One of the biggest challenges in the digital age is managing distractions. We all face so many constant interruptions in the pursuit of effective results in key areas of our lives. In today’s episode I want to discuss a range of ideas with for managing distractions and maximising personal effectiveness.
Keeping Your Focus In The Digital Age
Well hey, everybody. Jonathan Doyle with you once again. Welcome friends to The Daily Podcast . Hope you’re doing well wherever you are in the world, really enjoying these messages. As you know, I’ve recently had a bad accident. I was hospitalized for a while, but there’s been a lot of benefits. I know people think I’m, they think, “Are you serious?” I’m like, “Yeah. There’s been a whole bunch of positives.” Would I want to go through it again? You know how people often say, “Oh, I went through this thing, and I wouldn’t change anything.” Honestly, if I could change it I would. I would not want to have to go through this, but I do want to take some time in my own life to look at the upsides. One of them is that I finally had a chance to get through a load of reading. I’m a passionate reader.
No matter how digital the world gets, I still love nothing more than being on a four or five-hour plane flight, and just reading, and immersing myself in good ideas, and interesting thinking. At the moment in this recovery phase, I’ve been reading a compendium of articles from Harvard Business Review on the topic of mental toughness. I always find that topic so interesting. You know that two people could encounter the same circumstance, but they respond to it very differently. Yesterday I was reading an article by the very famous sort of father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, and I didn’t realize but he was actually contracted to develop a post traumatic stress disorder program for the U.S. Army. Over a million soldiers went through the program.
He talked about that when trauma happens, you’ve got three groups of people that are distributed across a curve. You’ve got people that immediately just descend into really problematic behaviors, and really serious things. Then you’ve got some people who will take a long time to recover, and will never quite get back to where they were. Then you get this small subsection of people that actually they experience depression, they experience anxiety. They respond to the circumstance for a short time with those kind of emotions. But then they find what they call a “post-traumatic meaning”.
They find a deeper, richer meaning to what happened, and they actually end up stronger and more functional as a result. I found that really interesting, that in life we all have experiences, but there seems to be this capacity for some of us to choose a different meaning. They’re very important words, “to choose a different meaning”. I found that really helpful. Whatever you’re going through, always remember that there is always that capacity to choose a meaning. I’ve been talking about it a bit this week, but it’s a very powerful concept that we’re always in control of that meaning.
The other thing I took from reading over the last few days was another article from a guy who’s worked with some of the world’s greatest Olympic athletes. It was just a reminder of the link between short-term goals and big-picture goals. He would talk about a lot of these athletes of course were fixated on four-year cycles. That they really were gearing towards that one moment. I always find it interesting that say in the Olympic 100 Meters … I mean isn’t it fascinating that you spend years, and years, and years, focused on a ten-second thing, focusing on a ten-second event. I always find that so fascinating. He reminded us in this article that we need to keep that big picture in front of us, but then we also need to just have these small daily goals that move us slightly forward.
Again, I find that so interesting at the moment, being injured and having to lie down most of the day, not being able to walk, that I have got to keep finding, and I’m doing it. I’m finding these small short-term goals. How many pages do I want to read today? How many content posts do I want to get done today? So I’m finding that if I don’t keep placing these small goals in front of myself, then it’s very easy to slide back into despondency or lethargy. So keep these things in front of yourself. What is your big picture goal in life? Where are you tracking? What’s important to you? Then what are the small steps that are taking you there each day? Now on that, I want to finish up with a couple of really important things around how we’re using time.
We don’t get to control the entire future of course. We can have big picture goals, but we’re not God. We don’t know how long we’re going to get. I mean having the accident that I had was just such a reminder that life can change in a millisecond, but despite that, we need to hold those goals in front of us. But we’ve got to start to think about how we’re using time. I want you to understand that at this moment in history, we have more distraction than any previous historical moment. I always keep saying this. Right? We’ve only been Homo sapiens for about 350,000 years. For about 348,500 of those years we had incredibly simple lives. We lived in very small communities. We had very little stimulation. You might meet up as a community, and hear some music once or twice a year.
