7 Stupid Distractions Every Leader Should Eliminate


Ever notice your day seems to vaporize and you wonder what happened to all your best intentions?

You’re ready to leave work but you barely even dented your to-do list. As a result, you’re going to have to try to justify squeezing an hour of work in once you get home, or just get up at a ridiculous hour tomorrow to try again.

Not only is that pattern unsustainable, it’s mysterious. You try not to have it happen again, but it does anyway.

So…what causes that?

At the root of it is likely repeated patterns and behaviors.

New patterns, habits and approaches can change everything, and that’s what I show you in The High Impact Leader course (which is in its final hours at current pricing.) If you’ve ever thought about joining, now’s the time!

There’s also another problem more leaders struggle with than ever before, and that’s distraction.

As research and experiments have shown, workers get interrupted as often as every 11 minutes during the workday, and it takes 25 minutes to refocus after each interruption. The math doesn’t even exactly add up, but you get the point. That’s why it feels impossible to get anything done.

The brand new approach to work and life I share in the High Impact Leader has improved things for thousands of people, but in the meantime, here are 7 stupid things that interrupt your day that simply don’t need to.

Get rid of these distractions today and you’ll have a better tomorrow.

1. Push Notifications

Every single app in the world starts off its relationship with you by asking “Allow Push Notifications?”

Your automatic answer as a leader should be no. Every single time (except one…I tell you which exception I think you should make below).

You don’t really need to know everytime someone sends you an email. Similarly, it’s useless to be notified every time someone comments on your Instagram.

Why? Well, think of push notifications as someone tapping you on the shoulder. If someone tapped you on the shoulder somewhere between 30-300 times a day every day, you would either punch them or get a restraining order.

Every time your phone vibrates, that’s what’s happening.

And don’t think the people you’re in real life conversation with aren’t bothered by your constantly buzzing phone and your incessant need to check your screen. It’s hard to respect or follow a distracted leader.

Being busy isn’t a sign of respect anymore. It’s a sign you’re not managing your time or priorities well.

I disabled push notifications on my phone and turned on the Do Not Disturb on my devices a few years ago. I don’t miss the constant buzzing at all. Nor do my friends and family.

Instant notifications about your messages aren’t that important.

Actually, I’m not actually that important. With all due respect, neither are you.

2. Text Messages

You’re probably thinking, I get the part about not getting notifications about Instagram, but come on, text messages? Miss those, too?

Here’s what I’ve done with my text messages. Before I tell you, know that I do not give out my cell number freely. Not a lot of people have it. Even then, I don’t want to be a slave to it.

So, I allow push notifications for text messages, but I keep my phone on Do Not Disturb, which means I don’t feel them or hear them.

When I’m ready to take a break, I pull out my phone and do a quick check. That way they don’t interrupt me.

But wait, you argue. I can’t miss any text messages. What about my wife and my kids? What about my super important projects?

First, remember when you were a kid? Your parents had no idea where you were, and after a few hours, they’d call the neighbors. You survived. So did they.

Ditto with work. People used to get work done at work. Remember those days? Now you don’t get any work done at work, and constant interruption is one of the reasons.

What’s happened is you’ve confused importance with urgency. Texts may be important, but mostly they’re not that urgent if you’re going to look at your phone every hour anyway.

But wait, you say, what’s if it’s a true emergency?

Well, if you’re waiting for a new kidney and the doctor is texting you that you need to come to the hospital right this second or you lose the organ, sure…keep your phone on.

But that’s not what ruined your day last Tuesday. In fact, you can’t even remember what the texts that ruined last Tuesday were about, can you?

Nope, you can’t.

Which is why you should ignore what’s going on on your phone until you’re ready to take a break.

The planet will keep spinning. I promise you.

And you will get more done.

3. Your Idle Curiosity

The challenge of working in an online environment is that the world is literally at your fingertips.

The distractions are a click or tap away. It takes tremendous self-discipline not to go down the rabbit-hole of the internet, from social media to mindless Googling of things that really don’t’ matter, like the surface area of the sun or who invented the straight-razor.

