On a Dutch website about leadership, I read an article with the title: “This is the most important skill of the manager of the 21st century!!!”. This title claimed my interest. What turned out to be? The new skill of the manager of the 21st century is about dealing with distractions. I read: ” Social scientists recently considered the society in which we find ourselves now, as the age of distraction. The world around us is so fast and offers so much information and distraction that we are in a real attention crisis.”
The biggest threat to today’s managers is that they are easily distracted. Distracted means that you are not busy with what you planned to do. The brain is naturally easily distracted. The brain is an organ that remains in a state of alertness. This state of sharpness can be explained well. The brain consists of three different functional areas. One, the reptile brain, is the oldest in evolution. The essential function of this part of the brain is survival. It will, therefore, search for food and check for any enemies. This alertness also ensures a mind when untrained, gets easily distracted. It may be clear that this alertness is no longer necessary.
What you pay attention to, grows
In the present time, you receive much information and distraction, and if you don’t watch out, this distraction will control you. The brain has one fascinating quality. The brain adjusts itself. The brain is neuroplastic. The brain will adapt to the impulses it receives. So if you are not careful, the distraction becomes your new standard! I see that in our training on all levels of leadership from high to low. A large amount of information, but especially the ease it comes into our lives, is a significant challenge for many managers. There is a strong tendency to respond immediately. Then the quick response becomes the norm.
An example: the smartphone
De Valk Leadership Company gives leadership training with knowledge of how the brain works. In this training, we provide frequent breaks. This way, the brain can recharge itself. What do you think most students do when there is a break? They go to their cell-phone to check if there are any messages, to check the news, or to app someone. Even then, they feed the brain to respond to external impulses. The break is meant to give your brain the time and space to recover. Here too, you can see that being distracted can become the new norm.
Swift distraction is becoming a new habit for many people. They need to check their phone. Facebook needs to be open. Did you know that changing habits is accompanied by tension, stress, or it is experienced as a threshold? What do we do if we don’t want to change a pattern? We all come up with reasons to ensure that it stays as it is. An inner dialogue creates various opinions on this subject, with many reasons why your habit is justified. You are not in control. The distraction has also won here.
Keeping your control
In training with knowledge of the brain we teach the participants to keep control. When you are distracted, it means that you have lost control. If you have lost control for a long time, this can have consequences for your mental vitality. Your mental health is deteriorating.
This not necessary. It is not difficult to properly handle the large amount of information that reaches you daily. You can easily learn new habits.
There is good news. Your attention is effortless to train. Dealing with all those distractions can also be appropriately trained. Use your common sense. Plan your work, also plan to deal with a large amount of information that comes in every day. Organize how you want to use your smartphone. And make a habit.
Please do me a favor and make sure that the distraction is not your new norm. Take control of yourself. Stand still a few times daily and reflect on your performance. Good luck.