Contemporary work environments inundate people with a relentless stream of texts, emails, meetings, video conferences, and other distractions. The onslaught of information can be overwhelming and counterproductive. For example, research led by Stanford University professor Clifford Nass concluded that distractions reduce the brain’s ability to filter out irrelevancy in its working memory.
There is no single solution to the complex problems of the information age. But one good place to start is solitude, says Mike Erwin, Assistant Professor in Leadership & Psychology at West Point and author of Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude. Erwin and co-author Ray Ketledge define solitude as “a state of mind, a space in which to focus one’s own thoughts without distraction — and where the mind can work through a problem on its own.”
They suggest building periods of solitude into your workday, even if for only 15 minutes at a time. “If we spend our entire workday sitting in meetings and answering emails, it leaves little space in our minds to do the hard thinking that is essential to good decision making and leadership.” (Tweet it!) They also suggest blocking time-sucking websites and social media sites during work hours, and creating a “stop doing” list (i.e. reflect on where your time is best spent, and decide which meetings you could skip, which committees you could step down from, and which invitations you might decline).
Says Erwin, “Opportunities to focus are still all around us. But we must recognize them and believe that the benefit of focus, for yourself and the people you lead, is worth making it a priority in your life.”
When was the last time you enjoyed some solitude? What were the effects? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
If you would like to learn more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our online learning programs.