Beep, Buzz, Dingle: How to Stay Focused in a Noisy World

In Chronicles of a CEO by Rebecca Liston


It is a really, really noisy world in which we live.

My phone rings. It trills. It beeps. It buzzes. Once in awhile it even makes this weird “ding-a-ling” sound and I have no idea why.

My computer bleeps and dings, and even though I turn off the noise notification every single day on Facebook, if that tab is open on my web browser, that darn thing is beeping incessantly!

And if things don’t beep or dingle, they flash! Or blink! Or pop up magically! Or change colour on the screen to get your attention! LOOK AT ME! They scream for our attention!

And then there’s my iPad, which also is extremely vocal…the actual land-line (yes, I still have one)…the robins in the garden…the geese overhead…the clients in the hallways…the construction crew hammering in the suite on the 3rd floor…

And with all that, we wonder: Why can’t I focus on work?!? Why can’t I ever seem to get anything done?!?

This year I have tasked myself with shutting off the noise — the noise that I can control.

I have the notifications on my phone and iPad set to silent, the volume on my computer is off unless I am on a client call, and I have to tell you: it helps. A lot.

But it wasn’t easy to do, because in many ways, we are addicted to the flash and the bing, and we are wired to respond instantly to those noises, much like Pavlov’s dogs. And sometimes we feel a bit of guilt for not replying immediately — especially to text messages and instant messages — and if you think it’s hard not to reply to a text, imagine not replying to a knock at your door!

As one colleague told me last week, she was working from home and a friend saw her car in the driveway and decided to “drop in.” She knocked. My friend did not answer the door. So the woman texted from the front porch: “I am here to visit! Open up!”

And what’s a gal to do when her friend is texting from the porch saying she’s dropped in for tea?

Kudos to my colleague: she texted back and said simply, “I am working. I will call you later tonight.”

Not an easy thing to do! But she knew she had to do it…knew that her focus on her work was critical to her success…knew that, if she opened that door, the rest of her day would be lost.

Those family and friends in our lives who are not running their own businesses don’t always “get it” that even though we are “at home” or “in the office,” we are not “free” to talk at any given moment. We may not have a Boss breathing down our necks…but we are our own Bosses…and breathe down our own necks!

It takes discipline and commitment to focus on our workespecially when what we are doing is The Stuff We Would Rather Not Do (and there is certainly some of that stuff when you run your own business!) But it’s exactly that focus and that commitment that will get us where we want to go.

So here’s my suggestion to you for the next month: try minimizing the noise. Shut off the notifications, turn off the volume, shut the door to your office, and put a “Closed” sign on the front door of the house. Tell your friends and family that you won’t be replying immediately to calls and texts, and “train” your clients to know that you’ll reply to emails and inquiries at certain times of each day so they know when to expect a reply.

Block out time in each day to do certain tasks. And block time specifically to deal with email, and phone calls, and texts. But when that time is done, get back to doing what you need to do for work. Be consistent with your efforts to minimize the noise, and make note of how you feel at the end of the day.

My guess is that you’ll feel stronger, happier, and far more in control of your time than ever before…and before you know it, you may find yourself shutting down those notifications at home, too!

Big love,



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Rebecca Liston helps her clients predict, pivot, and compete in an increasingly complex global marketplace. Her clients quickly uncover the root of their challenges and know the actions to take to overcome them. A six-time nominee for the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Award, Rebecca combines business strategy with intuition, giving her clients the edge on forward-thinking, elegant answers to their most complicated problems. Her clients are entrepreneurs with CEO-mindsets and executives with entrepreneurial instincts. She is based in London, Ontario. What if you could get the answer to your biggest business challenge, in one sitting? Visit to find out more.