10 ways to turn distraction into success

Distraction
Image courtesy of Flickr user daniel_iversen

It's those annoying sounds echoing over a sea of cubicles. It's the constant work interruptions, the kids shouting "Daddy, look at me," the cat climbing on your desk. It's the incessant tug to tweet, text, post, or check your email. It's those crazy voices in your head.

It's the enemy of focus, discipline, effectiveness, and pretty much anything having to do with you getting ahead, making money, or making something of yourself. Ironically, it's probably what you're doing right now. It's productivity's evil twin: distraction.

You can read endless books with tips on how to be more productive and blogs with tricks for cheating distraction, but they won't do you any good for the simple reason that you are who you are and you live in the real world that, for better or worse, is predisposed to communication overload and chaos.

I've got a better idea. Why don't I teach you how to put distraction to work and turn it into a competitive career and business advantage? You see, I know all about this stuff. I dealt with ADD before anyone knew what it was. I'm the king of distraction. The Chief Interruption Officer. Diversion personified. And long ago, I figured out how to make it all work for me. So can you.

Network and schmooze. No, you can't just pick up the phone or wander around the cubicles and interrupt people all the time. But networking and schmoozing are fantastic ways to exercise your distraction demons, build your network, and gain exposure to opportunities, all at the same time.

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Manage. Management is full of distraction, challenges and problems to solve. A former CEO of mine said it best in an interview: "As a chief executive, you basically show up every day and find a new problem waiting for you. It might be an employee threatening to quit or a customer who is upset or a problem in manufacturing, but if you love solving problems, then you will like being a chief executive. Business [is best learned] by doing it -- by being in the foxhole with bullets going over your head." Right on.

Sell something. If you can muster up the courage to cold call and develop a thick enough skin, you'll find sales to be a great career. You get to meet new people and do all sorts of new things every day. Customers change, products change -- good times. And just about every industry needs sales people: technology, banking, health care, you name it.

Take lots of breaks. Breaks are great for "management by walking around," for taking a walk outside to get some fresh air and fresh ideas into your head, or to give you time to think and process things. I get my best ideas that way. I even came up with the idea for this post while taking a break. Go figure.

Work at home and have fun at work. We used to call it mixing business with pleasure. Now everyone talks about work-life balance. Well, I was mixing the two long ago. It suits me fine and definitely feeds my hunger for distraction at home and at work. But you've got to have a flexible work situation that allows you to mix it up.

Get into marketing. Long before we became a culture of sound bites, I reveled in what some thought of as time-wasting activity: coming up with marketing slogans, tag lines, sound bites, talking points, and Q&As. A career in marketing or communications might be just the thing for you.

Go to meetings. Most people hate going to meetings, but they're still how decisions get made and business gets done. And, if you happen to be a manager, it's good to have periodic one-on-ones with your boss, your people and your peers. At least they get you out of the cube.

Work out. Going out for a run or a bike ride will fulfill your need, improve your health, and you know what? You'll think more clearly, too. Complex problems always begin to make more sense to me after a workout.

Give yourself lots of time. Yes, it's a sacrifice I made long ago, but if you're into distraction, you've got to face the fact that it'll take you longer to do anything than it should. So just budget your time appropriately and learn to pad commitments and you'll be in fat city.

Wear lots of hats. Office manager, marketing communications, human resources, or any small business where you're pretty much the chief everything officer.

One caveat, though. Every so often you've got to be able to set your mind to something, focus and get it done. And, if you're tempted by the distracting power of social media, here are 5 ways to make it in a social media world.

One more thing. While I wrote this post I also registered my car, cleaned out the paper shredder and whitened my teeth. How about that?