Mastering Focus in the Digital Age: Navigating Distractions for Productivity and Success

Being able to avoid distraction is one of the hardest skills to master in the digital age. The world is full of cheap dopamine hits, notifications, and pings. When distraction increases, impact and productivity often decreases.

Let me give you an example of discipline in action. A couple of weeks ago, I found myself at “Hyper Kidz” an indoor playground with my wife and two sons.

To be clear, I dreaded going. There are few things that appeal to me less than screaming kids in a confined space.

But, my boys needed to get some of their energy out and we were stuck inside because of the poor air quality due to the Canadian wildfires. So, off to “Hyper Kidz” we went.

We were the first people there, which was intentional. I have two sons, 3 and 1. My 1 year old spent most of his time crawling around exploring and throwing balls back into the ball pit. My older son, though started by walking through the entire play area, exploring his new enviroment for the first time.

He was timid at first, looking around and seeing where he wanted to play. Hyper Kidz had a lot of options and play spaces for all ages. At 3, he is kind of in the middle between playing on the areas designated for smaller children and the areas designated for “Big Kids.”

My son and the slide

He looked around. He dabbled. As more kids arrived, he eventually decided he wanted to spend time going down the slides pictured here.

In a world filled with distractions and constant temptation, maintaining focus and avoiding distractions is crucial for productivity and success in business. While it's important to be open to pivoting and adapting plans when necessary, it is equally important to dedicate sufficient time and effort to a chosen path before making a switch. By doing so, we can discern between genuine opportunities and mere distractions.

At first, my wife helped my son down the slide. The second time, my son got to the top by himself and then sat there for a while. Despite our encouragement, what finally made him come down was a gentle nudge from another child who wanted to use the slide. The next few times, my son used his hands and legs to slow himself down, controlling his speed as he went down the slide.

All told, my son must have gone down the slide another hundred times. Sometimes he would go down alone, sometimes there were other kids using the slides next to him, but it didn’t matter to him. He liked the slide and kept climbing up the stairs to get to go down the slides again.

The more he went down the slides, I noticed things changed for him. He got faster. He experimented going down with his legs and hands raised so he would go faster. My son tried lying down flat. He went down after throwing a couple of balls from the ball pit first and racing them down.

Most of the children in such a large, extensive play space would come and go from the slides. Who could blame them? There was so much else to do! At one point they started a bubble machine. There was video soccer and a light up dance floor.

But, my son just stuck to the slide, experimenting and improving every time he went down. Eventually another child joined him and they went down repeatedly together. They actually had so much fun that they hugged when we eventually had to leave.

As I watched my son going down the slide, I admired his focus and discipline in the face of a lot of (literal) noise and distraction. I also realized that I was lost in observing him and hadn’t checked my phone in a while and it felt great!

The Value of Sticking

In the fast-paced world of business, distractions abound, tempting us with shiny new toys and revolutionary ideas. It’s like stepping into a wonderland of modern marvels, where today’s bubble machine, video soccer, and the luminous dance floor at “Hyper Kidz” are swiftly replaced by Apple’s enticing Vision Pro or the next cutting-edge gadget. With the AI revolution in full swing, advertisements flood our screens, promoting the latest AI productivity tool. And let’s not forget the multitude of captivating offerings we’ve encountered over the years from the vast aisles of Amazon.

Amidst this sea of distractions, it’s crucial to ponder the value of “Sticking” or staying committed to our original ideas. As a leader, I’m constantly exploring how to integrate the latest advancements to better serve my customers. The allure of daring partnerships, untapped markets, and unexplored horizons often tempts me. However, I’ve recently realized the importance of designing a plan and remaining steadfast, at least for a defined period, before considering a pivot or diverting towards the next enticing opportunity. I’ve examined my own tendencies and acknowledged that I’m susceptible to straying from my plan in pursuit of new prospects.

Nevertheless, it’s imperative to discern between genuine opportunities and mere distractions—an art that matures with experience. I strive to master this skill, avoiding wasteful expenditure of time, money, and energy. After all, success lies not in chasing every fleeting idea but in investing our resources wisely.

