Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 29

Leo Babauta – USA

Medley Focus 2 419 workplace distraction

Distraction at the workplace

In a perfect world, you could learn to beat the urges that defeat you and create an environment of focus … and just focus. But we live and work in a world with other people, and that can make finding focus difficult.


What if your boss is the problem — he or she won’t allow you to make the changes you need to find focus? That’s a definite problem — the boss might expect you to answer texts, emails, calls immediately, to attend meetings all day long, to be busy at all times, to work long hours, to take calls after hours and do work at night … in short, to be inundated by interruptions at all hours.

Unfortunately, there are only so many things you can do if things aren’t under your control. Here are a few ideas:

  • Talk to your boss. Often, bosses can be very reasonable if you give them a compelling argument, and especially if you’ve proven yourself in the past. Sit down and talk to your boss about your desire to find focus, and explain that this will increase your productivity and creativity. Give him a copy of this book if you think it’ll help (or just email the chapter specifically for managers). Ask for some specific changes, and suggest a test period of a week or two, in which you make the changes and show the results.
  • Change what’s under your contro If there are some things you can’t change, then figure out what you can change, and focus on that. If you can’t change your hours, at least declutter your desk and computer. If you must answer all emails at all times, at least learn to block other things on the Internet that distract you.
  • Work away from the office. You might have the flexibility to work from home or at a coffee shop or library away from the office, or you might make a compelling argument for this change. Take this opportunity when you can, and bring a pair of earphones, turn on some peaceful music (or energizing music if you prefer), clear away distractions, and focus.
  • Prove that it works. Make what changes you can, and show that it can bring results. Solid evidence is the best way to win over the boss.
  • Or find another job. If your job is horrible, and your boss isn’t reasonable, or the demands are too crazy and you can’t possibly find the time to focus, it might be worth considering a change of jobs. That’s your decision, not mine, but I changed jobs at least twice when I was unhappy with the expectations, and both times it was a very good change for me.

Unsupportive people

Another problem is that people in our lives can sometimes be unsupportive, or flat out against changes we want to make. If this person is a spouse or significant other, or someone else upon whom we depend, this can make things very difficult. Nearly impossible, sometimes.

This is actually a very common problem, and I can’t give you solutions that will work in all cases. I can share some things that have worked for me, in hopes that they might help:

  • Don’t force. When we try to push others to make changes, they often resist. It’s not smart to try to force other people to make the changes you want to make. Instead, try some of the tips below — setting an example, sharing, asking for help.
  • Share why it’s important, and how it affects you. Communication is important here — sit down and talk to this person (or people) about why you want to make these changes, why it’s important to you, what it’ll help you to do. Share the positive effects as you make the changes, and also share the problems you’re facing. This type of open communication can help persuade the other person to get on board with your changes, if done in a non-pushy, non-judgmental way.
  • Enlist their help. When you ask someone to change, they will probably resist, but when you ask them to help you change, that’s much more likely to succeed. Try as best you can to make it a team effort — working together is a much better proposition than working against each other.
  • Set an example. If the other person doesn’t want to change, that’s OK. Make the changes yourself, and show how great it is. If the other person is inspired by your example, that’s even better. Often leading by example is the most persuasive technique there is, but dont’ be disappointed if the other person doesn’t decide to follow your example. Be happy with the changes you’ve made yourself.
  • Change what you can. If the other person is unsupportive, there might be limits to what you can change. Recognize these boundaries, and work within them.

To be continued

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