Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

    Advertising

      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.

      Advertising

      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

      Advertising

        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

        How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You? 5 Characteristics of a Kinesthetic Learner How Motor Learning Helps You Learn Effectively How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster How to Use Visual Learning to Learn Effectively

        Trending in Smartcut

        1 Procrastination Is a Matter of Emotion, Here’s How to Stop It 2 What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide) 3 What Is Creative Thinking and Why Is It Important? 4 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2020 5 24 Best To-Do List Apps to Keep You on Track in 2020

        Read Next

        Advertising
        Advertising
        Advertising

        Last Updated on March 31, 2020

        How To Break the Procrastination Cycle

        How To Break the Procrastination Cycle

        How often do you find yourself procrastinating? Do you wish you could procrastinate less? We all know how debilitating procrastination can make us feel, and it seems to be a challenge we all share. Procrastination is one of the biggest hindrances to moving forward and doing the things that we want to in life.

        There are many reasons why you might be procrastinating, and sometimes, it is really difficult to pinpoint why. You might be procrastinating because of something related to the past, present, or future (they are all intertwined), or it could be as simple as biological factors. Whatever the reason, most of us follow a cycle when we procrastinate, from the moment we decide to do something to actually getting it done, or in this case, not getting it done.

        The Vicious Procrastination Cycle

        For some reason, it helps to understand that we all go through the same thing, even though we often feel like the only person in the world who struggles with this. Do you resonate with the cycle below?

        1. Feeling Eager and Energized

        This is when you commit to taking a new action or getting something done. You are feeling confident and optimistic that, this time round, you will do it!

        2. Apprehension Starts to Come Up

        The beginning stages of optimism are starting to fade. There is still time, but you haven’t done anything yet, and you start to feel uneasy. You realize that you actually have to do something to get it done, and that good intentions are not enough.

        Advertising

        3. Still No Action

        More time has passed. You still haven’t taken any action and probably have a lot of excuses why. You start to panic a little and wish you had started sooner. Your panic starts to turn into frustration and perhaps even irritability.

        4. Flicker of Hope Left

        You can still make it; there is a little time left and you ponder how you are going to get it done. The rush you get from leaving your task until the last minute gives you a flicker of hope. There is still time; you can do this!

        5. Fading Quickly

        Your hope starts to quickly fade as you try desperately to understand why you just can’t do this. You may feel desperate and have thoughts like, “What is wrong with me?” and “Why do I ALWAYS do this?” You feel discouraged, or perhaps angry and resentful at yourself.

        6. Vow to Yourself

        Once the feeling of anger or disappointment disappears, you most likely swear to yourself that this will never happen again; that this was the last time and next time will be different.

        Does this sound like you? Is the next time different? I understand the devastating effect that procrastination has on many lives, and for some, it is a really serious problem. You also have, on the other hand, those who procrastinate but it doesn’t affect them in any way. You know whether it is affecting you or not and whether it undermines your results.

        Advertising

        How to Break the Procrastination Cycle

        Unless you break the cycle, you will keep reinforcing it!

        To break the cycle, you need to change the sequence of events. Here is my suggestion on how you can effectively break the vicious cycle you are in!

        1. Feeling Eager and Energized

        This is when you commit to taking a new action or getting something done. You are feeling confident and optimistic that, this time round, you will do it! The first stage is always the same.

        2. Plan

        Thinking alone will not help; you need to plan your actions. I always put my deadlines one or two days in advance because you know Murphy’s Law! Take into consideration everything that you need to do, how long it will take you, and what you will need to get it done, then plan the individual steps.

        3. Resistance

        Just because you planned doesn’t mean that this time is guaranteed to be different. You will most likely still feel the resistance so expect this. This stage is key to identifying why you are procrastinating, so when you feel the resistance, try to identify it immediately.

        Advertising

        What is causing you to hesitate in this moment? What do you feel?  Write them down if it helps.

        4. Confront Those Feelings

        Once you have identified what could possibly be holding you back, for example, fear of failure, lack of motivation, etc. You need to work on lessening the resistance.

        Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to move forward? What would make it easier?” If you find that you fear something, overcoming that fear is not something that will happen overnight — keep this in mind.

        5. Put Results Before Comfort

        You need to keep moving forward and put results before comfort. Take action, even if it is only for 10 minutes. The key is to break the cycle and not reinforce it. You have more control that you think.

        6. Repeat

        Repeat steps 3-5 until you achieve what you first set out to do.

        Advertising

        Final Thoughts

        Change doesn’t happen overnight, and if you have some deeper underlying reasons why you procrastinate, it may take longer to finally break the cycle.

        If procrastination is holding you back in life, it is better to deal with it now than to deal with the negative consequences later on. It is not a question of comfort anymore; it is a question of results. What is more important to you?

        Learn more about how to stop procrastinating here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

        Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

        Read Next