Maximize Your Production in a World of Constant Interruptions

Aug 15, 2023

Twenty-three minutes,  that's the time it takes, on average, to reestablish your focus after an interruption disrupts your workflow.

How do I know? A study conducted at the University of California, Irvine, revealed the significant impact of interruptions on one’s productivity, indicating the “loss” of 23 productive minutes each time.

In a world full of pings, dings, rings, pop-ups, and more, it’s no wonder we often feel like we don't get nearly as much accomplished as we’d like. We now know that each interruption throughout our day, causes a loss of 23 productive minutes. Ouch! 

So what is considered an “interruption” and more importantly, what can we do about it? 

Gloria Mark, co-author of the study, defines a major interruption as one that requires cognitive engagement – a shift of focus from one task to another.

Unlike a quick request to close a nearby window, interruptions like scheduling a meeting demand mental redirection. These transitions consume the brain's oxygenated glucose, depleting its fuel for sustained focus. 

Consequently, frequent task switches result in exhaustion and heightened stress by day's end, diminishing the quality of work accomplished.

Multitasking and frequent interruptions not only increase mental strain but also undermine deep, creative thinking. Not good!

The detrimental effects extend further to inhibiting the attainment of what some refer to as “flow” or being “in the zone” – a state of complete engagement associated with improved well-being, emotional regulation, and creativity.

Digital apps facilitate interruptions continually, as the ease of sending a message replaces the need for physical interaction. This U.C. Irvine study highlights the jarring reality that employees face interruptions approximately every three minutes and five seconds.

The study also indicates that around half of interruptions are self-inflicted..

Recent data underscores this, revealing people check their smartphones around 150 times daily, while professionals scan emails roughly every 37 minutes.

So what can we do to limit distractions and become more productive? 

Consider implementing the following 5 strategies:

1. Designate Focus Time: Allocate specific blocks of time for focused work. During these periods, inform colleagues about your unavailability and turn off notifications to minimize interruptions.

2. Set Clear Boundaries: Communicate your focus/productivity hours and availability to others. Establish guidelines for when interruptions are acceptable and when they should be minimized.

3. Utilize "Do Not Disturb" Mode: Make use of the "Do Not Disturb" mode on your devices during critical work hours. This will prevent notifications from disrupting your focus.

4. Batch Communication: Schedule specific times for checking emails, messages, and social media notifications rather than responding immediately to every incoming message. Then, practice self discipline by sticking to the scheduled times.

 5. Create a Distraction-Free Environment: Set up your workspace in a way that minimizes distractions. This might include noise-canceling headphones, a tidy workspace, and visual cues to indicate when you're in deep focus.

Remember that adapting these strategies will require time and effort, both individually and within your family (if you work from home as I do) and with your team. But it’s worth it. Open communication and a commitment to productivity can help foster an environment that limits interruptions while supporting efficient productivity and a much greater sense of well being.

I’d love to hear how much more peaceful and productive you feel after implementing one or more of these suggestions. Please let me know.

Have you heard this week’s episode of the Life’s Hard, Succeed Anyway podcast? If not, listen here: Epi 047. Victoria Robinson: From Abortion to Freedom, Now Founder & CEO of National Ministry Helping Others Heal