Tips and Articles from Meg Edwards
While coaching people I often hear about the
distractions that prevent them from getting done
what they say they want to get done. I hear them
complain about all the things that pull them off of
Mel Levine, a Developmental Pediatrician defines
distraction as “ a departure from whatever current
need or plan a [person] is attending to.” He describes
five kinds of distractions: Visual, Auditory, Tactile,
Future-oriented and Social. I find it useful to identify
the type of distractions that may pull a person away
from their focus because once the tendency is identified,
a strategy can be developed to redirect oneself.
Visual: While on the phone you see a pile of paper that has
been sitting on your desk for awhile and wonder if there
is anything important in that stack that you need to do
something about. So you stop whatever you are doing
and start to browse through that pile.
Remedy: Do a mindsweep of everything that has your
attention in your office. Out of this mindsweep you may
see a project that needs to be added to your project list
called “Get Clean and Current in Office.” Determine what
your next action is to move on this project and write that
action on the appropriate list.
Auditory: You hear the “ding” on your email notifying you
that you have a new email. So you stop whatever you are
doing to see what that is and what you need to do about it.
In other words, you treat email like a ringing phone.
Remedy: Unless you have a job which requires that you
be immediately responsive to every email that comes in,
turn your email notification system off. Designate specific
times during the day when you will focus on email.
Tactile: Have you ever been working on something and before
you knew it you had something else in your hand that grabbed
your attention and you don’t remember picking it up?
Remedy: Only have reference material, equipment, decoration,
supplies or whatever you are currently working on top of your
desk. Everything else should be filed or put away.
Future Oriented: You are responding to an email which
reminds you of a project that is due ten days from now.
You start thinking about all the moving parts of that
project and before you know it you are working on that
project and you never finished writing the email.
Remedy: As part of your weekly review make sure you
look ahead to the due dates for every project and clarify
all the pieces that need to be done to ensure the projects
are moving in a timely fashion. Add any due dates to any
pieces of the projects so you can know when you need to
be working each piece.
Social: This interruption happens when you are working
at your desk and you see someone you haven’t connected
with in a while so you find yourself following them to the
coffee room to have a chat and suddenly you realize you
have spent 20 minutes talking to them rather than
working on the presentation that is due tomorrow.
Remedy: When you want to connect with someone, employ
the “two minute rule”. Let the person know that you want
to connect with them and can the two of you look at a time
that will work for both of you to do that. This will enable
you to relax because you will know that the opportunity
to be with this person is built into your schedule.