4 Ways Distraction Threatens Your Career | Fight Back

Distracted? Never, you claim, always fully tuned in, just multitasking.

It’s a popular self-deception. We’re all guilty to a degree.

Research has long debunked the notion of multitasking, our claim of being engaged in multiple things (aided by our digital tools) at the same time.

We’ve just become compulsive about requiring our brains to toggle between one thought or awareness and another. The faster we do it, the more we self-approving we become.

Faster makes winners, right? Until, there’s a wreck.

Distraction as enemy

Keeping up with the pace of change and career demands is wearying. So many swirling expectations and so little clarity about what really matters…to our progress.

We take a stab at one thing and then another, often deciding what’s important based upon what others are or seem to be doing or that text, post, news flash, or broadcast email we receive. Our biggest challenge at work is figuring out what matters and what doesn’t.

If you let yourself become distracted by all the inputs that come your way, you’ll more than likely spin your wheels and find yourself stuck in an ever-deepening rut.

You need to separate distraction from meaningful direction. That starts with recognizing how certain distractions can hurt you.

When distractions run amok, they can become:

  1. Career saboteurs–Success at work is about staying focused on the tasks at hand, providing updates to your boss, and working collaboratively with coworkers. When distractions caused by extraneous inputs obstruct your focus and productivity, your career will take a hit.
  2. A safety hazard–Inattentiveness is one of the main causes of accidents in the workplace. You don’t want to get hurt on the job and companies are upset when you do. When distracted, we slip, trip, and fall…or worse…whether we work in an office or outside. Distractions take make us vulnerable.
  3. Relationship eroders–Most of us want to matter at work…to our coworkers, bosses, and customers/clients. People you interact with want your undivided attention as much as you want theirs. Distractions that you respond to while with a colleague screams, “You aren’t more important to me than….” [fill in the blank...this text, email, person who caught my eye]. You may not get much future support from those you make feel less important.
  4. Confidence drains–Distractions interrupt your thought processes, often introducing extraneous points of view, declarations, positions, and news that derail insights that are uniquely yours. Your ideas lose momentum and you start to question their value and relevance. When distractions steer your thinking off course, you put your hard-earned self-confidence at risk.

Be on guard

There’s a relentless onslaught of information coming at you, often causing confusion and clutter in your life. You necessarily must be able to separate the useful from the useless, engaging in a a kind of distraction due diligence.

You need to take charge of the world around you, avoiding the tendency to follow the herd. This means you should:

  • Stop second-guessing what you believe is important to your career success
  • Refuse to fear being wrong, out-shined, or outplayed by others; instead just do what you do best
  • Be willing to differentiate yourself by showcasing your talents and commitment to quality work
  • Expect to be seen and heard, not to be kept faceless and at arm’s length
  • Build meaningful relationships with colleagues that mirror what you want from them

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a guarantee that you will. It’s impossible to be in tune with everything that’s going on around you. Most of it doesn’t matter to your career plan anyway.

What you don’t want is to miss out on the relationships, creative sharing, emerging insights, and depth of thought/experience that comes from focused engagement with the people you work with.

Resist with courage

It takes courage to resist distractions, especially when you’re surrounded by others addicted to them. Distractions become a cop out, an excuse for putting off decisions, completing work, and reaching out to others. It’s time to fight back.

Being busy being busy is the road to nowhere. Beat the traffic and take the undistracted route.

 

 

Invested in Your Job or Just Doing It? 7 Acts of Ownership | Embracing Crises

crisis 7836782464_fd003c0198_mSome days our jobs feel mundane. The work has become repetitive, our colleagues predictable, and our roles unchanging. Our don’t-rock-the-boat boss gives us less and less room to be creative or engaged beyond our daily tasks.

When this happens, it’s tempting to just put your nose to the grindstone, follow the job description to the letter, and lower your career expectations.

Deep down, you know this strategy isn’t good for you.

It’s your job, so work it.

Remember how important it was to get your job and the effort it took? Whether your job is one of a kind or one of many, it’s a specific area of the business that’s in your care. The way you perform matters.

If your job weren’t important, the company wouldn’t be willing to pay you for it. While your job description states the duties, you, personally, bring your standards, commitment, and honor to the work.

Recently, some terrible tragedies have been in the news. In the U.S., there was a devastating hurricane and an unfathomable mass shooting of elementary school children and their educators.

No first responder or school teacher has a job description that includes duties to perform when threats to human life fall upon him/her in enormous and unanticipated scale.

Most of us don’t have to face life and death situations in our jobs. But there are situations that we won’t/can’t tolerate–circumstances that call us to action.

It might be:

  • Bullying, bias, or discrimination of coworkers
  • Business decisions based on faulty or incomplete information
  • Product defects, known or suspected
  • Unsafe equipment or procedures
  • A sudden calamity in your work area, a stricken coworker, or destructive weather

When we’re faced with such situations, we discover how invested we are in our jobs based on the actions we take.

