Minimize Distractions for Better Results

In business today, the opportunity for distraction is endless.  This includes all the distractions of the urgent but unimportant that range from meetings to E-Mail to Internet surfing.  Due to these distractions and constant interruptions, employees and companies often do not have solid block of times to get finished what needs to be finished.

Interruptions are particularly pernicious as there is an inescapable setup time for all tasks before you are getting back into full swing.

A “can I have one moment?” interruption will usually last ten to fifteen minutes.  After that, inevitably comes a quick check of the E-Mail and then another ten minutes to get back to working solidly on what you were doing before the interruption.  In short, that “just one minute” interruption took up thirty minutes.  For someone making $100,000 that one minute cost about $25!

1.  Reduce the Transition Time:  Of course, you cannot avoid all distractions. But, when distracted or interrupted, a best practice would be to get back to work as soon as possible.  Work on transitioning quickly without taking breaks or taking quick checks of E-Mail.  In the above case, with a focus on the transition and not checking the E-Mail, perhaps, the person could have been back to work in only twelve minutes reducing the cost of the interruption to only $10.  Transitioning quickly also helps prevent procrastination from creeping in.

2.  Batch Your Work: Create one hour blocks of quiet times (allowing for interruptions in the case of true emergencies), where the E-Mail system is shut down, the phone is turned off, and you are dedicated to the most important tasks.   On a company level, attack the most important action item in one fell swoop and get it fully and completely done.  Create time blocks where the routine, unimportant yet necessary tasks can be completed.  Ideally, these would be at times when your concentration is weakest; usually, right before lunch or at the end of the day.

3.  Define Fewer Things as Urgent: With fewer urgent items, you can often reduce five “quick one minute” calls to one call about all five issues.  Related to this, it is important to realize that what is urgent for you may not be urgent for the other person or the business as a whole.

4.  Consciously Ignore: Individual employees and companies need to consciously make the effort to ignore much of the information and stimulation in the environment.  Not every tidbit of information and everything that you are curious about needs your attention.

5.  Learn to Say “No”: Master the art of refusal and learn to say “no.”  Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success magazine, offers a story about Richard Branson and his ability to say “No” in order to focus on the important.

A while back, after our Success cover feature with the knighted Sir Richard Branson, we had a client contact us to inquire about hiring Richard Branson to speak at their conference.  So, we had someone inquire and Sir Richard declined.  The client then offered $250,000 for an hour talk; Sir Richard declined.  They then raised it to $500,000. Sir Richard declined.  Then we asked how much it WOULD take to get Sir Richard to attend.  The response from his people was, “no amount of money would matter.”  They said, “Right now Richard has three main priorities he is focused on and he will only allocate his time to those three priorities, and speaking for a fee is not one of them.”

This blog is an excerpt from David Shedd’s recently published book, Build a Better B2B Business: Winning Leadership for Your Business-to-Business Company, now available on


About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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