Sticking and Pivoting are not Mutually Exclusive

It’s worth emphasizing that sticking to something that isn’t yielding results would be futile. Blindly adhering to a failing strategy is counterproductive and unwise. In his book, “The Lean Startup,” Eric Ries emphasizes the power and significance of pivoting in business. Countless tech companies serve as shining examples, having started with one plan only to discover that their product or expertise aligns better with a different approach.

In this blog post, my aim is not to promote dogged adherence to a flawed plan, but rather to advocate for dedicating sufficient time to a chosen path before making a switch. Let’s consider an example: if your goal is to master the guitar, I encourage you to stick with it for more than just a few initial lessons. Abandoning it prematurely in favor of learning the piano, for instance, would prevent you from truly gauging your affinity for the guitar.

This valuable lesson resonates with my own experiences and revelations. Just because the next groundbreaking innovation beckons from the horizon doesn’t mean we should hastily abandon our original idea without fully exploring its potential. By investing adequate time and effort, we can distinguish between genuine opportunities and mere distractions.

So, fellow leaders, let us embrace the virtue of staying focused, diligently nurturing our ideas, and charting a course towards success. By doing so, we can unlock the true value of sticking, cultivating the wisdom needed to navigate the dynamic landscape of business while avoiding the allure of every passing distraction.

Key Takeaways

In a world filled with distractions and constant temptation, maintaining focus and avoiding distractions is crucial for productivity and success in business. While it’s important to be open to pivoting and adapting plans when necessary, it is equally important to dedicate sufficient time and effort to a chosen path before making a switch. By doing so, we can discern between genuine opportunities and mere distractions.


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The most important organization in the world

Welcome back to Leadership as a Practice. We took a brief hiatus for the holidays but are back with more exciting content for you to enhance your own leadership practice.

Part of the reason for the break is that my wife and I are expecting our first child this Spring and we had some planning to take care of. As our family grows, we did some deep thinking about what it means to become a family with a child.

Coincidentally, I have been listening to a new podcast called At the Table with Patrick Lencioni, and a recent episode was about how to create a strategy for the family, or as Lencioni describes it, the most important organization in the world. My wife listened to the podcast as well and we both decided to try creating a family strategy with core values, defining objectives, standard objectives, and a regular cadence of checking in on progress.

Lencioni3Together, we read Lencioni’s book, The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family, which describes the process families can use to develop their strategic plan. This past Saturday night, we went out to dinner with the book, a legal pad, and pen and mapped out our strategy. The book describes that this process should be fast and we found that to be true. With the prompts and descriptions from the book, we spent about 20 minutes discussing the strategy and 10 minutes refining it. After reading our strategy over several times, we felt comfortable with the product.

From there, Lencioni prescribes developing a “rallying cry” or your family’s short term goal (2-6 months). I have also heard this idea called the “burning platform” in business discussions. The “rallying cry” will be reached by accomplishing “defining objectives”. From there, you define “standard objectives” or the themes that are always important to the family (ex: Physical health). After all of that work, the family meets weekly for 10 minutes to do a stoplight score (green for on schedule, yellow for close, and red for off schedule), which helps prioritize goals for the upcoming week.

My wife and I have our first check-in meeting this week, so we decided that we wouldn’t share our strategy with Leadership as a Practice readers until later (but stay tuned).

At work, I’m a big advocate of the value of strategic planning as well as disciplined and intentional implementation of the plan. Applying it to our family was something that occurred to me but I couldn’t figure out how to implement it. Lencioni’s model has helped my family get focused and organized. Our strategy has already helped us make decisions that are aligned. It also serves as an excellent model for a quick strategic plan for a functional department at any business.

Do you lead with intention both at home and at work? If you have any stories about this topic, I would love to hear them. Please send them to me here.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Strategic planning is a valuable exercise to accomplish both professional and personal goals. Leaders can establish a plan quickly and implement it. What better place to start than at home?

The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family is available for purchase on Amazon for $24.95 (does not include Prime discount)