Email, Cell Phones, Instant Messaging, Social Media Pervasive Interruptions Abound

Fifteen years ago the most offensive technology interruption we had to deal with was the ringing of the land line. Now, switch to today’s technological landscape... most people carry phones around with them that not only interrupt for voice communication, but now they ping, pong, vibrate, and or play music for a myriad of reasons like email, instant message, incoming text, calendar events, oh yes, and the ever important social media notification.  Is it any wonder we cannot concentrate on our work and are easily distracted?  How do we cope with all of this? 

Improving your concentration requires an active choice.  Let’s start with the basics – your environment.  Your physical work environment plays a large role in your ability to concentrate.  The more inviting and comfortable the space is, the more likely you are to remain there and focus.  Make sure your desk, chair and even your pictures are to your liking.  Soft instrumental music can add to the calming effect.

Now that you are physically comfortable, check your mindset.  Did you know having issues with distractions is so common today that doctors have given the problem a name – Attention Deficit Trait.  What can you do to not earn the new label?  How do you find a happy medium between controlling those interruptions and allowing them to work to your benefit.

Here are some suggestions to try.

  • Focus on one task at a time – It can be much more difficult to focus and get things done when you take little 15-30 second breaks to check email, send a text or take a call.  Researchers have estimated it take 15 minutes to refocus following a disruption.
  • Close down your email and your chat – Really!!!  Allow your voice mail to catch your phone and concentrate on the task at hand.  Do this for 30 minutes and then take a break to check your tools if you need to.  As you adjust to the separation, you will see that business will not implode if you are “off the grid” for an hour or two.
  • Consider scheduling your email downloads – This will avoid the annoying ping every time a new message arrives which temps you to stop what you are doing to check the new arrival.
  • Promise yourself a reward - For instance: Finish a task and allow yourself to check your social media for a few minutes – but only a few, then get on with the next task.
  • Are you one of the many who can’t turn off your Smartphone – try putting it at least 5 feet from your work area and manage the types of events for which it will elicit an audible response.  You may be surprised by how much you can accomplish with it out of reach and running silently.

Whatever you choose to do, just remember by taking a more active role in managing interruptions, you will see an increase in productivity and a decrease in your stress.


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