distractions“Intentionality.” A word that is currently weaving through the fabric of a number of topics. Whether in regard to work, family, spirituality, health or relationships, “intentional” keeps showing up. Maybe it’s this season of life — moving from one stage to the next. Or maybe it is the result of the people I am choosing to spend time with. Better relationships. More meaningful conversations. Deeper friendships. Or maybe it’s the math behind Google; sending me messages its algorithms know I would be most receptive to. Probably all of the above.

We live in an age where concentration and focus are measured in seconds — where a million things are constantly being pushed toward us, seemingly all at once.  When the human attention span is less than that of a goldfish, getting things accomplished requires intentional actions. (Note: For fellow nerds, the attention span of a goldfish = nine seconds, humans = eight.)

Distraction may be the norm and intentionality scarce, but even rarer is what may be referred to as “purposeful intentionality.” As an example, it’s likely your goal wasn’t to spend 27 minutes scanning Facebook this morning. It just sort of happened — unconsciously. The intention was to respond to a few emails and then get onto that big project that needs your attention. But the activity ended up being a “quick” period of Facebook surfing, followed by email checking, followed by a scan of the latest incoming text messages, followed by … wow! Where did the first two hours of the morning go?

The truth is that there just may be a propensity toward allowing — sometimes even welcoming — the distractions that fill our days. And depending on the emotions elicited by what was found on Facebook that morning, our outlook may be altered. Intentional choices? No. Unconscious actions? Yes.

OK, so just stick to your plan for the day: Stay strong. Turn off the distractions. “Embrace the grind.” Those intentions sound good, and they are. What they are NOT, though, is complete. They look to modify behavior but lack any stickiness. The stickiness comes from “purpose” — purposely focusing on carrying out those intentions.

How does this apply to business insight that is actionable and produces lasting results? Thanks for asking. Let’s assume for a moment that your organization has some goal related to growth. Account acquisition, revenue, profitability, reach, fans … some type of growth objective. Maybe it’s a simple 20 percent revenue growth, or maybe it’s an increase in net profits of three basis points. Whatever it is, the intention of your actions is not negative.

You can subconsciously rationalize just about anything into the description of a “growth contributor.”

Now let’s pretend it’s Monday morning. You take a quick scan of the activities you prepared ahead of time for the upcoming day. You did plan, right? Of course you did; you are aiming for growth. 7–7:30 a.m. is blocked out to respond to any new emails from the night before. 7:30–8:15 a.m. is for the team huddle-up meeting. 8:30–9:30 a.m. you have a finance meeting. And throughout the day are a couple of hour-long time blocks to work on specific projects. Now, let’s take a conscious look at each of those through the lens of “growth.” How do each of these not just support, but drive growth? What is the intention?

That team huddle-up meeting — what has been the outcome of this for each of the last three weeks? The finance meeting is absolutely necessary, but can it be done in 20 minutes with a 10-minute summary and two minutes to assign specific action items? Those time blocks for projects — are they projects that either contribute toward or support growth? Careful now.

You can subconsciously rationalize just about anything into the description of a “growth contributor.” But take a moment to consciously consider each action and ask yourself if it’s a driver for growth. Then ask yourself if YOU need to be involved. These are hard questions with hard answers that may unveil a need to make some hard changes. But growth is hard! Success comes from taking intentional actions to achieve your goals and being conscious of which actions are valuable and which ones are a waste of your time.

Now let’s look at the average sales manager’s day: Compiling reports. Reviewing reports. Pipeline reviews. Meetings to explain performance. Answering rep questions. Knocking down any number of barriers for the reps. All good things. All important things. But growth drivers? Maybe, maybe not. Pipeline reviews and coaching are absolute growth drivers. Are there time blocks for coaching? Why not? Think about what needs to stop being done so that the work that needs to get done gets done. You see, without a clear purpose, there is no meaningful intentionality.

Here are a couple of questions to consider:

Macro picture: Does this activity — this use of my time — help drive growth? If so, specifically how? Am I the one who needs to be doing this? Can someone else do this? Should someone else do this?

Micro picture: Do I have a purpose for this sales call that will drive growth?

Now, please don’t think for a second that I am under the illusion that there are not tasks that need to be done — and that need to be done by me, as a leader — that are not growth levers. There are. What I am strongly suggesting is that you ask yourself questions before engaging in anything — questions that are based on purposeful intentionality. Ask yourself, “Does this activity move me closer to my goal?”

1. Purposeful: Being aware of your actions. Without it, there is no clear purpose. Without clear purpose, you are just going through the motions.

2. Intentionality: Acting with purpose. Being radically brutal in assessing what needs to be done and what doesn’t in accordance to the purpose.

Purposeful intentionality by itself is not enough. Action must be added to intentions. Stay tuned for Part Two: Growth Drivers — Actions, Habits and Momentum.

is executive vice president of InkCycle Inc. He is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience. He is an active member of the imaging industry as an author, trainer and speaker. Contact him at broderick@inkcycle.com.