A blog by Peter Stinckens
We all know the situation. You’re hard at work at that report. The phone rings, you pick it up, listen and start doing whatever the other person asks. Then you get back to you report, only to be interrupted by an email, which you open, read and reply to. Just when you started working on your report again, you cellphone begs for your attention, and then a colleague stops by and the…
You get the picture, and if you’re like the vast majority of us, you will find yourself in that situation far more often then you would like to. And, given what we know now about multi-tasking, it’s a killer. Worst of all, most of these distractions can be eliminated. By you!
If you’re one of the unfortunate ones that have to work in an open landscape office (cubicles are better) there are some distractions that you can’t eliminate. Bust most interruptions can easily be avoided by doing three easy things;
1) Switch your phone and cellphone to silent or switch them of. Your voice messaging will take care of it. Believe me, the world will not stop if you do that. You can plan some time later to check your messages and respond to them. Really, it’s easy. Salesreps do it when meeting with clients. Managers do it (or should do it) when in a meeting. If you’re out for lunch, or a bathroom break, or in a meeting, nobody answers your phone. And the world does not stop! So turn them of!
2) Switch of your email, social apps and all other things that give you screen warnings on your pc. If you don’t see them, you won’t respond to them. Again, you won’t miss anything so important that it will cost you or your company dearly.
3) Just put a paper at the entrance of your cubicle, office door or whatever, that you can’t be disturbed for a little while. “Please do not disturb, working on something that really needs my concentration right now. Nothing personal!” That will do it.
Now you have time and space for some real concentrated and uninterrupted work. Just try it once, you’ll find that work gets done much faster and with fewer mistakes. Isn’t that what we all want?
How does this compute? Why does this have such a big influence on our work? Here’s why: each time you have to stop to answer the phone, to talk to you neighbor, to read and/or answer an email, to check your Facebook account…, you’ll get out of the flow of what you are doing. You have to mentally clear your working memory and retrieve relevant memories and information for the other task. That takes some time. And when you’re done with that, you’ll have to do the same thing again to get back to your task.
It takes about five to ten minutes for complex tasks, to get ‘back into it’. So the more often you are disturbed, the harder it is to complete a task. The more mental energy it takes, the more frustrated you get and the more mistakes you make.
Just post that sign, shut down email and social media and forget about phonecalls. It will save you lots and lots of time.