Warning—by the time you’re done reading this article, you will have been presented with the option to resist, or respond to, your smartphone. In fact, Americans check their phones on average once every twelve minutes according to a study performed by global tech protection and support company Asurion. This means that they’re checking 80 times per day! Moreover, many struggle to go more than ten minutes without checking their phone.
Whether it’s your phone, colleague or software and app-generated notifications—all of these interruptions rob us of productivity. It’s time to take being present back. Here are three reasons to minimize distractions so as to maximize productivity.
- It takes 23 minutes to recover from a distraction at work. According to estimates based on a UC Irvine study, refocusing your efforts after just one interruption can take up to 23 minutes. The more interruptions you allow, the less time you have to complete whatever you’re working on. Microsoft has acknowledged this problem by recently releasing a free update to its Windows 10 computer operating system with new features to keep people in a distraction-free zone. Rightly named the “Focus Assist” feature, this functionality allows workers to turn off email and social media notifications temporarily when they need to focus, while still enabling messages from certain people to be delivered.
Regardless of which type of computer or phone you use, odds are you can opt to turn off notifications and set your smartphone to ‘do not disturb’ status when you require laser-like focus. You can also screen phone calls so unimportant ones don’t usurp your precious time. This is essentially claiming your time to work—it’s your right.
- More distractions mean more mistakes. For some, the mere suggestion of turning off alerts causes a slight panic attack, however the implications of all those interruptions should far outweigh those worries. Truth be told—when people who were performing a task requiring intense focus received a text message or call on their phone, they had more incorrect answers and were more likely to make quick guesses according to a study by the American Psychological Association. Even those who received a call, but did not pick up, were still three times more likely to make mistakes! Don’t assume checking a text or instant message will only take a few seconds because they actually cost you many minutes when you consider resuming focus on the task at hand.
- Sends the wrong message to people. It’s common for people to sit in meetings or walk around with their nose-down, staring at their smartphone screen. Doing so makes it impossible to apply Dale Carnegie’s 4th Human Relations principle, ‘Become genuinely interested in other people.’ A colleague may refrain from asking you an important question if you appear unapproachable. Meeting attendees may misinterpret your screen preoccupation as acting rudely or lacking respect for, and interest in, them. Focus on colleagues instead of your device in these cases.