Can you walk, talk on your phone, text and check email all at the same time? While strolling through a mall last week I observed dozens of people doing exactly that. Observe families dining out. How many are on their phones? We can’t seem to focus on one thing at a time.

I for one am becoming more and more distracted by technology and suffering from “I-can’t-miss-out” anxiety. How about you?

RB_Unplug_W200In a June 29, 2014 Wall Street Journal article, “The Distraction-Industrial Complex,” author Christopher Wims shares that “the times I am most productive while working are when I have no internet connection at all – on planes, buses and trains.” He describes how our attention and focus is distracted by information technology and our growing addiction to it. 

He notes that according to research, given the opportunity, we will interrupt ourselves on average every three minutes, harmless enough when those interruptions are related to the task at hand. What’s killing productivity are the interruptions we don’t invite – emails, instant messages etc. Studies suggest that workers lose as much as 40% productivity when they are regularly interrupted. 

Are you ready to take back your life? Here’s a couple of challenges that I’ve given myself and my clients:

  1. Ban electronic devices from your meetings. The EOS Meeting Pulse requires a Leadership Team to meet weekly for 90 minutes and quarterly for 8 hours. If you can’t carve out this time frame for uninterrupted focus “ON” your business you must address the root cause. Unplug to connect with your team;

  2. Coach people in your organization how to effectively use email, voice mail and reinforce the fact that issues (the real ones) can best be addressed face-to-face. Unplug and walk down the hall;

  3. Take scheduled Clarity Breaks™. Get out of the weeds, view your life from a different perspective and restore your self-confidence. Unplug and connect your heart and mind;

So, that’s my message and my challenge. If you’re serious about overcoming the “Distraction-Industrial Complex”, take action. Unplug to get connected! 


  • There is a time and a place for being distracted, too. However, it’s definitely NOT when we need to get something accomplished, such as carry out our business life or getting something done in our personal life.
  • When you speak with someone over the phone, it’s easy to detect when they are not paying attention. It’s what I often call “the multi-tasking voice.” This is when the pattern of speech on the other side changes by slowing down, using lots of connector words (“ummm…” or “aaaaa” or “yeahhhhhh….” or pauses between words at unusual times. I usually confront the problem by saying to the other “Well, if this is not a good time for our conversation, let’s reschedule for another when you’re not as busy as it sounds you are right now…” That usually get’s most people’s attention.
  • Most new means of communication are actually very useful. The trick is to know WHICH ONE to use for each type of communication. In addition to Rene’s recommendation #2, teach and coach your people what to use for what purposes. For example, while texting (SMS) is great for quick check-ins, rapid status exchanges, etc, it is actually VERY counter-productive when you’re trying to actually solve a problem; the communication must be much richer than anyone can type into an SMS message. And the list goes on…
  • Finally, please take Rene’s recommendation #3 very seriously: put Clarity Breaks on your calendar. I have one scheduled every week, and I actually walk to my local Starbucks (it’s only at the end of my street) and spend 90 minutes there. Mine are scheduled every Tuesday at 6am (yes, I am an early riser!). When are yours?

More by Rene Boer

Republished with the Author's Permission.

Originally published in on July 25, 2014
More by Rene Boer