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The Price of Distraction Is Far Beyond Your Imagination

The Price of Distraction Is Far Beyond Your Imagination

People get sidetracked by irrelevant websites and unproductive tasks occasionally. Have you ever stopped to wonder exactly how much these distractions cost us? The amount of time and money we fritter away will blow your mind.

According to McKinsey, high-skilled workers spend a staggering 28% of their working hours reading and replying to e-mail messages.[1] If we learned to manage our communication technology in a more efficient manner, we could give the economy a $900 million to $1.3 trillion boost per year.

When you find yourself sitting in the office feeling bored or overwhelmed, it’s easy to automatically check your social media. But it comes at a high price. Social media costs the U.S. economy $650 billion every year.[2]

Take a moment and let those figures sink in. We are a distracted nation, and we’re paying for it – big time.

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The rise of connectivity

    How did we end up in this situation? The 21st century is characterised by connectivity. Over the past couple of decades, it’s become increasingly difficult to disconnect from sources of information. We can access the internet almost anywhere, we can make cheap phone calls to friends around the globe, and our Facebook feeds are constantly refreshing themselves.

    Our addiction becomes especially apparent when we lose our phones or our internet connection drops out. For example, have you ever mislaid your phone for a few hours and become frantic at the thought of missing out on social media notifications and updates? Or perhaps you’ve caught yourself longing for the days where your boss couldn’t just send you a WhatsApp message in the evenings to ask you to do overtime or work faster on a project?

    What’s beyond the time loss

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      Originally, smartphones and other portable devices were designed to maximize convenience, allow us to work on the move, and enhance our productivity. Unfortunately, they have turned into a distraction that often interrupts our daily lives.

      For example, you might be working on an important presentation, only to be distracted by several e-mail notifications. You then have a choice – do you stop and answer these messages, or do you carry on with your presentation and hope that the sender doesn’t expect an immediate response? Either way, the notification has interrupted your flow and thrown you off course.

      Every time your attention is diverted from your task, you lose time. It takes effort to get back on track, and repeated interruptions can demotivate you. It can feel as though everyone wants a piece of your time, and that you will never get around to finishing anything. If you are a typical American worker, you’ll be distracted every 11 minutes, and it will take you 25 minutes to actually settle down again to your task. The more complicated your project, the longer it takes to regain your focus, because your brain has to put in considerable effort when switching between complex objectives.[3]

      Research carried out at Carnegie Mellon University shows that human beings simply aren’t equipped to “toggle” between work tasks and frivolous distractions such as Facebook. If you try to do two tasks at the same time, your performance on each will suffer.

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      The researchers carried out a study in which people were asked to read a short passage, and then answer questions that tested their understanding of what they had read. Those who were interrupted during the task performed just 80% as well as the participants who were allowed to do the test in peace.[4] In short, you shouldn’t be surprised if social media kills your productivity.

      Keep your focus where it belongs

      So what can you do? First, you can decide to put your phone and other devices away, or at least set them to silent, when focusing on an important project. Deal with distractions before they happen. If you don’t receive notifications, you won’t be distracted. Tell your colleagues that you need to focus on a task, and that they will have to phone you or come to your office if there’s an emergency.

      There’s also a useful technique you can use that will quickly get you back on track:

      The 20 Second Rule

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        Positive psychologist Shawn Achor believes that 20 seconds can make all the difference when it comes to behavior change. Specifically, making tasks slightly easier or more accessible will encourage you to do them, whereas making a behavior slightly harder will decrease the likelihood that you will give in to your urges. If something – such as checking your social media – takes you 20 seconds longer to do, you’re less likely to do it.

        What does this mean for those of us struggling to manage distractions? Basically, you need to make it slightly more difficult to give into temptation – to check your e-mail, to respond to a notification, and so forth. For example, move your phone so that it takes you 20 seconds longer to reach it, or disable a messaging app so that it takes you 20 seconds longer to log in and enable it again. This approach means you do not have to rely on willpower. Instead, you will have set up a reliable system that facilitates good habits.[5]

        Regain your control over distractions

        Remember, most notifications aren’t going to be urgent, and that social media isn’t going to help you get any work done. Advances in technology may mean that it’s harder than ever before to focus on a project, but that doesn’t mean you can’t become more productive. It just requires commitment, practice, and a determination to manage your messages – don’t let them manage you! Remember, building a 20-second temporal gap between yourself and a source of distraction is all you need to do to regain control.

        Reference

        More by this author

        Leon Ho

        Founder & CEO of Lifehack

        Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule to Succeed in Life How to Find a Sense of Purpose to Live a Full Life How to Set Professional Development Goals for Success Social Learning How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster and Easier

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        Last Updated on September 30, 2020

        Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

        Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

        When it comes to being effective vs efficient, there are a lot of similarities, and because of this, they’re often misused and misinterpreted, both in daily use and application.

        Every business should look for new ways to improve employee effectiveness and efficiency to save time and energy in the long term. Just because a company or employee has one, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the other is equally present.

        Utilizing both an effective and efficient methodology in nearly any capacity of work and life will yield high levels of productivity, while a lack of it will lead to a lack of positive results.

