The sun is rising as I sit at a table with my cup of coffee. The Santa Barbara, California, beach is across the street. The birds are saying good morning to the ocean breeze. I am building my competitive advantage … just ask HBR. My first read for the morning is a Harvard Business Review article “In a Distracted World, Solitude Is a Competitive Advantage” by Mike Erwin. Who knew it would be so delightful having a competitive advantage?
Feeling bombarded by stimuli and distractions is not new news. Multi-taking seems like the only way to handle the onslaught. Unfortunately, many studies have proven the folly of multi-tasking:
- IQ drops by five to 15 points when we are multitasking.
- Brain performance can decrease by up to 50% when a person focuses on two mental tasks at once.
- Distractions reduce the brain’s ability to filter out irrelevancy in its working memory.
- Emotion stimulated by news feeds or other external events reduces our ability to focus.
- People develop Attention Deficit Trait (ATD), which demonstrates the same symptoms as the medical diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) including inability to concentrate, or focus. Only a brain scan can tell the difference. (The medical prescription is stop multi-tasking.)
I have seen my clients dramatically improve the control of their lives, and manage stress by adding blocks of time to think. An hour per day looking at priorities, strategy,
planning, and preparation, can pay tremendous dividends. The most successful have scheduled one-hour blocks twice per day (and have been able to hold on to one hour each day). Once per month they take a day, or half-day, to evaluate their priorities and behaviors against their plans. Even a couple of 15-minute blocks, set aside to think and reflect, can pay tremendous benefits.
Start by creating a “Stop Doing List“. When does the urgent keep you from the important? Can you eliminate a meeting or cut the length, or frequency, in half? Would better agendas and accountability improve productivity of the whole team? (Hint: the answer is “Yes”.) Invest time in personal development. Allow time to maintain perspective. Go for a walk. It may sound like a luxury. It is a high dividend investment.
Thank You for Being Late by Thomas L. Friedman(NYT) titled his book from the realization of the gift of time when people are late to a breakfast meeting. He uses the time to think, rather than check email or social media. You don’t need to sit by the ocean every day to be more productive. One of the most productive long-term things I do is write books and create new products. I need to get away for larger blocks of time to do that.
Most people don’t need large time blocks, but everyone needs some blocks of time for themselves. Choosing to claim some time for solitude every day will give you a competitive advantage.