In recent weeks I have been absolutely overwhelmed by friends and associates telling me I need to be involved in Twitter and Facebook and countless other internet sites that supposedly contribute to marketing success. They reportedly present boundless benefits for those who master the subtle strategies related to those sites. I know I am going against the popular trend here, but I have given the issue of social media a lot of thought and am convinced it is a huge distraction machine that most people should avoid! Personally, and professionally I have decided to opt out of “Twitting” and the other “cutting edge” social networking sites! I just don’t have the time or the interest to Twit.
One of my foundational beliefs is that success pivots on having the ability to concentrate on doing the things that really matter and filtering out what doesn’t! Have you ever attended an NBA basketball game? In the final minutes of close games, the team that is behind usually resorts to a strategy of committing intentional fouls on the other team. When a player is fouled, the game clock is stopped to allow the fouled player to attempt one or more free throws. What the free throw shooter sees is the basket against a backdrop of several thousand frenzied, lunatic fans waving towels, tassels, pom-poms, or anything else they have been able to bring into the arena to distract the shooter from making the free throw. The fans scream, yell, blast air-horns, and do anything they can do to break the concentration of the shooter. To be successful, the shooter has to block all of this mayhem from his mind and focus on the basket. If the shooter can’t block out the distractions, the shot will be missed!
Most people don’t think of focus as a strategic skill, and most people haven’t really spent much time factually examining how well they focus. Focus is a subject that gets a lot of lip service, but it usually doesn’t get the respect it deserves. When you don’t treat focus as a strategic issue, minimizing its importance is easy, and soon you’re ignoring it altogether. Most people approach focus as a time management issue or as an organizational challenge. Typical solutions to improve focus may include obtaining a better time management system, or doing something to better organize the work environment. These are valid considerations, but those kinds of solutions don’t address the heart of the focus issue, which is distraction! Distraction is a natural occurrence in the life of every person. You can be the most organized person on earth with a great time management system, and still become routinely distracted.
Information and input are the raw materials for human creativity, opportunity recognition, and problem solving. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, distraction is the direct result of the same brain function. That’s the bad news. You become distracted whenever you allow something to enter your mind that takes you away from doing what you should be doing in the present moment. In fact, distraction is the path of least resistance because the most natural activity for your mind is to take in information. Unfortunately, that is all you need to latch onto things that can remove you from the moment and disrupt whatever focus you had for the immediate task at hand. In other words, distraction is a natural result of thinking! Your ability to overcome distraction and elevate your focusing skill depends on your ability to learn how to think in ways that will counteract what comes so naturally.
One of the challenges of living in the information age is the extraordinary number of opportunities you have to become distracted. The very things that are meant to be powerful tools to help you be more effective are potential sources of distraction. The Internet, e-mail, and cell phones all introduce unexpected intrusions into our minds, and every intrusion creates the possibility of disrupting your ability to focus on what you should really be doing at the moment. Focus is about establishing priorities and keeping the main things in front of you. To do that effectively, you have to be able to control the distractive influences that bombard your mind. Your ability to do that depends on how you think about the present moment, because focus is always found in the present.
This brings us to the issue of Twitting and Facebooking and all of the other social networking sites that claim to be so beneficial. I know people who spend hours everyday twitting their every thought to hundreds of followers. I’ve yet to see the real benefit of that kind of time investment. The same is true for Facebook and other sites. If you want entertainment, then these sites are great. If you want results, I suggest you invest your time elsewhere. You need to get focused on your “high-leverage activities” that can really move your results needle. That’s only possible when you are really clear about what you want and focus on the things that matter!
©2009 Tony Jeary, author of Strategic Acceleration: Succeed at the Speed of Life
Learn more about Strategic Acceleration at www.strategicacceleration.com & http://sixvoices.com/apps/tapstack/strategic-acceleration/.
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