Curiosity is a great thing, but idle curiosity that produces nothing…not so much.

We blame our office environment, co-workers, endless email or whatever. But eliminate all those things, and you still have you to contend with.

I don’t need an enemy. I have one. It’s a perpetually distracted me.

You don’t need an enemy. You have one. It’s a perpetually distracted you.

4. Inefficient Email

If you can’t totally escape email entirely (I’ve experimented with that in seasons), limit it.

Turning off push notifications is a great start, but it won’t solve all your problems.

Try changing your email practices from ‘always checking all the time’ (which is the default for almost all of us) to tiny pockets where you check it at different points in the day.

For example, try doing a small window of say 15 minutes in the morning to make sure nothing’s on fire. 90% of the time, things aren’t on fire.

Then come back to email at a set time later in the day and pound through it. Do it when your energy is a little lower, and spend your best energy instead on the tasks that are most important to you that day.

That way when you get home, you’ll have accomplished something significant and not spent your time on things that matter less.

The less time you spend on email, the less it will consume you.

Second, don’t manage or lead by email.

Here’s how it happens to most leaders. Someone thinks of an issue, so they send an email. Someone adds a thought, and they reply all.

A conversation that might take 5 minutes in person (or less) drags on a through a series of useless replies that go on for days.

We’ve adopted some practices on my team that have helped.

First, don’t email people about everything. If you have an issue that could be just as easily handled by phone or in person, park it on a list (use something like Asana or Wunderlist to keep track).

Then, once you have a list of 5-15 items, do a simple 15-minute check-in phone meeting or stand-up meeting in person to handle them all. You’ll be way more efficient.

Similarly, if a direct report emails me something that’s not urgent, I’ll just ask them to wait until our weekly meeting with it. It can almost always wait.

If it’s truly urgent and there will be a lot of back and forth, pick up and phone and call or do a quick text exchange. People are always shorter on text than on email.

Not everything is urgent, so don’t treat it like it is.

5. Too Many Meetings

We live in meetings, and our productivity dies in them. Meetings are a huge distraction in a world where leaders often simply need to get work done.

Patrick Lencioni, Al Pittampali and others have effectively critiqued the way most leaders live in meetings.

If I’m not careful, I can spend three-quarters of my week in meetings and have only a few hours left over for writing messages and leading what matters most.

Meetings expand to fill the time you’ve set aside for them. So just set aside less time.

6. An Open Schedule

Chance are you only write appointments with others and meetings in your schedule, right?

Big mistake.

Make appointments with yourself. Write in writing time, thinking time, date nights with your spouse, family time —everything you need to get done.


Then when someone asks to meet, you can say you have a commitment. If it’s truly important, schedule them in during your next available slot.

I show you exactly how to do that in the High Impact Leader, and right now we’re including free iCal and GoogleCal High Impact Leader templates with the course so that you can get your life and leadership.

An open schedule is a guarantee you’ll spend your time on everyone else’s priorities, not yours.

Conversely, a fixed calendar can fix your life.

7. Conversations Without A Purpose

Conversations can waste tons of time. And they happen all the time to leaders.

Sometimes you feel trapped in one.

What do you do when someone corners you?

Be pleasant and move on. You’ve got work to do.

Turn that 20-minute conversation into a two-minute conversation. Be pleasant, thank them and if need be, tell them you were on your way to get something done. Then go do it.

If you work in an actual office, close the door or put a sign on the door that you’re doing focused work.

If you’re in an open office, you can even devise a signal with co-workers that lets them know you’re not free to chat. I’ve seen leaders put a small orange traffic cone or another kind of marker on their desk that effectively says “do not disturb.”

If you can shut down meaningless conversations, you’ll ramp up your productivity.

Move Beyond Hacks – Get Your Life and Leadership Back

The #1 question other leaders ask me is this: How do you get it all done (write a blog, host a major podcast, work full time, speak and write books AND have a decent family life with some actual hobbies).

I answered that question by creating The High Impact Leader Course.

In it, I’ll show you 100% customizable principles that will help you reach your highest level of leadership at work AND help you spend more time with your family.

