I believe one competitive advantage of the future will be the ability to focus, concentrate, and get things done–the ability to overcome the notion that we can effectively multitask and context switch while doing quality work and having meaningful interactions.

This most disruptive and destructive force is called DISTRACTION and it is constantly and unrelentingly killing our productivity. And it has never been more intense than it is today.

We need to realize the difference between responding and working. One of the greatest keys to time management is about not letting distractions happen.

Either you are in charge of your time or you allow yourself to be the puppet of everyone else’s demands. Someone is always in charge–I recommend it be you.

Darren Hardy’s recent article Under Attack hit on a lot of things I’ve been thinking about recently.  It also hit on a lot of the ways I see myself wasting time and feeling unproductive. Hardy continues,

In the book The Way We Are Working Isn’t Working, Tony Schwartz discusses how we are addicted to distraction.

Distraction gives us a form of relief, a defensible reason to distract ourselves from more difficult and challenging tasks at hand—those things that are important to the accomplishment of your bigger goals and projects, but not urgent… marrying in a little Stephen Covey.

We have an insatiable thirst for novelty—the hunger we all feel for the next new thing. We are constantly scanning the periphery in case something more important and urgent surfaces. New email or text messages and other distractions are seductive and compelling. Resisting them is like trying to resist or ignore a ringing phone, a fresh chocolate chip cookie or a crying baby.

We want to be wanted. We have a need to stay connected and feel productive in the short term with minimal effort. And to be busy and to be connected is to feel alive, but the consequence is we’re over-stimulated, over-wound, and ultimately unproductive and unfulfilled.

Later in the article Hardy describes fighting distraction as a skill we have to build.  He’s right.  The more I multitask and follow distractions in a given day, the harder it is to focus on one task when I really need to.

What are your techniques for reducing distractions and building stronger muscles for concentration and getting things done?

Image by underminingme via flickr used under a Creative Commons license.