Dealing with distractions

You start the day with a plan. You know what you want and how you are going to get it. Then, a series of interruptions and “got a minutes” suck every minute of your day. Distractions can destroy the best intentions and leave you wondering, “What the #%@& happened?” 

Over time, the impact on your business, and your life, can be disheartening … or devastating. What to do?  

I’m a shiny-objects girl. I’m not naturally focused or organized. When presented with a page of text, I start reading right in the middle. I have to use my finger or a ruler to stay on track with financials or a spreadsheet. However, I’ve learned how to get focused “enough” to make some really cool things happen. I write for this magazine! (As well as for the Huffington Post, and other blogs and publications). I’m a featured small business expert for Wells Fargo. I’ve appeared on hundreds of TV and radio shows, sharing business tips. I’ve written five books, and developed dozens of online business building programs. I’ve consulted with clients all over this country and four others. I’ve partnered with an awesome team to build the ZOOM Drain franchise, my second franchise adventure. And I am this close to creating a reality TV show.  Even better, I’ve been married to "Hotrod" for over 30 years, and I love him more than ever. Our son Max is the No. 1 best person in the world. I travel and run marathons. And, when it comes to family and friends and business community, I feel like I won the lottery. 

I’m not bragging. Well, maybe a little. I’m proud of what I have been able to accomplish because I have overcome a reputation as a “flake” and a “scatterbrain.” Sister Paul, my sixth grade teacher at St. Ambrose, gave me a D in “deportment” and told my mom that I had the attention span, and apparently, the intellect of a gnat. Snap. I could shake off a bad middle school progress report. As I got older, being easily distracted started to take its toll on me and the people around me. It’s exhausting to be in crisis mode all the time. 

One co-worker once said to me, “You end up doing a good job. It’s just that you take a whole lot of grapes to make a glass of wine.” 


So, I’ve adapted and developed a few skills. I’m happy to share what works for me to keep distractions from derailing my life. Because if I can get focused — enough — then anyone can.  

First, let me define what the distraction means to me. A distraction is something that keeps you from my highest purpose or mission. Imagine a point on the horizon. At that point is your vision of what your best life — and business — can be. Your intention on that point helps you ignore stuff that gets in the way of what you really want.  

Tip No. 1 

Get really clear on what you want to be and do and have. The more clarity you have about your vision, your mission, your why, the easier it is to see if you are moving towards it or away from it.  

Tip No. 2 

When a distraction rears its head, ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do about this.”  

If not …let it go.  

For instance, you discover that one of the service techs showed up late for the service tech meeting. According to the organizational chart, you are not the boss of that tech, or the boss of his boss. Let. It. Go. So much time and energy is wasted trying to get someone else to be or do something. The only person you can change is you. Isn’t that a liberating realization?  

If yes, ask, “What is required now? What can wait?” 

Suppose you are the boss of that service tech. You could have a quick powwow right now. You could close the door and lock it at meeting start time so the tech can’t come in and distract the rest of the team. You could meet with him after the meeting. If it can wait, make sure you jot down your intended follow-up action on your To-do list or on your calendar.  

Tip No. 3 

My go-to consulting question. When a distracting situation appears, ask, “What do we want and why?” 

Consider what a good outcome could be for the immediate situation, and in the long run, before you jump into any conversation. For instance, Bobby rushes into your office and announces that Susie used his truck last night. She didn't lock it, and now his tools are missing. Chances are this conversation will escalate into a witch-hunt for Susie.  

Put the pitchfork aside and consider what is wanted and needed now. Bobby needs tools.  What can you do? What can he do? Address the immediate problem and green light a decision. Then, consider the bigger picture. What do we want and why? We want the assets protected and people free and clear to do their jobs.  

Skip the blame game. Blame kills culture. Don’t vilify people. Improve your procedures.  Consider, “Do we have a procedure for truck sharing?” 

If so, is it written? Has Susie been signed off on it? If yes, then Susie needs a powwow with her boss to find out what happened and if the event requires a “write up.” If not, time to write a procedure. Put that project on your Master Project List or create a meeting on your calendar.  

Solving the core issue will reduce symptomatic distractions. Don’t get caught up in a day’s worth of drama. Also, suppose your vision on the horizon involves a company that runs without you. Having procedures in place is a step in that direction. You can transform a distracting situation into a powerful positive move forward. I’ve saved a ton of time and become a valued industry expert/consultant by asking the go-to question.  

Tip No. 4 

“Let peace begin with me.” 

If you want less distractions, stop being distracting. You get back what you give out. Are you a “seagull manager?” That means you fly in, poop and fly off.  Do you walk through the office with interruptions and “got a minutes?” Let peace begin with you.  

This is where meetings come in. Meetings have a bad reputation because most meetings stink.  However, meetings are a chance to communicate. Start meetings on time, have an agenda, include the appropriate people and end on time. Then, you can address an interruption with, “Could that wait for the meeting?” And you can empower your team to ask you that question, too! Not everything is an emergency. Write it down on the Master Projects List or put it on your calendar, in the appropriate meeting agenda.  

Is Facebook really the problem?  

Sure, you can turn your phone off. Yes, you can limit your time on Facebook. More important is getting clear on what you want.  That helps you stay focused enough to create your best life. Your disciplined response to interruptions and “got a minutes” buys you the time you need to determine your next steps. 
As you apply these tips, you’ll discover some foundational cracks in your business. When you fix those few things, dozens of distractions can disappear.  
Engage these tips, and let me know how you are doing! Find me at  and  


Ellen Rohr provides “in the trenches” insight that business owners can relate to. Comments? Questions? A different view? Reach her at 417-753-1111 or can also join the Bare Bones Biz community, at, for free tips, problem-solving webinars, money-making tools and lots of love.

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