We live in the Age of Mass Distraction. This is the name given to the fact that the kings of our daily lives are mobile devices. They are the ones to whom we devote much of our attention, sometimes even more important than the people we are eating with. That’s how we are. Or so we have become thanks to technology. In fact, a study of 150,000 people in 2013 concluded that, on average, we consult our cell phones 110 times a day. If we think that there is time when we sleep and that the peak hours are from 5 to 8 pm, we could say that every six or seven seconds we open one of our applications. Surely, ten years later, this figure will have increased considerably. This happens to all of us mortals and, of course, to leaders who manage teams.
Every six or seven seconds we open one of our mobile applications.
The day-to-day life of organizations is becoming increasingly complex. Not only are there a myriad of objectives and challenges, but technology and its immediacy, makes attention one of the most complicated and differentiating skills. As we know what characterizes a leader is achieving results through the teams he or she manages. Results cannot be achieved if we are scattered or if we are not focused.. Addressing concentration therefore requires several approaches. One is related to our strategic and tactical decisions and others to what we do on a day-to-day basis. Regarding the first, I like the powerful idea of one of the richest men in the world: Warren Buffett.
A leader achieves results. These cannot be achieved if the person is scattered or distracted.
Warren Buffett is one of the billionaires who has given us the most pearls of knowledge. One of them is an anecdote told by his former personal pilot. When Buffett asked him about his dreams, he explained a little trick he performed. Each year he made a list of the 25 objectives he wanted to achieve and divided them into two lists: the “A list”, which included the first five strategic objectives; and the “B list”, where he grouped the rest. Well, Buffett’s advice for success is to burn the B-list. That is, to focus so intensely on our five goals that we have to radically abandon the rest. Only when we have achieved one from list A, can we rescue another from list B. If we apply it to your leadership work, what is your A-list? What are you going to focus all your effort and energy on this year, this week or today? Starting with a list of a few things and focusing is a great tool for leadership and for team members, who don’t get lost in a thousand and one things.
What are you going to focus all your effort and energy on this year? What about this week? What about today?
The strategic part must be accompanied by personal skills. We have to take this attention to our daily life. When we start a complex task, we tend to unconsciously entertain ourselves with other things of lesser importance. This is part of the concentration process and is fine. But, of course, it has to be a minimum percentage. In other words, to make a report that requires one hour, we should not be distracted for another hour. To reduce the duration of the distraction, it is advisable to use some technique, such as pomodoro.
The pomodoro technique alludes to tomato-shaped kitchen clocks and suggests that we set 20-minute intervals of maximum concentration on something and after that time, we can distract ourselves with whatever we want. Thus, little by little, we give a little oxygen to our brain, which is so used to being entertained, and at the same time, we focus on what is important. Likewise, moving the cell phone away, closing applications or web pages that entertain us or putting it on airplane mode from time to time can help us to concentrate. It is difficult for the world to fall in those 20 minutes or in the time when we do not consult our devices, so, as we get used to it, we can live with the era of mass distraction and at the same time, enjoy it.