You can’t do big things if you’re distracted by small things.

What would you say if I told you that we get interrupted every 11 minutes at work? And, to go with that it is said that it takes 23-25 minutes for our brains to refocus on the original task. “ So, I’m not even recovered from the first distraction and then I get another one?”  Hmmm.

Okay, now here are some more statistics.

A 2018 report showed that 70% of employees say they felt distracted at work. And, the latest workplace surveys reported that 75% of employees lost at least 2 or more hours of productivity due to distractions as work.

It was also discovered that when people get interrupted and then subsequently “hurry up” to catch up after the interruption, their stress level increases, as does their frustration and the sum of their efforts now has doubled the mistakes or errors.  DOUBLE!

Wow!

Do you want to know the “TOP” distractors?  Well, after researching multiple sites and pulling the top distractors from each, here are the top 5.

#1 Chatty Coworkers
#2 Office Noise
#3 Email
#4 Phones
#5 Social Media

Chatty Coworkers

So being a “Chatty Cathy”, a “Chatterbox” a “Social Butterfly” or a “socializer” is bad?  Yep.  That simple question “so, what’d you do this weekend?” and the ensuing conversation afterwards that we all know, and love falls at number one of the giant no-nos.  Despite being a workplace staple at water coolers all across the world, too much of the workplace mingling and schmoozing leads to a much lower degree of efficiency. Makes sense.

Office Noise

I know this one is definitely true.  Nothing can distract me sooner and keep me from forming and keeping full thoughts more than office “white noise”.  You try to ignore it, but it’s like that tickle in the back of your throat that won’t go away that eventually makes you have to stop and go get a drink of water to get rid of it. I counteract all the white noise around me by putting in the ole earphones and turning on some tunes to drown out the noise and help me concentrate.

Email

Emails used to be a tool to send attachments & written data.  The real “meat & potatoes” happened in the phone call and the email afterwards was just to send over what was already talked about.  These days, whole conversations get started and ended through emails, and sometimes you never actually speak to a live person.

When I really have to “dig in” to something, I prioritize time for it and give myself a time or a timeline for when I read emails, and/or when I answer them.  These are what I call a “necessary evil” when it comes to productivity efficiency.  Everybody gets them, so just try to work out a system that works for you and affects your work the least.

Phones

Did you know that they are reporting that people look at their phone at least 52 times a day?

52 times a day.

It’s easy to understand why. We’re bombarded throughout the day with emails, texts, social media notifications, and phone calls. Additionally, we use our phones to jot down reminders, view our calendars, listen to a podcast, or go shopping. Sheesh!  No wonder we’re addicted!

This is the distraction that is a true “Time Vampire”.  You know if you pick it up to answer the call, you’re guaranteed to lose 20 minutes or more.  Plus, now there’s new, fresh data that you have to do something with, but when?

It’s okay to silence the phone if you are working on something with a timeline or is of critical importance.  If it’s hugely important they’ll leave a message or can also typically text you telling you of such an emergency.  But, always return that call if warranted.  Noone likes being ignored.

Social Media

Aha! Social media at number 5?  Something’s got to be wrong here, right?  Well, it’s actually tricky, because this should combine with the phone distraction. In that distraction, I didn’t use “office phone” or “cell phone”, it was simply phones, which does include cell phones.  And what are on our cell phones?

… Anybody?

Apps! Yes, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and a whole host of other apps.  This distraction combined with phone distractions would collectively put them in the #1 category, but there are quite a few differences and other factors with each, so that’s why they are separated.

The fact is, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other popular apps/games were deliberately designed to change our behaviors (it’s called persuasive design).

Persuasive design-is the creation of a process that influences a site visitor or target to perform a particular task or creates a new behavior. Well that’s deep!

So, it’s no surprise that we’re becoming Pavlovian in our compulsive need to answer email/texts, and monitor Twitter/Facebook updates. Even worse, we have reached a point where getting back on track requires slow, deliberate daily practice for us to relearn how to focus.

Pavlovian conditioning: A method to cause a reflex response or behavior by training with repetitive action. The Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov conditioned dogs to respond in what proved to be a predictable manner.

Those are some pretty big words, right?

Here’s what’s happening in plain language.  They are designed to get you hooked and then keep you hooked by repeating your browsing or usage patterns back to you, so you see more of the same things, places, people and influencers…so not only do you want to come back, you HAVE to come back!

A personal note; I’ve been pretty much off Facebook since March 2020.  Other than answering a message or acknowledging someone tagging me, I do not regularly frequent Facebook.  I even deleted the app off my phone and took any shortcuts from my pc.  It is pretty liberating, really!  I’m pretty sure I’m much more productive, and I don’t pick up that phone 1/3 of the time as I used to.

And now some good news!

Talking to you coworkers.

According to a work force mood tracking survey, 89% of employees surveyed, say that work relationships are what matter most to their quality of life while at work. Taking a moment to interact with other employees helps you feel connected to your team, raises your mood, and can help prevent burnout.

When you feel like you are lagging and need a break, finish that conversation you started this morning with your coworker.  Share a quick story.  You’ll find that when it’s time to get back at it, you will be more refreshed, and focused.  Why?

That conversation you and your coworker just had released endorphins (feel good chemicals) that naturally boost your energy level, allowing you to become more focused and energized.

 

 

 Take purposeful mental breaks.

pur·pose·ful

/ˈpərpəsfəl/

 

adjective

  1. having or showing determination or resolve.

“the purposeful stride of a great lawyer”

  • having a useful purpose.

“purposeful activities”

  • intentional.

“if his sudden death was not accidental, it must have been purposeful”

Take intentional breaks and go to your “distraction”.  Use it, enjoy it and get all you can out of it during your “purposeful” break.  You’ll find that when you get back to your task, you can now concentrate because you “handled” your distraction and are mentally ready to tackle work.

Now I’m not advocating becoming a “chatty Cathy” or anything like that.  I’m just saying we all know that distractions are an everyday sort of thing, so the best thing to do is try to plan for them and prepare for them.

Work on adopting habits that help you control and/or plan you distractions.  Prioritize and plan your time spent on your phone, email and social media.

Be sure to make it clear to others when you need undistracted time to complete your work.  Again, be purposeful in your actions and words letting your coworkers when your “do not disturb” time happens.

These are by no means a “cure all” for curbing distractions and increasing productivity, but they are good “go to” practices to help you get through your workday happier and more productive.

Productivity is not just about doing more; it is about creating more impact with less work.