        Before we discuss the various nuances between the word effective and efficient and how they factor into productivity, let’s break things down with a definition of their terms.

        Effective vs Efficient

        Effective is defined as “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” Meanwhile, the word “efficient ” is defined as “capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials).”[1]

        A rather simple way of explaining the differences between the two would be to consider a light bulb. Say that your porch light burned out and you decided that you wanted to replace the incandescent light bulb outside with an LED one. Either light bulb would be effective in accomplishing the goal of providing you with light at night, but the LED one would use less energy and therefore be the more efficient choice.

        Now, if you incorrectly set a timer for the light, and it was turned on throughout the entire day, then you would be wasting energy. While the bulb is still performing the task of creating light in an efficient manner, it’s on during the wrong time of day and therefore not effective.

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        The effective way is focused on accomplishing the goal, while the efficient method is focused on the best way of accomplishing the goal.

        Whether we’re talking about a method, employee, or business, the subject in question can be either effective or efficient, or, in rare instances, they can be both.

        When it comes to effective vs efficient, the goal of achieving maximum productivity is going to be a combination where the subject is effective and as efficient as possible in doing so.

        Effectiveness in Success and Productivity

        Being effective vs efficient is all about doing something that brings about the desired intent or effect[2]. If a pest control company is hired to rid a building’s infestation, and they employ “method A” and successfully completed the job, they’ve been effective at achieving the task.

        The task was performed correctly, to the extent that the pest control company did what they were hired to do. As for how efficient “method A” was in completing the task, that’s another story.

        If the pest control company took longer than expected to complete the job and used more resources than needed, then their efficiency in completing the task wasn’t particularly good. The client may feel that even though the job was completed, the value in the service wasn’t up to par.

        When assessing the effectiveness of any business strategy, it’s wise to ask certain questions before moving forward:

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        • Has a target solution to the problem been identified?
        • What is the ideal response time for achieving the goal?
        • Does the cost balance out with the benefit?

        Looking at these questions, a leader should ask to what extent a method, tool, or resource meets the above criteria and achieve the desired effect. If the subject in question doesn’t hit any of these marks, then productivity will likely suffer.

        Efficiency in Success and Productivity

        Efficiency is going to account for the resources and materials used in relation to the value of achieving the desired effect. Money, people, inventory, and (perhaps most importantly) time, all factor into the equation.

        When it comes to being effective vs efficient, efficiency can be measured in numerous ways[3]. In general, the business that uses fewer materials or that is able to save time is going to be more efficient and have an advantage over the competition. This is assuming that they’re also effective, of course.

        Consider a sales team for example. Let’s say that a company’s sales team is tasked with making 100 calls a week and that the members of that team are hitting their goal each week without any struggle.

        The members on the sales team are effective in hitting their goal. However, the question of efficiency comes into play when management looks at how many of those calls turn into solid connections and closed deals.

        If less than 10 percent of those calls generate a connection, the productivity is relatively low because the efficiency is not adequately balancing out with the effect. Management can either keep the same strategy or take a new approach.

        Perhaps they break up their sales team with certain members handling different parts of the sales process, or they explore a better way of connecting with their customers through a communications company.

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        The goal is ultimately going to be finding the right balance, where they’re being efficient with the resources they have to maximize their sales goals without stretching themselves too thin. Finding this balance is often easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important for any business that is going to thrive.

        Combining Efficiency and Effectiveness to Maximize Productivity

        Being effective vs efficient works best if both are pulled together for the best results.

        If a business is ineffective in accomplishing its overall goal, and the customer doesn’t feel that the service is equated with the cost, then efficiency becomes largely irrelevant. The business may be speedy and use minimal resources, but they struggle to be effective. This may put them at risk of going under.

        It’s for this reason that it’s best to shoot for being effective first, and then work on bringing efficiency into practice.

        Improving productivity starts with taking the initiative to look at how effective a company, employee, or method is through performance reviews. Leaders should make a point to regularly examine performance at all levels on a whole, and take into account the results that are being generated.

        Businesses and employees often succumb to inefficiency because they don’t look for a better way, or they lack the proper tools to be effective in the most efficient manner possible.

        Similar to improving a manager or employee’s level of effectiveness, regularly measuring the resources needed to obtain the desired effect will ensure that efficiency is being accounted for. This involves everything from keeping track of inventory and expenses, to how communication is handled within an organization.

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        By putting in place a baseline value for key metrics and checking them once changes have been made, a company will have a much better idea of the results they’re generating.

        It’s no doubt a step-by-step process. By making concentrated efforts, weakness can be identified and rectified sooner rather than later when the damage is already done.

        Bottom Line

        Understanding the differences between being effective vs efficient is key when it comes to maximizing productivity. It’s simply working smart so that the intended results are achieved in the best way possible. Finding the optimal balance should be the ultimate goal for employees and businesses:

        • Take the steps that result in meeting the solution.
        • Review the process and figure out how to do it better.
        • Repeat the process with what has been learned in a more efficient manner.

        And just like that, effective and efficient productivity is maximized.

        More on How to Improve Productivity

        Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Merriam-Webster: effective and efficient
        [2] Mind Tools: Being Effective at Work
        [3] Inc.: 8 Things Really Efficient People Do

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