If you are in a similar position as I am, then chances are that you have recently been or still are quite distracted from focusing on what matters most for your business, like production or marketing for example. Ever since we experienced the power rationing, which equally affected regular water supply and internet access, things have not been as usual. In fact, they are still not as usual as we continue to experience the same interruptions, be it at a more irregular interval. It is not easy to run your business effectively with such continuous interruptions of the most basic utilities, like water and electricity. First thing I do in the morning is check whether we have running water and whether the tanks are full enough to back up in case the pipes run dry later in the day. Sometimes, when the water has run dry, I keep monitoring the levels of water in the reserve tanks, and anxiously wait as long as possible before calling a water supply truck, which I luckily did not have to do so far. Next is to doublecheck whether we have enough diesel in stock to run the generator, not if, but when power is interrupted. This also has to be monitored carefully as we cannot afford to run out – we need electricity 24/7. This was particularly not easy as fuel stations were often not able to sell as they did not have electricity themselves. Queuing for hours and thus losing time to do other important work became second nature. Meanwhile, equipment, including the generator began failing, as the frequent and sudden coming and going of power is not what most equipment is built to be able to endure. Maintenance, repair and searching for spare parts became other crisis management activities.
Distraction in other words. Let us unpack distraction a bit. Distraction may be defined as something that turns your attention away from something you want to concentrate on. Now, distraction or interruption that derails your productivity can either be distractions you have control over or distractions you have no control over.
When distracted by something you have no control over, you better not try and spend energy to prevent them from happening. The key to dealing with these derailments isn’t to prevent them from happening but instead, we need to be able to deal with such distractions and spend our energy on learning how to do that. When power rationing was announced, there was nothing any business owner could do to prevent that. Instead, they needed to find ways how best to deal with it effectively, without losing too much productivity.
Distractions we can control include all sorts of interruptions including emails, social media, news alerts, etc. And they are easy to control by simply switching of, scheduling and eliminate the interruptions, before they occur. Make sure that when you have to concentrate, no distractions come your way to begin with and schedule to attend to them at a later moment. Key here is to take action before the distraction occurs. Most distractions are easier to deal with in advance than they are to resist as they come up. Clearing distractions ahead of time gives us the focus needed to stay on track. The next time you get distracted or interrupted in your work, ask this question: was the interruption within or outside your control? Next time, can you deal with the interruption ahead of time in order to reclaim some productivity? Can you change how you deal with the distraction the next time around, or get back on track quicker?
In the end it all boils down to planning, prevention and preparation of the work we are required to do. And while plan “A” is ready to be carried out, it is good to have a plan “B” in case things turn out differently. Pausing and adjusting the plan is just as important as there are always hick ups and unexpected developments. Expecting the unexpected helps however in preventing crisis and effectively moving on. This is what pilots do before taking off. They make sure they have enough fuel to divert to alternative airports, should they encounter a problem in reaching their destination.
Now planning can only be done properly if we know what the end result needs to look like. In other words, if we connect to the purpose of the organization we work for or a specific project. Next, we need to know what is required of us in achieving the results of the organization or the project. Now goals and objectives can be set, followed by identifying what activities need to be carried out to meet those objectives. Finally, a budget and time schedule can be set, providing the resources for what needs to be done. And while production is now underway, it is important to consistently monitor progress, figure out where things go different than planned and adjust the plan accordingly. With the end result in mind, chances are that they will now be reached. Meanwhile we need to keep saying “No” to the things that come our way but distract us from reaching our objectives and goals.
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of the things which matter least.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.