Distractions cost. They cost us mental energy, quality of work, mental health, focus and productivity.
Did you know it takes, on average, 23 minutes to refocus your mental effort and energy on a task after being interrupted? (University of California, Irvine; Mark, Gloria)
Have you ever considered how many times you’re interrupted in a day?
We all know interruptions hamper productivity and make trying to accomplish even the smallest of tasks frustrating, and seemingly endless. Consider this – If you spend a total of 5 minutes, five times per day responding to text messages and reading social media, you’ve spent (maybe wasted!) 25 minutes of work time. Even still, when you consider it takes our brains 23 minutes to refocus on our tasks at hand for each interruption, you start to see those 5 simple tasks actually cost you almost 2.5 hours in lost concentrated focus and productivity. How do I know this? Because I have been guilty of this too.
You see, a distraction costs more time than just the activity. It costs us mental space and time to refocus afterward. This realization helps me to focus when I get off track.
A study was performed by info-tech researcher Basex and found distractions cost U.S. companies $588 billion per year in lost productivity. Imagine how much of that money could have been saved if employees were able to avoid distractions and stop interruptions.
Crazier still, a researcher of digital distraction at the University of California, Irvine found approximately 50% of the distractions were self-induced! Our curiosity to know what was going on in the world on the news, social media, emails, or other people’s lives are creating our productivity demise.
Attention is Key! Attention is vital. A few steps toward mindfulness can help you save time and boost productivity:
- Count your interruptions. For two days, keep a running list of the distraction types and the number of times is occurs (you will be shocked!). Start proactively finding solutions to stop the self-induced time killers.
- Master your schedule. Choose brief, 15 minute increments, within your calendar that permit you to take a break, respond to others and allow your mind the downtime it deserves (and craves).
- Utilize technology to save you from technology. Use apps on smartphones to silence distractions. Better yet, turn them off or use the Do Not Disturb feature until a time you’ve chosen to take a scheduled recovery break. I love the Freedom App.
- Prohibit devices. Create a no-phone policy for some meetings and important conversations.
- Schedule. Schedule. Implement tools that manage your time spent online, such as the Freedom App.
- Do Not Disturb. Allow employees to create Do Not Disturb work times on their calendar where they can truly unplug from email, visitors and disruptions.
- Go public. Get accountability. We have conditioned ourselves to be available to others all day and every day. Stop. Send messages to your friends, family and colleagues sharing your commitment to productivity. Explain your new schedule has time allocated to respond to their needs. Reset their expectations for your return phone calls, text messages and mid-day visits.
- Unplug from social media. Consider taking a social media detox to help clear your head of the need to be plugged in. If that seems too radical, consider establishing one or two 15 minute periods of time in the early morning or evening that allow you to log on and play. Read about my social media detox here.
- Choose one day per week. We all want to personally check in with coworkers and establish relationships with our peers. So do it! Only, limit it to one day per week. For instance, Wednesdays allow you find out how their weekend was and hear about their upcoming plans.
- Weekends are for fun. When you make focus and attention a priority during the workday, make fun and relaxation a priority on the weekend. This will give you the time needed to recalibrate and rest, which will improve your attention and focus throughout the week.
With a few changes and a commitment to focus, your productivity will soar as will the results of those efforts. When you choose to become the Attention Ambassador in your workplace, others will begin to see Attention Pays.