Organizations are becoming more connected than ever before with the complete office packages of Microsoft or Google. We can work on documents at the same time, ask a question to a group of individuals in a matter of seconds with a chat, and can virtually show a colleague a broken piece of equipment on a production line in the Midwest as they are sipping on a cocktail somewhere in the Pacific. With each incremental way to engage, we are introduced to an additional avenue to be distracted. How can we become aware of our distractions, maintain our attention, and remain focused on the task we are assigned, conducting, or committing to? How do we stay focused on the assignment?
Data to enlighten you on your habits
Microsoft has a tool called Microsoft Viva that analyzes your individual office behaviors within their assorted mix of Microsoft applications. If you get an email, they will share with you how fast you open the email. You may also see a measurement of how often you work on something else during a virtual meeting or how often you send an email during non-business hours. You may even get a breakdown of your tendencies to engage colleagues, framing the likelihood of engaging with virtual meetings, chats, or emails. Weekly you get a synopsis email summarizing your habits, trends, and recent clicks. And if you get distracted to explore the details of this email during a virtual meeting versus paying attention to the meeting, you just contributed to your unfavorable trends.
Microsoft Viva is an employee experience platform that brings together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights in the flow of work. Powered by Microsoft 365 and experienced through Microsoft Teams, Viva fosters a culture that empowers employees and teams to be their best from anywhere. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-viva
What do you see in your mirror?
I see this output having two benefits. One is that it is a mirror of your habits. It also serves as an endless supply of data for Microsoft to expand capabilities and product offerings. However, I acknowledge that most of us cannot exactly control what the likes of Google or Microsoft do with this data, but I can decide on what to do with the information about me.
I will assume that most of our results show that we could all improve our focus and minimize distractions in a world that monetizes capturing attention. Sometimes when I catch myself distracted, I hear Jules Winnfield in my head reminding me to be like three little Fonzies and refocus on what I am committing to.
Nobody's gonna hurt anybody. We're gonna be like three little Fonzies here. And what's Fonzie like? Come on Yolanda what's Fonzie like? - Jules Winnfield, Pulp Fiction
The goal is to remain connected, enhance our organization's continuity, and remove the waste that comes from becoming distracted. Coach Saban at The University of Alabama coaches these skills by demanding his defensive players remain focused on their assignment on every snap. His message is from the defense’s view of lining up on the line of scrimmage facing a formidable offense whose intent is to distract. At this moment, the defense should be devoted to their task in the moment and their assignment.
If it was a meeting, Coach Saban would most likely relate it to committing to participation, the obligation to respectfully dissent, and engaging to solve problems. For the meeting to be successful, everyone must commit to their task and their assignment. Coach Saban’s perspective is that if everyone performs their assignment at this time, and they don’t get distracted by the “eye candy” the offense is showing, the team will succeed.
"Sort of eye candy, I call it, for a defensive player. It makes a guy not focus on his real keys. You've got to read the (real) keys and do your job. You've got to play the plays.” Coach Saban referring to the LSU offense in a quote
What can I do?
These assignments, these gaps that every player must adhere to when conducting their defensive schemes are quite metaphoric to organizations that promote excellence. How often are you distracted by “eye candy” when in a meeting or working on an assignment? How often do you hear a ding on your cell phone or from your email server, and immediately stop what you are supposed to be doing to see this message. Staying with the football metaphor, your commitment is to stay in your lane, stay in your gap, and perform the assignment at hand. Your distraction is another tick in the unfavorable column of the Microsoft Viva email.
Gap discipline is when a player has the wherewithal to maintain his lane no matter where the ball is headed. Alabama does that in its sleep. - Murf Baldwin
Committing to doing something with the data
How to build habits won’t be solved in this blog post, I will leave that to the likes of Charles Duhigg (Power of Habit), Richard H. Thaler, and Cass R. Sunstein (Nudge). However, I believe we can all take a moment to improve our habits by evaluating our distracting behaviors. Whether it is with the analytics from your organization’s office software or a personal notepad denoting wins/losses of distractions, we can all improve. Our formidable foe of distractions continues to get stronger, so we must strive to become more aware of our tendencies. In a recent article by Jennifer Moss in the Harvard Business Review, she quoted the strengthening of this foe in the last two years.
Weekly Teams meetings increased by a whopping 252%!, 6 billion more emails were sent (2021 Trends Report), we were chatting 32% more frequently, and the average after-hours work increased by 28%. - Jennifer Moss
So as we all set forth into the second half of the year, let’s take a moment and recognize our habits when we should be engaged with a task. Let’s all commit to being less distracted during meetings. Let’s all commit to not jumping to every text message or email. Let’s embrace declining that call during a meeting with a message, “I am in a meeting right now, is it important enough for me to step out?” If we all do this together, we can take on the onslaught of distractions together.