If you had to guess how many times you’re distracted on any given work day, what would that number be?
Now take your number and multiply it by 25!
That’s how many minutes of focus you are losing. Scary, right?! According to a study by Gloria Mark, who researched this topic at the University of California, it takes on average almost 25 minutes to get back to your original task after you’ve been interrupted.
And you don’t have to believe just Ms. Mark’s study, multiple studies by prestigious institutions around the world have come to the same conclusion. If you are interrupted 10 times tomorrow, you will lose nearly 4 hours of mental progress.
So that couple of minutes you took to check Facebook isn’t actually just a couple minutes. It’s almost an hour. And it doesn’t just suck the productivity out of you…it actually causes negative emotional side-effects.
“Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity,” Mark wrote in the New York Times,
You Are Not An Anomaly
I know what you are thinking…you are the exception to this rule. Somehow, you have escaped the norm and aren’t affected by a few distractions, right? Consider this:
Ever heard of Peter Drucker? He was a phenomenal management consultant, educator and author. He has been described as the “founder of modern management.” He wrote the following:
“There was Mozart, of course. He could, it seems, work on several compositions at the same time, all of them masterpieces. But he is the only known exception. The other prolific composers of the first rank – Bach, for instance, Handel, or Haydn, or Verdi – composed one work at a time. They did not begin the next until they had finished the preceding one, or until they had stopped work on it for the time being and put it away in the drawer. Executives can hardly assume that they are ‘executive Mozarts’.”
If we are keeping it real, then we have to assume that none of us are Mozarts’ either. So, how do we stay on track and not get pulled into time-sucking distractions?
How To Stay Focused
I wrote a little about this a few months ago in my article, “Are You Effective At Time-Management.” Essentially, you need to have a plan for the day and that plan must include distracted time.
At Intel, members of the Software and Services group noticed this problem coming up. They were concerned that they weren’t getting enough time to think deeply and creatively about problems.
So managers instituted four weekly hours of “think time” that was scheduled and tracked on a shared calendar. During this time, employees weren’t expected to respond to emails or distractions that weren’t urgent.
The program had success early on, with one employee even developing a patent application, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
You Are What You Focus On
Don’t shoot the messenger…better to know that distractions add up to real costs than to ignore it. If you plan some time for distraction-free thought and work, you will become more productive and who knows, maybe even get that promotion or that next big client you haven’t had time for. If you are going to schedule this special time, make sure others know about it so you can be effective. Encourage them to follow your lead.
Time = money so more more time = more money. Knowing how to stay productive could catapult you to the next level. We may not be a Mozart, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying!