IREM Blogs

“Can I Have Your Attention?”

November 30, 2018 | Denise Froemming

Distraction is everywhere. Alarmingly, distraction has not just crept into the workplace, it is now the status quo.

For property managers, distraction is both invasive and pervasive. Tenants, owners, vendors and others seeking attention 24/7 are emailing, texting, calling, walking in without an appointment and more. Their priorities are being channeled into your daily regimen faster and more directly than ever before. The expectations of prompt, satisfactory actions compound your daily routine.  

And then there are the non-business items resulting from the glut of texts, streaming news and advertisements that grab your attention. Often, these are commingled with the daily diet of business communications. All eyes are now dangerously locked on cellphone, computer and tablet screens, keeping the sitting from effectively managing the time they could—or should—be using actively engaged in some other beneficial activity. Similarly, the engrossed focus “on the screen” often leaves preoccupied walkers unaware and thus exposed to a collision with the taxi about to turn the corner or cyclist tooling down the road.

“Danger, Will Robinson!”

Udemy, a global community for learning and teaching online that serves over 24 million students and professionals, recently released a survey regarding distraction. Udemy's survey stated that “nearly three out of four workers (70 percent) admit they feel distracted when they're on the job, with 16 percent asserting that they're almost always distracted.”

Moreover, employees are aware they are being distracted but aren’t doing enough to stay focused.  

One of the most shocking findings that the survey uncovered was that “34 percent of employees like their jobs less when they find themselves in a distracting workplace, and 66 percent of workers have never discussed solutions to address workplace distraction with their managers.”

Clearly, there is competition for our attention as we sift through an overabundance of stimuli. A walk down a crowded street, trip on a local train or visit to a mall reveals our reliance and focus on mobile devices. At every corner, the smartphone hijacks our consciousness with promises of the next great message.

During an engaging leadership session I attended at the American Society of Association Executives Five-Star Weekend, author and speaker Curt Steinhorst discussed the competition for our attention generated from the convergence of information, content and connectivity. He also discussed protecting our sanity and how to keep smartphones and other devices from hijacking our attention.

Steinhorst’s presentation highlighted how to cut through the noise and get our attention focused. He has spent years helping Fortune 500 companies overcome distraction and achieve focus, and he reminded us that technology creates endless opportunities to "improve productivity." Conversely, he also cautioned us about the trap—individuals spend so much time responding to interruptions that they lose the ability to concentrate and do their jobs.

Regaining Focus

To aid the need to be laser-focused and use technology to augment our current work, Steinhorst suggests the following in his book, Can I Have Your Attention?: Inspiring Better Work Habits, Focusing Your Team, and Getting Stuff Done in the Constantly Connected Workplace:

  • Implement a comprehensive organizational strategy to increase focus and overcome digital distraction.
  • Take back control of the technology in your organization and life.
  • Establish a Communication Compact, defining how, when, and why your team members will communicate with each other.
  • Create a "vault" to increase productivity, decrease stress, and boost your creativity.
  • Free yourself and your employees from the never-ending flood of emails and messages.
  • Achieve unmatched focus in the age of distraction.The smartphone isn't going away. Learn the simple rules and guidelines that will improve focus and create the mental space needed for your people to work to their full potential.

Finally, Steinhorst provides five simple steps each of us can take to be more successful every day:

  1. Turn off your phone during dinner.
  2. Watch a 30-minute show WITHOUT a second device.
  3. Create a Communications Compact with your team.
  4. Try planning out an entire workday in your calendar—and then follow the plan!
  5. Brainstorm how to make your workplace, using Curt’s word, “Focuswise.”

We are all aware of the spur-of-the-moment occurrences that disrupt the planned course of our business days. There are crises that occur which need our immediate and full attention—they become Priority No. 1. Much of this comes in over the technology transom and needs to be ferreted out in terms of importance and priority. There is much to learn and practice regarding staying focused and on task!

About the Author
Denise Froemming, CAE, MBA, CPA, is CEO and Executive Vice President of IREM.

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