We live in a time where distractions are all around us. Social media, our email inboxes, billboards, flyers, text messages, TV ads, bus stops, park benches (and sadly, this list goes on). Stats indicate that the average North American is presented with 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements every single day. Can you believe that? Every day! These ads come in many forms but ultimately they’re specifically designed to pull your attention away from whatever it was you were doing (or thinking about).
Stats indicate that the average North American is presented with 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements every single day.
I’d like to issue a challenge: find ways to protect your focus. What do I mean by that? Find ways to say “no” to the distractions that the world around us says are “normal” (and expected). Let’s dig in.
Example #1: Our Phones
The world around us says that when we sit down (anywhere), it’s normal pull out our phones. At our desks, a restaurant table, the bar, the dinner table, our cars or the bus or airplane, a chair in the waiting room, or our friends sofa at home—it’s [often] the first thing we do. Once we’re done using it, we [often] place it face up on our desks subtly saying “I’m more important than the people I’m with or the things I’m doing”.
What’s more, we’ve become accustomed to urgency in everything from text messages, to social media, to phone calls and everything in between. Everything has become urgent. Nobody says it better than Simon Sinek in this 3 minute talk.
Example #2: Our Email
Email has been proven as one of the most effective forms of marketing on the planet. It’s no wonder every single website, store, or subscription works so hard to keep us on their mailing lists.
What hasn’t helped is the Gmail approach to [nearly] infinite storage. Never delete an email, ever! The result of these two facts of life? Email has become the official dumping ground for everything. Specifically, how many notifications, newsletters, updates, check-in’s, or ping’s do you get via email every single day?
How many notifications, newsletters, updates, check-in’s, or ping’s do you get via email every single day?
Today I’d like to encourage you to do two things:
- Try turning your phone OFF on your next date, when you get home to spend time with your family, in your next meeting or when you show up to work, when you’re spending time with friends, or just for a break from “being connected”. Your friends, family, and loved ones will find other ways to reach you in an emergency, and those you’re actually with will appreciate the attention and focus you’re able to give them. The best example I have is when my kids say: “Dad, put your phone down!” as they’re trying to tell me something—nearly breaks my heart but is a real reminder of how important focus is and how those we don’t think will notice, do.
- UNSUBSCRIBE or turn off notifications for everything in your inbox that is just “noise”. If you normally just archive it, that’s probably a good signal to unsubscribe. Do you get notifications for the same thing in your email and on your phone? That’s probably a good signal to unsubscribe. Ask yourself: “is this important to me?”, and if the answer is “no”, then turn it off!
TIP: this same logic can easily be applied to app notifications on your computer and phones—do you usually just swipe it away? Disable it (or all but the most important)!
Bonus focus tip: try checking your work email twice a day (10am and 3pm) and your personal email once (in the morning or evening).
Use this challenge to improve your focus on the things you’re doing by removing the distraction of the things you’re not and the places you aren’t.
Whether it be doing your best work, being an active listener, actually spending quality time by being present with your loved ones—your ability to focus on the things that matter right now will undoubtedly have a positive impact on your life.