Protecting your attention spans and keeping focussed is hard to do. This is where the Ninja needs to employ a bit of old-fashioned stealth and camouflage.If you’re in the limelight, you might get caught in the crossfire. One of the worst things you can do is make yourself always available. It’s an invitation to some of your biggest enemies: distraction and interruption. Here are a few examples:
- Spend as much time as you can away from your desk – work from home, in cafés, in meeting rooms, and outside.
- Get a gatekeeper who can help you say “No” to appointments or meetings just not worth your while
- Screen your calls and don’t answer your phone unless you decide the call is likely to be more important than what you’re currently working on.
- Book time in your calendar for creative thinking, reviewing, forward planning and other important activities.
- Set clear boundaries around things like email, Facebook chat, Skype and Instant Messenger. It’s time to wriggle away from the pressures of connectivity and ‘go dark’.
As well as protecting our attention from others, we must recognise the need to protect our attention from ourselves. We can be our very own worst enemy. There’s a phrase in software development called ‘Going Dark’ which refers to the time when a developer is ‘in the zone’ with their programming and has subsequently stopped answering emails or responding to other communications. They can be extremely difficult to find but there’s probably some amazing productivity happening… somewhere.
If your attention and focus is likely to be impeded by unlimited access to the internet and you’re likely to be tempted by its millions of distraction possibilities (and who isn’t?!), disconnect once in a while. Yes, a productivity book is telling you to turn off the internet! If I turn off my wifi connection for two hours, I know there will be no new email arriving during that time, and that it will be annoying enough having to fiddle around with turning the connection back on to keep me from doing so.
The art of camouflage is an important skill in keeping us productive. We may be off the radar, but that certainly doesn’t mean we’re not working. Quietly hiding away is not for everyone and it’s not something you can’t do all the time. But it does focus the mind on the task at hand and avoids so many of the interruptions and distractions that we place in front of our own eyes.
Finding other people to do your work for you is a great way to get more done. The problem is that the world is pretty scarce with people who actually want to do your work for you! Hence, a bit of stealth delegation is in order. This is unorthodox for a number of reasons, but consider first that you are unlikely to be able to claim credit for your actions and also that things may turn out differently to how you had imagined.
If you’re prepared to tolerate that, it’s a great tactic. Better still, work out from your project list which of the projects you could afford to have others work on in different ways, or that you care least about. These are the ones to consider stealth delegating. Here are three common forms of stealth delegation. As a Ninja, you might well discover your own techniques, too.
- Piggy backing: advertising your offer through someone else’s mailout,
- Launching your new product at someone else’s event or ‘borrowing’ their contact list to launch something jointly
- Cultivating ‘partners-in-crime’: looking for the ‘win-win’ opportunities to work with equally savvy, equally useful and equally inspiring people.
- Short-cutting: find people who’ve done the research, got a recommendation, learned the hard way and are eager to give their advice so that you don’t make the same mistakes. A five-minute phone call to get a personal recommendation is much easier than an hour Google searching the best solution. Find people whose opinions you trust – and trust them!