The Average Worker Gets Interrupted Every 11 Minutes and Takes 23 Minutes to Return to Flow: Here’s What to Do About It

Interruptions are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They appear innocent, but they’re deadly to productivity. A study by Steelcase, an innovative office furniture company, shows that the average office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes. If that weren’t bad enough, the study also shows that it takes an average of 23 minutes for a worker to get back into the groove of productivity.

David Rock, a performance management consultant and author of “Your Brain at Work,” explains in his book that the network in the brain which controls impulses is easily tired. This means that once we’re distracted by something, it’s harder to stop ourselves from being distracted by something else. It’s a bad snowball effect.

How can you minimize interruptions and distractions? Here are a few ideas.

  • Work in time increments. Set aside an hour or two hours and work on only one thing. This forces you to focus on the task at hand, knowing that you only have a limited amount of time to dedicate to it.
  • Turn off your phone ringer. Let your calls go to voicemail and return them at specific times that you’ve devoted to that task.
  • Block social media. Social media can be addictive. If you find yourself checking your accounts throughout the day, block them on your computer so you can focus. You can always unblock them later.
  • Check email at specified times. Email can fall into the same category as social media. You’re more productive if you set aside once or twice a day to check messages, rather than constantly hitting that “Get New Mail” button.
  • Close the door. It can feel a little anti-social, but others should understand when you need to do focused work. Let people know that when your door is closed, you’re not available to chat.
  • Take your work elsewhere. If there’s just too much going on at the office, take your work to a quiet corner of the library or somewhere else you know you can work in solitude.
  • Take a walk. Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies when it comes to distraction. Especially if we’ve been working for a few hours, we often feel restless. Go ahead and take a walk, get your body and mind refreshed, and then sit back down and get to it.

What are some strategies you’ve used to combat interruptions and distractions?

Published on May 7th, 2015 in Blog

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