Distractions and productivity
21st March 2016
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Actually, there’s no need to imagine. In 2005 – before Facebook and Twitter, researchers carried out a survey in the offices of an IT company. They studied workers for 1,000 hours, using the same techniques that they use to observe indigenous tribes. It was a cultural study of office life. This is what they discovered:

Average time until an interruption - 11 minutes

Time to restart the task that was interrupted - 25 minutes

Time to get back to where you where - 8 minutes

This is staggering. 11 minutes of productive work. Then 33 minutes on hold. Then THREE minutes (because it takes you 8 minutes to get back to where you were) of productive work before you get interrupted again. That’s a recipe for stress and frustration. It means that a task that should take 45 minutes, actually uses up 4 hours 35 minutes of your precious time. 

If you could just focus for 45 minutes, uninterrupted, in a bubble of concentration, you would save yourself half a day. So what’s the solution?

I advise my clients to use one of the oldest ways of measuring time – a sand timer. I call it an analogue app. It’s better than the digital apps you find on your phone, because a sand timer shows you how much time has passed, as well as how much there is to go – your phone stopwatch or timer can’t do that. If you put it out on your desk, you can see it and your colleagues can also see your signal that you’re getting your head down for some focused work and that you shouldn’t be interrupted. A 45 minute timer is recommended, but try 30 minutes if you don’t think you can last that long. But really, anyone can ignore emails and phone calls for 45 minutes. 

One client I tried this out with found was that colleagues in the immediate vicinity got the signal and cooperated. It was harder to put off with more senior people, because their status seems to give them priority access to her. Everyone was sceptical that it would work at all. 

But look at the benefits:

1.She stopped the disjointed work patterns and had more control over her work. So she's happier.

2.Productivity for that 45 minute period went up by at least 75%. So her boss is happier.

3.The time she freed up is spent on client work, not fire-fighting. So her customers are happier.

Why not give it a try?


Tony Murphy

07947 484866

About the Author

Victoria H

Member since: 11th March 2014

My name is Victoria Hunter and I'm a true Hertford person - I went to school in Hertford and grew up here. I understand the importance of bringing trusted businesses and the community together, and believe...

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