Are distractions driving you nuts? Every time they happen do you get more tense and annoyed? There’s a good reason why.
Researchers have found that working while distracted by incoming calls or emails lowers your IQ by 10 points. This is the equivalent of missing a night of sleep and has twice the impact of smoking marijuana.
Researchers have known for a long time that being distracted while driving isn’t good. In fact using a mobile (hand held or hands free) delays your reactions while driving as much as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08%.
And yet knowing this, we wonder why we struggle in workplaces crowded with distractions. There’s the phone, the email alerts, colleagues and clients before the list really gets started. But in case you are thinking any of these things is the biggest problem …
Your Worst Enemy Is Yourself!
Your worst enemy when it comes to workplace distractions is your own mind. Researchers have found that your mind wanders involuntarily:
- 47% of the day (even while you are working)
- 65% of the time you are involved in personal hygiene
- 10% of the time you are having sex
Researchers found these results by using smart phones to randomly contact people throughout the day and ask them both what they were doing and what they were thinking about at the time.
Distractions Are Killjoys
You know from personal experience that distractions make you less productive. And you probably already know what researchers at Harvard have only recently found out, that distractions also make you less happy.
They found you are most happy when you are focused solely on the task at hand (whatever that may be). Each distraction decreases your level of happiness.
And The Prize For The Most Easily Distracted Goes To …
The prize for the most easily distracted people in a workforce goes to heavy multi-taskers. Ophir, Nass and Wagner (2009) found that people who were heavy multi-taskers were the most prone to being distracted because they find it difficult to filter out irrelevant stimuli from their environment.
Distracting Your One Track Mind
Your brain can only do one task at a time (unless we are talking about tasks that have become automatic such as breathing, walking or eating).
So the key to overcoming distractions obviously doesn’t lie with trying to deal with both your task and the distraction at the same time as that is beyond what your brain can do.
The key to overcoming distractions and remaining focused in the workplace lies with mindful work habits.
Mindful Work Habits Are The Key
Mindfulness involves training your brain to focus. This practice leads to improvements in your ability to stay focused at work (and elsewhere like sport or time with family). Your brain can be trained to ignore the distractions and become more focused, creative and productive.
Other Secrets To Overcoming Distractions
If you’re not ready for a mindfulness program and all the benefits it will bring into your workplace, the other secrets to overcoming distractions are:
- Switch off the input; shut down email, close web browsers have phone calls go automatically to voice mail and close your door.
- Train the people who are distracting you to behave differently. For example, one man was always being interrupted by people who asked, ‘Do you have a minute?’ He bought an egg-timer and started replying ‘Sure, I have a minute.’ He would set the egg timer for one minute, put it on his desk and smile at the person who had asked the question.