This week we’ve investigated the difference between distractions and disruptions.
Where we typically have a choice as to whether or not to allow ourselves to be distracted, disruptions require our attention. How we weave the disruption into our regular schedule is the tricky part, and it is easy to allow our focus to be monopolized by the disruption, while other things that are important to us suffer as a result.
Yesterday we began an exercise to identify our top priorities and to categories them into themes. The purpose of this was to remind ourselves of what is most important to us, with the hope of keeping those things at the forefront even when disruptions occur.
But disruptions by their very nature interrupt our plans, so even when we remember those things that mean the most to us, and try to carve out time to attend to them, it is easy to become hyper-focused on the disruption to the point that those other things are ignored until the disruption has been stabilized or resolved.
Focusing on our circle of influence.
Today I offer one last exercise, which many of you may have seen before but in a slightly different form. It’s based on Dr. Steven Covey’s work on the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence, from his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Basically, Covey suggested that there are some things that are within our ability to influence, but these things only include a a portion of what is within our area of concern.
For example, we may have concern over the the economic stability of Greece, but it isn’t within our area of influence. Covey suggests we only focus on those things we can influence, and to do so proactively, rather than waiting for something to happen and then reacting to it.
Using this perspective, let’s pick up where we left off from yesterday’s exercise, in which we created a basic priority hierarchy.
We first listed our responsibilities and placed them into themes, such as work, family, personal, and so on. I then suggested thinking about where and when disruptions or competing priorities tend have the greatest impact.
For example, having to work late at the office with no prior notice creates discord at home. Using this example, where do we have influence to make changes to reduce the amount of disruption that occurs?
Weaving in our priorities.
Our priority hierarchy may come into to play when considering what we want, and don’t want to influence.
For example, let’s say we have determined that work is our highest priority, because although family is very important, if we don’t have money to support them, they will suffer. When this is the case, focusing on how we can accommodate the needs of our family in order to meet the demands of our job makes sense.
However, what if we have decided that our top priority is to our family, and that, although also important, work demands have to come second to family needs (this might especially ring true when both parents work, but one has a higher level of responsibility to meeting the needs of the family so the other can meet the needs of the job)?
In this scenario, a situation such as impromptu overtime might solicit a very different response. It might mean establishing some very clear boundaries around work, and an understanding that if situations arise where the needs of the family rises above the needs of work, that family will come first. It may mean being willing to quit or lose our job if we find the needs of the family frequently interfere with our work.
By working through some of these situations in a proactive light, which may be based on events of the past, that we might find what is currently considered our top priority actually isn’t. Or that our priorities have changed but we haven’t yet recognized or accepted it yet.
Gaining clarity after the storm of disruption.
In many cases, our highest priorities shift based on context, so when we’re at work, work comes first, and when we’re at home, family comes first. And this is fine, and completely normal, until a disruption occurs.
It is in these disruptions that our priorities can suffer, but we can also become clearer about our true priorities. Because when we are required to pay attention to things we otherwise may have taken for granted, we have the opportunity to realize just how important they are to us.
Or, when we are pulled away from things we consider really important to attend to things that may be urgent, but we consider to be a lower priority, we may decide to make some changes to prevent less urgent things from taking our focus away from more important things in the future.
3 main things to remember.
To wrap up this section on distractions and disruptions I want to emphasize the importance of empowering ourselves to:
How does this relate to change & transition?
I realize much of this week’s theme has expanded beyond the topic of change and transition, but even so I believe that it can have a direct affect on our ability to adapt to change.
Disruptions often require rapid adaptation, and most of us have to respond in the moment because we haven’t really considered how our lives and priorities might be impacted by the unexpected.
Distractions tend to pop up especially in times of uncertainty. And there is usually quite a bit of that when we’re trying to make our quantum leap of change.
But when we’re aware of the potential influence of distractions and disruptions on maintaining our focus, and we’re intentional with how and when we allow distractions to distract, and what to pay attention to when disruptions disrupt, we are much more aligned as a result. And with alignment comes an assurance that we’re well on our way to a smoother transition to a successful change.
Wishing you a changevolutionary weekend - thanks for reading!
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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