The course can also help you thrive by helping you find healthy, sustainable rhythms that move your life and leadership to a new level.

Check it out here—new enrollment is open for just a few more days and this is the last time the course will be offered at this price point.

What Does It Do?

high impact leaderThis 10-session online course will show you highly practical, proven strategies on how to finally get time, energy and priorities working in your favor. It includes 10 videos, an online workbook and 10 specific exercises that will help you create a personalized plan to help you get productive and accomplish the things you know are most important, but rarely have time for.

The course, which proceeds at your personal pace whenever you’re ready to tackle a unit, is designed to help you:

Get your most important priorities done early in the week, every week.

Spend more of your time at work doing the things that energize you and less time doing the things that drain you.

Invest more of your time with the people who energize you and less time with the people who drain you.

Discover time to finally exercise, pursue a hobby,  launch a blog, start a podcast or write that book.

Actually be OFF when you have a day off.

Be far more focused on your family when you’re with your family.

Learn how to say no nicely, so you can free up time for the things you’re truly called to do.

In short, it’s designed to help get your life and leadership back, or maybe find them for the very first time. Plus we have a Facebook Group, calendar templates, a bonus time hacking resource and other extras that can help you get the most of it all.

Learn more.

What High Impact Alumni Are Saying…

Haley Bodine,  a writer, leader and young mom says:

“A few months ago, I was drowning. When my kids needed me I was just praying for bedtime. Then I discovered the High Impact Leader calendar. What we’ve found is that by calendaring our priorities, my husband and I are healthier. We’re communicating better and we’re healthier than ever and getting more done than ever before. Thank you!”

Dave from Invitation Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a married pastor of a new church plant who has two kids under the age of five says:

“Just wow. Thank you. The course helped me identify my priorities and work to bring clarity in all phases of my life.  I feel SO, SO, SO much more freedom.”

Isaac saw a complete turnaround:

If you asked me earlier this year if I would want a repeat of 2017 I would have said, no way.

After walking through the High Impact Leader though, I would and will repeat what I have been doing in the last few months.

It has allowed me to be more strategic with my time, energy, and priorities like never before. I have held a full schedule for the last few months and unlike ever before, my family did not feel the weight of it, my family was prioritized at the top of it.

Thank you, Carey, for helping the end of 2017 be great and I’m very excited about what 2018 is going to hold!

And that’s the goal. I hope that’s what will happen in your life.

We’re currently offering some free, limited time bonuses for everyone who jumps in on this offering of the High Impact Leader course.

To learn more or to enroll now, click here.

What About You?

What distractions keep you from being productive?

Scroll down and leave a comment!


  1. John Lambert on March 9, 2018 at 10:18 am

    I came here via idle curiosity. 😉

  2. Joseph O. Oyaka on March 7, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    Thank you so much for this helpful post. Of recent I have been so busy in the office that it is becoming so hard for me to focus. But with ypur write up here I will to prioritize what I have to do.

  3. Richard Leavitt on March 7, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Carey, I read your various posts and articles about time management and effective leadership. You’re prolific! And often have some great things to share. You also confess your own tendency to workaholism. I sometimes wonder if you’re really as adept at ministry effectiveness as you would like us to be. Does workaholism still challenge your ability to set good boundaries? How would your family answer that? I will still read your posts and emails if you send fewer of them! 😉

  4. Carl Pulliam on March 7, 2018 at 10:32 am

    Carey. You have helped me tremendously with time management ideas. I once thought the topic to be blown out of preportion until I allowed poor time management and streets to burn me out. Your encouragements have assisted me gravely in rebuilding my life and ministry structure.

  5. Miles Fischer on March 7, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Great Post!!!
    Thanks for Sharing!

  6. John Gibson on March 7, 2018 at 9:52 am

    Hey Carey! I love the idle curiosity bit about not chasing the rabbit down the hole on the internet…but have you ever visited or subscribed to the website https://www.atlasobscura.com…it is an amazing source of fascinating and mind-bending historic occurrences and places! Check it out and happy chasing! Great post! Thanks for leading the way!

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