I once had a boss who, behind her desk, had posted a cartoon of a woman sitting at an impossibly messy desk reading a catalog.
The caption read, “Faced with yet another pesky deadline, Enid was compelled to read the Acme Seed catalog from cover to cover.”
Do you know the feeling? It seems that whenever I’ve got something particularly difficult to do I find myself more than usually distracted.
This can be a real challenge when the task at hand is something that could conceivably be put off. Like say, for example, if you’ve already got a job and even if it’s going nowhere it’s not exactly going away so…
So that means to move your career forward you need to work harder than ever on focusing and getting grounded.
It won’t be easy because it seems that we as a society have confused improvements in communication with enhanced distraction. If you’ve ever lost a morning to Twitter or had your train of thought interrupted by the ping of an incoming e-mail you feel compelled to check, you know what I’m talking about.
But if we’re honest with ourselves we have to admit that all the Tweets, pings and other sound effects in the world can’t lead us off-task unless we let them.
Like Enid, we’re just using the e-mails and seed catalogs that cross our desk as an excuse to not do something we really should be doing.
I have two suggestions to help deal with this problem; one is conceptual, the other is practical.
Start by acknowledging the problem. That sounds very touchy-feely, I know, but there’s a reason the “Name it, claim” approach is used to address so many issues.
That’s because it works. You have to admit something’s wrong before you can take steps to correct it. But that “taking steps” part is essential. Once you’ve fessed up to yourself about what you’re trying to avoid, you have to buckle down and get after it.
Here’s the practical part – get rid of what distracts you. Turn off your e-mail alerts if that’s what gets you, clean off your desk and hide those enticing catalogs.
I used to think this sort of office-based neatening and straightening was what people meant when they talked about “Getting your ducks in a row.”
But I just realized that when ducks are going some place, they always travel in a line. That means when people “get their ducks in a row,” they’re getting ready to move.
Try these techniques yourself and see if they help you make progress in your career.
by Danielle Dresden