How To Win Your War With Distractions


The most successful leaders know how to win the war with distractions.

Stacey Barr hits the nail on the head. In How To Be An Evidence-Based Leader she talks about the way that successful leaders focus on results.

She tells us that the best leaders look for specific and objective facts that will tell them how things are going. They know it's the best way to understand what needs fixing.

The problem is, knowing this is important isn't on it's own isn't going to change your game.

Distractions come in many forms. Social media notifications, meetings, email, interruptions are just some of the distractions which jostle loudly for your attention each day.

What can you do to dial down such distractions and build a stronger focus on whatever matters most?

Here are five mental hacks successful leaders use in their war with distractions that you could implement today.


1. Understand Your 'Why'

Steven Covey wrote that, "It's easy to say no when there's a deeper yes burning inside."

Working out what your big 'why' is can change the way you see the work you do. If you understand the reason behind the effort you're making to rise to the challenge in front of you,  it will be far easier to stick to the plan when distractions arise.

When you're working on something hard, the chances are it's worth doing. You could take a leaf out of Covey's book, and consider what your deeper why is. Write it down and keep it close.

Then, whenever the siren calls, you can use it as a shield. Saying no to a distraction is easier when there's a compelling reason to stay on course.

2. Take Your Work Seriously

Leaders who achieve success, are driven by a sense of purpose. Leaders who build success over the long-term understand that purpose has also got to be infused with meaning.

What is meaning?

Meaning is measured by the (hopefully positive) impact your purposeful activities have on other people. Meaning is what brings longevity to any kind of endeavour.

Working on a project that has meaning will also increase your inner belief that what you're doing matters. Not just to you, but to other people too.

Carefully building a proper sense of meaning into your work, will help you fend off distractions. You'll understand that if you allow yourself to be distracted, you'll not make the positive impact you could otherwise achieve.

You could ask: How will what I'm attempting improve the lives of other people?

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You don't have to be working on the cure for cancer for this to be true. Making a customer's day, offer a kindness to a patient, or serving your employees' well-being are all ways of cultivating meaning.

For further reading take a look at How To Write A Powerful Personal Leadership Manifesto.


3. Keep The Bigger Picture In Mind

When you're working on something important, it's easy to become hyper-sensitive to anything that blows across your path. This might be criticism, conflicting opinions, alternative proposals or new ideas.

The important skill to develop is to avoid getting embroiled in anything which doesn't make the boat go faster.

You could respond to each and every issue as they arise. The problem then is that you'll be spending energy on fighting those battles. You'll burn up time too.

Ask yourself this question: How will engaging with this issue push me closer to my goal?

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If you haven't got a good answer, it might time to push the distraction to one side.

4. Guard The Castle Gates

Every leader knows that sooner or later there'll be a moment when you've got to make a decision about how you use the time you've got.

Time of course is a non-renewable resource. You can only use it, or lose it.

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If you're going to get the task you're working on over the line, you have to be clear about what you will do, and what you won't do.

A successful leader will have this well thought through in advance. Boundaries are important, which is why you must be careful to guard them.

Knowing what they are, being able to be explicit about what you will and won't do, allows you to be ruthless about distractions.

Why Multitasking Is Bad for You (And What to Do About It.

5. Hold Yourself To A Higher Standard

Jim Collins reminds us that the best leaders look for credit elsewhere when things have gone well, and accept responsibility themselves for everything that doesn't.

This doesn't mean they are passive however. Far from it.

The best leaders continuously look for ways to measure results. They understand that the leader's job is to be accountable for what happens. So any information that reveals a way that performance can be improved is gold dust.

Accountability to others, certainly, but just as importantly to yourself for doing the best job you can do, is a method successful leaders use to increase their focus on what really matters.

In Summary

Winning the war with distractions won't happen if you don't have a strategy to handle them. The 5 mental hacks outlined here are ways that successful leaders think themselves into a less distracted state of mind.

Whatever large endeavour you're focusing on, take some time to build your anti-distraction weaponry so you're more likely to come out on top in your own war with distractions.

How do you deal with distractions?