Open Thread – Attention Age Doctrine

As I toil away on research into Part 2 of the Attention Age Doctrine, a creative idea came to mind.

How about having an “open thread” on my blog that invites comments from you – my readers – about what you’d like to see in Part 2.
What are some the concerns you have about focusing attention on your business?

What are some of the top challenges you face when dealing with interruptions to your work flow?

What challenges have you come up against in getting the attention of your market?
I’ve made a commitment to have fun this weekend as well, so that may have something to do with this request. But don’t let that discourage you. If you can find time in your fun activities to give this blog some attention, I’d greatly appreciate it – and so would your fellow readers.
So, consider this an open thread… What’s on your mind regarding attention?

What kind of solutions would you like to see included in Part 2 of The Attention Age Doctrine?
Let me know and have a great weekend.

I’m anxious to see your ideas.
To Higher Profits,
Rich Schefren


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We Interrupt This Message…


“Interruptions are in the eye of the interrupted.”

This was a key point in The Attention Age Doctrine, and one that really struck a nerve with many of my readers.

Information that you think is important to your business, may simply be an interruption to your business goals.

Trouble is, you won’t realize whether or not the information is important until you’ve given it your attention.

Since the release of The Attention Age Doctrine, I’ve received countless e-mails and blog comments about the distinction between an “interruption” and a “distraction” as it relates to business efficiency. While there are “dictionary differences” between the two, I’ll just give you my quick analysis.

An interruption is external. It’s a break in continuity, something unexpected that “pops up” and causes you to divert your attention. Examples: Someone calling your name, an e-mail alert on your computer, a ringing phone, a raindrop falling on your head, a bowling bowl dropped in your lap. Interruptions grab our attention by diverting our focus.

A distraction is internal. It’s an emotional disturbance that requires our own compliance. It’s your mind thinking about lunch options while you are in an important business meeting. It’s a gaze out the window to watch the birds fly by or the feeling that you left your iron on in the laundry room. There’s an underlying cause for distractions that divides our attention in a subtle way. Distractions may seem like harmless “white noise,” but they can be quite, well, distracting.

Workplace interruptions and distractions serve one disturbing purpose: They take us off course. Every time we “follow the bouncing ball,” our business goals get pushed aside.Productivity Interruption

By taking your focus off the “big task” of what your business needs (more on this in a sec…), your vision becomes clouded, your message muddled, your decisions diluted and delayed.

What’s even worse is that it becomes a habit. You end up conditioning your brain to respond in a similar fashion in the future. In essence, you are re-wiring your brain to work against you [I’ll share the research that supports this notion, and how you can re-condition your attention, in Part 2 of the Attention Age Doctrine, coming out next month.]

Look, there’s a real reason why many racehorses run with blinders on. It’s so they’ll stay focused on the task at hand – winning.

So why is it so difficult for entrepreneurs to do the same? Why don’t we work with blinders on, avoiding interruptions so we can focus on growing our business and achieving our goals?

Maybe it’s because you love being in the race more than you love achieving the results. You enjoy the “busyness” of your business, but are unwilling to get serious about doing what it takes to succeed. You’re allowing distractions and interruptions to pull you away from your business goals.

My coaching clients often ask: How can I avoid the interruptions that are distracting me from my work?

An easy answer is to work in solitary confinement, but that has its own downside. A better answer comes from asking a better question: Why am I allowing myself to be so easily distracted?

No one makes us answer e-mails. There is no law, under penalty of death, to respond immediately to instant messages or a ringing telephone.

We can avoid interruptions and distractions if we want to do so. So why do we allow this to happen?

It’s always easier to blame an outside source for our troubles – a computer, a colleague, a PDA – rather than take that terrifying look inside ourselves to see what is lurking among the cobwebs.

Are we are our own worst enemy when it comes to distraction? Are we the cause of our own interruptions that take us off the path to success and down a spiraling path toward procrastination and diminished productivity?

Think about it for a moment. Each time you sit down in front of the computer you should do so with an ultimate goal: task completion. But getting from Point A to Point B in your business is rarely a direct line of progression – at least, that’s what you’ve been telling yourself.

The demands on our attention are infinite, but our attention is finite. So we have to keep focused on the goal of winning.

