Everyone faces a constant steam of opportunities to shift focus away from planned work. Some distractions are externally imposed and others just seem to pop up in the mind. Either way, badly handled distractions can lead to wasted time and frustration. How often do you end the day frustrated with what you have achieved or irritated with yourself for wasting time on the wrong things?
Whether you’re “easily distracted” or you have a “single tracked mind”, a system for handling distractions can ensure you spend more time “in flow” – playing to your strengths, sufficiently challenged, and seeing immediate progress. You’ll also set yourself up to work on the priorities that drive for you and your business, and feel a sense of satisfaction with your achievements.
Firstly, identifying, and secondly, understanding the nature of distractions creates the necessary space for making a choice for how to behave when they arise.
In my coaching practice I have found it helpful to work with clients to categorise their distractions as CRIDs, SNODs and FUDs. Let me explain!
CRIDs (Credible, Important Distractions)
CRIDs are good. They are Credible, Important Distractions. CRIDs are usually worth attending to.
CRIDs will further your goals, and they probably need attending to right now, by you.
For example, a CEO client was behind on some planned recruiting to build her senior team. She was anxious about it, having spent the week instead talking with stakeholders about an emerging market trend. The “distraction” had arisen when one of her investors called to ask for some important evidence on how the company was responding to this trend. She judged that this would influence the next funding round, and raising a new round of investment for the company was her number 1 strategic priority. The break-through for her was to accept her choice to tend to the CRID, and then to think creatively to manage the resulting the delay in recruiting.
Another client identified a CRID whereby he had given a few minutes of his time to unstick a problem for his tech team. His most talented senior programmer asked for his input on a decision that, once made, allowed her to continue with the planned tech development. My client had been able to make a big impact on productivity by accepting this CRID.
SNODs (“Say No” Distractions)
SNODs are bad. They are “Say No” Distractions. They will eat up your time and leave you frustrated.
SNODs might turn up with some urgency and drama, but they won’t further your goals and you are not the person to deal with them, at least not now.
For example, a client recently described how two senior colleagues had had a big argument and both stormed off home demanding that he, as CEO, “sort out” the other person immediately. He has felt anxious and angry with their behaviour, and afraid that one or the other might quit. So he dropped everything and had long conversations with each colleague in turn. He listened to them vent, he tried to convince them to calm down and speak with each other. But ultimately, deeply frustrated, he threatened “consequences” if they did not fall in line. On reflection, he realised that both needed time to calm down and by wading in he had only escalated tempers, as well as disempowering the pair to deal with the conflict themselves. It turns out this was a SNOD. If he had carried on working on the Board update he was preparing he would have made far better use of those two hours.
Another client, with an extremely creative and impulsive style, described how she had inadvertedly caused great upheaval across her senior team and was managing the fall out of a botched product launch. What had gone wrong? The day before the product launch she had scoped out a brand new feature that she felt could double their market penetration. This was a SNOD because of timing. By sharing this idea with the tech team, she distracted them from focusing on the product launch.
FUDs (Fun Distractions)
Good FUDs can be nourishing. Bad FUDs can be inappropriate and sabotage your good intentions. FUDs are Fun Distractions. What’s interesting is that many FUDs can be both good or bad, depending on when they pop up!
Nourishing FUDs might include exercising, chatting, reading an article about your hobby, social media, or playing a new game. You might emerge from a FUD energised and satisfied, and ready for the next task.
However, if you find yourself checking Instagram when you are “supposed” to be writing a new sales pitch, then feeling guilty about it, that’s probably an inappropriate FUD!
What do we do with our CRIDs, SNODs and FUDs?
Once you learn how to spot a CRID, SNOD or FUD, over time you can build new habits and behaviours for handling them. The aim is that, in every moment, you are confident that you are spending your time wisely. Like with muscle training, you need to practise this repeatedly. Here is how you might get started:
The most helpful way to handle a CRIDs is to make a very strong choice about whether to accept or reject it. If you accept a CRID, it’s important to own your choice, acknowledge that it is more important than other things you could be doing, and stop being hard on yourself.
Two tricks for staying in control:
First, over-communicate, with yourself and others, about the CRID and what you are doing about it.
Second, manage the fall-out of what you are now not doing instead – even if that just means noting it on your to-do list or planning in your calendar when you will come back to it.
Handling a SNOD, also requires a strong choice to be made. If it’s a real SNOD you’re going to choose to say no and own that choice. Your challenge is simply to say no without drama or stress. More on that in a later article.
Finally, FUDs need assessing every time. What will you achieve by accepting this FUD? If you feel low energy, stuck or frustrated, consider whether a time-bound period with the FUD could be healthy and take you closer to achieving your goals. On the other hand if you know it’s a time/energy sink and you have an important task to complete, practise some self-discipline and don’t be a victim about it!
Being at peace with your choices
One final word on CRIDs, SNODs and FUDs. Spending 20 minutes being angry with yourself after a 5-min FUD indulgence is not ideal! We are all human and we all fall for the allure of the FUD, the SNOD or even the mis-classified CRID sometimes, despite best intensions. Here, acceptance is key. Good luck!
To connect with Katy Tuncer you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Katy Tuncer is the APECS accredited Executive Coach and former McKinsey consultant who founded Horizon37. Her services include: Individual and Team Coaching, Strategy-led Facilitation, Leadership Training Courses, Workshops and Seminars.
Katy has devoted her career, since joining The British Army 20 years ago, to discovering and examining what works in leadership. Her experience spans McKinsey, small professional services firms, the Metropolitan Police, tech start-ups and community movements. She has led transformations in hugely diverse organisations – as an executive, a board member, an advisor and a founder. She has innovated, failed, succeeded, and challenged convention in leadership. And she has bolstered her personal learning through her role as a trusted coach to senior leaders – sharing and analysing their unique leadership journeys.
Katy works out what each client needs to perform outstandingly, and to achieve sustainable satisfaction in their work. In periods of new challenge she bring practical, tailored and business-led leadership