Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Addicted to Distractions

Workers feel pressured to get so much done during the day that they often multi-task. When you adopt this hurry-up mindset, you can get addicted to it without realizing it is happening. How often have you checked your email (or Twitter or Facebook or etc.) 5 seconds since the last time you checked it? You end up getting less done than ever before when distractions become the habit instead of the exception.

One of the biggest time-wasters on the planet is a feature in Microsoft Outlook where you can set the software to automatically send and receive email every 15 minutes or an increment of your choosing. I believe this is a default setting.

Imagine adding up the cost of this distraction of every employee in your company. Let's say you have 100 employees. An 8-hour day has 32 15-minute increments. Your employee is wasting at least 32 minutes per day when that feature is set at its default level. Let's say you pay a modest average of $20.00 per hour. Tack on a 30% benefits rate, and your 100 employees are wasting $325,000 per year just from that one Outlook feature.

When you consider that it takes an employee 25 minutes (according to one study) to get back to work after being distracted, this figure goes up. When you add in cell phones, the land line, faxes, instant messaging, other email accounts, the Internet, appointments, cubicle visitors, social media, and meetings, no wonder everyone is time-challenged.

First, turn off as many of these interruption features as you can. Second, give yourself a place to go to get your head back together when you need to.

White space

Companies are beginning to see the costs of a distracted performance and are responding to this need with a variety of solutions:

  • Creating quiet rooms where employees can think and brainstorm creatively without interruption.
  • Adding meditation practice to its list of benefits.
  • Adding mindfulness training for employees.
  • Setting days where no meetings are allowed all day or hours where no one can interrupt anyone else.
Employees must do their part to stop the distraction habit. They must take advantage of these programs and practice good brain habits that strengthen concentration rather than detract from it.

If you or your employer has implemented a program to squash distractions, I'd love for you to drop me a line about it. I will write up those I receive into case studies and will post them on my web site.

If your employer hasn't set up a program, interrupt them (!) and send them a copy of this article. Hopefully you will benefit from a future program.

1 comment:

Jenius Hart said...

The idea about empty spaces for thinking, let me just underline it for you.

Recently, one of my boys moved out of a room in our house. It remains mostly empty except for a coffee table, lamp, an easy chair and some bookshelves. it's empty for all practical purposes. I sit there to think. I've pondered about moving my computer to that room that now sits on my desk in my bedroom, but I've postponed that move indefinitely, BECAUSE I really have enjoyed just sitting in that room to read, to reflect, to write.

My other son, requested strongly of me, "Can I move into that room?" I considered his question for a week. Then, when he asked again, saying that you're not using it, I simply said, "No. It's my thinking room."

I can sit there. Yes. I've nodded a few times. But those have been tranquility nods. When I want to write, I'll have to use a pen and notebook. Or, go to the modern distraction called a computer which is so easily connected to the trudge of the world via the internet.

How did I find this blog, for instance? See, I'm currently writing and was distracted here.

any how. Let me underline the importance of having the quiet space in your life. Especially if its connected to a real empty room. That works best.

Jenius Hart