247 Billion Emails? 3 Ways to Control Distractions Now

In Leadership Connections, Uncategorized by Shannon Alter0 Comments

Have you been on a conference call lately? If you have, you´ve probably noticed that it can be challenging to keep everyone´s attention on the topic at hand. If you´re like me you´re busy multi-tasking: listening to the call, sorting out a to-do list, even throwing in a few texts.  In fact, experts say the world spins to the tune of 247 billion emails per day, compared with 12 billion emails just 10 years ago. Face it, there´s always something to distract us.  And you know what happens when you´re interrupted on a project, right? Estimates are that it takes about 25 minutes for us to fully return to a project or assignment once we´re interrupted.  It´s critical for 21-st century managers to welcome the challenges of global multimedia and learn how to use it to their company´s advantage.

Here are 3 tips to get you started:

Be deliberate: As the saying goes, if you can´t beat `em, join `em! It may be tough to keep meeting participants from sneaking a peek at their BlackBerries or iPhones but you can limit it by being deliberate. For example, purposefully assign some homework before your meeting-it doesn´t have to be big, but if people know you´re expecting information from them in a meeting, they´ll stay tuned in.

Control the distractions: I know, you´re probably thinking this is somewhat like herding cats. Although this is entirely possible, I´ve found that the best way to control distractions is to use what you´ve got. It´s almost impossible to prevent people from showing up to a meeting or class these days without their laptop, iPad or other tablet, so use it.  This works best with a little bit of advance planning and an internet connection. What I often do is decide ahead of time which points I´d like to illustrate or reinforce, then I´ll ask a participant or team member to bring up a specific site or information on his or her laptop. The result: they are engaged, and you´ve reinforced your point or idea.

Time management: Remember those 247 billion emails? It can be overwhelming, to say the least. The old adage is true: time management counts. Not surprisingly, it´s critical for today´s global managers to be able to understand how to dynamically allocate their time. Important here is the understanding the concept of delegation-I like to use what I call the 3 W´s: what can you delegate, who can you delegate to, and why are you delegating? If you can answer these 3 questions, you´re on the right track.

In our daily jobs we compete for attention from all sides: our customers and clients, fellow employees, our bosses.   Follow these steps and you can breathe a sigh of relief at your next meeting.

Be sure to see my new article on SmartBrief Leadership: “Persuasion: getting What You Want and What You Need”, available now:


Email estimates source: “Dividing Attention Deliberately” by Cathy Davidson, Harvard Business Review; January-February 2012

©Shannon Alter 2012

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