How Do These Distractions Impact Productivity?
The average worker in the United States gets distracted from their work every 11 minutes or so, and it takes 25 minutes to regain focus on whatever they happen to be working on. As you might expect, more complicated tasks will require more time to refocus due to the greater mental effort required to shift focus back to the more challenging work.
Considering how most workplaces want to squeeze out all of the productivity they can, this turnaround rate is far from ideal. Therefore, minimizing distractions is an important part of making the most of all resources available, including your employees. In order to make this happen, it’s critical that you acknowledge how big a problem distractions can be. There are two different types of distractions: external and internal.
The Difference Between Internal and External Distractions
One might argue that distractions are bad no matter what they are, but there are benefits to understanding the difference between internal and external distractions, as well as their impact on productivity.
External distractions are all over the place in the business world. These kinds of distractions come from emails, phone calls, instant messages, and sudden meetings, all of which come from a place external from the user. These external distractions are compounded by internal distractions, those that come from within the user themself. These come in the form of various mental blocks that keep the user from focusing on the task at hand, such as the inability to prioritize tasks or weigh options accordingly. You can compare it to looking at a restaurant menu. If there are too many choices, making a decision can be difficult. Smaller menus, on the other hand, encourage quick decisions.
Many workplaces set the schedules of their employees, so this naturally isn’t a perfect comparison. We think it is a fair assessment that these internal distractions stem from an inability to prioritize tasks assigned to team members. This isn’t always their fault, though; if everything is identified as an important or high priority, who can blame them for not knowing which task is the higher priority? This all creates a situation where employees do not know how to identify the most important tasks, leading them to make decisions that are not as efficient or are done out of order.
Other internal distractions manifest themselves in the form of wandering thoughts or trying to plan for the future without adequately focusing on the present. All in all, internal and external distractions make true productivity a rarity in even the most dedicated employee. Still, despite these challenges, it’s possible to help your employees overcome their distractions, and it all starts with sharing some best practices with them.
How to Minimize Distractions
Let’s revisit the menu scenario we brought up earlier. Too many options make it difficult to focus on the task at hand, so if you can eliminate options that lead to more work or an inability to focus, you can improve productivity. For example, spending a few minutes clearing your area of distractions or thinking about the most important tasks can save quite a bit of time down the line. It’s a classic case of saving a lot by spending a little upfront.
Just like how having a clear goal in mind can help you work toward it, so too can having a set endpoint for a specific task at hand. Give yourself a set amount of time to work on something, then transition to the next task. Even if the task is not completed within that time frame, keeping your mind fresh and focused by switching things up can be beneficial. On the other side of things, you might actually get even more done than you anticipate.
Control Your Environment
If you can control your environment, you can control your ability to focus on your work. If there is a lot of noise you can try to use a pair of headphones to drown out the noise. If there is something distracting going on in your office, you might try to work from a different room with a laptop. If the room smells, it can be quite a distraction, so do your best to avoid situations like these that make focusing on tasks difficult.
If you can successfully identify these distractions, you can more effectively avoid them in the workplace, leading to more productivity overall.
What are some of the worst distractions you have found in the workplace, and what have you done about them? Subscribe to our blog for more great ways to overcome common workplace obstacles using the power of technology.