, in person and through all their avenues of access to us.
And in the middle of these competing flurries of demands for our attention, we have our own needs and priorities.
Connecting to our passion and purpose and creating a plan to reach the goals that we need to feel successful and fulfilled in our lives is continuously challenged by the people and tasks around us.
This is why so many people start projects with so much energy, only to have it fade away just as quickly.
What’s left afterwards?
Just another item on their list of unfinished ideas and unrealized dreams.
At the beginning of a project or anything new we might have tunnel vision, where our focus and concentration is relatively protected by outside distractions.
Over time, that focused mode becomed compromised by the distractions within us and around us.
Constant interruptions slow us down, make us feel rushed, and require multi-tasking type toggling from one task to the next, all of which reduce our ability to remain focused.
We’ve become so used to the constant need and interactions from others, constant noise and visual distractions, that it’s easy to think you’re unaffected.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Archives of Surgery published a study showing errors made in novice surgeries from expected distractions in the operating room.
With normal and expected distractions in an operating room, things they are familiar with, 44% of the doctors made major surgical errors and 56% of the doctors forgot a significant memory task — and more errors occurred after 1PM in the afternoon than they did earlier in the day.
Unprotected focus means you are more likely to make mistakes, no matter what you’re doing.
It could be surgery or it could be managing your household budget.
How To Protect Your Goals From Distractions
Protecting your focus will improve your performance.
It will also lower your stress levels.
According to research out of the University of California Irvine, when people face distractions in their tasks, they often compensate by returning to their task and trying to work faster to make up for the time wasted by the interruption.
The by-product of this is increased stress and frustration.
Nothing can compensate for a loss in focus.
Busyness can’t compensate.
Neither can worry, regret, anger, or any emotion you might feel after letting yourself get distracted from your priorities.
Science Daily published research out of McGill University, stating that our ability to remain focused determines how well we perform at any given task.
When you lose focus, you become unproductive.
You also lose traction on your momentum towards your goals.
Look, the world isn’t going to slow down to allow for everyone to function in zen-like conditions with optimal brain capacity atop perfect mountain peaks.
Distractions are everywhere, forever.
The key to moving forward in life is guarding your goals from these distractions. Here’s how…
1. Go on an information fast.
You need to go on an information fast.
Information in your working memory lasts only 10-15 seconds.
It’s like chewing.
You see something on the news before you leave for work.
You skim the magazines in line at the grocery store.
You listen to your colleague’s useless gossip at the water cooler.
All of this information goes into your working memory, is chewed on for 10-15 seconds, and then it is spit out.
All of this chewing takes energy and focus, with no return on your investment.
What a waste.
The first step to avoiding distractions is to cut yourself off, cold turkey.
In other words, go on an information fast.
From media, news sources, and even people.
Can you go one week without reading any new books or websites, and without watching any TV?
Can you go one week without indulging in any meaningless gossip, whether it be on Facebook or in person, at home or at work?
Cleanse your mental palate by reducing the amount of incoming information.
Stop filling your working memory with nonsense.
Cut it off cold, and watch your energy levels start to rise rapidly.
With that, your ability to concentrate will improve and your productivity will increase.
You’ll feel more in control and less stressed.
2. Replace just-in-case information with just-in-time information.
You need to learn the value of just-in-time information.
The pertinent information that you need when you need it.
As opposed to random information that floods your brain whether you need it now or not.
In fact, you might be using up resources by being too much of an information sponge.
In college, I discovered that I could write a 5-page paper on any topic in 2 hours the night before it was due, and get the same grade I would’ve gotten if I had spent 10 days on it.
How is this possible?
It’s possible because very few tasks take more than a few hours to do.
Even your most gigantic task (like writing your first book) can be accomplished in a couple of weeks if you completely apply your focus to it.
The key is understanding the value of just-in-time information, or information that you learn only right before you need it.
Instead of distracting yourself with information you might need to know, focus only on what you need to learn to get the job done when it’s time to do the job — not days, months, or years before the job needs to be done.
The rest is just-in-case information.
Including the information agenda from others.
The people around you seem to need things from you urgently — everything is “ASAP”.
It’s a trend.
Before you know it, you’re reacting to everything — absorbing everything like a passive sponge.
In reality, very little is urgent.
Except your goals.
The majority of ASAP requests you get stem from the contagious frenzy of unfocused, undisciplined herd followers.
Respond in kind and you’ll morph into one of them.
Start taking a step back and start discerning what information you need, what you need to give, and the realistic urgency for both.
Stop responding and reacting and start getting strategic about separating your just-in-case information from your just-in-time information.
3. Pepper your day with non-negotiables.
Your focus affects your emotions, which affects your focus.
If you let other people steal your focus and suck up your emotional energy, you’ll live a miserable life.
The best way to prevent this from happening is by creating a list of non-negotiables, or a series of small things that are relevant to your biggest goals, that you can control completely and will not sacrifice to anyone, ever.
For example, if your goal is to write a book, then your non-negotiable would be to write one page a day, no matter what.
If your goal was to get a new job, then your non-negotiable would be to connect with 5 new people every day, no matter what.
“No matter what” means that you will give up everything, even time with friends and family, to do it.
It means you will never negotiate on your decision or your goal.
Set boundaries around your time and energy with these non-negotiables.
Track your emotional and mental energy and block off time around your peak productivity hours to protect the time when your focus is sharpest.
Devote this time to the tasks that will move you toward your goals.
Give the best of your focus and creativity to these times without compromise.
Don’t expect everyone in your life to like it.
If people have grown accustomed to you being available for their every whim — dropping everything to show up for their needs — you’ll get resistance.
Like toddlers who don’t get the candy bar at the checkout counter.
You have to be disciplined and determined, because otherwise everyone will try to get your attention for their needs and purposes, while yours stall in the background.
Ignore the outbursts.
Take control of your schedule and the areas you’re determined to invest your focus in and don’t negotiate.
Distractions are everywhere. That’s not going to change. In fact, it will probably get worse. You might even be used to it and think you’re immune to the common distractions of the day. But you’re not immune and none of us are. Your goals will be the collateral damage of your life if you don’t learn how to protect your focus like the essential resource that it is. Getting disciplined and discerning about the kind of information and people you allow into your environment and life is the only way to realize your goals.
To learn more about how to prevent distractions from interrupting your goals, and to get instant access to exclusive training videos, case studies, insider documents, and my private online network, get on the Escape Plan wait list.