We’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced something that takes our mind off what we are doing. Whether it is an email ping, a quick question from around the water-cooler, or even this article.

The Dilemma of Attention Deficit.

And I do believe we are all at risk of becoming attention deficit if we are not careful. Over 2,000 managers and over 3,000 full time workers, across a variety of industries and company sizes, were surveyed by Harris Poll as just one example, as to where their distractions came from and what percentage of time was impacted. The results showed:

  • 38% of employees were distracted by social media
  • 23% from email
  • 39% said being on the Internet and
  • 50% on the mobile and texting

What is that doing to business productivity and results? is one question we might ask. But another is what is it doing to each of us and how is it preparing us for the future?

Considering it takes someone between four minutes to twenty minutes to get back on track after being derailed by a distraction, for businesses this is worrying and for each of us this is scary!

There is so much to distract us today. In fact, as I’m sitting here writing this my office door is open to the outside, the sun is streaming in, my cat is purring at my feet, I can hear the birds tweeting (no Trump!) and the postie just dropped some mail in my mail box. What is my immediate thought? By default, my brain is telling me to stop doing what I am doing and go and check the mail box.

To stay where I am and complete this article is driving me crazy

And that’s because I am expecting something to be delivered and I believe it is waiting for me. Why can’t it wait? So I decide to do a little self analysis. Why is holding back from checking the mail box driving me crazy? [insert anything here, reading emails, following links down rabbit holes… you get my gist]

What is going on in our brains when this happens to us? Can we do something about it?Are we actually addicted to distraction, bright shiny objects, fear of missing out or squirrels?

And therein lies the answer.

Our Addiction to Distraction.

Our reward system is activated through the release of a neurotransmitter in our brain called ‘dopamine’. Most of us have heard of this and whenever we have thoughts, or experiences that we enjoy, or that meets any of our human needs (safety, adventure, significance, connection with others, personal growth and giving to others), our brain releases this dopamine chemical and we tend to go back for more – sometimes even upping the ante and wanting greater amounts of more.

From an evolution perspective, this ‘dopamine hit’ helps us repeat those very activities that ensure our survival – sleep, food, sex. I mean if we didn’t gain some kind of reward from these for all these centuries, we wouldn’t do them and as a species where would we be today?

In fact, it could also be said that our survival relied on us being so acutely aware of what was on the competitive landscape that our primitive brain was actually on the lookout 24/7 looking for those bright shiny objects as part of it’s protective role (e.g. sleeping with one eye open) so that danger didn’t take advantage of complacency.

But we aren’t in the caveman days anymore and whilst we don’t have a geographical landscape to scan, our reliance on scanning the internet, emails and apps is increasing at a rapid rate, and by default threatening our very intelligence.

How does it impact us in our sales leadership?

Being high on dopamine may sound really cool – always being ‘on’, highly active, loving the social life, proud of your workaholic-ism, sleep deprived, sugar and coffee reliant, but it seriously plays havoc with your ability to control your moods, your memory, the ability to focus and everything you need to play at 100% in your role and can actually turn the tables on you.

If you find yourself wanting instant gratification (i.e. lacking patience and cutting to the chase), or you tend to be more go, go, go and hyperactive (i.e. can’t sit in silence for too long and feel you need to rush someone along to fit your timeframe), or maybe you are impulsive and let your emotions override your logic and reasoning (i.e. you don’t ask the right questions or can’t be present to a conversation), then you may find yourself victim to this addictive, distraction filled lifestyle. Chances are you may have higher than normal levels of dopamine and may need to take steps to calm down your lifestyle, learn to go a little slower and take time out.
BSO, FOMO and SQUIRREL!! - How to stop an addictive brain...
We can’t blame technology per se, nor can we say we are addicted to technology, because our phones, our I-pads, our video games, our emails etc are simply tools and they have a place in our world. But these are no different to any other resource or tool we have access to, except for their ubiquity.

  • We need to take our power back.
  • We need to improve our relationship between us and technology.
  • We need to tackle our self awareness.
  • We need to stop being in denial.
  • We need to take control of where our attention leads us.

Here are some ideas:

  1. I now have sales teams who place their mobile phones in a box before entering a meeting (Thanks Simon Sinek) so that attention is focussed where it needs to be.
  2. We now turn off all electronic devices before we go to sleep so that the brain can calm down in order to sleep deeply because that’s where and when all the reparation work for our brain and body occurs, in order for us to play at 100%.
  3. Taking time out during the day to simply ‘breathe, be and block time’ will go a long way to help you stay in the moment and complete your self agreed task before taking that impatient dopamine based break that is champing at the bit to interrupt and distract you.

Now, to collect my mail.

Be Bold, Brave and Brilliant

BSO, FOMO and SQUIRREL!! - How to stop an addictive brain...

Bernadette McClelland is CEO of 3 Red Folders – a modern day saleswoman and keynote speaker on business growth, personal leadership and sales performance.

BIO: Business environments wanting to increase their revenue and profits, and differentiate themselves in a competitive market, ask for Bernadette McClelland because of her thought leadership on sales performance, her ideas on thinking beyond resilience and her fresh perspectives surrounding personal leadership skills — all designed to master the outcomes that matter.

Bernadette has proudly coached Harvard MBA students on their sales enablement curriculum, been the Master Asia Pacific coach for Anthony Robbins across twelve countries, authored five books on leadership and sales transformation, won a coveted Telstra award for Business Excellence, and continually shares her ideas around behaviour, the brain and business growth on stages in the UK, Europe, Thailand, India, NZ, Australia and North America.

Believing that sales performance is a leadership issue, you will also find her heading Melbourne’s human potential based sales performance consultancy, 3 Red Folders, as she navigates lead generation, message to market and digs deep into sales process activities with her clients in the mid-tier sector as well as founding ‘Women Who Sell’, an initiative designed to bring more women up to speed in their sales success.

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