You may not realize how much impact distraction is having on your productivity. Modern life is full of interruptions and time sucks that can have a massive impact on how much time you have available for actual work.
Researchers have identified the top five distractions, and they probably won’t surprise you.
- Constant Availability
Email, messenger, and smartphones have encouraged a culture of always being available. That availability means the continuous distraction of notifications pinging, or the compulsion to keep checking your inbox.
2. Unproductive Meetings
Meetings punctuate office life. Often, they are either unnecessary or overlong. Either way, unproductive meetings waste a lot of time.
3. Chatty Colleagues
No matter how great your colleagues are, modern-plan offices encourage a culture of always being available to colleagues who are looking for a distraction in the form of chit-chat or gossip. Constant interruptions are productivity killers.
4. Office Environments
Modern offices can be noisy, from overheard conversations to a birthday celebration in the next team over’s workspace. Phones, visitors, and background noises are a source of constant distraction.
As if all the other distractions weren’t enough, you can be your own worst enemy by putting off getting started on your tasks. Checking emails or an impromptu coffee break can distract you from actually getting anything done.
All these distractions can have a cumulative effect on your productivity. This means that:
- You’re more likely to get caught in an unproductive cycle of only getting the easy, basic tasks done. This “shallow work” might feel like you’re checking things off your to-do list, but it’s playing around the edges.
- Getting stuck in shallow work makes it much more challenging to do the ‘deep work’—the meaningful, high-quality tasks that need concentration and real cognitive engagement.
- It’s harder to focus. Studies have shown that it takes around thirty minutes to refocus every time you get distracted. Multiply this over the working day, and that’s a lot of time spent just recovering from being distracted.
- As you get more and more behind, you try to multitask to get on schedule. Multitasking has been shown to result in lower quality work, as your attention and effort is spread too thinly.
- You get trapped in a distraction cycle which is stressful as well as unproductive. As you get less meaningful work done, your anxiety levels rise. You’re attention span also shortens, which leads to more distraction.
The good news is that by being aware of the impact of distractions, you can take back control of your time. Set boundaries around your availability, turn off notifications, block out time in your schedule for deep work, and prioritize effective time management.