How marketers can stay focused in the age of distraction

How marketers can stay focused in the age of distraction

Claire Walker

Claire Walker

If you are reading this, then you probably get distracted easily. Well, you can find out how brilliant you are at it by doing a one minute test – see later. It will assess your personal susceptibility to distractions or irrelevant information. Surprisingly, being easily distracted has a very unexpected bright-side. The test reveals that those who are easily distracted often have a more creative and curious mind. Yay (and phew!) say most marketers. In fact, creative individuals are seven times more likely to never get used to distractions.

Working in comms, it’s my job to distract people, and yet I hate being distracted myself. My aim for my clients is to get someone’s attention and get people thinking differently. ‘Attention seeking’ and ‘attention winning’ is the holy grail for PR and comms teams.  My challenge every day is to stay focused and deliver results to my clients and get somewhere near the bottom of my to-do list. My failing is an inability to control an ever-curious mind.

Attention grabbing headlines, digital distractions, dogs in the office? How many times a day do you look at an interesting screen but wonder how you got there? What did you originally set out to do? With desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets pinging every few seconds, we often find ourselves lost down fantastically interesting pathways, with an evaporated focus.

Due to all these distractions, our train of thought and work flow can be disrupted and our critical thinking and decision-making ability can be impaired. How can we control and focus our attention without ignoring anything or anyone, or missing that crucial piece of information that just dropped into our inbox, with 30 seconds to spare before the deadline?

For an attention grabbing comms campaign, please get in touch. For a fully focused rewarding day, with everything ticked off on your to-do list, here are my top tips.

Motivating to-do lists

Most marketers already use to-do lists, but are you using them correctly? If you never seem to finish what you started, it can be frustrating. Train yourself to follow your list exactly, and you will spend less time procrastinating and more time being productive. Why not try doing your worst job of the day in the morning and then reward yourself with doing the best job second? By completing your worst job in the morning, you will be more focused and less likely to procrastinate as the day gets busier.

To do lists also keep you accountable. They force you to complete your most important work and ensure you accomplish your daily goals. But be realistic. Don’t over-estimate how much you can do in a day.

Lastly, don’t let writing your list turn into a form of postponement. Make sure you keep the time it takes you to write your to-do list to a minimum!

 

Don’t work for your inbox, let your inbox work for you

Technology can be distracting and although our multiple devices are meant to make our lives easier, it is often the case that they actually hinder how productive we are. Most marketers have to manage their own social platforms as well as several of their client’s social accounts, and constantly checking your inbox in between checking your smartphone while keeping up to date on social media can be exhausting. And the pressure to respond to every message at the same time can be overwhelming. So, take a step back.

Gmail, Outlook and other email services have tools that allow you to filter your messages. Set up a rule that ensures you only receive the important messages straight away. You can then filter the other emails into a folder and review them later. Assign an hour a day or week to read those less important emails.  You will still be up to date, but this allows you to concentrate on the important tasks you need to complete.

Become a monotasker

We go through life at a million miles an hour, desperately trying to claw back time and it often feels as though there are not enough hours in the day to get things done. However, if we take back control and manage our time carefully, we can focus our attention on our important daily activities.

Focus on one task at a time and don’t let yourself get distracted by external events. For many people, multi-tasking can actually lead to more mistakes being made. Think of completing your goals like driving a car. Good drivers can focus on the road ahead whereas bad drivers are easily distracted. During a Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton will be entirely focused on his driving and will not let anything distract him from his goal. This is how we should approach our daily tasks. For tasks that are urgent, complete them in the morning before any distractions interfere. You can also try working in 25-minute intervals. Focus all of your attention on that one task for 25 minutes and then allow yourself to be distracted for five. Check emails, take a call, but then return to your task. Otherwise known as the Pomodoro technique, this process is easy to follow and keeps your mind completely focused while allowing time for distractions.

Rest

It is a fallacy to think you are more productive because you’re working over 10 hours a day, every day. Of course, planning new PR campaigns may mean you need to work late or login over the weekend but working insane hours should not be a daily occurrence. You will certainly not be as productive or as creative as if you were working fewer hours. The line between work and home is becoming blurred and this is a problem that needs to be fixed. When you are resting, the temptation to browse your emails on your phone can be hard to resist, but hold back. Sometimes the most productive thing to do is to do nothing at all! A good rest will allow you to start the next day with a fresh perspective, new ideas, and a renewed focus.

 

Not all distractions are easy to ignore and that is ok but it is how you manage being distracted that will impact how productive you are at work. Our devices are meant to make our lives easier, so let’s work with them, not for them.  By reducing distractions, you can focus on what’s important and make the most of every minute. It might seem like an impossible challenge in this day and age, but whilst you might not make the device go away, you can at least master it!

 

Oh, I’m impressed you got this far. Remember I mentioned that one minute test to see how susceptible you are to distractions? Here it is, by Joshua Hartshorne, a psychologist from Boston University. Good luck.

Let me know what you think?

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