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Are Distractions Disempowering You?

October 31, 2018

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 uninterrupt