“All that noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!”— Dr. Seuss, The Grinch

I just went three days (long weekend) without reading most of my emails and now have 312 waiting for me.  (Wait, now it’s 318 and growing.)  This is not unusual for me and most likely not for you.

Just walking into a grocery superstore provides an abundance of visual noise. Walking down the aisles, it seems there is an infinite number of choices all calling for my attention.

Meanwhile, Netflix has an array of distracting choices, all just a click away.  And Netflix is just one in an abundance of streaming services to choose from.

You get my point. There are many, many things vying for our attention. Some of them are contained in the vast amount of external pressures, such as those 323 (current count) work emails waiting to be sorted and addressed. Some of the distractions are self-created as you are tempted to watch the latest videos your friend sends you or yearning to read the last few chapters of that book you started.

Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!

But there is hope.

In chaotically loud environments, noise-canceling headphones reduce ambient noise so the listener can focus on the soundscape of their choice, and there are similar mitigations for metaphorical noise.

The following are noise-canceling strategies to help you focus on your goals and lower the distraction factor of all that other noise.

Start your week with a clear set of focused goals.
Without a clear target for the week,  it is easy to be trapped into reacting to everything that occurs and ending the day with the question, “Now, which way was I actually going?”

Focus not on the tasks you do but the value you provide.
Your task list itself can be noisy if you allow the list to dictate to you. Instead, focus on the value and impact you are working to provide. With that focus, you’ll find simple, fast ways to accomplish the value the task list aimed to achieve.

If you can’t say no, say later.
We often have a strong desire to be helpful. When distractions come up, it is often that others have requested help from you. Yet, we need to remain focused on the long-term greater good for the organization and our clients.  Practice saying no, or at the very least later.

Practice “noise prevention”.
There are some types of noisy problems that come up over and over again. If this is the case, find the source of those noises and seek to resolve them.

Optimize for joy. 
Do the activities you engage in increase your joy? The best noise cancellation technique is to identify what is noise to you. If the activity you engage in increases your feeling of joy and worth in the world, it is like pure music.

The more you can focus on these types of tasks; the more noise disappears into the distant background.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.


"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...


"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...


"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...


"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...


"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...


"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This