What Distraction is Really Costing You!
There has never been a time in history as distraction saturated than the time we live in now! The world is at our fingertips or in our back pocket all day, so it is no wonder that we are distracted more often than ever! Communication is so instantaneous we barely have time to put our phone down before we have a response. Sometimes we are distracted by no fault of our own, but if we’re being honest, sometimes we are the reason we are distracted, to procrastinate something we aren’t particularly looking forward to doing. Whatever it is, here is the secret…you don’t have to be a slave to distraction! There are ways to avoid distractions or stay on track better during your workday and beyond!
The real cost
We have become so accustomed to distraction, that we may not actually realise what it costs us every time that we get off task. In last week’s article, we discussed how long it takes to get back into a task after you’ve been distracted, and the answer is shocking! It takes 23 minutes to get back on track after distraction. Many studies have shown that the average person becomes distracted every 11 minutes! But for the sake of ease, let’s say that you are distracted once every hour for your workday of 8 hours. 23 x 8 = 184. Split those minutes into hours and you’re looking at over 3 hours of lost time in your day! That is a huge loss.
As we can see, maybe our productive time at work isn’t as much as we think! Productive time is the amount of time getting tasks done without becoming distracted. In another study analysing procrastination and effective work time of over 2 thousand office workers, they concluded that the average effective work time of an office worker is 2 hours and 53 minutes out of their whole day. Only 3 hours!
My guess is that you don’t want to be losing 3 hours or more of precious time in your day, so ask yourself this: Do I control the distractions in my life, or do they control me? Change begins with an honest answer to this question. If we are losing so much time to distractions, what exactly are the things that most commonly do the distracting…let’s dive in!
The Most Common distractions
While talking and building relationships with co-workers is essential for a healthy and effective working environment, one of the most reported distractions at work is being interrupted by co-workers or office noise. If you have a door, consider keeping it closed while you are in the middle of something. An open door can be a visual cue for others that you are available. This will also assist with office noise. If you don’t have the luxury of shutting the door to your workspace, headphones are a great alternative!
Another very common distraction is the email or virtual communication influx! As mentioned before, our whole world is at our fingertips for the most part of the day. As a result, any notification of an email or a text can send us straight into distraction. A great way to avoid this distraction is time blocking. Time blocking is an intentional period where you work uninterrupted and fully focused on the task at hand. During time blocking, even if an email comes through, you know that you are focusing on one task and can have another time blocked out later specifically for checking and replying to emails.
The last and possibly most important distraction we will cover is phone usage and social media. Studies have shown that the average person checks their phone 47 times a day, and in an 8-hour workday, that’s 6 times an hour! It can be even more tempting when we know there is an endless flow of information ready for us to get lost in on social media. There are some simple but effective ways of avoiding these ever-present distractions such as moving your phone beyond reach. If we know that we must get up to get our phone just to check it, we are less likely to act on the impulse. Muting notifications is also highly effective as we can focus fully on a task without being interrupted at each *buzz* or *beep*
Effective Teamwork in a Distraction Riddled World
Something important I want to touch on is how to be an effective team member in a world with endless distractions. When you’re working for yourself or working on a task individually, it can be easier to convince yourself that little distractions are okay and don't affect anyone else. However, when working in a team where each individual needs to bring their very best to the table to get the job done, avoiding distractions is even more important!
It is essential to create time and spaces where you can be your most productive and effective self. Time blocking as mentioned before is critical! Avoid multitasking by intentionally setting aside chunks of your day dedicated to one task. Knowing that you have another part of the day set aside for emails, meetings, etc., will help your mind stay on track and avoid distraction.
It is essential that when you are with your team, working together or meeting, you are present physically and mentally. We all know what it is like to sit in a meeting and be thinking about everything else that is waiting for us to do other than the meeting we are at. Some ways to fix the distractions during meetings are closing your laptop while there. 50% more mistakes are made when people have their devices sitting in front of them during a meeting. If you aren’t meeting in person, consider having a video call rather than a phone call. 4% of people multitask when on a video call vs 57% of people multitask when on a phone call. Being present for your team is essential! Eliminate as many distractions as possible so that you can help you and your team reach the next level!
How will you deal with distraction?
Distraction is no easy topic to cover because I could list endless other distractions and ways to go about fixing them. You may have even experienced one or more distractions while reading this article! Remember to ask yourself am I in control of these distractions or are they in control of me? Find alternative ways to do things and problem solve when distractions seem to have no solution. Distractions will be ever-present; it is how you deal with them that matters!
Abbate, B. (2020). The tremendous cost of distractions on your time and in your life. Illumination. https://medium.com/illumination/the-tremendous-cost-of-distractions-on-your-time-and-in-your-life-633c5e83fb13
Atlassian. (n.d.). The ME in team: Drawing on the strengths of the individual to unleash the power of teams. Atlassian. https://www.atlassian.com/teams/the-me-in-team
Dreamhunter, J. (2020). A shocking study revealed average productive hours in a workday. Effective at Home. https://effectiveathome.com/productive-hours-in-work-day/
Pettit, M. (n.d.). 7 Most common distractions at work and how to tackle them. Lifehack. https://www.lifehack.org/802571/distractions-at-work