Potato Chip Effect

On a regular day I receive about 500+ communications (emails, phone calls, IM’s, texts, notifications etc..). I would like to believe I am a good multitasker but who am I kidding, I could be way more productive if I could avoid the distractions. I know most of these distractions are so easy to overcome and yet I fail to avoid them.

The problem I face is something that everyone who tries to eat healthy faces. It is called the “Potato Chip Effect“. Imagine yourself in your kitchen, deciding what to make for a snack. You are hungry and tired – and while you want to be healthy, you have no interest or time to engage with the overwhelming number of raw ingredients. So you grab the chips. It’s not that you don’t want to “eat healthy,” or even that you don’t know how to “eat healthy”, but it is just so easy (and such a time saver, you tell your salt-craving self!) to grab that bag of delectably greasy chips.

In our mobile-driven, hyperconnected world we can get easily overwhelmed by the limitless opportunities to seemingly make the best use of our time. How do we reduce the distractions and focus? Here are some tips from the experts who stay focussed on the task at hand

1. Quality Filter

We have little control over the number of communications that come into our inbox, our timeline, our feed. While we cannot control the quantity, we can filter for quality – that is, we can control how we evaluate and ultimately select them. I believe the first step in overcoming distractions is developing a personal strategy. The core of that strategy is simple and rewarding – it entails honing in on the work that matter most to you and giving your time to those efforts, as opposed to giving based on what shows up before your eyes by chance. The experts call this working actionally as opposed to transactionally. Some examples of Quality Filters: Create a daily to-do list, setup personal appointments to timebox work efforts that need your full focus.

2. Delegate

You don’t have to eat a whole bag of potato chips all by yourself in one sitting. Sharing your work load will help reduce the number of distractions and helps you focus on the highest priority item or the effort that needs most of your attention. Ronald Reagan said it best “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out”.

3. Strive to be narrow and deep

It can be challenging to narrow your focus amidst the seemingly endless opportunities and distractions we face. However, by honing in on a specific issue area, and specific goals within that issue area, you will be able to deepen your impact and be more productive.

By having an actional strategy, you will be better prepared to know how and when to say “yes” and “no” – saving you valuable time, reducing your stress while simultaneously increasing your longer-term happiness and success.