Our lives were just governed by natural rhythms of nature, and just communal family stuff. But you look at our lives now, there’s this just absolute barrage of content coming at us all the time. So what I want to remind us of, and I want to remind myself of this, is that we’ve got to start getting really good on two principles. Number one, is to keep focused on the maximum we can accomplish in 24 hours. See, the danger of looking too far into the future, or being too fixated on the future, is that we massively underestimate what we can accomplish in a single day. So we’ve got to take some ownership, some control, some seriousness, around showing up each day, and just asking a simple question, “What can I do today that’s going to move me forward?”
What can I do today that’s going to move me forward? That simple idea. At the moment, again, being injured, it’s kind of frustrating because there’s so many big picture things that are hard to do at the moment. But I keep asking myself, “All right Jonathan, you have 24 hours. You’ve got today. You’ve got these limitations, but what can you accomplish today that’s going to be useful, that’s going to move you forward?” I really want to encourage you to take some responsibility for these 24-hour blocks that you get given, because you don’t get given a guarantee of tomorrow. You don’t. You get these 24 hours. The last thing I want to say on this is, as well as really conceptualizing the importance of 24-hour blocks, we really need to get good on the distraction stuff. This has to become a discipline.
I found myself yesterday, I got so many social media things happening, that you can bury a day in social media in a heartbeat. You see, our brains are wired for distraction and novelty. Actually deeply wired at an evolutionary level to chase after distraction and interesting things. Our brains are wired that way. So often you can sit on Twitter, and Instagram, and LinkedIn, and Facebook, and it’s just constant novelty, novelty, novelty, novelty. So what’s necessary here is, if you’re using it, find what’s useful in it, use what’s useful in it, but then you’ve got to have the discipline to break free, and get off it. Now, before the podcast I was researching that word “discipline”. It comes from the Latin word, from which we get “disciple”, and it’s got a lot to do with training.
When we think of discipline we often think of hardship, or something unpleasant. But real discipline is about being trained in something, being educated, growing in something. I just want to encourage all of us to get a bit more ruthless on the distractions. For me it means I schedule my content, we create the content. I’ve got a great team that works with me to get that done, and once it’s done, to leave it alone. Then, yeah, I schedule time for responding to people, and replying to people. But once we get that discipline … For you it might be different. It might be Netflix or YouTube, and suddenly you find two hours have gone down the rabbit hole.
It was a hard message today, but if you want results, if you want a better quality of life, if you want better relationships, better career prospects, better health, better training outcomes, then you’ve got to get very, very disciplined about using time differently to most people. Remember the old saying, “If you do what everyone else does, what do you get? Well, you get what everyone else gets.” If you look at the general health of people, if you look at the general lifestyle of people, I’m no one’s judge, but it’s not what I want. I want to stay really fit. When I went through the hospital I saw so many people, older people, really suffering. People in their 60s, 70s, 80s in terrible suffering. I took away from it, I’m like, “When I’m at that age,” I said to Karen, I said, “I want to be running the Boston Marathon when I’m 80.” A long-term goal. I want to run the Boston Marathon when I’m 80.
The week before, I did a 200k bike race, and I just come alive doing that stuff. I’m looking at how much suffering there is from people who often haven’t looked after themselves, and haven’t taken their health seriously. If we want a different life, we’ve got to do different things to most people. All right, summary. What’s the summary? Get a link between big-picture and short-term goals. You’ve got to have the short-term things leading to the big picture. What else? We got to get really good on this time management. You got to get really good on executing on 24-hour blocks, and you got to get really good at getting away from distractions. Okay? Just catch yourself today. I’m going to be doing it. I’m going to be, “No. Not going there. Not doing that.” Content is scheduled. I’m going to get on with reading, learning, growing, doing other things.
All right friends. That’s it. Longer message today. I got a bit excited. You can hear it in my voice. Come and follow me please. Instagram, jonathandoyle47, Facebook, at The Daily Podcast with Jonathan Doyle. Come and join the group there. You can find me now on Linkedin. You can find me on the website, jonathandoyle.co . If you want to book me to come and speak, to work with your team, work with me personally, just send me an email, email@example.com, and we can speak about that. Friends, God bless you. Listen, the best is ahead. It is not behind. Life is short. This is not a rehearsal. Get out there and get amongst it. Manage your time. Get clear on your goals. There are better days ahead. My name is jonathandoyle.co. This has been The Daily Podcast , and I’ll have another message for you tomorrow.