Making the Shift from Distraction to Strategic Thinking

by | Jun 20, 2023 | Strategic Planning

It’s easy to think that distraction is simply a fact of modern life. Between emails, messaging apps, social media, 24-hour news, colleagues who stop by our desks, and all those cute cat videos, how is anyone supposed to stay focused?

All these interruptions and distractions cost organizations money—and a lot of it. The latest research shows that, globally, organizations lose $62 billion per year in lost productivity due to interruptions.

Dealing with distraction is a thorny challenge for every kind of leader and organization. But it may be especially acute for nonprofits. In often under-resourced nonprofit organizations, meeting ambitious goals means making every minute count.

Luckily, one science-backed tool can not only help tame distraction but improve our ability to meet goals and get results. The secret? Ensuring team members have projects that are challenging and complex, yet still matched to their skill sets and skill levels.

A great way to start tackling the cost of distractions and interruptions at your organization is by adopting a culture of strategic thinking.


The True Cost of Distraction at Work

According to research, distraction is an epidemic and the cost is staggering.

People spend nearly 50% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing. (Harvard)

Nearly 3 out of 4 workers (70%) admit they feel distracted when they’re on the job, with 16% asserting that they’re almost always distracted. (

Employees in knowledge-intensive professions are interrupted an average of 15 times per hour. Each interruption adds 15% to 24% more time to the task. That means employees are losing at least three full working days a month purely to interruptions. One of the biggest culprits of workplace interruptions? Email, which represents 3.3 interruptions every hour. (Next Work Innovation)

Only 21% of employees report that they are highly engaged at work. Disengaged employees have 37% higher absenteeism, 18% lower productivity and 15% lower profitability. Translated into dollars, disengaged employees cost $3,400 for every $10,000 in salary they make. (Forbes)

Despite this egregious cost, few organizations are responding in productive ways. Yes, some companies are blocking distracting apps or monitoring employees’ every keyboard stroke. But these are punitive measures that leave the real issue unaddressed.

Why aren’t we more engaged in our work?


The Strategy Gap

One potential culprit for both the lure of distractions and the lack of engagement is how little attention organizations are giving to strategy. Research shows that:

95% of employees don’t understand their company’s strategy. (HBR)

48% of leaders spend less than a day on strategy each month. (HBS)

60% of organizations don’t tie financial budgets to strategic priorities. (HBR)

This lack of focus on strategy and strategic thinking affects every level of an organization.

If employees don’t understand their organization’s strategy, how are they supposed to feel invested in it?

If leaders aren’t thinking about overall strategy, how are managers supposed to strategically assign projects to keep staff challenged and engaged?

If budgets don’t match priorities, how are organizations assessing what works and what doesn’t—and making sure resources are allocated effectively?


Bringing Strategy into Day-to-Day Work

When leaders recognize this issue, they might decide that creating a strategic plan is the natural solution. And yes, strategic planning can make an incredible difference for organizations. But only if leaders leverage the strategic planning process to build buy-in and kickstart strategic thinking and decision-making across the organization.

This is something Funding for Good has helped clients across the country achieve.

Ready to learn more? Join Funding for Good’s June 2023 webinar, Creating a Culture of Strategic Thinking.

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