How expensive are my distractions?

I recently visited a local American Red Cross to make a blood donation.  My experience was like most other times I’ve stopped by to contribute – with one exception this time.

As my donation was finishing up, my nurse was attending to me when a male co-worker entered the donation area and announced loudly he was leaving the area to attend an important meeting.  His demeanor was a bit humorous which caused several of the nurses to make joking comments to him.

The nurse turned her attention back to me to complete my donation – or so I thought – when she quickly realized that she had forgotten to fill the test vials with my blood (this is the last task usually performed before the needle is removed).  Medically, she couldn’t undo her action and instead, had to ask my permission to stick my other arm to get the test blood.

Imagine the thoughts running through my mind.  Two needles?  Really?  But it was true.  So she quickly prepped my other arm and “completely” finished my donation.

Now, please understand.  The nurse apologized and her error took only a few minutes to correct (albeit, I’ll be sore in two arms now instead of one).   However, this interaction caused me to pause and reflect on the impact of distractions.

Our world is fast-paced. We have tricked ourselves into thinking we are masters of multi-tasking.  But sadly, a lack of real focus can cost.  It does have a price tag – whether it be in time, dollars, resources, patience, reputation, or countless others.

In the spirit of your own professional development [and mine], how would you answer these questions:

  • How easily am I distracted by the trivial activities in my workplace?  Do I get caught up in the grapevine or fall victim to the naysayers of the office?
  • How often do I let my personal agenda affect my focus and priority to my customer’s needs?  And what does it cost them?

So, how do you manage those inevitable distractions?  Try these three quick tips:

  1. Be assertive with the distracters.  You know who they are – the people who struggle with boundaries and interrupt you with ease.  Learn to be bold [not rude] with these invasions and protect your time and focus.
  2. Take “clear your head moments” when you need them.  When the voices in your head speak louder than your focus, break away.  Do something physical, listen to a song – anything to clear your mind.
  3. Keep a manageable, doable “to do” list.  Too many items on the list is self-defeating.  Structure it in a way that helps you feel confidence in accomplishing tasks.

Distractions are a part of everyday life.  We can’t stop them, but we can train ourselves to manage them more effectively.  And the truth is, if we don’t focus on them, they will focus on us.

By the way, during my Red Cross visit, I learned blood donations are being sent to a hospital in Cuba, which has been established as one medical site for victims of the Haiti earthquake.  Would you consider donating?  If not now, maybe soon. 

You can save a life…with one stick or two.

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