Every time we turn our attention away from our purpose – task completion – and toward something else (i.e., reading e-mail, mindlessly surfing the Web, chasing butterflies, chatting on the phone), we imperil our business goals and do our customers a great disservice.

We can choose to blame technology, our neighbors, family and friends, but really the blame is our own. It is our own refusal – note, I did not say “inability” – to eliminate the interruptions and distractions that cause frustration and prevent us from achieving ultimate success.

By allowing interruptions to sidetrack us – by giving in to the pull of distraction – we simply delay our primary gratification: the knowledge and pride in a job well done and the financial reward that comes with it.

Instead of doing what your business needs you to do, you end up doing what you want to do.

Let’s put that in perspective. You may not want to change diapers, but your children need you to do it. You may not want to pay taxes, but it’s probably a good idea to complete them on time each year. In both cases, you just have to hold your nose and get it done.

Successful entrepreneurs (in the right business) love their businesses. They shouldn’t “have to” do the job; they should “want to” do what is best for business development and ultimate reward.

This creates another immediate concern:

Do you know what your business really needs of you?

If not, all of the time you waste through “distraction” may really be the fault of your own “indecision.” You must decide what your business needs from you (in a step-by-step list of tasks) and eliminate the interruptions and distractions so you can get it done.

Two days ago I attended a networking event in Texas that will most likely go down in history as one of the biggest gatherings of influential men and women in business and marketing.  It was hosted by my good friend Stephen Pierce. Some of the powerful people in attendance were T Harv Eker, Jay Abraham, John Reese, and Jeff Walker; Tim Ferris, Armand Morin, Russell Brunson, and John Carlton; Mike Filsaime, Tom Beal, Jerry Clark, and Shawn Casey; Eben Pegan, Mike Litman, and Dave Lakhani; Janet Switzer, Yanik Silver, and Lori Morgan Ferraro.

At the event I had a great conversation with Internet Marketing legend John Reese. Besides getting some great marketing advice from him regarding our upcoming seminar in February, we also compared our approaches to getting our work done. And we both had a similar approach.

We both think about the goal we are trying to accomplish and list all the steps we need to do in order to accomplish it. Then, we get to work. John said (and I agreed) that often people get sidetracked or procrastinate because they haven’t taken the time to layout all the steps they need to take to accomplish their goals.

The list of steps helps grab and focus their attention.

Early radio and television programs used to be interrupted by breathless announcers with a familiar refrain: “We interrupt this message to bring you a special announcement…” The message grabbed your attention and wouldn’t let go until you absorbed it, at which time you were “returned to your regularly scheduled programming.”

It’s time to get clear about what you need to do, focus your attention and “get with the program” of working on what matters.

So, why are you not achieving your business goals faster?

Do you have an interruption problem, a distraction problem, or an indecision problem? (Share your thoughts on this here)

Sometimes introspection can be a painful journey of discovery, but one we all must take.

So do it right now, right here… Then get back to work!

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When Is Enough, Enough?

Most online entrepreneurs just like you either suffer from too little or way too much information: There simply is no in-between.

Where do you stand? How do you figure out which amount of information is “just right?”

Today, we’ll continue the conversation on information overload that we started in an earlier blog post. And, boy, is there a lot of material to cover …

Let’s begin with one of the biggest issues.

I’m often asked by nervous entrepreneurs:

When is “enough” information really enough?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question from clients – “newbie” business owners and veteran business leaders alike.

So many smart people are convincing themselves that they are just not smart enough. Stop doing this to yourself and your business.

As we mentioned in an Aug. 15 posting on this blog about information overload, you can’t possibly know everything, so don’t even try. You just need to recognize what you don’t know and fill in the gaps along the way.

One of our blog readers, Dan Scott, put this urgency in perspective: “Often we keep acquiring more information so we can put off pulling the trigger … at some point, you’ve got sufficient information and should just act.”

Excellent point, Dan.

Think about it:

It’s great to have an impressive vocabulary, but you don’t need to memorize an entire dictionary in order to enjoy a good book. If you don’t understand a new word, simply look it up. It’s that easy to do.

You just have to trust yourself – and your brain. After all, even Albert Einstein couldn’t remember his own telephone number. He reasoned, quite accurately, that he didn’t need to memorize his phone number because he knew where to find it in the phone book.

