Ignore the donuts
Want to turbocharge your ability to get things done? Get better at ignoring stuff. The ability to ignore things, at least according to this article (via) in the journal Nature, is the trick the smart kids use to focus and get things done. Sounds kinda wacked, but I think there’s something to it. In fact, I’m pretty sure this was Bill Clinton’s trick. I know there are several elements to "flow" experience, but when it’s happened to me, the thing I remember most is that I allowed nothing else to interfere with what I was doing. Like sleep, for instance.
If our ability to ignore stuff is related to our "smarts", then I’m not so sure how smart I am. I usually do the dumbed down version of ignore and go out of my way to eliminate potential distractions like email, unexpected visitors and donuts (FYI, easiest way to eliminate the donut distraction is to just eat them. With quickness). Just the other day I knew I had a ton of stuff to do at work, so I snuck into my office via the back door, kept my door closed and the light off, working only by the glow of my laptop. Nobody came knocking and I busted out some good work.
Little by little I’m coming to understand my own distraction triggers and how to disable them, or at least cobble them to the point they don’t pose a significant threat to my concentration. And I’m getting better at figuring out which things can be safely ignored. Though that’s definitely a double edged sword. Ignore the wrong thing and you’re going down hard.
This article about "Google’s 10 Golden Rules" has been getting passed around a bit. They quote Drucker when he said that competitive organizations "…strip away everything that gets in their knowledge workers’ way". Drucker wasn’t really talking about ignoring stuff, per se, but he was pointing to an organizational model that helps managers keep non-essential jive away from their people. I think that´s a really good model–essential even–for any mindful manager. Remove roadblocks and help people learn how to become better ignorers.