Distraction: we all know it. We’ve all felt it. Most of us are intimately familiar with its troublesome effects. The days it leaves us alone, we sail through our work, productive as all get out, churning out great material and leaving our desks satisfied, focused, and ready to dive back in tomorrow. The days when it comes to work with us, though…those days are tough. Distraction makes us feel scattered, inefficient, and frustrated. Even worse, distraction is a pervasive part of many workdays.
According to a study published in the New York Times, the average office worker is interrupted by a distraction an average of once every 11 minutes. Staggering, right? Even worse, most of these distractions aren’t massive. They’re not a piano falling through a car window, for example, or a big fight between coworkers in the hallway. Instead, they’re a more insidious form of distraction: micro-distractions. Micro-distractions are tiny, troublesome distractions most of us live with daily. When we learn to combat them, we do better work. Before we learn to recognize them, though, they can wreak havoc on our daily lives. Here’s what you need to know about micro-distractions, and what they’re doing to your productivity.
Modern Distraction, by the Numbers
Today, the average U.S. adult has a shorter attention span than a goldfish. Most U.S. students can’t focus on a single task for more than 120 consecutive seconds without being distracted. If you’re one of the many internet users out there, you online screen focus probably only lasts about 40 seconds. Brace yourself, though – that’s not even the worst of it. When our brains are distracted from the task at hand, even if the distraction was a micro-distraction, it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back to your original productivity level for the initial task. Here are a few more distraction stats to be aware of:
- According to recent studies, the average office worker spends about 5 hours each week on their phone or another device, doing something that has nothing to do with their job
- Workers waste about 3.5 hours of working time each week on personal tasks
- Distraction costs American businesses an average of $650 billion each year, or just under $5,000 per company
- The average Facebook user sees about 1 ad for every 2 minutes they spend online. If that user decided to buy from each ad displayed, they could spend $1,000 in less than one hour.
- The average American checks their phone at least 50 times per day and 89% of people check their phones first thing in the morning – before even getting out of bed.
6 Common Micro-Distractions Affecting us at Work
If you work in an open workspace, you know precisely how distracting daily life can be. Your coworkers are noisy, phones ring constantly, and the beeping of the microwave is enough to drive you up the wall. These are micro-distractions, and they have a surprising impact on daily productivity. Here are the most common micro-distractions you’re likely to face during the 9-5 hours.
Noise comes in all shapes and sizes. It could be as loud as a siren blaring outside your window, or as quiet as the “click, click, click” of the person in the cubicle next to you texting without their phone volume turned off. While noise may seem like an unavoidable part of any workday, experts estimate that 66% of productivity is lost as a result of nearby noises. Even worse, the average worker loses about 86 minutes of working time each day because of noise distractions at work. While you can’t isolate yourself in a sound-proof chamber while you get your work done, you can do the next best thing by wearing noise-canceling headphones and playing white noise or instrumental music during focus hours.
Your phone screen lighting up. A popup ad interrupting the experience of reading a web page. The new message flicking across the face of your Apple Watch. Screens are everywhere in our daily lives, and they are some of the most common sources of micro-distraction we run into. Don’t worry, though – you can turn the tables on screens and make them work for you, rather than the other way around. We love the tips in this article. Try them and see if they work for you.
3. Low Blood Sugar
Lots of office workers are pretty bad at fueling and hydrating throughout the day. It’s okay – we’re not here to place blame. When blood sugar dips throughout the workday, though, it can have severe and sneaky consequences. That slight headache that starts to creep in, for example, could be a result of missing your morning snack. That feeling of distraction could result from dehydration. Instead of allowing yourself to fall off as the day goes on, keep your mind and body functioning at top capacity by eating and drinking enough throughout the day. Keep healthy, nutrient-dense snacks in your desk and a refillable bottle of water with you at all times. This staves off hunger pains without requiring you to get up and go raid the break room.
4. Phone Calls
Phone calls or even ringing phones in the office can pull you away from the task at hand. Deal with this by placing your personal cell phone on airplane mode, and placing it face-down somewhere that is not within arm’s reach. If you can, put your office phone’s ringer on silent, and designate certain times of the day when you’ll take calls. This helps limit the micro-distraction that is your phone.
5. Checking Email
Today, the average worker spends 28% of their daily time on email. Despite that, though, only 38% of most emails in the average inbox are “somewhat important.” Deal with persistent email distractions by batch-checking your email at certain times of the day. Avoid keeping your email windows open all the time, and set up active filters to get rid of junk mail before it ever lands in your inbox.
It’s hard to be as productive as possible when your backaches. Fortunately, you can deal with daily discomfort by making your workspace as ergonomic as possible. Invest in a chair that feels good on your body and fits your needs. Keep your keyboard and computer screen at a comfortable height, and practice good posture to avoid cricks in your back, neck, and hips. A few small changes will go a long way.
Combat Micro-Distractions, Become Your Most Productive Self
Micro-distractions are like germs: troublesome and everywhere. Fortunately, you don’t have to fall victim to micro-distractions in your daily life. By merely understanding where these distractions crop up and having a plan to combat them, you can make each day more productive and comfortable, and ensure a better quality of work throughout!