Does being busy mean you are productive? High performing entrepreneurs and professionals distinguish themselves because they know how to focus and what to focus on. We are all busy, but we are not all similarly productive. High performers use their time productively and focus on the things that move the needle in their business.
Technology has encroached on all aspects of our lives with our devices squeezing more time out of our day in the name of efficiency and productivity. When we are with family and friends we are distracted by our devices. The line between personal and professional time has been eroded. We are always connected, always on. Always checking just one more email.
In an age of distraction, to become a High Performer, you need to structure your life to find focus. High Performers focus their attention on the activities that will drive the results they plan to achieve. Each time our devices send an alert, it distracts us from whatever we should be focused on. Our attention and focus are continually hijacked by our devices. We are, as Daniel Goleman describes it, in a permanent state of “continuous partial attention”.
In an age of distraction, to become a High Performer, you need to structure your life to find focus.
To better understand this, we need to appreciate how our brains work. Our brain is comprised of two semi-independent systems: The Bottom-up system and the Top-down system. The Bottom-up system is always on and works in the background. It is the part of the brain that is automatic, reflexive, involuntary, fast, impulsive, and driven by emotions. The Top-down system in your brain, however, tends to be voluntary, slow, and effortful. Top-down activity takes effort. It is where self-awareness and self-control reside. It is where we set goals. Daniel Kahneman describes the Top-down system as the “supporting character, who believes herself to be the hero”. For the most part, our actions are driven by the automatic reflexive part of our brain.
Alerts from our devices draw our attention focus by triggering that automatic system in our brain which interrupts or distracts our cognitive control. The challenge is that these distractions are largely out of our control. When we falsely believe we are the main characters in the movie, we think we are in control of these distractions.
Our brain is comprised of two semi-independent systems: The Bottom-up system and the Top-down system.
Like computers, our brains have limited processing power. The most recent research suggests that when one of our devices sends us an alert, our brain kicks in to actively work to ignore the distraction or interruption but it triggers the automatic system of our brain and steals processing power that should be directed at our area of focus. Since many of these distractions are largely driven by the automatic system of the brain, we need to structure our lives to avoid these distractions by answering two questions:
1. What are you going to focus on?
2. How are you going to focus?
To answer these questions you must clarify your Mission, Vision, and Objectives. Once you get clear on where you are going and what you are trying to accomplish, you need to focus on how you will focus. This means designing your life in a way that minimizes the distractions that activate the Bottom-up system of the brain. Focus has become a rare commodity in today’s device-driven world. High Performers structure their day so that they can focus on the tasks that are integral to what they are hoping to accomplish. Finding focus has become a competitive advantage.