Einstein didn’t question his knowledge of the unknown, even for little things like remembering a phone number. You shouldn’t either.

Sometimes knowing how to access information is more important than the information itself. Remember that – I’m sure it will become more and more important to you as your business grows.

There’s another puzzling question I hear a lot, and this one is funny when you say it out loud:

How do I know that I’ll know what I need to know when I need to know it?

Questions like these reveal a disturbing unease about strategic business process – and a lack of confidence among business owners. The questions don’t lead to business solutions; they just heighten our anxieties and pick at the scab of uncertainty that irritates us all.

“What if I can’t keep up with my competitors?” …

“What if I don’t buy every business book, read every e-mail, and scan every RSS feed?” …

“What if I miss the one bit of information that could truly set my business on fire?”

“What if …”

This kind of paranoia freezes growth opportunity.

It discourages risk-taking and leads to indecision, inefficiency, and ultimately, paralysis.

This is no way to run a successful business.

Information anxiety plagues many good business people. But the great ones are able to sort through the clutter of information and inaction and get to the part that really matters – the information that leads you to take action.

Again, knowing how to access and interpret information is sometimes more important than the information itself.

Think about this example. What turns the lights on in your house? Simple answer: A light switch.

You don’t need to know about volts, ohms and amperes in order to turn on the lights. You just need the lights to work so you can see what is in front of you.

The ability to see what is in front of you: This is what so many of us seem to have lost.

Instead, we block our own view, and distort our business vision, with needless stacks of irrelevant information. The “stacks” don’t have to be physical. Even a virtual impediment is a blockade to creativity and productive thought.

Oh yeah, one more thing …

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’ll still make them, no matter how much information you have in your memory and at your fingertips.

Let me share a secret with you.

If you’ve done anything at all – not just business – then you have valuable experiences locked inside you that are just waiting to be rediscovered

You know what has worked and what hasn’t in certain situations. This will ALWAYS provide the best information you need to succeed. It is personal to you and it is timely: Two strong reasons why it’s more valuable to you than most information you’ll come across.

Most likely, no other business guru has ever shared this secret with you ­– because, if they did, it would be bad for business.

But I’m willing to do this for you because I believe you really must understand this. I’ve had some of the best mentors in the world – Jay Abraham, Michael Masterson, etc. – but even with that star-quality guidance, I needed something more.

The most important, impactful and relevant information I ever received that has helped me be successful has come directly from my own experiences – good and bad.

You are the best source of information for your business.

You know what works best and what doesn’t. You’ve thrown yourself into the fire and perhaps you’ve been burned by a few failed business decisions.

So what? That’s nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, it may be just what you need to assure success in the future.

Your experiences, your passions, your successes and failures, all come into play as you move forward in any business venture. Each bit of experience you have gained along the way becomes a pebble on the path toward future growth.

Don’t turn that pebble into a boulder by blocking your ability to move forward with confidence.

Often, clients tell me that watching me make a mistake, rebound and leverage it for future growth has inspired them to really change their way of thinking. They are no longer timid with fear of failure. Instead, they are ready to pounce on opportunity, even if it is born of error.

While you may be tempted to ingest all sorts of information from outside sources, and many of these sources may prove remarkably helpful, the ultimate business decisions are made by you.

It is essential that you take control of that decision-making function.

And no matter what, do not discount what you know already or make your own knowledge any less important than anyone else’s. It is your wisdom that has value because you are living with it.

Last year, in a Sept. 8 blog posting, I offered tips on how to attack information overload and the resulting anxiety it causes.

In it, I asked my readers to overcome “the single biggest obstacle to achieving lasting success online and offline.” That obstacle, for many, is their own personal craving for more and more information.

You may be an information junkie, but don’t let information anxiety turn your business into junk.

What’s causing you to delay action in favor of more research? What impulses are preventing you from “pulling the trigger” on action-oriented solutions?

Your responses on information overload have been illuminating, and I’m learning from all that I receive and read.

Share your secrets to “getting going” on new tasks. Do you have a certain ritual you follow? A certain method you use to kick-start your productivity? How do you know when enough is enough?

Let me know how you do it … There are a lot of people hungry for your ideas.

To Higher Profits,

Rich Schefren