“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

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