The word “Distracts” originates from two latin words and it means to “Draw away”.
In the 1950s, the word “distract” was originally used to mean “Disorder of the mind, frantic and mad!” Today, however, being distracted is a part of life. It’s almost taken for granted. Every minute of the day we are distracted with emails, pings, likes, follows and god knows what else. Clearly we are moving towards madness!
In fact we are so used to this idea about being distracted. That we often layer one distraction on another! For example if we are bored, we put on the television to distract us from the boredom. Then we start fiddling with our phones and get distracted from the TV!
When you think about it, it really is madness!
Over the last decade our attention span has drastically reduced. The Times published an article talking about how our attention span was 12 seconds back in 2000 and then in 2015 it was 8 seconds. While the attention span of a goldfish…9 seconds. Yes a goldfish has a longer attention span than us!
Now, how they managed to measure the attention span of a goldfish baffles me. Cause I always thought they looked super focused, with there big eyes staring at us!
Being distracted is now the norm. But is very bad for our well being and productivity. Imagine a task that is supposed to take 1 hour to complete, ends up taking 3 hours! Does this sound familiar?
You sit down determined and super focused to get cracking…you start working on your laptop. See a bit of dirt on the letter Q. You try cleaning it off. Looked like chocolate. You start wondering when you had chocolate last and for how long was it stuck on that letter. Speaking of chocolate eating some now would be such a good idea. You snap out of this train of thought and urge yourself to focus back on your work. A few seconds later, PING!, a new email pops in! Oooooh my cell phone bill is due. I wonder if I will get time to pay it this month.
Before you know it the hours have rolled away in a haze of random thoughts as a few sprinkles of focus. Does this happen to you?
Do you feel like you are never, in the moment, always thinking about the past or some future event? Do you catch yourself daydreaming in meetings?
This is something I see very often, people zoning out in meetings. Infact many of my coaching clients tell me that this is a big issue for them! Very often they don’t remember what has been said or what is going on. This is again a clear focus issue.
But the absolute worst is that others can observe and catch you zoning out. Some might call you out on it and embarrass you. Others might just think you are disinterested and feel insulted. All the while you had no intention of insulting them.
While there are many exercises we will cover in future episodes to improve your focus. The first step is to become aware and cognisant about how often you zone out. If you don’t know that you are doing it. It becomes impossible to change!
One of the easiest ways to keep track of how focused you are in a meeting is to make a tally mark everytime you catch yourself drifting off. Everytime you feel like you had lost focus in a meeting make a tally mark.
Do this with conference calls as well. If we are on the call we might as well give it our full attention.
Tally marks are a simple way of keeping score, in your book on the top corner you draw one vertical line for every loss of focus. Till you reach 4 lines. The 5th line you then draw diagonally across all four vertical lines. This is now one set of five counts.
Keep a track of these and you will quickly see how you focus changes across meetings. You will notice some meetings are more distracted than other. A post lunch meeting for example might be full of tally marks.
After a week of making these tally marks, start trying to focus more in each meeting. Compete with yourself to have less of these tally marks in your book.
So your simple habit for focusing better in meetings is to carry a pen and book for each meeting. And start making tally marks for each time your mind wanders.
Remember you are not only losing productivity, you are also insulting the other people’s time by being distracted. Start the fight against this madness now!