We interrupt our regular schedule ...
It’s summer, so naturally my thoughts are turning towards vacation.
I don’t have one coming up for about six weeks. Yikes! I did just have a long weekend, though.
None of us would dispute that taking a vacation-type break occasionally is good for us. Most people come back from this kind of break feeling energized, ready to tackle their jobs with renewed passion and vigor.
There really aren’t many downsides to vacations.
However, thinking about taking a break had me thinking about more mundane types of interruptions. You know – the kind that happen all the time and frustrate all of us.
Even for those without an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis, interruptions can drive us crazy, get us off task and make a long task even longer.
I wondered: is there any chance these interruptions are actually good for us in some way?
Turns out, interruptions have an almost completely negative impact on our work productivity, which is really worrisome since today there are so many things to stop our work flow. People don’t just pop by your workspace to interrupt you these days, they also send messages, email, text and call, sometimes simultaneously.
And let’s face it, we all do it. We are all interrupters as well as those who get interrupted.
Certainly, email, messages, texts and calls are tools, and not intrinsically bad, but for many, interrupting the flow of thought and work causes frustration and delays that lead to difficulty with productivity and even work satisfaction.
An article in the found that, after a 2.8 second interruption, study subjects made twice as many errors. After a 4.5 second interruption, the error rate rose to three times as frequent.
A University of California/Irvine study found that people spend only 11 minutes on a project before being interrupted for the first time, and that it takes them 25 minutes after that interruption to get back to where they were in the project to begin with.
The effects of interruptions on U.S. productivity, energy and work satisfaction is estimated to cost about $588 billion, according to a Basex poll.
A recent Forbes poll found that 71% of people report frequent interruptions every work day.
A Priority Management study found managers are interrupted every eight minutes and another Basex poll found interruptions lose average workers 2.1 hours per day.
So what can you do? It’s nearly impossible to avoid interruptions in today’s screen-saturated climate. Here are some coping strategies:
Schedule screen-free times – turn off(or put out of sight) your electronics. Simply don’t respond until the focus time is over. Communicate with co-workers that you’re planning to do this, but be vigilant to enforce it.
Consider a physical sign that tells others you are not open to interruptions – like wearing headphones or putting up a small sign. Keep your own boundary and others can be taught to keep it too.
Set your notifications so that people will know when you are available (and when you are not). Be determined about getting time to do what needs to be done.
Manage the way you interrupt yourself. I am one of those who struggles with attention … and frequently, I interrupt my own flow of thought and work. This is especially true when I’m doing something I don’t really want to do. Be stern with yourself. Maybe you can promise (to you) a break at such-and-such a time, or a chance to check email or texts in X number of minutes, or five minutes on a game when the task is done. All of these will help you get yourself under control.
Pause. When you get interrupted, stop and write down what you were doing when that happened. It will make it easier to go back to if you’re clear about where you were.
Don’t confuse urgency with importance. Texts are urgent, but may be very unimportant. Does the interruption really need to be dealt with
Consider working somewhere outside of the office. Sometimes working in a coffee shop (sometimes with headphones) is a great way to get things done.
When something comes to mind that has to be done, do it. Don’t procrastinate or allow other things to get in the way.
As I was writing this, I got interrupted six times and interrupted myself at least twice. And I was trying not to let interruptions get in my way!
Having trouble managing your life, career, screen use? We can help.
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