Distraction photo from ShutterstockIn our daily lives one of the soft skills that needs to be learned is how to effectively deal with distractions.

Everyone has distractions:

  • Projects need to be completed
  • Emails need to be answered
  • Phone calls need to be returned

When you allow distractions to take over your day it’s kind of obvious that your productivity drops. The challenge is to manage the distractions that come at you from every direction. The points mentioned above are not necessarily distractions because they are likely part of your job. However, how you react to these tasks can turn them into distractions if they are preventing you from getting the most important things done. Of course, you cannot always manage them away and cause them to disappear. However, you can control how you react to them and how you respond and when.

Your calendar is your (not-so-secret) weapon

You calendar can and should be used as the way to keep track of your day, your time, your projects and to some extent your life. No, your calendar is not your life. However, your calendar often determines how productive you will be on any given day. Keeping your calendar up to date and using it as a litmus test for what you will accomplish every day is critical for getting ahead and standing out in your career. Your manager, your peers, your customers and partners have expectations for you. In order to be successful at work and at home you need to take the reins of leadership to own your schedule. When you do your authenticity, your predictability, and ultimately your career can be greatly impacted… for the better.

Use your calendar as a weapon

Use your calendar wisely. Because if you don’t someone else will. Or, as I said above… Use your calendar as a weapon. Not a blunt force object to bludgeon someone over the head with, but as a tool and a technique to take your time back. To own your time… at least to the maximum extent you possibly can.

Like everyone, I miss meetings every so often. Not because I planned on missing the meeting, but because it was not on my calendar. I have been known to tell my wife and kids that if something is not on my calendar it doesn’t exist. This might be a bit draconian, but it is true. I live my days by my schedule. One challenge we often have today is that we have multiple calendars. We have our work calendars, our personal calendars and some people have their family and outside interest calendars. It’s not an easy task keeping one calendar straight let along 2, 3 or 4 or more.

This is what I say…

If it’s not on my calendar … it does NOT exist

The reality is… this is NOT always what I do.

Distractions happen

Plan for them. You will not likely be able to plan for every distraction. However, you can plan some buffer time in your schedule to accommodate them. Did you get what I said there? You can plan for them in YOUR SCHEDULE. The key word is… YOU! If YOU don’t control your time, efforts and schedule then someone else will.

Wait a sec… You might be thinking you don’t actually control your schedule. Au contraire! You do. In fact, unless you are in the armed forces or under some other form of indentured servitude your schedule might be the one thing you do have control over.

Distraction Management 101

We all have to deal with distractions. Distractions will lower our productivity and they might even lead to missed deadlines.

You probably have a pretty good feel for which distractions are the most frequent, the hardest to deal with, and the ones that cause you the biggest headaches. One tip for dealing with distractions is learning how to say no. Another is to evaluate distractions — perhaps on a point scale if that works for you. If you cannot say no, and if you cannot delegate a distraction you may be able to think about it in more detail by considering Diagnosing before Prescribing. Finally, distractions require decision making. Ultimately all decisions about your calendar are yours to make, yours to own and yours to execute.