I have ADD. I speak about our distracted world and gen Y. I also help others speak. I’m relationally focused, sports obsessed, spiritually inclined.
I have ADD. As a child, I never took medication. My parents weren’t against it, but they didn’t feel it was necessary. I could work well enough in spurts that my grades were still fine. I learned how to cope.
That is, until I started my first business
A few years out of school, I started a company doing what I loved most in the world: helping people discover, craft, and share their messages with the world. Every day, I worked with NFL players, TV personalities, and Olympians to help them communicate better to their audiences.
(Me with Peyton Manning — yes, that’s actually him and no, I’m not really that short)
It was my dream job. It should have been the best time of my life. Instead, I was miserable.
It wasn’t the work that was the challenge. It was that I’d look up and I would have 43 different emails started, two text threads going, and no clue whether my checkbook was evenly balanced. I couldn’t focus on the things that were critical to creating a successful business.
Communication was my passion, my entire life’s work. And now it was also destroying my business.
Eventually, I hit a breaking point. I was two weeks late on a major deadline I had promised to a client — an NFL Hall of Famer, no less. What’s worse, the Hall-of-Famer was my grandfather’s favorite football player of all time. What’s even worse, is that same Hall-of-Famer had, at my request, just recorded a personal video for my grandmother on her 90th birthday. And here I was ghosting him. This is the third“just checking in” email he sent me — the previous two I completely ignored. It looks friendly — but it was a clear indictment.
What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I get the work done? I knew it was either: get a grip on things or move back home with my parents. Something had to change.
Our Entire Workforce Has Issues With Focusing
It turns out, I’m not the only one struggling. Distraction in the workplace is an epidemic.
• The busiest hours of Facebook are 1–3pm during the working day.
• 60% of purchases online are purchased during working hours.
• 87% of people admit to reading and being involved in political discussions on a weekly basis during work.
• People lose anywhere from 1–3 hours on average every day due to personal distractions. In some industries, we lose as many as 6.
And we carry the effects with us, at home and in our bodies. We spend 60% more time connected to digital media than we do in conversation with our significant others. A study on workplace stresses found that the more pressure we feel to be available, the more likely we are to take sick days.
The Way Out
Over the last ten years, I’ve been on a journey to answer the question: what does it look like to thrive in an age of constant distraction?
Using myself as the lab rat, I experimented constantly with new approaches to manage and focus my attention. I spent thousands of hours researching and interviewing CEOs, managers, and employees. I recruited a team of experts way smarter than me: an Ivy League PhD professor, a psychologist focusing on ADD, and a pastor.
Together, we discovered a surprisingly simple but profound truth: we have lost our ability to control where we place our attention. And if we are ever going to recover it, we have to revisit every aspect of our work and life. We have to learn to become wise in the way we allocate our focus — placing the right amount of attention at the right moment and in the right context. It won’t be easy, but it is possible.
On October 9th 2017, my first book published by Wiley: Can I Have Your Attention?: Inspiring Better Work Habits, Focusing Your Team, and Getting Stuff Done in the Constantly Connected Workplace. It’s the culmination of everything I’ve learned about the science of attention and how to utilize it in the workplace: a comprehensive and holistic approach to become focus wise in the way we approach life and work.
Do you battle distraction in the workplace? Share you own strategies for overcoming it in the comments below.