What’s that Buzzing?

The impact of distractions and interruptions has been heavily studied, and the financial and emotional costs are stunning. 

According to McKinsey’s study, over seven years ago, high-skilled workers spend a staggering 28% of their working hours reading and replying to email messages.[1] Imagine the percentage today!

When you find yourself sitting in the office feeling bored or overwhelmed, it’s easy to check your social media automatically. But it comes at a high price. Social media costs the U.S. economy $650 billion every year.[2]

It is easier than ever to get distracted today, especially if you work from home or find yourself on endless Zoom meetings where everyone seems to get fatigued, distracted, and work on a “few things” during the meeting. Distractions have a hefty cost. They impact focus, which decreases productivity, limits listening, increases miscommunication, drives frustration, and creates feelings of disconnection as everyone knows when you aren’t really present. 

Let’s face it. It is both annoying and insulting, and worse yet, when you do it on Zoom, we can actually see you doing it! Guilty as charged! 

Distractions also stimulate a mindset of procrastination, which in the end triggers stress as deadlines that were once realistic and are now overwhelming. 

Every time your brain is distracted from a task, you are losing time. According to Gloria Mark, University of California, Irvine, a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption. In comparison, it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption. The more complicated your project, the longer it takes to regain your focus because your brain has to put in considerable effort when switching between complex objectives.[3]

The Squirreler 

I am a world-class “squirreler,” a fun name for getting distracted. If there were a gold medal for it, it would be mine. As I write this, I have nine other articles, and writing assignments actively open on my computer, have checked email five times, sent two not urgent texts, and interrupted lord knows how many other people therefore decreasing their productivity simultaneously decreasing mine. 

Running a company, and realizing the cost of distractions on our profitability triggered my curiosity. I dug in to learn how I can start the journey of breaking this bad habit and over-demanding need for immediate connection, communication, and action when most distractions are not urgent. 

Here is what I have learned and also tried to do more of in my work life:

  • Living rooms are now offices. Kitchens are classrooms. It is important for you to find your space, ideally with a door. If it is at all possible outside of your home where others are less likely to interrupt you is ideal. This is especially difficult with COVID, and if you get creative, it is incredible what your garage might become. Having a defined space allows you to settle in and organize your work so you can focus better.
  • If you are sharing home responsibilities with someone, find time every Sunday to calendar and plan together. Work through what everyone needs, block times, integrate your family calendar into your work calendar, and make some guidelines together, so expectations are understood upfront. This will not eliminate all distractions, and planning does help.
  • Establish office hours with those at work. Actively use a shared calendar system so people can respect what you have going on before unconsciously interrupting. At Aspire, we have a time each morning for “who needs support office hours,” so issues that need attention and don’t need a full meeting can get addressed. 
  • Limit email. I have started a list of “things to discuss” with each person so when we meet each week, we can focus on our individual lists versus sending endless emails. We also have an “after three emails/texts, pick up the phone rule.” This has improved communication and also decreased frustration. 
  • Creating processes help change habits
  • STOP the dinging! Turn off notifications. When working on a project or working with others, turn off or store unneeded devices. You don’t need your phone when you are on a Zoom call. Turn off email and text messaging capabilities. If they are off, you are less likely to be sucked back into them. 
  • Home chores while working? Hard no. Buzzing from washing machines, dishwashers, and dryers are just another distraction that screams “come take care of me NOW,” so do home chores before or after you start your workday. 
  • Check-in on your addiction to connectivity. How many times a day do you check Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram? When do you check it, and with what purpose? Connectivity costs billions in distraction costs. Initially, smartphones and technology helped increase our ease of connectivity and productivity. Today without discipline in your life, it is sucking your time and decreasing your productivity. I got rid of all of those apps on my phone. I think I gained an hour a week back, and honestly, I don’t miss any of it. 

I know this is hard stuff. Change is hard, especially when you realize you have to actually be the one to make the changes. 

If you want to increase productivity, think about agreements and new habits you can create to decrease distractions and interruptions as they are a silent killer of productivity and profitability. 

I hope this leadership tip was a distraction worth reading! Good luck. 

Stay focused. Please don’t hesitate to send me your STOP DISTRACTIONS NOW tips.   

Recovering World-Class Squirreler, Renie 

#aspire #stayfocused #focus #change #socialmedia #distraction #zoom #covid #wfh #leadershiptip #tipoftheday #badhabit


References: [1]^McKinsey & Company: The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies [2]^Mashable: Social Media Distractions Cost U.S. Economy $650 Billion [3]^The New York Times: Brain, Interrupted