7 intervening actions

Owning our jobs in a crisis is not about being a hero or heroine. It’s about responding in ways that align our strengths and capabilities with  needs.

The teacher who steps in front of a gunman to protect her students and the first responder who wades through waist-deep water to save a life follow an inner drive compatible with the calling that drew them to their jobs.

We have a calling too. You may know today how far you would go to intervene in a crisis while others of us may not know until we’re in that crisis moment.

Here are 7 actions to consider. One or more may be what you’d be prepared to do:

  1. Step forward–Take charge; lead others; put fear aside and do what you believe is right
  2. Buy time–Deflect incoming negatives; implement stop-gap measures; negotiate options
  3. Steady the ship–Follow established procedures/protocols; create stability through regimen; reduce panic by reliance on routine
  4. Provide comfort–Keep a cool head; settle others using calm counsel; meet the emotional and physical needs of others; rally optimism
  5. Gather forces–Foster collaboration; collect and share input needed for decision-making; engage others able to help; create community
  6. Test solutions–Pilot test potential remedies; get feedback; fine-tune the fixes; build on successes; capture lessons learned
  7. Communicate relentlessly–Develop and deliver credible messages; keep everyone in the loop; listen and address questions/concerns; reduce the stress of not knowing

I’ve always felt like I owned the responsibilities stated or unstated in my jobs. If I saw a workplace injustice, I spoke up and then tried to do something about it. When people were upset about major workplace changes, I offered perspectives that would help ease the worry.

We all have some kind of help to offer in a crisis.

Embrace the moment

All crises are not created equal. No matter how big or small, when things go wrong, those affected are off-balance, fearful, uncertain, and even confused. That’s probably you too. But you have a chance to embrace the situation in your own way, using your skills and instincts to help fix things.

Please take a moment to think about your job and your investment it. What do you think you’d do in a crisis? I suspect it will be something very good.

Photo from mycos2012 via Flickr

Stuck? Try Getting Out of Your Own Way! | Overcoming Risk Aversion

Mistakes are a bummer. We don’t like being on the receiving end (like when they don’t’ “hold the onion”) or on the doing end (like when you miss a due date). Some mistakes have greater consequences than others, but we never quite know how great. 

Mistakes lurk, so be heroic.  

Keep working. Get stuff done. Make decisions. Choose options. Make your best guess.

You’ve been given a job to do…so just do it! No one else is.

Business is a machine. It thrives on forward motion created by people doing things that need to be done.

Your life is a business too. So, you need forward motion to find a job, navigate a career, and position your future.

Every time we take action, we leave ourselves open for both mistakes and success. Most of the time, the success odds are in our favor!

Trial and error is a good thing. It’s one way we figure things out! 

So why do we obsess so much about maybe “doing it wrong?” Unless the consequences of a mistake are death or financial ruin, there’s little reason to defer action.

Now, I’m not proposing that we act without thinking, planning, and considering consequences. I am proposing that once we’ve done reasonable thinking, planning and considering, we act. (Haven’t read Seth Godin’s, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? It’s time.) 

When we don’t act, it’s often because we fear:

  • Negative judgments by others (our who and why never explained)  
  • Looking stupid or naïve (the rationale, basis, and likelihood unstated)
  • Disappointing ourselves (the result of a bar we set too high)
  • Becoming trapped (our baseless belief that situations control our future)
  • Personal loss—(the notion that there is some concrete price to pay

These fears will paralyze us if we let them.  

Shackles you choose are still shackles. 

The relentless pursuit of approval and permission coupled with the endless need for more information, discussion, and analysis becomes self-imposed career imprisonment.

Analysis to paralysis is what it’s often called. It happens when you believe you need just one more bit of information, insight, and affirmation before you’re safe enough to act.

Problem: There are unknowns, surprises, and discoveries in every decision.  It’s the “successful people” who come up with winning discoveries and get credit for them, even when it all started from mistakes they made.

The people who end up in the best careers often got there by stumbling through jobs that took them to places they never imagined, both good and bad. They just kept moving along and discovering things while doing quality work.

You can’t become a success when you stand in your own way, waiting for analysis and approval to open doors.

Please, let this be like you. 

Karen was a call center support specialist who knew I needed a call monitoring feedback system fair to our reps. On her own, she found out what other companies did, discussed the law with Legal, and drafted a process for me and my boss to consider, all in short order. A smart, gutsy move for her career.

Herb was a union guy, servicing electric meters. He wanted to move into management but didn’t have the best credentials. He bid on a mobile exhibit job covering a 10,000 square mile area. During the interview, I asked him to write an essay about why he wanted the job. That threw him, but he gave it a go, not knowing where this “no job security” position would take him. In time, he became a respected marketing manager…not bad!

Believe in yourself…because you should! 

Look around. The success you want is within your reach. You just need to be willing to reach for it! The more actions you take, the more ground you gain. Business fitness is about building momentum toward your goals. So pull on your best sneaks and hit the trail!

What fears have held you back along the way? How did you reduce or overcome them? Any advice is a real gift!