top of page

Are Distractions Disempowering You?

How many times during the day do you estimate you are interrupted?

Now multiply that by 25 - that is the amount of minutes it takes you to refocus after an interruption.

It takes an average of about 25 minutes (23 minutes and 15 seconds, to be exact) to return to the original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction at the University of California, Irvine.

Multiple studies confirm this. Distractions don’t just eat up time during the distraction, they derail your mental progress for up to a half hour afterward (that’s assuming another distraction doesn’t show up in that half hour). In other words, that “30 seconds to check Twitter” isn’t just 30 seconds down the drain. It’s 25 minutes and 30 seconds.

Types of Distractions

As you may expect, Technology is the #1 cause of distractions in almost all studies — it’s the one that creates the interruption. About half of interruptions we get are from the outside, most often an email message or chat messages. The other half of the interruptions come from inside our brain. They are often caused because we are feeling a need to stay constantly connected so we need to check in often.

We know that people check in every 15 minutes or less and, as soon as they check in it will take upwards of 20 minutes to return to the task they were working on. It doesn’t mean the work is not productive, but if you stop what you’re working on immediately and come back to it 20 minutes later you have to activate all the areas you were using. That project is now going to take you longer to finish and because you are constantly interrupted there will be more stress and anxiety involved.

So, whether it is a ding from your phone, a new email or a colleague dropping by to see how XYZ issue is coming along, it will still take you longer and you will experience more pressure once you return. Which then leads to you working faster, more mistakes, less innovation and lack of focus.

What Now?

So, what can you do about these time consuming focus impeding and flow blocking dings, whistles and knock, knocks? While there are many solutions, I find three are among my favorite to really get into a flow and focus on what needs to be done.

1. Plan your day before it gets started. If you know what needs to be done (Top Priority, Urgent, Not Urgent) you will be more likely to focus on these because you have a goal. I have produced a webinar series on this topic. If you are interested in jumping on board, go register here.

2. Schedule time to work uninterrupted. Turn off distractions or potential distractions, such as your smartphone and your email. Then sit down – for an hour if you can, but at least 30 minutes – and get on with something that really needs your attention. Enjoy the feeling of not being interrupted and of being able to give your 100% attention to this task. If you feel tempted by distractions, or an urge to “just check” your messages, try getting up and walking around for five minutes instead of checking, then return to your task. You will find you continue to think about your task and can return back to focus much easier.

3. Be Fierce. How badly do you want to be successful? How much does that promotion mean to you? How profitable do you desire your business to be? In the end, we are all in control of our actions, thoughts and reactions. What will you choose?

I know this seems all black and white when it is typed out and you are reading it (instead of working on your project or task). But there are ways to have it all - really! It is all about #3 above.

There are even great solutions for teams - give me a call today if you would like to discuss ways to affect real change in your office. I created the Time Is Money program for individuals, but have a team versions as well!

Oddly enough, Dr. Mark's study also pointed out that at least one positive item - we seem to get distracted by the interruptions and tend to finish the task created by the interruption, rather than continuing on point with what they were doing in the first place. So, at least something is getting done!

A plane uses 90% of it's fuel upon takeoff.

bottom of page