From being able to get things done to staying on track, distractions can sabotage productivity in ways that we don’t even realize.
As a business leader, you’ve probably heard a lot about, and experienced your own distraction traps — the ways that can prevent you from succeeding and/or growing your business. But you might be surprised at how many of those pitfalls are actually self-inflicted, rather than external. This month, we’re going to break down the top distraction traps that hold leaders back from the growth they desire. By the end of this column, you’ll have the knowledge and understanding you need to identify which ones apply to you, and the actionable strategies you need to overcome them.
We’re all too familiar with procrastination. It happens, it’s common and it usually results in something bad. But there’s another reason why procrastination happens, and it has to do with our brain. According to research, our brain goes through several stages when it comes to making decisions. The first stage is focused on the outcome and the next two focus on what we should do to get the outcome we want. The next three stages, however, focus on what we’d rather be doing than the outcome we want. This third stage is where procrastination comes in.
Procrastination is the result of our minds wandering away from the task we really want to do. It is one of the most common reasons why people are unable to finish their projects or tasks. We tend to put off important tasks to a later time. Instead, we find excuses to get out of the project. Many times, this is completely subconscious and we need to heighten our own awareness to make a conscious choice to get back to what's most important. Oftentimes, the most important thing we can do is the very project we're avoiding.
This is another one of those psychological principles that many people understand to a point, but don’t necessarily take a proactive approach when dealing with it. Perfectionism is an ego-driven compulsion to have everything done and right — even when it doesn’t matter. It’s actually a form of procrastination. The perfectionist feels (even subconsciously) as if they are being punished in some way if they don’t finish what they start because they feel like they aren’t worthy of having something completed. But this is a very self-defeating mindset. Perfectionism distracts us from taking action for fear of completing something that might be judged by ourselves or others negatively.
Many people tend to worry about what others think. This can lead to them having a poor self-image. Some people try to get approval from others by working hard. For example, they work long hours at their jobs. If they are successful, they may receive a promotion. This gives them more power and more respect from others. But what happens when they get the promotion? Now, they think that they are supposed to work even harder. They may work even longer hours. This is because they want to show off their success. In fact, some people actually begin working harder because they want to prove their worthiness. Others may work long hours at their jobs because they think they are doing "the right thing" by working hard. In addition, some people work so hard at their jobs that they end up developing stress-related illnesses! We are seeing this broken success model coming to fruition in the trades more and more with heightened stress levels and mental health challenges.
In order to achieve success in your business, you will have to face many challenges. When you begin feeling resistance to taking action because of those challenges, it's time to step back, reset and prioritize. Don't let yourself get distracted by the uncertainty of not knowing what to do next.
This is a pretty common distraction technique that many people fall into — especially if you're not sure about your next step in a project. Resistance is a natural human reaction to uncertainty and lack of control. It's a way of avoiding something that feels scary or uncomfortable, and instead of taking action to move forward, we pause and do nothing. One key factor is to keep your eye on the end goal and not let yourself get distracted by the current resistance you might be feeling.
In order to achieve success in your business, you will have to face many challenges. When you begin feeling resistance to taking action because of those challenges, it's time to step back, reset and prioritize. Don't let yourself get distracted by the uncertainty of not knowing what to do next. You might be afraid that something bad is going to happen if you take action even in the face of uncertainty. Don't worry. This is a common response, and the best action is action itself. Resistance comes in many forms, but make sure you're not using it as a way of distracting yourself from what you really want to accomplish.
Fear of failure
For those of us who have struggled with the “imposter syndrome” or felt our own doubts about our abilities, fear of failure has become an incredibly powerful emotion. But the key to understanding the way that fear of failure works is to understand that it’s a distraction from taking action. In the context of business, fear of failure becomes a strong reason not to do anything — not start a new business line, not take on a new challenge, not increase accountability, not take the action necessary because you risk failure. It’s a form of paralysis — the very thing we fear. Fear of failure keeps us from taking action because it makes us doubt ourselves.
People often find it hard to take the risk of doing something. They are afraid to fail. That is, they are afraid of failing to complete the task successfully, or sometimes perfectly as we discussed before. Some people find it difficult to take risks at all. It is normal for some people to be afraid of failure, but don't let that fear stop you from taking risks. If you get started and don't like the direction or progress you're getting, then you can stop at any time.
We live in a world of external distractions. It’s hard to remain focused when there are so many other things competing for our attention. It’s not always a matter of willpower or self-discipline. It has to do with our subconscious conditioning, awareness, and desire to change. Be easy with yourself, my friend. You have a lot going on and are a leader in a very demanding business environment. Just make sure that your internal distractions discussed here are not adding to your reasons for not taking action. Once you've identified a distraction you might be struggling with, it's time to do what Nike once said regarding taking action, “Just Do It.”
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