The Confusion that Leads to Distraction and Overwhelm

Some months back, I shared a post about how we’re no longer in the information age–we now live in the interruption age.

Do you feel more overwhelmed and distracted than you used to?

If your experience is anything like many of the leaders I work with, you probably answered yes. Part of the reason we’re so much more distracted than ever before is quite simple:  there are a lot more things to distract us than ever before.

Before technology enabled us to create a boundary-less world where we could work, connect and consume 24/7, we didn’t have this kind of access.  It’s as if we’re now swimming in a perpetual ocean of information.

As exciting as riding these waves this can be, this swimming can easily turn into floundering–on a good day, we’re treading water.  On a bad day, it can feel like drowning.

The cause?

We confuse opportunity with priority.Opportunity.

It’s a shiny, glittering window that magnetizes the senses.  Looking through its frame is thrilling.

Like the Sirens that called to Odysseus, opportunity offers you possibilities at every turn. There are the obvious distractions:

  • Read this about this horrible tragedy/natural disaster!

  • Learn about what great lives your friends are having!

  • Get the inside scoop on your favorite celebrity!

or the more subtle ones:

  • Call this client back who never buys, but is real friendly to talk to.

  • Check in with a colleague to once again “vent at the appropriate level”.

  • Read more articles on what I’m working on, because I need to do more research before producing.

Opportunity is sneaky:  it travels at the speed of thought, so you can imagine a glorious outcome without putting in any effort.

Priority moves slower.  It travels at the speed of action. Rather than surfing the waves, working a priority means staying on shore, grounded and focused on whatever’s most important.Priority translates into work.  What needs to be done right now?  What do I need to move forward?

  • Call these five prospects.

  • Do the laundry.

  • Finish that report.

  • Have that difficult conversation.

Opportunity is usually attractive and sexy.Priority:  not so much.I recently came across a quote that seems particular appropriate to this:

“Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.”–Anonymous

What do you do to keep your priorities straight, and not get caught riding the waves of potential opportunities?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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