Let me know if this sounds familiar: While working on a task or trying to finish up a project, your email client dings at you every few minutes or a text message alert goes off on your phone, signaling that someone wants your attention. What do you do? Nine out of ten times you respond (or at least ponder the interruption), end up getting sidetracked and, more often than not, suddenly find yourself stuck in a downward spiral of reacting to other people’s requests rather than focusing on your work or whatever it was you were trying to get done.
Like you, I’ve been there. I sometimes suffer from an “addiction to distraction” and get sucked into these types of reactive behaviors more often than I care to admit. Some days it seems there’s no time to even think.
“We always check in with everyone else but checking in with yourself is so important,” my friend Scott recently wrote to me in an email. “To know if you’re on the right path or just bouncing all around and not making real progress on your own life goals.”
Scott’s words have remained stuck in my mind, and while on a self-imposed social media sabbatical over the holidays, I made it a point to check in with myself a couple times. One of the conclusions I came to is that I need to be less reactive and more proactive in regard to how I spend a typical day. I realized that when my input toward a given initiative is incomplete or constantly scattered and splintered because I’m reacting to the next thing that’s clamoring for my attention, the quality of my intended output — being a good husband, effective employee, engaging writer, attentive coach or caring friend — inevitably suffers, whether I like to admit that or not.
So what am I going to do about it? To start, I’m re-engineering my typical day and designating set chunks of time to accomplishing specific tasks — without interruption or distraction — in an effort to be more focused, engaged and productive in all areas of my life. Is this going to be easy or go off without a hitch? Of course not. I fully expect to fail from time to time and react to something I shouldn’t have, but I also know that making the effort to be more proactive about how I spent my time will help me become be better and more effective in every area of my life.
Are you living in a reactive state? When was the last time you checked in with yourself? Take the first step toward adopting a proactive approach by planning some time in your day to consider these questions. Schedule some “me” time, reverse the reactive free fall and put yourself on the path to calling your own shots.