Eliminate Distractions

Missy Franklin, Me and Katie Ledecky
Olympians Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky and me at last week’s USA Today 30th Birthday bash.

Fathering a child, starting companies, writing books, getting work done, working out… Finding time for all of these things requires discipline and focus.

That’s why over the past couple of years and in particular recent months, I have eliminated distractions wherever possible.

Here are six things I have intentionally nixed from my day-to-day life:

1) Unnecessary social networking time on Facebook and Twitter. Odd, as I need to be present on these networks for business and relationships, but they can be incredible time wasters.

Instead of staying logged on with an open screen, I manage network engagement in flights. During these periods I check in on people, comment, and respond, but I refuse to spend hours on end in Facebook.

2) Email time. I am an inbox zero person, so I scan or read more than 200-300 emails a day but only write 20-40 a day. That means I delete a lot more frequently than I respond.

Each serious email gets weighed with this question, does it really need a response? Also, I don’t answer emails as soon as they come in, often waiting to handle them in batches.

Sunrise @ Narrabeen

3) Hardest thing comes first. Whatever my most difficult and/or necessary task of the day is — the one thing gnawing at my brain — I handle it first.

Get it right off the plate, usually before my daughter wakes up (7:30), or right after she goes to daycare or Caitlin takes her for the day. That way I don’t have to think about it anymore, and I can enjoy my day.

4) He said, she said bullshit. Whether online, in my email or at a networking event, I pretty much ignore or bail on any gossip related to what someone else is doing right or wrong. It wastes time, and looking down on others puts you in a losing mindframe.

5) Worrying about what others are doing. Very similar to number four, but in truth focusing on what other consultants and colleagues are doing is a great waste of time. I can’t stop people from doing whatever they’re going to do.

In allowing others to rent space in my head, I distract myself from what matters most, the tasks at hand. So if I don’t like something or I’m afraid of another’s actions, I mentally turn my chin forward and bear down on the next right thing that I can do. Everyone’s happier that way.

Unfortunately, I had the chance to practice this during the week when a rumor about me floated across a private channel. Rather than react publicly or address the creator directly, I shook it off and doubled down on my work. So glad to be at a point where I can do that.

6) Turn the phone off. When I am with Soleil or in a business meeting or need to concentrate, I turn my phones off or leave them in the car. Smartphones are way too easy to pick up, and then waste 5, 15 or event 30 minutes on.

It’s better to be present, then pick up the phone and check all of these non-important things like email, socnets, etc.

Wait, There’s More!

In addition to eliminating distractions whenever possible, I do a few other things to keep moving forward.

I write every day. Every day. I miss this goal a couple times a month. Sometimes the writing never sees the light of day, but the practice of writing allows me to write books, blog consistently, etc.

Working out five or six days a week really clears my head and keeps me creatively in tune.

I also insist on having fun. I basically ensure that I go to a game, watch a movie, take a photo walk, or read a book a couple times a week. Otherwise, I wouldn’t ever take a break beyond exercise.

There’s no perfection with these guidelines, like anyone, I’m guilty of wanking off on Facebook or missing a work out. But 90% of the time, these principles are in play.

How do you stay focused on your goals?