Here’s the facts: A University of California, Irvine study revealed that employees working in open-plan offices (cubicles or around big tables) were interrupted 63% of their time at work. (63%!) Employees with offices were interrupted 49% of the time. After each interruption, it took 25 minutes for the cubicle employees and 26 minutes for the office employees to get back on track. However, typically, employees turned to 2.26 OTHER tasks before getting back to the original task from which they had been interrupted. Which means, if each interruption costs you that much time to get back to the original task, it doesn’t take many to eat up your entire working day. Stop and just think about that a moment.
Another study indicates that technology isn’t always the villain. The Wall Street Journal reports that face-to-face interruptions account for a third more intrusions than email, voice mail, or phone calls. The reason is that while we can control our phone and email interruptions, it’s much more difficult – especially when it’s a supervisor – to ignore face-to-face interruptions, because employees don’t want to appear rude.
But more than simply numbers, research done by Bing Lin, at Portland State University indicates that constant interruptions and distractions cause increased exhaustion, physical strain, and anxiety.
The bottom line? In my book, “Jolt! Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing,” I write that in a digital world, distractions and interruptions are here to stay. If you’re not intentional about finding focus, and shaping your work environment to help you minimize these interruptions, your work will suffer, and according to research by Bing Lin at Portland State, your life will suffer as well.
In my opinion, I think this is particularly true of creative work. When it comes to imagination, a deep dive is required. Sure you can have spur of the moment “eureka!” ideas, but for breakthrough creative work, sustained focus is the key. So start being intentional about protecting your creative time from the distractions that surround us everyday.
Think about it: What are the distractions you face daily at the office, and how can you adjust your work environment to find better focus?